Tenn. ó In the 11 years that Donna Velez has operated
Hearts of Gold Pit Rescue, sheís never had a problem.
hundreds of pit bulldogs in and out of her home over the
years, not once, she said, have her neighbors reported
her to Memphis Animal Services or have any of her dogs
I can live with 300 or 400 pit bulls and Iíve never
had an incident, surely someone thatís half
responsible can live with one or two," Velez said.
good news to her and for the breed that communities
across the country are backing away from ordinances that
ban pit bulls, and states are making those bans illegal.
have softened considerably as animal activists and
television shows like Animal Planetís "Pit Bulls
and Parolees" cast the dogs in a more positive
it illustrates the power and persistence of dog-advocacy
groups that have worked to fend off pit bull
are realizing that targeting dogs based on their breed
or what they look like is not a solution to dealing with
dangerous dogs," said Lisa Peterson, a spokeswoman
for the American Kennel Club.
states now have laws that prohibit communities from
adopting breed-specific bans. Lawmakers in six more
states are considering similar measures, and some cities
are reviewing local policies that classify pit bulls as
2013 bill in Tennessee was proposed and later withdrawn
that would have required owners of vicious dogs to
obtain $25,000 in liability insurance. It was amended to
include pit bulls.
changing attitudes, Velez believes, also come in part
from the kinds of people who own pit bulls: doctors,
lawyers, teachers and grandmothers like Judy Sutton, who
adopted A.C. from Velez four years ago.
my first pit," said Sutton, 70. "If Iíd
known what wonderful dogs they were, Iíd have had them
all along. Heís just a jewel."
bulls are intelligent, high energy dogs that require a
certain type of owner, Velez said.
canít open the door and let these dogs run loose, she
said. "It requires a different level of
no dog, regardless of breed, should be left alone with
babies and children, Velez said,
does not ban pit bulls, although in 2010 a mandatory
spay/neuter ordinance for pits was considered. That
discussion resulted in the cityís spay/neuter
ordinance for all dogs.
Animal Services requires criminal background checks and
fence inspections before pit bulls can be adopted from
the shelter, said James Rogers, MAS director.
while breed restrictions are a "hot button
issue," Rogers said, "Itís not the animal
thatís a problem, itís the person that owns the
the dogsí foes complain that their message is being
drowned out by a well-funded, well-organized lobbying
effort in state capitols. The debate puts millions of
pit bull owners up against a relatively small number of
people who have been victimized by the dogs.
Hicks, who sponsored a bill in the Missouri House to
forbid breed-specific legislation, said he was surprised
when nobody spoke against his proposal last month at a
figured a few parents would be there who would bring
tears to my eyes," the Republican said. "Would
it have changed my opinion or what I believe in?
some contend that pit bulls are a volatile breed whose
genetics drive them to kill more than two dozen people
in the U.S. each year, many of them young children.
is telling us these animals are safe if you raise them
right," said Jeff Borchardt, an East Troy, Wis.,
man whose 14-month-old son was mauled to death a year
ago by two pit bulls that tore the child from the arms
of their owner, who was baby-sitting. "My sonís
dead because of a lie, because of a myth. My life will
never be the same."