Maryland's Prince George's County Council took a step Tuesday toward restoring a ban on pit bulls, by advancing an amendment to a bill overhauling the county's animal control ordinance.
The move overturned an amendment to repeal the county's 22-year-old ban that advanced out of a committee meeting this month. A national coalition of animal rights advocates have labeled breed-specific bans ineffective and inhumane and are pushing to overturn the policy in Prince George's.
Prince George's County Council member Mel Franklin, D-At Large,, who sponsored the amendment to keep the ban, said the county should be doing what is in the best interests of its residents, not national advocates. The vote in support of Franklin's amendment was 7-4.
Prince George's is the only jurisdiction in the Washington region and the second-largest in the country with a ban on pit bulls, which animal advocates say are not inherently dangerous. They argue that governments should instead focus on dogs that demonstrate violent behavior and on penalizing owners who do not care properly for their pets, regardless of breed.
More than 400 pit bulls were euthanized last year in Prince George's, out of 687 impounded, and more than 250 have been euthanized so far this year.
This month, police said two mixed-breed American bulldogs mauled two men in Prince George's, dragging a 72-year-old man from a bus stop and forcing the second victim to climb atop a parked car to try to escape. Officials said animal service officers removed a third dog from the owner's home, a pit bull that was not involved in the attack on the two other men.
Although the dogs involved in the attack were not pit bulls, some county council members said the incident heightened fear in the community about dog attacks.
The overhaul of the county's animal control ordinance includes stricter penalties for owners who do not care for their dogs and whose dogs commit attacks. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 19, said county council spokeswoman Karen D. Campbell.