Controversial Pit Bull Muzzle Law Passes in Massachusetts

April 12, 2012  

By Leslie Smith, as first posted on Dogtime on April 5, 2012

Tuesday, the city of Malden, Mass., passed a bill requiring owners of pit bull and pit bull-like dogs to muzzle the animals in public.

This is not the only town in the area that has passed a muzzle ordinance; nearby Everett, Worchester, and the city of Boston also require pit bulls and their lookalikes – American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire pit bull terriers, bull terriers, or mixes – to be muzzled.

After three years of debate, the Malden muzzle ordinance passed in a 7-to-4 vote.

The person responsible for supporting the bill is Ward 6 Councilman Neil C. Kinnon. “The dogs are disproportionately responsible for violence,” Kinnon said. “We have 6.7 percent of dogs responsible for 32 or 33 percent of all bites.”

The vote in favor of muzzles drew serious reaction from both the crowd and the council members.

Those who oppose the measure see it as too broad, something that will punish good dogs and responsible owners.

But Ward 7 Councilor Neal Anderson disagrees. “Too many are walking the dogs on a leash, hoping to intimidate people,” he said, drawing loud jeers from the audience.

Dr. Amy Marder, director of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, responded to Anderson’s comment, saying that if an owner’s intent is to use their pit bull in acts of intimidation, then it should be the owner that is punished.

“Take this person who is ‘tough’ with a pit bull, and you take the pit bull away from that person,” Marder posed. “That person is less scary?”

Marder added that leash laws should be more widely enforced if the goal is to reduce the number of dog bites.

Councilman John P. Matheson cited a high transient population in Malden while recommending a registry of pit bulls and their owners. “What we want to do is get everyone with a pit bull registered,” he told the passionate crowd. “We have apartment complexes, and people who come in and stay for a few months and leave. If you are a responsible owner in Malden, this ordinance won’t affect you.”

The ordinance is slated to include a grandfather stipulation; pit bulls registered before May 1 would be exempt from the muzzle ordinance. Some feel, however, that this would only add to the confusion.

Others, like Malden resident Kathy LeBlanc, are disappointed that their dogs are yet again the targets of breed prejudice. LeBlanc, who owns a 13-year-old black-and-white pit bull, brought photographs of her pit bull to the meeting with her. “They’re not all bad,” she said, shaking her head in disappointment.

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11 Responses to “Controversial Pit Bull Muzzle Law Passes in Massachusetts”
  1. honeyremedy says:

    I need some clarity please, does he mean 6.7% of the pit bull population is involved with dog bites a year? I think that number is highly disproportional, the Pit Bull type population is pretty massive and all of my research and sources credit 5 Million to the population. I’ve done my research, and have come up with a less than 1% of the population being involved with -fatal- dog attacks. I spent a good couple hours finding sources and the percentages and all of that fun stuff! you apply his statistic of 6.7% of pit bulls being responsible for violence, that makes it 335,000 pit bulls a year. That number seems so huge to me! And I cannot find ANYTHING about how many times this type bites a year. Even in ~shudders~It is just infuriating to me that public figures can twist numbers and make them seem so HUGE when they are in fact very small if you think about the entire big picture.How do we portray a positive image when things like this happen that set it all back again? how do we keep our cool?  

    • StubbyDog says:

       @honeyremedy We can only keep our cool by constantly telling the truth, and not those inflated statistics. We can fight BDL anywhere we see it, we can have pit bull ambassadors that change perceptions. We will continue to portray a positive, truthful image of a pit bull and we will make a difference, it may seem like a huge hurdle, but we know it can be done.

      • honeyremedy says:

         @StubbyDog This is why i love You guys all work so hard to portray such a lovely portrait of the Pit Bull. I get so upset over things like this, but when i also think about the big picture and about how many people are here to portray a positive image it makes my heart swell up with happiness.

        • StubbyDog says:

           @honeyremedy aw thanks, we always have to keep in mind the big picture, and we have no trouble at all finding the hundreds of positive pit bull stories we post in the site. So that’s saying something.

  2. DianaJones says:

    Does this place also encourage racial profiling? I don’t see a difference other than people are way more a threat.

  3. AmandaFitzgerald says:

    I just wrote the two men mentioned above to voice my displeasure. I also enclosed a pictures of my family with my “dangerous” dog. 

  4. AmandaFitzgerald says:

    and i got this lovely reply from Neil
    “Please spare me the comparison of a dog to human beings.  You and the pitbull apologists embarrass yourselves every time you say such things.”

    • StubbyDog says:

       @AmandaFitzgerald Wow, that’s amazing. Can’t believe he was that insensitive to write that. Too bad they aren’t embarrassed by spewing incorrect statistics, and judging based purely on looks. Thanks for the effort Amanda, unfortunately it fell on deaf ears, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to share our voice.

    • honeyremedy says:

       @AmandaFitzgerald Wow. What a mature councilman. >:( I bet if he met any one of the many amazing, gentle, amusing pit bulls in the United States he would eat those words faster than my dog eats his fancy treats.

  5. JonDavid says:

    That’s to bad it’s akin to posting a big sign on the dog saying I am dangerous, When in fact most pits are big bundles of joy and slobering kisses. We must continue to fight these rediculous laws and ordinances that are based on false rhetoric and stereotyping. It’s time to bring back pitties as Americas dog.