PETA says it’s not opposed to pit bull specific legislation

The nation’s largest animal rights group lent its support Monday to Lakewood’s pit bull ban. The move should come as no surprise as PETA has for years resisted calls to oppose such bans.

The group, known for its celebrity endorsements and aggressive tactics, has long advocated that people not breed and sell any type of dogs while there are so many in animal shelters awaiting adoption.

PETA says it is for pit bulls but not against rules that limit the number of dogs bred for sale. In the case of pit bulls in particular, the dogs are often bred for fighting or end up in the hands of abusive owners, the group says.

In an email to Lakewood Mayor Mike Summers, Teresa Lynn Chagrin, animal care and control issues manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said the organization wanted “to express our support of pit bull-specific laws and regulations” and proposed that any new ordinance require dogs be spayed and neutered and “require owners to keep pit bulls indoors unless they’re being walked by a trained adult with a leash and secure harness.”

“Many people are surprised to learn that PETA supports laws that strictly regulate pit bull ownership,” Chagrin wrote in Monday’s email. “We do so in the interest of protecting these dogs, other companion animals, and the community at large. Our office receives calls every day about pit bulls who have been neglected or abused, many of whom–not surprisingly–retaliate by attacking, injuring, or sometimes even killing humans and other animals.”

Lakewood officials sent out a news release Tuesday acknowledging PETA’s letter.

Chagrin’s email also included a 2011 study by University of Texas Health Sciences Center, in which researchers who studied 15 years of medical records on dog bites found pit bull attacks were responsible for higher risk of death, medical costs and caused serious damage compared to attacks by other breeds.

Lakewood’s pit bull ban came under fire last year after a pit bull mix named Charlie was ordered to leave Lakewood, despite his owner, Jennifer Scott, previously receiving permission from the city’s animal warden to bring the dog home.

Last week the city council introduced a new ordinance that would replace the city’s current breed-specific ordinance. The new ordinance would require owners of pit bulls to muzzle and place the dog on a leash no longer than six-feet long, pay a fee and carry liability insurance. The ordinance was sent to committee before it can be officially voted on.

Many opponents of the Lakewood ordinance are troubled on how the city determines which dogs are genetically more than 50 percent pit bull. In the past, some Lakewood dogs have been classified as “pit bull” based on appearance, not DNA testing. The issue is complicated by the fact that many experts say “pit bull” is not an actual dog breed, but rather a generic term used to describe dogs with physical traits sometimes found in dogs such as the American Staffordshire Terrier or American Bully.

Owners also oppose the proposed changes voted on last week saying the legislation reeks of breed-specific discrimination.

In a news release, Summers said PETA’s email was the first time the city has heard from an expert about pit bulls and their impact on public safety.

“The safety of our community comes first,” he said. “I am determined to protect the safety of our residents. We have proposed legislation that would allow pit bulls in our city, while providing protections that avoid jeopardizing the safety of all of us. What we have further learned from PETA is these same regulations serve to protect pit bulls from abuse and irresponsible pet owners as well.”


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