Information on Dog Breeds, "Pit Bulls", and Housing
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 2021 08:26:00 -0700 (PDT)
This article on the mythical Pitt Bull just appeared yesterday. It covers most 
of the issues we have discussed but I thought was worth a long posting that 
would stay in the archives. Greater Greater Washington is a well-respected 
public advocacy organization. I did edit the stories about two dogs and the 
pictures, of course, are gone. 

It is a clear picture of the effect of breed bans in housing.

Sharon

ggwash.org /view/82773/pit-bull-bans-are-a-housing-issue

Pit bull bans are a housing issue

Housing Opinion By Dan Reed (Editorial Board) October 13, 2021

It’s Pit Bull Awareness Month, which is a time to celebrate this misunderstood 
(but very common) dog breed and help get them adopted. One barrier to finding 
these dogs loving homes are breed-specific laws and housing restrictions, which 
were intended to protect people from unsafe dogs but have long failed to do so.

Prince George’s County has banned pit bulls since 1997. Anyone caught with a 
dog suspected of being a pit bull can get fined up to $1,000 or even go to jail.

Instead, dogs usually end up at other shelters or with groups like Vindicated 
Pit Bull Rescue. In turn, they have to find a potential adopter outside of the 
county. But that family can’t live in an apartment complex or a homeowner’s 
association, because they often ban them too. Despite being a puppy with no 
record of harming anyone, dogs are treated like a danger because of how they 
look.

WTF are pit bulls?

There’s actually no such thing as a pit bull: the term can refer to several 
different breeds, including American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire 
Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, but is often used to describe dogs 
with big heads and stocky builds. As a result, studies show that even shelter 
staff and veterinarians have a hard time picking out pit bulls based on 
physical features.

Due to overbreeding, many “pit bull type dogs” are mixed breeds. For example, a 
DNA test for our dog found that his top four breeds are American Pit Bull 
Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Chow Chow, and German Shepherd. When I 
take him for walks, people usually either clock him as a pit bull or a lab.

Pit bulls were bred for a variety of reasons: some were family dogs, or helped 
around the farm. One (alleged) pit bull mix named Sergeant Stubby served in 
World War I and returned to the US a hero. Others were bred to fight, and this 
led to stereotypes that the dogs were inherently dangerous.

People were mad

Starting in the 1980s, a series of high-profile pit bull attacks led to 
communities around the United States instituting bans on owning or breeding pit 
bulls. The dogs were frequently associated with criminal behavior. A 1999 
article in City Journal compared their presence in a neighborhood to “drug 
dealing, prostitution, or aggressive panhandling.”

Breed ban supporters relied on myths about pit bulls, like that they had 
locking jaws or were overly aggressive. Then DC councilmember Jim Graham, who 
repeatedly tried to pass a pit bull ban, told the Washington Post that “In the 
wrong hands, these dogs are lethal weapons.”

In some ways, this was a natural reaction. A news story would appear about a 
dog attacking somebody and elected officials would propose a ban, assuming this 
would keep people safe. Prince George’s County banned “pit bull type dogs” in 
1997 after a dog attacked an 11-year-old boy and, over the next four years, 
euthanized 2,400 dogs.

Breed specific laws didn’t work

But pit bull bans didn’t make communities safer. The town of North Beach, 
Maryland got rid of its ban because, as one councilmember put it, there was “no 
practical way to prove whether the dog that attacked is in fact a ‘pit bull’.” 
In 2005, the animal control director in Prince George’s County said that 70% of 
the pit bulls they impounded were “nice dogs,” and that the law prevented them 
from going after dangerous dogs. As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his 2006 
New Yorker feature about pit bulls, actual data shows that dogs of all breeds 
can bite and attack people.

Today, most jurisdictions in the region no longer have pit bull laws. Virginia 
bans breed-specific laws entirely. DC restricts dogs that “without provocation” 
cause a serious injury to a person or another animal. The focus is now on bad 
owners, not dogs. And shelters that once euthanized pit bulls, like the Humane 
Rescue Alliance now fight breed bans.

The holdout is Prince George’s, which upheld the ban in 2019. Leaders admit 
that it didn’t actually keep the dogs out of the county, which still impounds 
hundreds of suspected pit bulls each year: “If we’re sitting up here and say 
that pit bulls don’t exist in Prince George’s County, we’re all lying to each 
other,” councilmember Sydney Harrison told WTOP.

This is a housing issue

If you want to rent a home in Prince George’s County, your lease will likely 
include some variation on this phrase: “Tenant certifies that Tenant does not 
own a pit bull nor will Tenant acquire, harbor or maintain a pit bull upon the 
premises during the term of this lease.” This is common in other jurisdictions 
too.

When my partner and I rented an apartment in Montgomery County three years ago, 
the lease listed 38 restricted breeds, including American Pit Bull Terrier, 
German Shepherd, Husky, and more obscure ones like the Briard, Jindo, and 
Kuvasz. If your dog wasn’t on the list, the property manager could still reject 
them after a “visual inspection” or if another resident objected.

Thus, you could lose your housing because of somebody’s perception of your dog. 
The Best Friends Animal Society found that 13.7% of dogs surrendered to 
shelters were there because of their owners’ housing issues, like getting 
evicted.

That’s if you can find housing in the first place. “Pet-friendly” apartment 
complexes may still have restrictions and tend to be more expensive or charge 
extra in pet rent, putting them out of reach for many pet owners. Many 
landlords require rental insurance, but insurance companies can deny or 
restrict your coverage if you have a pit bull). In Maryland, landlords can be 
held liable if a tenant’s pit bull attacks somebody. Even if you own a home, 
homeowner and condo associations can restrict or ban pets.

Stereotypes are dumb

In 2019, the county euthanized 400 dogs who could not find homes. To be honest, 
before I adopted Drizzy I thought they were dangerous too. I couldn’t have told 
you what a pit bull even looked like, but when I first saw “PIT BULL” on his 
medical papers, I was worried. I couldn’t square that with the sweet, goofy dog 
we had just brought home: is this what people were so afraid of? But I have 
learned these misconceptions about pit bulls have real consequences for 
innocent dogs and their families.

This Pit Bull Awareness Month, I hope you’ll take time to learn about this 
awesome but misunderstood breed, and how we can give them a chance at better 
lives.

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