Pooch out

Sep 24, 2008 at 12:00 am
August was a bad month for pit bulls.

First, Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin quipped that she and other hockey moms were pit bulls with lipstick, painting the pooches — at least in the case of their similarity to the veep candidate — in an extremely bad light.

Then the breed was banned in Grosse Pointe Park.

As part of a revamping of the suburb’s dog ordinance, the City Council added a provision prohibiting ownership of dog breeds commonly known as pit bulls that "cause and pose and [sic] inherent danger to the public heath [sic], welfare, and safety. Therefore no person shall own, harbor or keep any dog commonly described as a pit bull terrier within the City."

Dogs will be impounded by the Public Safety Department and a court order will be issued to destroy the animal or remove it from the city, the ordinance goes on to say. If convicted, the owners could face $500 fines and 90 days in jail.

Resident Ken Welch, who has two pit bulls and one mix, is not at all happy. He says he had no advance notice that the council was considering a ban and wonders why the measure was ushered through in a single meeting on Aug. 25.

The breed is not inherently dangerous, he says, and he’s tired of media portrayals that pit bulls make unprovoked attacks.

"There are certainly vicious dogs, and people need to be protected from those," he says. "If this was such a demon dog, if this was such a nuisance, how come there are so many people willing to defend it?"

Welch is organizing opposition, and plans to attend the council’s Sept. 22 meeting urging change to the ordinance.

"I’m hoping they listen and change it and that it turns out to be a big misunderstanding and they do the right thing," he says.

Welch estimates about a dozen of the dogs live in the suburb, which borders Detroit to the northeast. Welch commends the ordinance’s rewrite to clarify "dangerous dog" definitions and penalties for their owners, but objects to pit bulls’ specific banning.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Kennel Club support legislation and regulations protecting the public from dangerous animals as long as laws are not breed-specific.

"Any dog can bite. Any dog can inflict a serious wound. It’s not just the pit bull-type dogs," says David Kirkpatrick, AVMA spokesman.

Messages left at Grosse Pointe Park’s Department of Public Safety and the city manager’s office were not returned. Two City Council members did not respond to e-mailed requests for interviews.

News Hits doesn’t know why they’re apparently afraid to talk to us. We don’t bite.

Not often, anyway. News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or at