Pit Bull Incidents Outnumber Other Dog Attacks 2 to 1
County officials say pit bulls attack and are labeled "dangerous" more often than other dogs.
Between 2009 and 2010, there were 233 reported incidents involving pit bull attacks against people and other dogs in Anne Arundel County. In that same time frame, the next closest breeds, German shepherds and Labrador retrievers, caused just 93 incidents combined.
According to Lt. Glenn Shanahan of Anne Arundel County Animal Control, pit bull terriers lead all other breeds in the county by at least two to one when it comes to attacks over the last five years.
“The numbers say what they say. We’re not making it up,” Shanahan said. “It’s demonstrably overwhelming.”
A man shot and killed a 4-year-old pit bull in Severn two weeks ago after the dog and another pit bull engaged in fight.
Just two days later, a man in Severna Park shot and killed a pit bull after the dog aggressively approached him in his backyard in the 300 block of Benfield Road, he said. Apparently, it wasn't the first incident involving a pit bull on that block.
According to Animal Control service call documents acquired by Severna Park Patch, the agency was contacted three times between March 2009 and January 2011 concerning complaints about a pit bull at 302 Benfield Road in Severna Park. The calls were from an anonymous citizen, with complaints of a pit bull running loose and and two pit bulls outside tied to a tree with no food or water. There were no charges placed in any of the incidents after the agency responded to the calls.
While this month's shooting incidents both involved pit bulls, the man from Severna Park was arrested on site and charged with discharging a firearm in a residential area and animal cruelty, but the shooting in Severn resulted in no charges by the police department.
Kristin Fleckenstein, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office, tried to explain the difference between the two situations.
The spokeswoman said police officers are not required to contact the State's Attorney's office before making decisions about charges and arrests. Police are free to make arrests and press initial charges, but at times, officers may contact the State's Attorney's office if unsure about specific charges, Fleckenstein said.
In the case of the Severn incident, officers called the state’s attorney’s office before making an arrest or pressing charges. Fleckenstein said her office advised the police to conduct their investigation before bringing the case to the State's Attorney for identifying any possible criminal charges.
“In the other case [in Severna Park], the police officer simply charged [the shooter],” she said.
Fleckenstein said the police department completed their investigation of the Severn incident and met with the state’s attorney’s office last Monday, yet no decision has been made as to whether the department will press charges.
Patch readers raised questions regarding the incident and, more specifically, laws involving pit bulls and the responsibility of their owners.
Anne Arundel County has no prohibition against specific breeds of dogs, Shanahan said. But he said the aggression of pit bulls and the statistics surrounding their attacks are undisputable.
Prince George’s County prohibits the ownership of pit bull terriers unless the dog was born earlier than Feb. 3, 1997. That means any pit bull younger than 14 years of age is illegal. Pit bull owners in Prince George’s County must provide proof of ownership for any dog that meets the age requirement.
One of the only laws specific to dog owners in Anne Arundel County pertains to leashes.
Every animal, dog or cat, must be on a leash when on public property, Shanahan said. The only exception applies to animals that are involved in the sport of hunting or when the animal is in a designated area, such as a dog park.
“As soon as you step onto the sidewalk or street, [dogs] must be on a leash. Same thing on a cat,” Shanahan said.
Walking an animal without a leash is a $50 fine, but Shanahan said police rarely stop people for the violation.
The one thing that could get a pit bull, or its owners, into trouble is when the dog acts out with aggression toward a person or other animal.
"We’re not going to mess with dogs that are being messed with, but if it decides to take a chunk out of someone, that dog could be declared ‘potentially dangerous,’” Shanahan said.
Dogs can be labeled as “dangerous” or “potentially dangerous” by Animal Control, depending on the animal’s history of violence.
If labeled to be "dangerous" or "potentially dangerous," dogs may be quarantined at Animal Control's headquarters or within the owner's home, Shanahan said. In the most severe cases, and animal may be put down.
The threat level of a dog could lead to a $100 fine for owners of “potentially dangerous” dogs or $250 is the animal is proven “dangerous.”
“It depends on the bites—number of bites, type of bites,” Shanahan said. “If your dog goes out and mauls someone severe enough for stitches, broken bones or disfigurement, Animal Control could declare the dog dangerous and quarantine it.”
*Leslie Hunt, editor, severnaparkpatch.com contributed to this story.