Pit bulls in Miami-Dade County and genetic testing: Good luck with that!
For those of us in Miami-Dade County who would break the law in a fit of civil disobedience or as a genuine means of peaceful protest against the ineffectually restrictive breed specific legislation we suffer under, I say….good luck with that.
That’s because in this county—as I’ve had cause to discover in the course of my ten years practicing as a vet under “the ban”—enforcement of the provision is haphazard in almost every way.
Though it uniformly ensures that unclaimed “pit bull-ish” dogs are euthanized right-quick in a municipal shelter, people living with pit bulls or pit bull mixes might manage to do so unless someone reports them. Lots of luck is exactly what you need—along with a judicious bit of knowing how to fly under the radar.
Though inner city youths still parade them brazenly in certain areas, neighbors often have no way of knowing where the dogs actually live. Furthermore, the broken window theory reigns supreme in these zones, fostering complacency even among those who yearn for more order in their depressed neighborhoods. Pits used in violent street life (by those who would treat them as weapons long before making sure they had clean water and reasonable shelter) somehow still thrive under the ban.
Consequently, it’s the well-behaved pit bull crosses marched through tony Lincoln Road in their $100 collars that are most likely to receive citations ($500 the first time, $5,000 and risk confiscation or euthanasia the next). And it’s the coddled, family-pet pit bulls who moved here with their parents and settled into well-kept neighborhoods that are more at risk of actual “neighborly” repercussions.
I have several clients caught in this maelstrom of stress on the issue. Some will do anything possible to ensure no one sees their dog. Others hide their dog’s true appearance with cute T-shirts and sweaters. But mostly, keeping a pit under wraps means no puppy parks, no Lincoln Road, no trips to Starbucks. Nothing. Total confinement.
I even have a couple of clients who deny their dogs look like pit bulls at all and hope this thin thread of vain hope will keep them safe. While this latter group might have a leg to stand on elsewhere, Miami-Dade’s one breed ban enforcement officer is the sole arbiter. Even if you don’t think your dog looks pit-ish, this guy decides—all by himself with little room for appeal. (I’d like to look at his tax returns and compare them to his living conditions since I’m convinced there’s no better recipe for corruption).
The conclusion is that Miami-Dade’s breed ban, though by no means watertight, is a major stressor for a hefty number of otherwise law-abiding citizens I know.
That’s why I’ve recently had some clients ask whether the new genetic tests available to determine a dog’s true parentage might be useful in their cases. Have you heard of these tests? They’ll sort out your mutt’s mixed messages and help get to the bottom of the fifty-seven ingredients she’s got lurking in her DNA.
Specifically, the clients who’ve inquired are those whose dogs are not actual pits but whose genetic provenance is nonetheless sufficiently dubious as to evoke some un-neighborly remarks. As in, “Are you sure he’s not a pit bull?”
In one notable case, a dog purchased in a pet store as a purebred (not a pit, though I won't name the breed) turned out suspiciously large and big-headed. A neighbor turned her in. In spite of her “papers,” the county’s pit man says she’s enough of a pit to warrant a citation. Talk about adding insult to injury (or is it “dumb and dumber”?): She paid good money for a dog that’s not a purebred and now she’s being fined for keeping a pit.
Will genetic testing help sort this one out? Doubtful. Not as long as the County Dog Czar holds sway over the nonexistent jury. Maybe next time he comes around she should just offer to make his Mercedes payment for him. Beats paying for moving costs…but there’s got to be a better way.