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Dallas,TX -- Poke the beehive and you will be stung, so angry response to my reluctant call for a ban on the sale and breeding of pit bull-type dogs didn't come as a shock.

Some of it is hard reading of the sticks-and-stones variety: I was called "bigot," "ignorant," "Hitler" and, painfully, was told: "Keep up the call for canine genocide and innocent blood will be on YOUR hands."

Ouch. But only this one really unnerved me:

"I am extremely saddened and hurt by your column," it read. "We do not buy the argument that these dogs are better off dead. I really believed that you were better than this."

I have met this woman. I liked her, and I liked her dogs. Her pit bills seemed about as threatening to me as a couple of sugar doughnuts.

People respond emotionally where this issue is concerned, and I can't blame them. Responsible pit bull owners who love their pets tend, perhaps with good reason, to view themselves as a persecuted minority.

By the same token, people who have had frightening and sometimes traumatic encounters with the handful of breeds collectively (if not always accurately) called "pit bulls" want these dogs outlawed. They can't understand why there aren't more protections against them in place.

I don't know how you reconcile these powerful emotions in forming public policy, any more than you can reconcile some of the pictures people e-mailed me over the weekend.

There was a picture of a button-cute blue pit bull puppy sitting happily in his owner's lap; another showed a pit pull snoozing contentedly with a kitten. One showed a surefooted pit, a snazzy bandanna around his neck, sailing on the forward deck of a kayak.

There were also pictures a man in Plano sent of his blood-soaked clothes and sneakers, taken after a pit bull attacked him in a public park, tore his Yorkshire terrier out of his grasp and mauled the smaller dog to death.

A veterinarian in Denton says the dogs are unfortunately unpredictable: "Owners [are] in complete, utter denial about the breed's tendencies. No one can predict when an otherwise lovable family PB will snap a twig."

Yet a woman who rescues abandoned pit bulls and operates a day-care center said she has the preschoolers help care for the dogs and has never had a negative incident.

Who to believe?

Well, everybody - these experiences are anecdotal, and I don't think anybody's lying.

And I agree about a thousand percent with everyone who wrote that the fault lies with ignorant, irresponsible owners, and that public education combined with strict enforcement of existing leash and licensing laws are better solutions than a breed ban.

But there really have been dog attacks, and the "bully" breeds have the capacity to inflict severe damage. There really are neighborhoods where people are scared of pit bulls that are routinely allowed to run loose.

Do we tell them they're out of luck because a lot of fools out there aren't interested in personal responsibility, and that few cities have the money and manpower to enforce existing laws for every dog in town?

Personally, I like dogs, from bug-eyed lap candy to plus-size droolers, and I believe that human beings have too often been lousy stewards of the canine species.

People don't always understand or adequately supervise their pets. I once had to rescue a cable repairman who was cornered on the stair landing by one of our cats, which is how we found out he doesn't care for strangers.

Nobody should fear having their pet seized because of its breed. And I'm certainly not advocating wholesale euthanasia of any type of dog.

But a sale-and-breeding ban might create the very minor advantage of decreasing the popularity of a type of dog that, unfortunately, too often falls into the hands of inhumane, irresponsible or simply incapable people. It might decrease the number of neglected, unadoptable pit bulls the local shelters put down every day.

It's not universally "fair," and it's certainly not an end-all solution. But at least it's something.

Balancing the valid loves and fears on pit bull issue | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Columnist Jacquielynn Floyd | Dallas-Fort Worth News
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