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Proposed muzzle law goes too far

By Taylor Armerding

Call it the canine version of racial profiling. However well-intentioned, it is not fair.

After a pit bull named Ollie killed a 31/2-pound Chihuahua named Guido on Aug. 11 near Timony Grammar School in Methuen, City Council Chairman Stephen Zanni has called for an ordinance that would require all pit bulls to be muzzled if they are off their owners' properties. If they are outside, even on an owner's property, they would have to be penned.

The full council wisely delayed a vote on the matter at its meeting last week to give Zanni time to review and possibly modify his proposal. If it comes back in the same or similar form, however, it ought to be rejected. The most fundamental problem with it is that it is, quite likely, illegal. As several dog experts noted at the meeting, the American Dog Owners Association successfully sued and overturned a similar ordinance in Lynn when the court found it is too difficult to determine exactly what a pit bull is.

Beyond that, however, it is not fair to punish an entire breed for the actions of a few. As dog advocates told councilors, it is the responsibility of owners to train and control their dogs. Those who don't should be penalized.

Those who do should not have to confine harmless pets.

Ollie, whose owners, Christine Goldeski and John Beckos of 4 Hadley Road, agreed to have him euthanized, already had a record of aggression - he had previously attacked the dogs of a local police sergeant, a School Committee member and the city auditor. The question councilors should be asking is why the dog was not ordered restrained or destroyed before he killed the Chihuahua.

It is reasonable to demand strict enforcement of the local leash law. It is reasonable to demand that any individual dog that displays dangerous, aggressive behavior should be muzzled. It is reasonable to demand that a dog that attacks and injures or kills another dog should be removed from the city or destroyed after just one such incident. But it is not reasonable to impose special restrictions on an entire breed. Dog owners should have a chance to demonstrate that they are responsible.

http://www.eagletri bune.com/ opinion/local_ story_255095910
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