EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

May 20, 2007

N.H. legislators won't bite on pit bull ban

When a year-old pit bull attacked Dorothy Routhier's dog Wiley late last year, she had to call police to save his life.

In the end, Kingston police Chief Donald Briggs was forced to shoot the pit bull twice in the head before it loosed its grip on the throat of Routhier's 11-year-old black Labrador retriever.

Witnesses told a harrowing story of the older dog howling and becoming tangled in his own leash as bystanders tried to pull the pit bull away and beat it with a shovel to make it let go.

It's with attacks like that in mind that some south-of-the-border lawmakers are considering banishing pit bulls from the Bay State. The Granite State, meanwhile, has already rejected one effort to control breeds of dogs with reputations for attacking other pets and people.

A bill that would have required owners of pit bulls, Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers to get special permits failed to make it out of a House committee when it was introduced in New Hampshire in 2001.

In Massachusetts, a series of high-profile attacks by pit bulls this year prompted a legislative committee to consider a statewide ban on the breed as well as other laws to control aggressive dogs.

"I don't think they would go for it in New Hampshire," said longtime Rep. Ron Belanger, R-Salem.

In a state with wide-open space and a strong belief in personal freedom, Belanger said, most legislators wouldn't support a ban.

Neither do pit bull owners and breeders in the Bay State, who packed a hearing on the bill last week in Boston, arguing that a ban is uncalled for.

Nature vs. nurture

To detractors, pit bulls are violent killing machines with bad attitudes and a predisposition to attack.

A study by the federal Centers For Disease Control and Prevention found pit bulls were responsible for killing 60 people in the United States between 1979 and 1996, more than any other breed. Rottweilers were second with 29. In all, there were 279 human deaths by canines during the study period, according to the study.

Lisa Peterson, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club in New York, said pit bulls do not have a natural disposition toward violence. But some owners deliberately turn them into lethal weapons, she said.

"They are raising their dogs to be more like weapons and less like family pets," Peterson said.

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