It looks like we are safe.............for now
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/hea ... 98328.html
Pit bull panel won't request ban on breeds
County should seek authority to regulate dangerous dogs in general, task force says
By BILL MURPHY
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
Top officials have debated whether the county should seek state authority to ban pit bulls since two dogs fatally mauled a 4-year-old boy last month.
But such a ban wouldn't have applied to at least one of the dogs â€” previously described by county animal-shelter officials as a "pit bull mix" â€” because the canine lacked many attributes of the breed, said the county's top veterinary official.
"Its hindquarters were too small," said Dawn Blackmar, a veterinarian and director of the county Veterinary Public Health Department. "Its muzzle was not characteristic of a pit bull."
Blackmar made her comments after running a closed meeting of a multijurisdictional pit bull task force Tuesday at City Hall.
Blackmar said Rita Obey, who is in charge of communications for the county Public Health & Environmental Services Department, made the decision to close the meeting. Obey said Dr. Herminia Palacio, head of the department, which oversees Veterinary Public Health, agreed.
She said the public might be confused if the panel discussed ideas in open meetings then omitted some from its final report, expected early next year.
Houston Chronicle reporters who tried to attend the meeting were asked to leave.
"It was our preference to release the information in a final recommendation, rather than a lot of " discussion, Obey said.
Assistant County Attorney Clarissa Bauer, who attended the meeting, said the Texas Open Meetings Act does not require the panel to meet in public because it makes recommendations but can't take any legislative action on its own.
Pedro Rios Jr., 4, was killed by two stray dogs Nov. 21 in unincorporated Harris County. Law enforcement officers shot and killed one of the dogs at the scene. The other was wounded and later destroyed.
The task force agreed that the county should not ask state lawmakers for authority to ban specific breeds such as pit bulls, which is prohibited by state law. Instead, the county should press for legislation that would allow it to regulate dangerous dogs, Blackmar said.
Blackmar said she saw the wounded dog at the county animal shelter before it was euthanized and concluded that it didn't have much pit bull in it, if any. She never examined the other dog and said she doesn't know whether it belonged to the breed, formally called American pit bull terrier.
Bans of specific breeds are difficult to enforce because officials must prove that animals belong to a banned breed when their owners may argue otherwise, Blackmar said.
The county and city likely would have to hire someone to hear appeals from owners.
"We would be building a bureaucracy," Blackmar said. "A task force member said we would be unduly punishing responsible owners of banned breeds and letting off the hook irresponsible owners of other breeds."
Some communities that have banned specific breeds are considering amending laws so that they target dangerous dogs but not breeds, she said.
According to Blackmar's account of the closed meeting, the task force discussed:
â€¢What the city, county and private shelters are doing to address the problems of pit bulls and how the various departments could collaborate on their efforts.
â€¢Creating a hot line that people could call to report organized dogfighting. Another hot line may be needed so people can report strays.
There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.