Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Time to leash pit bulls - and their owners

By Peter Gelzinis, Boston Herald

Why do people want pit bulls? For the same reason they want machine guns.
Pit bulls have teeth that can shred beer cans, not to mention the cartilage and bone of enemy drug dealers.
But a city ordinance on the books for six years, designed to muzzle these lethal four-legged weapons - and fine their owners for noncompliance - has so far proved toothless.
The guy who wrote those pit bull sanctions, Hyde Park’s district councilor Rob Consalvo, plans to toughen them up.
But much like the beasts themselves, their owners are a particularly obstinate bunch. Failing to bind the jaws of their muscle-bound pooches, or display a “Beware of Dog” sign, doesn’t bother them much.
So far, these pit bullies have walked away from $140,000 in fines levied upon them and the thuggish dogs that invest them with such an ominous swagger.
To put some teeth into pit bull collections, Consalvo wants to attach liens to their owners’ property tax (assuming they own anything more valuable than the dog) or on their auto excise tax.
“Because,” as Consalvo put it yesterday, “just about everybody drives a car, right?”
Yesterday’s hearing to send a home-rule petition up to the State House consisted of five people: Consalvo; his Dorchester colleague, Councilor Maureen Feeney; Mark Giannangelo, assistant director of Boston Animal Control; his boss, Steve Crosby, deputy manager for property and construction . . . and me, the owner of a fierce Lhasa apso recently to laid to rest.
Among the more interesting factoids to emerge from yesterday’s brief seance was that a quarter of 2,100 registered pit bull owners in this city have been fined.
Maureen Feeney, who recently bid adieu to her golden retriever, asked Crosby and Giannangelo, about how they thought pit bulls were “utilized” by their owners.
“You just seem to see so many individuals strutting the street, pit bulls in tow, with an air of intimidation,” she said.
Later, Crosby and Giannangelo would tell Feeney the “intimidation” she described came from owners who used their pit bulls as weapons on a leash.
For Consalvo, pit bulls have become a lightning rod issue. “The hearings we held six years ago on the law went on for eight hours, longer than the firefighters contract,” he said. “Every Christmas, I get a pit bull calendar in the mail by an anonymous owner who signs it, ‘Happy Holidays, you jerk.’ ”
Just like their dogs, these creatures mean no harm . . . honest.

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