Boston Mayor Tom Menino calling for resurrection of muzzle rule for pit bulls

Boston Mayor Tom Menino, in an interview with the Boston Herald on Saturday stands by his conviction that “pit bulls have something in them that makes them vicious” and is determined to press for special legislation to bring back the muzzle rule for all pit bulls. Menino’s reaction was prompted by two pit bulls who escaped from their Sumner Street home on Friday in the East Boston neighborhood where one of the dogs bit a child and killed a cat.

Police officers shot one of the dogs, however the dog did survive. Both dogs are now in the custody of Animal Control pending a decision as to their fates.

According to the Boston Herald’s interview with Mayor Menino, the Mayor stated:

“Pit bulls have that little strain in them that are vicious.”

In August, Governor Deval Patrick bill amended the Animal Control Act which covered multiple animal care issues, but also addressed breed specific legislation declaring municipalities with pit bull laws unenforceable. The new legislation included provisions to help homeless animals, care funds to be established, regulations for pet store sales, and definitions of “dangerous dogs” which specifically excludes deeming a dog dangerous “based upon the breed of such dog.”

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The new law which takes effect in less than a month states no city or town is allowed to regulate dogs in any manner specific to their breed which in the past has included such local ordinances demanding pit bull type dogs to be spayed and neutered, charged additional fees because of their breed, posting beware of dogs signs, limiting two pit bull type dogs to a household, and requiring the dogs to be muzzled in public.

There have been no statistics confirming that previous legislation defining pit bull legislation has reduced the number of dog bites.

A list of myths about pit bulls continues to misinform the public. According to, the more common myths include:

  • Pit bulls have locking jaws. There is no such thing.
  • Pit bulls lock their jaws and shake their prey. Police dogs are trained to hold on to their prey, but holding on is a natural instinct for dogs. Many dogs love to play tug-of-war. That doesn’t make them dangerous.
  • Pit bulls have a genetic “strain” in them that makes them vicious. There have not been any dog breeds genetically engineered to kill humans. Dangerous dogs are determined both by genetics and by the humans who train and care for them.
  • Pit bulls are only used in dog fighting. Perhaps everyone old enough can remember Petey, the pit bull loved by the Little Rascals. In fact most pit bulls are cherished family members and excellent dog citizens.
  • Pit bulls are aggressive. All dog breeds can be aggressive. It depends on training and the humans involved in the dog’s care. Pit bull breeds score below average for aggression compared to other dog breeds and are not naturally aggressive.

Furthermore the term “pit bull” does not refer to a particular breed of dog. The term only designates an appearance and the breed can be more specifically categorized as American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and hundreds of possible mixes ranging from poodles to Labrador retrievers.

Kara Holmquit, the director of advocacy for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also told the Boston Herald:

“To truly prevent dog bites, a comprehensive dangerous dog law that is well-enforced needs to be embraced.”

Almost one in four dogs found in animal shelters is some mixture of the general term pit bull, and 80 percent of the these dogs never make it out of a shelter. It is essential for everyone to spay and neuter their pets – and not just the pit bulls.

National Pit Bull Awareness Day is October 27th. It is meant to be a day of appreciation and education in order to dispel and change the perceptions about the dogs and their responsible owners. For more information and how you can participate, please click here.

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