Our dog, Sunny, 8, formerly held the title of the fastest dog in Hillcrest. Recently, she was on the verge of being declared the most potentially dangerous dog in Hillcrest.
The Peacock family got one of 472 letters sent out by Little Rock Animal Services on March 12 summoning known owners of American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Terriers and pit mixes to the Animal Village to be registered, as required by a new city ordinance that identifies the breeds as potentially dangerous.
Animal Services had to paw through some 16,000 dog licenses to do the mailout.
Sunny is square of face and high of ear. She has a muscular chest, is yellow and her tail turns up. Sunny’s vet records describe her as a “Lab/pit mix.” She could also be identified as a “Lab/pit/golden/chow/coon dog mix.” She is the ur-dog.
Which raised for us a philosophical question. Who says what a pit bull is? Who says what any of us are, for that matter? Don’t half the people in the South claim to be Cherokee based on a fictional great-grandmother? Couldn’t Sunny call herself a Carolina Dog, as she once was by a hiker in the mountains of Tennessee?
Here’s who says: Tracey Roark, manager of Little Rock Animal Services.
We took Sunny in to the Animal Village, about a one-wood from First Tee golf course off University, to have our portrait made (the new law also requires photographs of dog and owner) and met first with Bernard Braceley, field supervisor.
“That’s not a pit bull,” he said, a little surprised to see us. He called in Roark. “That’s not a pit bull,” Roark said.
While Sunny annoyingly nuzzled Roark, he explained that she did not have the dominant traits he looks for: pointy triangular ears that flop over a bit, slanted eyes and pink skin above the nose. Braceley brought out two dogs to illustrate.
The pitties, as lovers of the breed call them, were strays, and both had a death sentence. Animal Services can no longer adopt out pit bulls. It had to put down 67 pits in March. We whimpered.
“Please don’t write something ugly,” Roark pleaded. He defended the new ordinance, which the City Board of Directors passed Feb. 16 after several months of debate, as something the city needed to do to put “a leash” (his words exactly) on the growing number of pit bulls coming into Little Rock.
Pit bull terriers have accounted for most of the dog bites in Little Rock since 2005 (Labrador and German shepherds came in 2nd and 3rd.) They can be aggressive to both people and other dogs, and are used for dog-fighting by people whose taste in entertainment runs to the pathological.
Their numbers have been growing in Little Rock because they’ve been outlawed in surrounding cities. Little Rock has taken a more lenient approach, in recognition that people can be responsible dog owners, Roark said. (Pit bull owners would point out, too, that dogs are mostly what you make them; there are plenty of sweet pitties out there.)
Roark expects 1,000 owners will come in to register their dogs. By April, however, only 50 had been registered. The owners must pay a $125 registration fee and implant the dogs with a microchip. Pits must be sterilized unless owners have a breeding permit. Electronic fences are out; pit bulls must be behind real fences they can’t leap. Houses where pits live must be identified by a window sticker visible from the street.
The Peacock family wasn’t looking forward to having a sticker posted on the front of our house (though maybe it would be a deterrent to crime), so we’re relieved. Sunny, who knows? She might have wanted the cachet, now that she’s slowed down a little.
Meanwhile, can you identify an American Pit Bull? Take a quiz at http://www.pbrc.net/misc/PBRC_find_the_pitbull.pdf.