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Miami-Dade To Loosen Bite On Pit Bulls?

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Pit bulls, with their vise-like jaws, are illegal to own in Miami-Dade County.

They have been since 1989, when Melissa Moreira was mauled as an 8-year-old.

She talked about it with CBS4 News four years ago, when she was 23.

"I'll always be self-conscious, I'll always be insecure because of the scars," Moreira said.

A neighbor's pit bull attacked her in her driveway – ripping her face apart, ravaging her arm, pulling her scalp half off.  That case prompted the breed to be banned by Miami-Dade.

Activist Dahlia Canes, who owns two pit bulls of the non-illegal strain, heads the group Miami Coalition Against Breed-Specific Legislation.

They have persuaded county commissioners to reconsider the pit bull law that can see owners fined, their pit bulls seized and killed.

"It's an inhumane, unjust, unenforceable ban, it's costing taxpayers money," Canes told CBS4 News on Monday.

At a Miami park the proposed repeal got no support from a man with his granddaughter.

"It does frighten me as a grandparent, so I'd be in favor of keeping the ban," said Ron Curtis, his toddler granddaughter playing on a slide nearby.

At the dog park in Coconut Grove, however, lifting the ban saw some favor.

Michael Cavanaugh was exercising his dog, a mutt named Loki.

"The issue is the owners. It's the owners, it's never the breed," Cavanaugh said. "I've been around pit bulls before and I've never been bitten by a dog in my life."

Some argue dogs are as dogs do.

"I honestly have met lovely pit bulls, and I've met very mean Labrador retrievers," said Lisa Boyce, a self-described dog lover who supports lifting the pit bull ban.

Indeed, in May of 2016, Miami-Dade's Christine Bradford was horribly mauled by two mastiffs.

The mastiffs also wounded a Good Samaritan who tried to come to Bradford's aid.

They're not illegal, but were euthanized.

In 2012, Miami-Dade voters flatly rejected lifting the pit bull prohibition – 60 percent of the voters electing to keep it.

But Dahlia Canes is back again, going straight to county hall.

"It's discrimination at its worst.  No dog should be euthanized or taken away from its owners, based on what they look like," Canes said.

There is, however, no escaping the horror stories, like that of 4-year-old Javan Dade, Jr., mauled to death in 2014 by his dad's pit bulls in the back yard of the father's home.

The dogs got the death penalty, while the father was sentenced to four years in prison for negligent manslaughter.

As Miami-Dade commissioners take up the proposed repeal of the pit bull ban, they no doubt will recall voters overwhelmingly rejected the notion four years ago, and that more than 700 cities and counties have pit bull prohibitions in place.

The Humane Society of The United States has joined in opposing the pit bull ban.

In a statement, the group said, "Dog bites have not been reduced, and public safety has not increased" as a result of the prohibition.

An Austin, Texas based group,, however, cites a study of 11 trauma centers nationwide that it says shows the overwhelming number of dog bite cases are from pit bulls and that pit bulls inflict much more vicious wounds than other breeds.

Canes' group disputes the results of that study.

Caroline Cashion pushed her granddaughter along in a stroller in the Grove Monday and offered a different solution to the pit bull issue.

"I think they should not breed them anymore," Cashion said.  "Just let the breed die out, and then the problem will be gone."

Miami-Dade commissioners were to take up the pit bull ban repeal on first reading at their meeting Tuesday.

However, late Monday evening, the commission chairman's office informed CBS4 News that the bill's sponsor, Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, has withdrawn it.

Barreiro apparently wants to rewrite and expand the bill in the hopes it will be more appealing to other commissioners.

Some additions include penalties for animal fighting and irresponsible owners.

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