Hundreds Of Loyal Dogs Are Killed Every Year Because Of Stupid Law
Precious the pit bull's devotion proved so adamant, Maryland firefighters had trouble hauling her owner out of the fire.
She stood at her owner's side in a burning house - until rescuers finally resorted to firing an extinguisher at the family dog to get her out of the way.
Besides being a loving, fearlessly faithful pet, Precious is also a pit bull.
That makes her contraband in Prince George's County, and that spelled a cold, lonely night at Prince George's County Animal Control.
The good news?
"She has left the building," Adrianne Lefkowitz of the Maryland Dog Federation confirmed to The Dodo on Thursday.
Indeed, Precious has found a new home in neighboring Montgomery County, where her owner's sister lives - and where pit bulls are legal.
"We still have a family who had to go through not only a fire. But they had to deal with, 'Oh my God what are they doing to our dog?'" Lefkowitz said. "We still have the problem that caused all this in the first place."
A 1997 law makes it illegal in Prince George's County to own any dog deemed to be of pitbull-ish persuasion: American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and, well, mixes.
That very broad blanket sweeps up some 800 dogs in the county annually, taking them to a shelter where roughly half end their days.
Even Precious faced tough odds of being reunited with her family. But her sudden celebrity may have been her ticket out of the shelter. Images of this devoted dog flooded social media, along with outrage over her incarceration.
While it won't be easy to forget Precious, what about the thousands of dogs who don't make national news? What happens to other dogs in Prince George's County who were born under a "bad" breed?
Well, they do have a chance to make bail. After paying a $150 fee, owners have the right to take their case to another authority.
"Technically, the recourse is to go before the commission for animal control," Lefkowitz explains.
But that commission, she adds, has less expertise in breed identification than animal control.
"They don't go by DNA," Lefkowitz says. "It's very subjective."
There is, however, a bigger battle raging in Prince George's County - one between those who support breed-specific legislation and those who fiercely oppose it.
People like Tony Solesky of DogsBite.org make no bones of where they stand on the issue. He's understandably heartbroken after his son was mauled by a pit bull in 2007, and has spent years lobbying for breed-specific legislation throughout the United States.
"Pit bulls were bred to be fighters, both physically and in their instinctual behavior, making them a dangerous choice as a companion pet," he writes in an editorial for the Baltimore Sun.
It's an argument Lefkowitz counters with statistics: "You have to wonder why the German shepherd bites are going down at almost exactly the same rate as the pit bull bites," she says.
And, in fact, across the country, breed-specific legislation is falling out of favor -it hasn't shown any sign of improving public safety.
Animal welfare groups like Best Friends Animal Society and the Maryland Dog Federation say there is no evidence that the legislation has done anything but incarcerate the animals at a great expense to the county.
Prince George's County spends an estimated $500,000 annually maintaining its breed ban.
Protect Pit Bulls from BSL, a group that opposes the ban, did some interesting math, posting this on its Facebook page:
"If we do some simple math and assume that the numbers remain the same, that's $560,000 a year multiplied by 14 years, which means the current total spent enforcing a ban that doesn't work could potentially be estimated at: $7,840,000."
That's a steep price to declare just one specific breed dog non gratis - especially since statistics show the number of dog bites in the county has been going down across the board for all breeds, according to Lefkowitz.
Bites may be on the decline, but heartache is certainly surging.
For a dog like Precious, who stood so steadfast at her owner's side, that single night must have felt like an eternity.
Consider then the countless more dogs who spent so many more nights in the cold arms of the county shelter.
You can support the Maryland Dog Federation and the work it does in saving the lives of animals, as well as fighting breed-specific legislation by visiting its website.