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Thurmont mulls Pit Bull ban

Thurmont town officials may soon introduce an ordinance
that would ban pit bulls.

Ingrid Mezo

(5/11) Commissioner Wayne Hooper said at a town meeting May 2 that the town needed to do something to address a problem in Sunny Court, in the Thurmont East subdivision. Hooper said a pit bull that lives there has come close to biting neighborhood children several times in the last few years.

The children’s parents have called Frederick County Animal Control five times to handle the problem, and the owner has been fined, Hooper said during a phone interview Tuesday, but the problem has continued.

The most recent incident occurred last week, Hooper said, when a child was walking to a neighbor’s house. The dog dug under the fence and ran out into the street toward the child, he said.

‘‘In this case, if it wasn’t for the parent snatching up the child, the child would have been bitten," Hooper said. ‘‘And it was unprovoked — the child was crossing the street to go to a neighbor’s cookout. They have to live in fear, and that’s not right."

Thurmont attorney Lynn Board will meet with town officials on Friday to discuss drafting a pit bull ban. She did not return The Gazette’s phone calls by press time Wednesday.

Tom Reynolds, manager of Research and Information at the Maryland Municipal League, said many other municipalities have successfully enacted pit bull bans, or aggressive dog bans. Other municipalities have tried to enact bans and failed because groups came forward to oppose a breed-specific ban.

A Washington County attempt to pass a pit bull ban recently failed.

In Prince George’s County, a pit bull ban has been in effect since 1996. Prince George’s County banned dogs defined as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, an American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, an American Pit Bull, or any dog predominantly resembling any of those breeds. Prince George’s County residents could be punished with a $1,000 fine or be sentenced for up to six months in prison.

Any pit bull in that county that bites another domestic animal or person is ‘‘humanely destroyed," according to the ordinance, and the owner is fined. The Prince George’s pit bull ban also lists conditional exemptions for people who had owned a pit bull prior to when the ban was enacted.

While Reynolds said he did not have information about failed ordinances, he said he thought that ordinances had failed in some places because of pressure from ‘‘very strong dog owner groups that are adamant about protecting dogs’ rights.

‘‘There are different approaches to it," Reynolds said. ‘‘One way that local governments have avoided concerns about specific breeds is by passing more general ‘aggressive dog ordinances’ rather than having it specifically applied to pit bulls."

While Thurmont town officials are only in the preliminary stages of discussing a pit bull ban, Hooper said he is leaning toward making the ban breed specific.

‘‘It is a pit bull that’s causing us the trouble, and we haven’t had any real troubles with other dogs," Hooper said. ‘‘My concern is the dog has been deemed potentially dangerous, and they still haven’t done anything about it ... We hate to make it breed specific but that’s the one breed that’s causing us the trouble, and children in the neighborhood can’t go out and play."

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