Broward County Pit Bulls Won't Be Banned, Sharief Now Says

Following a tense weekend that one local city commissioner described as "mass hysteria," Broward County's vice mayor amended her proposal Monday afternoon, thereby allowing all resident pit bull owners to keep their dogs.

Late last week, Barbara Sharief, vice mayor of the Broward County Commission, was set to propose a motion that, upon approval from the state Legislature, would restrict Broward County residents from "owning and keeping" pit bulls. But now, Sharief has struck the word keep from the motion -- and added the word additional -- eliminating plans to take away anyone's pit bulls.

The amended version reads:

"People can keep their pit bulls," Sharief said. She's now only calling for a ban on acquiring additional pit bulls.

Over the past weekend, her office was deluged with angry messages from the pit bull community. Michele Lazarow, Hallandale Beach city commissioner, called it "mass hysteria."

"People are frightened," Lazarow said. "And they're angry. They're seeing what has happened in Miami-Dade County, and they're frightened that it could happen here." The City of Hollywood too will ask the state Legislature for permission to ban pit bulls -- if that need arises.

When Sharief first crafted her proposal, she said she lifted the exact words from Miami-Dade's and only after panic swept the county did she realize a clarification was needed.

"We just don't want anyone to have additional pit bulls," she said. Some things in her proposal have remained the same: Sharief still wants to slap anyone training pit bulls to fight with a fine of $500 for every occurrence, as well $300 for a failure to vaccinate the dogs.

The subcontext behind the proposal also hasn't changed. Pit bulls are dangerous, Sharief said, refuting scientific research that has found the dogs less aggressive on average than other breeds.

"I disagree with that science," she said. "We've done considerable research on this, and we've found [pit bulls] have a more aggressive nature. It's due to the fact that they have a tendency to kill small things. Pit bulls don't just go after something to harm it; they go after it to kill it." In October 2011, two children were attacked by pit bulls in Deerfield Beach. Then in May of last year, a pit bull mauled a 77-year-old man in Miramar.

Sharief expressed a degree of frustration over the community's reaction to her proposal. She said she's been talking about such legislation "for years" and has conducted numerous meetings to gain local support and advise.

"And the people sending us these email chains -- where were they when we were asking for support?"

She encouraged impassioned owners and detractors to come to attend their commission meeting tonight.

"Maybe if they come," she said, "they can help us craft some type of rule to help stop the pit bulls from fighting in our area and to stop the biting."

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