Animal shelters in the US care for 6 to 8 million dogs and cats annually. Sadly, more than 4 million of those homeless pets are euthanized over the year. Although many shelters are moving towards a “no-kill” policy, some animal welfare professionals find themselves in a difficult legal position.
One shelter in this position is the Prince Georges’ County Animal Shelter (not far from Washington DC) which cares for about 170 animals on any one day. This county enforces a Pit Bull ban. Sheri Lunsford is the Animal Programs Manager and explained as she showed me around the newly built premises,
the ban also includes the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier or dogs that exhibit the characteristics of a Pit Bull more than any other breed of dog”.
This puts staff in the terrible predicament of trying to determine who should live or die.
Does the ban work? The general feeling at the shelter is that the animal control officers (similar to RSPCA Inspectors) are kept very busy and are able to educate people to improve pet ownership. Reported Pit Bull bites have reduced significantly since the ban however, those determined to flout the law, will continue to do so by transferring animals (specifically banned breeds) between counties.
Prince George County also enforces an Animal Hobby Permit. This is the equivalent of the old UK dog licence and is required by anyone who keeps (or harbours) five or more animals larger than a Guinea Pig over the age of 4 months. The owner must ensure the animal has a current rabies vaccination certificate and is charged a mere $5.00 (around £3.50) per neutered pet rising to $25.00 if un-neutered. There are mixed reactions to the value of this regulation also. Typically, the responsible owners comply whilst the shelter fills up with un-licenced animals … no tags, chips and no-one claiming ownership. Sound familiar??