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One county’s ban leads to euthanasia of 400 pit bulls last year, 250 this year, officials say

Gotti relaxes in the shade as several dozen people rally in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 1 for pit bull terriers. (Marvin Joseph / The Washington Post)
Gotti relaxes in the shade as several dozen people rally in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 1 for pit bull terriers. (Marvin Joseph / The Washington Post)
By Rachel Chason The Washington Post

More than 400 pit bulls were euthanized last year in the country’s second-largest jurisdiction to ban the breed, and more than 250 have been euthanized there so far this year, officials said Monday.

Advocates are pushing to overturn the pit bull ban in Prince George’s County, Maryland, which they say is costly, ineffective and inhumane.

The statistics were provided Monday via Department of Environment spokeswoman Linda Lowe, following a request made last week by The Washington Post.

There were 687 pit bulls impounded last year, 402 of which were euthanized and 283 of which were placed in other shelters or with rescue organizations or returned to their homes, Lowe said.

So far this year, 492 pit bulls have been impounded, with 234 of them placed in homes or with organizations and 258 euthanized.

The decision to euthanize dogs is made based on a behavioral assessment of the animals - which includes examining aggression toward humans and other dogs - or when there is not interest or spaces from rescue organizations or shelters outside Prince George’s County, Lowe said.

The county has had a pit bull ban since 1997, applying to dogs that are at least 50% pit bull, but its enforcement is spotty.

The county council is considering an overhaul of its animal control code, including stricter penalties for owners who do not care for their dogs. Animal rights activists want to repeal the ban as part of that legislation, but most council members said that is unlikely this year.

Prince George’s is the only jurisdiction in the Washington, D.C., region with such a ban. The county spends about $570,000 annually on animal control officers, boarding for impounded dogs and euthanizing them, Lowe said.

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