UPDATE 03/12/12: The Miami Herald released a list Sunday of the 2012 Florida legislative session -- all bills that passed and failed. Rep. Carlos Trujillo's bill to repeal the Miami-Dade pit bull ban (HB 997) failed as did its Senate counterpart (SB 1322). This might in part be due to historic victims Pilar Garcia and her daughter, Melissa Moreira, speaking out, as well as editorials written that clarified the history of the ban and why Miami-Dade County officials adopted it in 1989.
03/01/12: Historic Victim Speaks Out
Miami, FL - Like much of the garbage regurgitated onto the public by pit bull advocates and apologists, opponents of the Miami-Dade pit bull ban would have Florida legislators and the public believe that the 1989 ban was implemented after a 7-year old girl named Melissa Moreira was viciously savaged by a pit bull in February of that year. The dog tore off parts of her face and then attacked her mother and grandmother before a neighbor shot it four times in the head.
In fact, there were years of publicized violent pit maulings in South Florida prior to Miami-Dade enacting its ban, starting as early as 1945, after the brutal killing of Doretta Zinke by a pack of pit bulls owned by Joe Munn. Other stories include the horrible 1979 mauling of 6-year old Michael "Frankie" Scarbrough. Doctors back then predicted it would take 15 years to rebuild his face. The 1980 mauling of Ethel Tiggs, by her own two pet pit bulls, captured headlines as well.
In 1984, Daniel Lloyd Smith, 9-weeks old, died at Miami Children's Hospital after a pit bull jumped into his crib, piling up more headlines. The savage pit bull attacks on Letter Carriers Jean Zambory in 1983 and Louise Johnson in 1985 built upon the growing number of violent pit bull attacks in the area. There were enough vivid attacks in the region by 1980 (alone) that the City of Hollywood, located in a county adjacent to Miami-Dade, enacted the first modern pit bull law.
Today's Legislative Battle in Florida
Currently, the Florida legislature, spearheaded by Rep. Carlos Trujillo of Miami, is pushing a bill through that will repeal Miami-Dade's pit bull ban. Columnist Fred Grimm of The Miami Herald has responded to Trujillo's efforts by telling the real story behind the ban. Earlier in February, Grimm wrote about the history of the Miami-Dade ban. "The ban was born out of real public revulsion, after one terrible attack after another had been attributed to the breed," writes Grimm.
Grimm adds, "It might be worth remembering that the county politicians, who enacted the ban 23 years ago, reacted to public pressure and gut-wrenching testimony." One of the persons who testified to county officials back then was Pilar Moreira, Melissa's mother. Yesterday, Grimm released a new editorial, "Wounds still fresh for mom of pit bull attack victim," that revisits her daughter's 1989 attack. Pilar (now Pilar Garcia) still gasps 23-years later as she tells her story.
She knows when she sees the animal that one of his fighting dogs1 escaped its backyard pen. Without warning, it attacks Melissa.
"It goes right for her face," she says. The dog knocks the girl over and rips at her head. Pilar screams and tries, futilely to pull it away. The pit bull momentarily turns on Pilar, slashing her left arm. Amada Pozo, her mother-in-law, rushes out of the house and tries to help. The dog goes after Pozo’s face, severing her nose...
Nothing deters the dog until Pilar throws a canvas car cover over the frenzied animal. Then a neighbor, running up with a pistol, shoots the dog four times before killing it.
When Pilar learned of Trujillo's "meddling in local government," she tells Grimm, "When I heard this I was very, very angry. Don’t they know how dangerous these dogs are? What kind of damage they can do?" Grimm then repeats portions of the Miami-Dade pit bull ordinance that spells out exactly how dangerous pit bulls are, the same ordinance that Trujillo is now working to overturn with legislators in Tallahassee, nearly 500 miles away from Miami-Dade County.
"Whereas, to increase its effectiveness as a fighter, certain pit bull traits have been selected and maximized by controlled breeding, including 1) a set of powerful jaws with an exceptional ability to grip, lock and tear when the dog bites; 2) a unique insensitivity to pain that causes pit bulls to be exceedingly tenacious in the attack; 3) an unusually aggressive temperament towards human beings and animals; and 4) an extraordinary directness in their method of attack that does not include the common warning signs such as barking or growling displayed by other breeds." (Miami-Dade pit bull ordinance)
Melissa required 8 surgeries to reconstruct her face. Her scars remain today. Pilar and her mother-in-law had to undergo surgical procedures as well. In 1989, the hospital bills exceeded $50,000. Similar procedures today would elevate those costs to at least $300,000 (one pit bull producing three victims, requiring 10+ surgeries). Pilar tells Grimm that her daughter is now a hospital administrator in Miami and that, at least psychologically, has recovered better than she.
Lastly, Grimm hammers in on another type of garbage regurgitated by pit bull owners and advocates onto the public, who claim that pit bulls are not a breed and cannot be identified, despite numerous appellate court decisions that state otherwise.
Pit bulls are not a mystery designation. Nor are their dangers attributes a fictional invention. And when they attack children or pets after Tallahassee lifts the ban, Rep. Trujillo should get all the credit.
"Before we had this ban, people had to pay so much, financially, emotionally, psychologically, because of these dogs," said Pilar Garcia. "Don't they know?"
Florida Citizens Killed by Pit Bulls
According to the Fatal Pit Bull Attacks website, 17 Florida citizens have been mauled to death by pit bulls since the 1989 Miami-Dade pit bull ban was enacted. None of these deaths occurred in Miami-Dade County. The website only tracks pit bull attacks that end in human death, not the thousands of annual pit bull maulings that leave children and adults with lifelong disfigurement, nor does the website track the obscene number of pets that pit bulls maim and kill annually.
- June 2011, Putnam County - Roy McSweeney, 74-years old
- October 2010, Duval County - Justin Valentin, less than 1-years old
- April 2010, Pasco County - Thomas James Carter Jr., less than 1-years old
- October 2007, Clay County - Tina Marie Canterbury, 42-years old
- June 2007, Volusia County - Mary Bernal, 63-years old
- May 2007, Collier County - Carshena Benjamin, 71-years old
- July 2006, Osceola County - John Brannaman, 81-years old
- December 2004, Orange County - Myles Leakes, 4-years old
- October 2004, Hillsborough County - Anton Brown, 8-years old
- December 2003, Marion County - Alice Broom, 82-years old
- February 2003, Hernando County - Alfred Makuc, 72-years old
- May 2000, Alachua County - Quentin Wright, less than 2-years old
- March 2000, Clay County - Dallas Isham, less than 2-years old
- July 1999, Citrus County - Melissa Hunt, 5-years old
- August 1997, Washington County - Jonathan Langford, 7-years old
- May 1992, Orange County - Randall Ayers, 2-years old
- October 1989, Duval County - Frances Fletcher, 73-years old
It's hard to know what, if anything, can stop Trujillo's onslaught. It is also important to point out that after the Miami-Dade pit bull ban, the AKC successfully pushed through a statewide anti-BSL law to stop other Florida municipalities from adopting a similar law. In short order, the only remaining Florida municipality with a pit bull law, Miami-Dade County, will be out of luck. Pit bull attacks in the region will spike, human deaths will occur and the breeding of new pit bulls will explode.
"Freshman" Carlos Trujillo2 will leave a deplorable legacy in his county and state.
2In 1991, then "newbie" Senator Rodney Ellis (Harris County, TX), sponsored the successful Texas state anti-BSL law and more recently, "newbie" Rep. Barbara Sears (Lucas County, OH) sponsored the legislation that overturned the Ohio state pit bull law. In later years, after recognizing the volume of new pit bull victims in Harris County, Ellis attempts to pass a law repealing the statewide measure; his attempt fails.
01/16/12: 30-Year Summary: Dog Attack Deaths and Maimings, U.S. & Canada
11/06/11: Tucson TV Station Airs Segment About Pit Bulls: Are They Really Dangerous?
04/26/11: Blogger Dissects Deceptive Online Pit Bull Identification Test, 'Find the Pit Bull'
07/19/10: Pit Bulls, by Gary Wilkes: A 21st Century Depiction of the American Pit Bull Terrier
11/29/08: Part I: Doretta Zinke, 39, Killed by 9 Pit Bulls (1945)
12/07/08: Part II: Doretta Zinke, 39, Killed by 9 Pit Bulls (1945)
12/29/08: Part III: Doretta Zinke, 39, Killed by 9 Pit Bulls (1945)