“Hopefully, Miami changes the law,’’ she said, because pit bulls are overrunning the Broward shelter.
Breed’s best friend
The singular force behind the repeal effort is Dahlia Canes, a 60-year-old Hialeah paralegal who founded the non-profit Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation in 2008. It has since gained a worldwide Internet presence and an army of volunteers in “Pit Bulls are not the problem; bad owners are the problem,’’ t-shirts.
Canes’ obsession started with a starving, flea-bitten brown dog named Chocolate that she rescued in 1999. Canes intended only to restore the dog to health, then find her a home. She scrapped that plan after falling in love with the dog. She had no idea that by statute, her dog was an outlaw until Chocolate got “busted’’ one year later.
Canes raced to Animal Services and begged, successfully, for her dog’s life.
“I’m on the floor, on my knees, crying, ‘Don’t kill my dog!’ By the grace of God, I got her out, then hauled ass to Palm Beach’’ for sanctuary.
The incident turned Canes from a rescuer to an advocate, holding community meetings and lobbying the Legislature in Tallahassee, which kicked the decision back to Miami-Dade commissioners during the last session.
The coalition’s signature public relations effort was the rally at C.B. Smith Park, where Shorty Rossi and the Pit Boss cast appeared on July 29. Sally Heyman, fellow Commissioner and repeal supporter Jose “Pepe’’ Diaz, also attended.
The five-hour event drew a huge crowd of people and pit bull-type dogs, some whimsically attired in ballet tutus, silly hats, crystal-encrusted collars, and “I’m a lover; not a fighter’’ bandanas.
Jodi Baskerville, Pit Boss’ executive producer, said that at least 600 people signed releases to appear on camera with their dogs.
When Canes stepped to the microphone and asked how many had come from Miami-Dade, perhaps half the crowd cheered.
Despite a perfect storm of bad-canine-behavior stimuli — a crush of unfamiliar dogs and humans, extreme heat, and deafening noise — there were no reported instances of aggression toward people, and only a couple of minor dog-on-dog scuffles.
Still, Canes knows that pit-bull love fests, academic research and expert opinions might not be able to overcome horror stories and urban legends, so she remains cautiously optimistic about the repeal’s prospects.
Among the urban legends that die hardest, she says: Pit bulls’ jaws have a “locking’’ mechanism that enables them to hang on and chew at the same time. A study by Dr. I. Lerh Brisbin at the University of Georgia deemed that anatomically impossible.
Another: Pit bulls bite harder than other dogs. When Dr. Brady Barr did a comparative bite-pressure study among pits, German shepherds and Rottweiler for National Geographic, pits came in last.
And another: Pits will “turn’’ on you because they’re hard-wired to kill. The Vick dogs disprove that, advocates say.
In practice, a peaceable pit bull isn’t likely to end up at Miami-Dade Animal Services, because rounding them up is way down on the department’s to-do list, after cruelty and dangerous-dog complaints.