Pit bulls might still be outlaws in Miami-Dade, but their fans aren’t through fighting to decriminalize them.
Tuesday’s vote to retain a 23-year-old ban “showed me that, not only do I need to continue to educate about the ‘pit bull type dog’ breed, but I also need to continue to stress the importance of responsible pet ownership,’’ said Jamie Buehrle, a marquee activist in the ban repeal effort, and the wife of Marlin’s pitcher Mark Buehrle.
“We, as a society, need to hold the person at the other end of the leash accountable, regardless of breed.’’
The Buehrle family settled in Broward after learning that their pit bull, Slater, couldn’t live in Miami-Dade.
Voters overwhelming opted to keep a 1989 ban on American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and high-content mixes of both.
The vote was 63.2 percent to 36.8 percent to keep the ban, adopted in 1989 after a dog thought to be a pit bull ripped apart the face of a Kendall 8-year-old.
Voters Patrick and Sonia Reid of West Kendall, who consider the dogs “vicious,’’ went with the majority.
“People don’t always do what they are supposed to do,’’ said Patrick Reid. “They are supposed to keep them secured.”
But on the flip side, graphic designer and mother Lily Sanchez voted for repeal.
“These dogs shouldn’t be discriminated. It’s up to the owners and breeders on how they train their dog," Sanchez said. “With a 23-year ban, it’s time to stop.”
Dahlia Canes, the Hialeah paralegal who founded the Miami Coalition Against Breed-Specific Legislation in 2008, the group that spearheaded the ban repeal, was disappointed but not surprised.
“We didn’t think it would pass,’’ said Canes. “This was handed to us [by the County Commission] whether we liked it or not and we had to take up the challenge. We only had a few months to reeducate an entire county that has been brainwashed for 23 years.’’
In February, a group of Miami-Dade commissioners short-circuited what appeared to be a winning effort in the state legislature to abolish the ban, calling it an attack on the county’s home rule authority.
Canes also said that putting the words “pit bull’’ and “dangerous dog’’ in the same sentence in the ballot question all but doomed the effort.
Ally Debi Day of No Kill Nation, which helped finance the repeal campaign, vowed that “the fight does not end here. Plans B, C and D will go into effect immediately. We will not let the pit bulls and their owners be forever victim to this discriminatory law.’’
No Kill Nation, an animal-welfare advocacy group, recently won a “no kill’’ pledge from both Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, where thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized every year for lack of adopters.
Reaching that goal, which the Miami-Dade Commission approved, is impossible as long as breed-specific legislation prevents county residents from adopting pit bulls.
Last year, 400 came into the Miami-Dade Animal Services Department shelter; more than half died there.
Animal Services Director Alex Munoz said in a statement that the department “respects the will of the electorate and its decision to not repeal the ‘pit bull’ ban...We want the public to know that while this ban continues, the department will continue to work with rescue organizations and adopters to find new lifelong homes for ‘pit bulls’ outside of Miami-Dade County.’’