EDMOND — Canines Fergie and Otie are behind bars awaiting a judge’s decision that could ultimately cost them their lives. The dogs are accused of attacking a neighbor’s dachshund about two weeks ago, leaving it with injuries that required stitches. They are in the Edmond animal shelter on vicious dog complaints with a court hearing set for Thursday. Their owner, Christy Taylor, thinks the dogs are being unjustly targeted because they are part pit bull terrier. "If they weren’t part pit bull, I don’t believe this would even be an issue,” Taylor said. "Some people are letting their fear of the breed get in the way of seeing that these are two lovable family pets.” Will Widman, owner of the dachshund, said the case could end up in court and declined to comment further.
‘It’s pit bull mania’Jim Fish, supervisor of Edmond’s animal shelter, said he couldn’t comment on the predicament Fergie and Otie are in, but agrees pit bull terriers are singled out as a threat to society. "You say ‘pit bull’ and people automatically say ‘killer,’” Fish said. "It’s pit bull mania — if people see a medium size dog with floppy ears they’re calling it into us as a vicious dog roaming the streets.” In the past, Oklahoma City’s animal shelter destroyed unclaimed pit bulls that came into its custody without giving them the opportunity to be considered for adoption, said Katherine English, manager of the Oklahoma City Animal Welfare Department. English said the policy was dominated by peoples’ fear of the breed. She said pit bull terriers don’t bite more than any other dogs, but it is in their nature to keep fighting until they’ve dominated their opponent. English, who has been working with animals for 35 years, said before the 1970s pit bull terriers were not popular family pets. They were bred mostly for sport until breeders decided they could make money selling the puppies that weren’t considered prime for fighting. Desire for the dogs grew because they were a handsome, hearty, shorthaired breed — qualities that family dog owners were looking for, English said. English said the popularity of the breed ended up being their "kiss of death.” When people started to become wary of the dogs, they ended up in shelters with no one willing to adopt them, she said.
Laws vs. pit bullsIn 2007, state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, tried to pass dog bite legislation that would have pet owners facing up to a year in prison and a minimum $10,000 fine if their dog attacked. While the legislation was not breed specific, Wesselhoft said then it was aimed at curtailing people from owning pit bulls. The initiative failed, but in 2008 lawmakers passed a restriction that kept licensed pit bull breeders from kenneling dogs within 2,500 feet of a school. That law was prompted by the concerns of the Carmelite Sisters of St. Theresa, who oversee a Catholic elementary school near pit bull terrier breeder Kenneth Gonzales’ operation south of Oklahoma City. On March 31, Gonzales lost his fight to keep the kennels when the state appeals court sided with the nuns, ruling Gonzales’ operation was not grandfathered in under the law because he was not licensed when it was passed. Rush Springs and Del City are among the many cities in Oklahoma that have either discussed or passed ordinances to ban pit bull terriers from their city limits. The cities threw out their ordinances when the Legislature determined breed-specific bans were unfair, but encouraged cities to tighten vicious dog ordinances. Edmond in 2006 revised its animal ordinances and included a section on vicious animals. The ordinance defines a vicious animal as any animal that unprovoked is a threat to people or other animals. An unprovoked animal is one that is not abused, teased or tormented, or protecting its owner’s property. Christy Taylor said Otie and Fergie did injure the dachshund when they escaped from their yard. She thinks the dogs may have been protecting her children from the smaller dog that was in its front yard with its owner, Taylor said. Edmond City Attorney Steve Murdock said if deemed vicious, the judge can impose several restrictions rather than euthanizing the animals. The Taylors can be fined up to $500 and required to pay all impound fees. They could be required to confine the dogs to a locked kennel, and muzzle and leash them when out, the ordinance states.