York officials and residents who want stricter regulations against pit bulls now have what might seem to be a surprising ally -- PETA.
York Mayor Eddie Lee has pushed for considering tougher laws following a recent attack on a York man by two pit bull mix dogs before Christmas. Officials from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote to Lee this week supporting his efforts.
Dog owners at a York meeting Tuesday overwhelmingly protested any breed-specific rules and blamed lax enforcement of existing laws. They vowed to keep fighting any new regulations.
Teresa Chagrin, a PETA animal care and control specialist, said the organization’s position is that pit bulls and the community are served by stricter rules. The group even supports bans on pit bulls, with grandfather clauses and exceptions for indoor dogs.
Pit bulls should be spayed or neutered, have microchips, and only be kept indoors unless leashed properly, said Chagrin, who ran Chester County’s animal control service before working for PETA. She said pit bulls are over represented in abuse cases where the pit bulls themselves are victims, over represented in shelters and in euthanizations.
“Pit bulls are the most abused dogs on the planet,” Chagrin said. “This is a national crisis that needs to be addressed.”
Chagrin said PETA has seen regulations in other places such as Beaufort County and Ypsilanti, Mich., which require spay and neuter for pit bulls that protect the animals and public safety.
PETA has more than 5 million members and is the largest animal rights group in the world. It may be a “misperception” that animal rights advocates would be for stricter pit bull laws, Chagrin said, but proper treatment of the animals and a safe community can be a common goal.
“Many people are surprised to learn that PETA supports laws that strictly regulate pit-bull ownership,” Chagrin wrote to Lee. “We do so in the interests of protecting these dogs, other companion animals, and the community at large.”
Lee said he is respectful of dog owners’ love for their pets, but public safety remains a priority.
In the York incident, Buddy Owens, 71, was attacked by two dogs that ran free from a neighbor’s home. Owens was putting up Christmas decorations on Dec. 11. He required surgeries and spent days in the hospital after his left arm was mangled.
York County’s animal control laws, which the city of York adopted in 2010, identify dangerous animals but not by species or breed. York city officials took no action Tuesday night but the door is still open to stricter laws. York dog owners said existing regulations are sufficient but must be enforced by county officials against owners who do not properly treat and restrain their pets.