Scrappy, 4, on the left, and Junior, 9 months old. The dogs were involved in a July 4 attack on a retired York City teacher.
Scrappy, 4, on the left, and Junior, 9 months old. The dogs were involved in a July 4 attack on a retired York City teacher. (Submitted)

A breed ban will not solve York City's problem with pit bulls, according to the York County SPCA's executive director.

Melissa Smith said she understands "why people are leery and why they are angry and why they want action" in light of two recent pit bull attacks that injured two people, killed a small dog and prompted a local attorney to call for a pit-bull ban in York City.

"But I don't feel that a breed ban is the answer to this type of problem," Smith said.

That problem, she said, "lies mostly with irresponsible pet ownership."

"Certainly, if someone has a dog that has shown any signs of aggression, that person has to be extra diligent on making sure that that dog is always secured and also making sure that they are trying to work with that animal to sort of curb that type of behavior," Smith said.

Pit bulls, specifically, are among the most neglected, abused, unsocialized and over-bred dogs, Smith said. More than half of the dogs at the York County SPCA are pit bulls or pit bull mixes, she said.

The sheer number of pit bulls in the community coupled with the cultural trend among irresponsible humans who mistreat the dogs - or, in the worst cases, subject them to dog fighting - results in attacks like those in Spring Garden Township and York City, she said.

A retired teacher was attacked by three pit bulls that got loose as she mowed her yard at her York City home July 4. She suffered major injuries and will have to undergo rehabilitation. York City's animal enforcement officer filed six summary citations against the dogs' owner.

Two pit bulls injured a 78-year-old man and killed his little dog in Spring Garden Township on July 5. The dogs were later euthanized, and their owner pleaded guilty to several charges related to the incident.

On Tuesday, Heather Pratt asked the York City Council to consider tighter restrictions on the ownership of "dangerous dogs."

"This really is an issue of public safety," said Pratt, an attorney who lives across the street from the woman attacked July 4. "There are things that can be done that would increase the safety of the public."

She suggested the council "call in experts on both sides of the equation."

Another city resident, Rachel Robison, told the council breed bans "simply do not work."

She said studies have shown that, in most instances, dogs that bite have not been properly cared for. For example, she said, there is a correlation between dog bites and dogs who are tethered or unsupervised.

Robison, who works with an advocacy group called Pinups for Pit bulls, said enforcement of rules is a more effective way of protecting the community than banning pit bulls.

People who adopt the dogs for the right reasons "will tell you that the pit bull is the best breed they've ever had," Smith said.

Breed bans create a void for people to abuse another type of dog, she said.

For example, in past decades, people have exploited other breeds, like Doberman pinschers and rottweilers, she said.

"It will always be something new," Smith said. "It might temporarily solve a problem in that people might not see as many pit bulls around, but there would be another breed that would take its place."

If York City or another municipality feels compelled to take some type of action, officials might consider special licenses to own pit bulls or breed them, Smith said.

But that is unlikely to curb the problem entirely, as irresponsible dog owners will simply skirt that law too, Smith said.

"As we know, many of these people operate under the radar," she said.

- Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.