Correction to This Article
This Sept. 17 Metro article incorrectly said that the D.C. animal shelter allows the adoption of pit bulls. Adoptions of the dogs are prohibited.

Takoma Park Considers Ban After Pit Bull Attack on Teen

Danny Jones, 15, spent three days in the hospital. He is still trying to regain full motion in his left arm.
Danny Jones, 15, spent three days in the hospital. He is still trying to regain full motion in his left arm. "It was terrifying," he says of the August attack. (Family Photo)
By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 17, 2007

It was almost 11 p.m. as Danny Jones skateboarded home one Friday last month. The darkness didn't worry the Takoma Park 15-year-old; he knew every speed bump and curb cut on the four downhill blocks between his cousins' house and his own.

But this time, within yards of his front yard, a muscular brown dog came running out of the night, growling, unleashed and heading straight for him.

It was a pit bull named Dollar who lived a few doors away. Someone had left a gate open.

The attack lasted only minutes, but it was enough to send Danny to the hospital for three days. And it was enough to spark a community debate over whether the town's only known pit bull attack justifies a citywide ban on the breed.

A proposal to prohibit the dogs puts Takoma Park at the center of a conflicted and changing landscape of pit bull regulation in the Washington region.

The town is in Montgomery County, which not only allows the breed, but also has recently made it easier to adopt pit bulls from the county shelter. In 2006, the county lifted its blanket death penalty against stray pit bull puppies in favor of evaluating each dog's behavior and making only the most socialized available for family pets.

Prince William and Arlington counties have approved similar changes in their pit bull adoption policies. The District and Fairfax County also allow pit bull adoptions, and Alexandria and Loudoun County are considering it. But Prince George's County, less than a mile from the site of the Takoma Park attack, is home to one of the strictest breed bans in the country: Anyone keeping a pit bull faces up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. An effort to repeal the 10-year-old ban was overwhelmingly voted down two years ago by the County Council.

In 2005, an 82-year-old Spotsylvania County woman was fatally mauled by three pit bulls. Last month in Calvert County, where a 78-year-old was killed by his family's pit bulls last year, an animal control officer killed a loose pit bull after it charged a group of schoolchildren.

"An untrained pit bull is like a loaded gun," said Colleen Clay, a Takoma Park City Council member who lives near the site of the attack. She has asked the city attorney to research the legality of a townwide ban and notified her colleagues to expect the issue on the fall agenda. "The issue is a jaw that just clamps shut. It's just bone-crushing strong."

Danny Jones said he didn't know the dog charging him the night of Aug. 17 was a pit bull.

He provided this account of the attack:

He stepped off his skateboard when Dollar jumped up and put his paws on Danny's chest. For an instant, the dog's eyes followed the skateboard, rolling down the street. But suddenly the dog whirled, sunk his teeth deep into Danny's left bicep and dragged the 130-pound teenager to the pavement.

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