I own two American pit bull terriers. I also train dogs for a living. Boy, have I felt the bite of discrimination.

In the eyes of the public, my dogs have been tried and convicted without ever doing anything. So many clients ask if I have ever been exposed to these dogs. When I answer that, yes, I raise and show them, the answer is always the same: "Those vicious dogs?"

I always counter with: "Have you ever seen one?"

"No, but I've read about them!"

Unfortunately, the press is very one-sided in portraying them. In fact, the attacks and fatalities we read about are the exceptions, not the rule.

I am president of the Potomac American Pit Bull Terrier and Training Club. Our club represents responsible dog owners in the Maryland-Virginia-D.C. area. We recently attended the council meeting in Howard County, in response to the dog ordinance that was introduced by council member Vernon Gray. Our club is all for stronger dog laws, but what is needed are laws that:

1. can be understood by the general public;

2. can be enforced; and

3. are not breed specific.

Strong laws are needed to hold dog owners morally and financially responsible for the acts of their dogs. In most cases of dog attacks, the attacks would have been avoided if the animals had not been running "at large." I really believe that if professional animal behaviorists, veterinarians and trainers were called in and permitted to help draft such laws, we could get something accomplished.

The Washington, D.C., police department has been letting us use its K-9 training center to hold basic obedience classes for the past 2 1/2 months. We have repeatedly invited the press and news stations out to show the other side, but to date no one has shown up. (I guess if one of the dogs attacked me, they would.)

Our goals have been to educate the public in animal behavior and the breed. The classes are free, and all breeds are invited. We have had up to 30 adult animals that have never been in this kind of atmosphere and have had no dog fights, bites, etc.

The company I work for is also involved in establishing a Pets-on-Wheels in Fairfax County. As it stands now, I won't be able to be involved and take my beloved Rocky because he is a pit bull. There is no way I would ever take him if I didn't stake my life on his temperment. How can the public judge a whole breed by the actions of so few? It reminds me of a witch hunt.

-- Kelly Patrick