More than 400 pit bulls were euthanized last year in Prince George’s County, the second-largest jurisdiction in the country to ban the breed, and more than 250 have been euthanized so far this year, officials said Monday.
Prince George’s Department of the Environment spokeswoman Linda Lowe on Monday provided statistics on the number of pit bulls euthanized in the county, after a request last week by The Washington Post.
There were 687 pit bulls impounded last year, 402 of which were euthanized and 283 of which were placed in other shelters or with rescue organizations or returned to their homes, Lowe said. Two others are listed as dead.
So far this year, 492 pit bulls have been impounded, with 234 of them placed in homes or with organizations and 258 euthanized.
The decision to euthanize dogs is made based on a behavioral assessment of the animals — which includes examining aggression toward humans and other dogs — or when there is not interest or spaces from rescue organizations or shelters outside Prince George’s, Lowe said.
The county has had a pit bull ban since 1997, applying to dogs that are at least 50 percent pit bull, but its enforcement is spotty. In 1996, before the ban passed, there were 853 dog bites reported in Prince George’s, 108 of which were from pit bulls or pit bull mixes, said county Health Department spokesman George Lettis. There were 484 dog bites reported in Prince George’s in 2010, 70 of which were from pit bulls or mixes, he said, adding that 2010 is the most recent year for which breed-specific data is available.
The County Council is considering an overhaul of its animal control code, including stricter penalties for owners who do not care for their dogs. Animal rights activists want to repeal the ban as part of that legislation, but most council members said that is unlikely this year.
Prince George’s is the only jurisdiction in the Washington region with such a ban. The county spends about $570,000 annually on animal control officers, boarding for impounded dogs and euthanization, Lowe said.