Pit bull amnesty convinces some owners to abide by ban

? Animal control officials said 149 illegal pit bulls have been turned in or confiscated in the two weeks since the city increased its enforcement of a ban on the breed.

Mayor Joe Reardon announced July 28 that the city would temporarily waive penalties against people who turned over their pit bulls, which are illegal within city limits. The day before, a pit bull attacked 71-year-old Jimmie Mae McConnell, who later died.

The amnesty period ends today. More than two-thirds of the dogs were turned over in the first week, and animal control officials said the pace has slowed to what it was before the amnesty period.

“It’s tapered off to the point where it’s more manageable without all the extra resources,” said Capt. Henry Horn, commander of the police department’s animal control unit.

Horn said Friday that the amnesty program had successfully persuaded as many pit bull owners as possible to turn over their dogs to authorities, rather than dumping them in parks or other public places.

He also said he believes his unit has the resources to continue enforcing the city’s ban.

While those who voluntarily turned in their dogs didn’t get cited for violating the ban, owners who were identified through a telephone hot line were cited if officials could determine they owned a pit bull.

Some of the dogs have been sent to shelters for adoption, but many have been euthanized. That has attracted the anger of animal welfare groups and organizations that advocate on behalf of pit bulls, who criticize the city for not simply going after irresponsible owners.

The Mayor’s Animal Control Task Force has also criticized the city for ignoring recommendations it made 18 months ago to improve the animal control division, questioning how the city could afford to enforce the law now.