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The Daily Need

A Texas lawyer seeks to ban the pit bull

A Texas lawyer is seeking new legislation to ban pit bulls — not just from a single town or county, as is common across America, but from the entire state of Texas.

The would-be bill was written by Cynthia Kent, an attorney for a Texas family whose 10-year-old son Justin was mauled and killed by two pit bulls in June 2009. Kent won a $7 million judgment against the dogs’ owners this past September.

“Basically, why we’re doing this was to get justice for Justin and to make the message come out that these dogs are very vicious dogs,” Justin’s mother, Serenia Clinton, told a Texas CBS affiliate TV station.

“Some people have pit bulls and they think their pit is a safe pet. Unfortunately, they’re a safe pet until they act on their abnormally dangerous proprieties,” said Kent.

Kent’s legislation, which she calls “Justin’s Law,” does not yet have a sponsor in the state legislature, but Texan pit bull owners are rallying against it; the proposed bill would make it a felony for them to continue to own their pets.

For three decades, the pit bull has been the subject of such proposals. This, many pit bull aficionados argue, is because the dog has often attracted the wrong type of owners — owners to whom the idea of an aggressive dog is appealing, many of whom do not train their pets well.

Before the pit bull, the same reputation was assigned to other breeds: bloodhounds, then German shepherds and then, following WWII, Doberman pinschers, the Nazi SS’s dog of choice.

Journalist Jim Gorant, who wrote about the pit bull in his book “The Lost Dogs,” described how the dog began to have a negative reputation in the 1970s and early 1980s after reporters began writing about underground dogfighting, often with the hope of putting an end to the inhumane form of entertainment.

“The breed, which had existed in some form for hundreds of years, didn’t suddenly lose control. The dogs simply fell into the hands of many more people who had no interest in control,” wrote Gorant.

“By 2000, pit bull fear and hype had reached such proportions that the breed was banned in more than two hundred cities and countries around the United States. Lost in all the legislation was the fact that for decades the pit bull had been considered one of the most loyal, loving and people-friendly dogs on the planet.”

In a recent Need to Know segment on the fate of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs, producer William Brangham spoke with Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, one of America’s leading animal behaviorists, about the pit bull breed. After studying decades of statistics on dog attacks, Zawistowski also placed the blame on owners.

“You just don’t necessarily think of a drug guy or somebody who’s living on the edge of the law thinking that he wants a Cavalier Chi [or] a King Charles Spaniel that he can carry in his arm, right? That doesn’t go with the image,” Zawistowski told Need to Know. “When they’re creating their image, there’s a car they want, there’s the jewelry they’re going to wear and there’s the dog they’re going to want. And, in many ways, pit bulls have fulfilled that role.”

“At the same time, what we’ve also seen is there’s always been a part of the pit bull grouping that has been maintained as a wonderful, friendly companion dog in the family. You know, the breeding that created this dog that was loyal and not aggressive towards people really created a dog that would bond very strongly. So it became really much a preferred and popular dog for people to have as a family pet as well,” Zawistowski said.

Advocacy organizations, as well as Dallas-area dog lovers spoken to by local and national news organizations, agree with Zawistowski: With aggressive pit bulls, the problem is not nature, but nurture.

For more about the pit bull breed, check out Need to Know’s report on Michael Vick’s former dogfighting pit bulls, some of whom were rehabilitated as family pets and therapy dogs.



  • Mj

    Absolutely disgusting! It’s like saying someone coming from a divorced family, or the wrong side of the tracks will ALWAYS be a drug dealer. Only ignorant people think the entire breed is deadly. Punish the deed, not the breed.

  • TJ

    It is amazing to me that someone who had the intelligence to make it through law school is so incredibly ignorant.

  • Jll0529

    He is an IDIOT!!!!!!

  • Greenapt

    It amazes me that any town has been able to ban any breed of dog. Banning pit bulls only causes dogs from loving homes to be taken from their loving family and killed.

    SHAME on this lawyer! It’s sad that his son died but the only dogs responsible are those that were involved. Period.

  • Leo

    Nobody will take my pit. If someones child kills someone will you ban your. What a stupid law. That makes my stomach turn. Where were the parents of the 10 year old.

  • Ella

    These dogs kill more people than any other by far.  They should be banned.

  • cassie

    forget the dog, beware of owner!!! try taking my dogs!!! you will have a pistol in your face. prosecute the owner of the dogs, the parents who failed to supervise their son, etc. the day they ban pitbulls in texas is the day i leave the US. banning them isnt going to get you anywhere honey. i know plenty of people with pits whove already discussed that if it happens, theyre just going to keep their dogs out in the middle of nowhere an. banning pits is like banning drugs, prostitution, drunk driving, etc. people are STILL going to do it.

  • Racordov

    Im for banning these dogs in  Texas

  • Racordov

    Im for banning these dogs in  Texas

  • Racordov

    lets vote on getting these dogs banned.

  • Keriad7

    Something is terribly wrong with people if they think banning dogs is going to be the answer. I own “one of those dogs” and he is more behaved than most dogs i come across.
    If you are a dog owner, of any type, one should know it takes a great deal of time and effort to properly train and take care of a
    Dog. When ANY type of dog falls into the wrong hands unfortunate things happen.
    I often wonder what happens in cases like “Justin”. What were the real
    Circumstances and why did the dog bite. People just automatically
    Assume that it was the dogs fault. (which in this case it may have been) but in this article it wasn’t stated.

  • Keriad7


  • red

    We should not ban a breed that a person could not train or turn that dog tobe a loveing family commpaion right thats like banneding a German Shepherd Dog for biteing the black all these years i have my pit bull bones who has not bit any body i had agirl pitbull how just died of canser andshe loved every body and thing . I know people how have lovig dogs and and have love and play with them and let them meet people or anthor dogs , We have something called justice shouldn’t we have something for animals called animal justice and pitbulls . we have great pitbulls in the world that have no promble with any thing and have nerver injur a soul in these world should do these to the dog and there family and take them out the world . me and my brother and sister dont know what we would do with out you so when you are at home look at you furrey frirnd and think what would you do if your pet was ban was ban for some thing they did not do plesea give the pit bull a chance . thank you .

  • Gurston Blan

    I have spoken to an owner of two pit bulls that were in their fenced yard in the front of their house. A policeman pulled up to the curb and got out of the car and shot one of the pit bulls through its chest and straight to the poor dog’s heart. The dog was not aggressive. In fact the dog had been rescued by this very humane owner. The dog had lost one of its eyes in a pit bull dog fight and was rescued by a local rescue group and rehabilitated. The dog was a lap dog and a real sweetheart. In fact he was much kinder than most people. I own a male and a female pit bull that were rescued from two different sources. These dogs are as gentle as can be and welcome the fed ex driver and the mailman when they come to the front door. With their tales wagging and smiles on their faces they great everyone like this. If any law enforcement person was to murder my dogs, they would have to kill me as well. These dogs are my children and part of my family. They sleep on my 10 year old daughter’s bed and love other children as well. This wacko attorney that drafted a letter that proposed banning the breed in the entire State of Texas is no better than Hitler. What gives anyone the right to destroy one of God’s creatures? Unless you have personally been around a pit bull, please do not assume that this breed is dangerous as they are not. Sure there will always be some aggressive dogs including pit bulls that need to be put down and I am all for that. It wasn’t their fault that they ended up like that, but when you cannot rehabilitate a dangerous animal, it makes sense to put the dog down. Just remember this is the exception to this loving animal and not the norm.

    When heartless owners chain their pit bull to a tree in their year with no shade, shouldn’t they be prosecuted?
    Dogs (all breeds of dogs) are so much kinder to people than people are to other people. Dogs are always happy to see their owner when he/she returns home. Dogs never have PMS or turn their backs to their owners if they treat them kindly. What other animal do you know that welcomes their owners each and every time they see them?

  • Gail L Rosbach

    Just now reading this, and it is now 2014, and the situation has gotten so much worse in the last four years. Texas is the number 3 State for serious Dog Attacks.