Pawtucket City Council Reignites Debate Over Banning Pit Bulls

Others Ask, “Is it the Breed or the Dog?”

Some on the Pawtucket city council are revisiting the issue of whether the city should ban pit bulls after reports of two recent incidents in which small dogs were attacked and killed by pits. The city had actually banned pit bulls beginning in 2004, but in 2014, a Superior Court judge struck down the city’s ordinance, finding it invalid because of a state law that prohibits towns and cities from banning specific dog or cat breeds. The city would not be able to re-enact a ban without clearance from the Rhode Island Legislature.

Proponents of the Pit Bull Ban Point to Dog Bite Statistics

Consideration of the pit bull ban resurrects the perennial debate between those who claim that some dog breeds are inherently dangerous and other that say it’s the individual dog – not the breed – that should be targeted. Many favoring the ban point to statistics. Indeed, according to, a national dog bite victims’ group, during the 11-year period from 2005 through 2015, dogs killed 360 Americans. According to the organization, pit bulls contributed to 64 percent (232) of those deaths, while 76 percent of the total recorded deaths resulted from both pit bulls and rottweilers.

Opponents Say Ban is Knee-Jerk Reaction

Opponents of the pit bull ban say such laws are ineffective and often lead to unintended consequences. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) notes that data collection related to bites by breed “is fraught with potential sources of error.” Many bites are from mixed breed dogs. More than three-quarters of all dog bites come from unneutered males. Abused and neglected dogs of all breeds are prone to biting, say ASPCA officials. Moreover, they point out that when one breed, such as pit bulls, is targeted, those who breed dogs for aggression or for use in dog fighting competitions merely move to another breed.

Bottom Line: No Matter What the Breed, Dog Bites Can Cause Serious Injury

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States. Almost one out of five bites becomes infected. Experts note that aside from broken bones and other physical injuries, a number of diseases can follow from a dog bite, including:

  • Rabies – a virus that starts with flu like symptoms progressing to cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, and agitation, leading to delirium and abnormal behavior, and usually fatal.
  • Pasteurella – a type of bacteria seen in more than 50 percent of infected dog bite wounds, the disease can be quite serious in people with a weak immune system.
  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) – a type of Staph infection resistant to antibiotics. Dogs and other animals can carry MRSA without showing any symptoms, but the bacteria can cause skin, lung, and urinary tract infections in people. In some people, MRSA can spread to the bloodstream or lungs and cause life-threatening infections.
  • Tetanus – a more treatable disease caused by bacteria found in soil, dust and manure, often causing “lockjaw.”

The CDC reminds us, “Any dog can bite.”

Dog Bite Laws in Massachusetts and Rhode Island Differ a Bit

In Massachusetts, the dog bite rule is pretty straightforward: All dog bite cases are subject to the rule of “strict liability.” This means that bite victims are entitled to compensation without the need to show negligence or other fault on the part of the dog owner. There are a few narrow exceptions, but if you or a family member has been bitten, you likely can recover.

Rhode Island utilizes the strict liability rule in cases in which the dog is outside its normal enclosure. “Enclosure” is somewhat open to interpretation, but the courts generally say it is something that would give a person “reasonable notice” that he or she is entering upon occupied premises, where there may be a dog. If you were on your own property or on a public street or sidewalk at the time of an attack, the strict liability rule would ordinarily apply. If the dog attack occurred inside the enclosure, then normal rules of negligence — the same rules that apply to car accidents — would apply.

Mike Bottaro and His Law Firm are Committed to Helping Dog Bite Victims Recover

The Bottaro Law Firm, LLC has helped personal injury victims recover millions of dollars due to the negligence of others. If you or a family member has been the victim of a dog bite, you deserve the strongest, most aggressive legal counsel available. Mike Bottaro and his team not only have the skill and experience to represent you, they have the resources to fight to protect your legal rights. The Bottaro Law Firm, LLC will pursue your case at no cost until we win. Remember that delay can harm your case. Our experienced legal team is available 24/7 for a free consultation. Give us a call at 866-5290-9700, or complete our convenient online contact form.