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Officials say pit bulls not a concern locally
Gwinnett County considered requiring residents to register breed
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Some Georgia communities have a heightened fear of pit bull attacks, but Hall County officials say they are not considering any measures that would put restrictions on the breed.

In Gwinnett County this week, the Board of Commissioners voted against an ordinance that would have required the owners of pit bulls to register their dogs annually with the county, provide proof of proper enclosure and microchip registration and have an insurance policy to cover injuries the dogs could cause.

The Douglasville City Council recently voted down an ordinance that would have banned the dogs.

"Everybody in the industry is talking about it," Hall County Animal Control Director Mike Ledford said. "There's huge opposition to it and there's support to it, too."

Ledford said there is no data in Hall County to support a breed-specific ordinance.

"If you do the bite history on the data I have, I don't know that it would be overwhelmingly more pit bulls than it is any other breed," Ledford said.

He said though there's a lack of evidence that pit bulls cause more problems, people frequently call in to report they've seen the animals.

"I think the public perception of what they're capable of doing is definitely there," Ledford said.

Andre Niles, director of the Hall County Marshals Office, said he believes much of the hype surrounding pit bulls comes from a few isolated but well-documented attacks.

"We very seldom have any problem with vicious dogs of any kind," Niles said. "I've never known a pit bull to be in the top of the list that bit people. ... I've been bitten by more little bitty lap dogs."

Niles said people simply react strongly to horrific stories, no matter how rare the incident may be.

Following the 2008 murder of Meredith Emerson on a hiking trail in the North Georgia mountains, for example, his department received a spike of calls reporting older men walking alone that matched the description of her killer.

"People want to react to something that they heard was vicious and terrible," Niles said.

Fear surrounding pit bulls may also come from their imposing stature.

Pit bull is the term commonly used to describe the American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier or a hybrid of the breeds. The dogs are muscular and are often associated with dog fighting.

"If they are treated wrong and trained to be bad, then yes, they have the tools to be a problem. But on the reverse of that, there are a lot of pit bulls out there that are as friendly as they could be," Ledford said. "I think it has more to do with how they're raised and how they're treated than it does their breed, in my opinion. You can take any breed and make them mean if you treat them that way."

Ledford said over the years, there have been similar fears about other large, strong breeds like Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and German shepherds.

"It never got to the point it has with the pits where counties are actually talking about banning or registering them," Ledford said.

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