Pit bull people protest proposed ban

Breed proponents say bad owners, not bad dogs, the problem

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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They came in tutus and matching T-shirts, with pink leashes and spiked collars. There was plenty of excited barking, but not one bite as more than 200 pit bulls, owners and supporters converged in east Vancouver on Wednesday night to protest a proposed ban on the breed.

They all had one message for the Vancouver City Council: Blame bad owners, not the dog.

“They’re gentle, caring dogs — they love kids, they love other dogs,” said Cash Frackiewicz, 28, who organized the rally and brought along his 8-month-old pit bull/blue heeler mix, Panda. “I want to educate people and let them know, it’s all about how people train them.”

Two Vancouver City councilors agreed last week to put a discussion on banning pit bulls on the city council’s agenda, following an attack by three unspayed female pit bulls on a 9-year-old Harney Elementary student on May 23. The boy, who sustained bites to his ear and body, is expected to recover fully, and the dogs were turned over to Clark County Animal Control. A neighbor proposed the ban to the council after learning of the attack.

On Monday, a majority of the council seemed to be more in favor of stricter regulations and penalties on vicious dogs of all breeds, although talk of a pit bull ban hasn’t been completely ruled out. Councilor Jeanne Harris, who along with Councilor Pat Campbell agreed to consider a ban, said she’s gotten just as many emails and calls from those in favor of ridding the city of pit bulls as from those against it. The city council will take up the topic in an Aug. 8 workshop.

Among the crowd massed at the Fred Meyer on Mill Plain Boulevard was Cathy Dowell with her children, 7 and 4, who wore sandwich boards reading “Don’t take away our dog” — a 2½-year-old pit bull named Kamora. Dowell, who lives in Vancouver’s Orchards neighborhood, said holding irresponsible owners accountable is the solution.

As a mother, Dowell said her heart goes out to the victim and his family. But she said it’s the owners who are to blame for his injuries. Her dog is spayed and licensed; the dogs involved in the attack were not.

“We are aware of where our dog is at all times,” she said. “Our dog has been so great with our kids.”

Frackiewicz set up a petition to send to the city council, calling on them to not ban pit bulls. Dogs and people fanned out along Mill Plain near I-205, chatting about their pit bulls, waving signs and garnering honks of support. A poodle, a teacup type dog and other mixed breeds joined in the pack.

Amber Foss, 25, stood with her pit bull, Diva, on Mill Plain, waving. Diva sported a large hot pink collar with her name on it, and the pair were in identical shirts reading “Punish the deed, not the breed.”

“(The honking) is great because usually when we go places, we don’t have so much support — it’s more dirty looks and comments under their breath,” Foss said. “She’s pretty much the greatest dog I’ve had experience with. It really is just how they’re raised.”

Chris Wallschlaeger, 33, of Vancouver has bred, shown and judged pit bulls for 13 years. He and Sergeant hung back a ways as Wallschlaeger talked about how reputable breeders carefully select for friendly temperament. He’s a father of five, and Sergeant and his other dogs have never been a problem. He raises them carefully and would never consider keeping an aggressive dog in the house.

“They’re lovers,” he said. “But they’re going to treat you how you treat them. You beat them, they’re going to bite you, just like any other dog would.”

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542, andrea.damewood//twitter.com/col_cityhall.