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Michigan Residents Face Criminal Charges for Not Sterilizing Pit Bulls

Do you own a pit bull in Ypsilanti Township, Mich.? You need to have it spayed or neutered by January 1, or you'll be facing criminal charges. The township's board of trustees recently passed an ordinance requiring the sterilization of all pit bulls in that community prior to the new year. Owners who fail to comply could be facing misdemeanor criminal charges and fines of $500 and/or up to 90 days in jail.

As strange as it may seem, the goal of the ordinance is to save the lives of pit bulls. Authorities are trying to decrease the number of pit bulls euthanized at the local Humane Society shelter. Although the shelter takes in dogs from the city of Ann Arbor as well as Ypsilanti Township, more than 50 percent of the animals come from the township. As of September 1, the shelter had taken in 70 pit bulls, while only 10 had been adopted out.

The animals are often bred by amateurs to take part in dog-fighting operations. Humane Society officials indicated that they took in 58 animals from dog-fighting operations in the last three years. Of these, only three were adopted. Pit bulls are the breed most frequently euthanized, involved in dog-fighting operations, and running stray. Pit bulls represented 50 percent of the dogs euthanized in 2010.

One potential problem with the ordinance is that a pit bull is not a specific breed of dog. Therefore, the ordinance specifically includes Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers, or any mixed breed exhibiting five of eight specific characteristics specifically listed in the new law.

Police and animal control officers will give citations and seize dogs if necessary. The local sheriff's department will also be deputizing Human Society animal cruelty investigators and is considering outsourcing for additional assistance with the program. If a dog owner disputes that the dog is a pit bull, a veterinarian will examine the dog to make the final decision. DNA testing could be used as well.

The Humane Society is offering free sterilizations for the next 15 months. A grant, paying for the procedures, was obtained from PetSmart Charities®.