A Lowell, Massachusetts, city councilor plans to call for a citywide ban on pit bulls following the death of a 7-year-old boy. Police told WFXT that the boy was brutally attacked by two dogs of that breed.
Candles and flowers now sit at the place where a little boy was mauled to death Saturday night.
While the Middlesex District Attorney handles the investigation, a local lawmaker is calling for a citywide ban on the breed that caused this tragedy.
City councilor Rodney Elliott believes this is an issue of public safety. Although he knows banning pit bulls is a controversial issue, he believes that's the necessary measure needed to keep people safe.
"I just don't want to see this happen again," Elliott said.
However, this isn't a new cause for Elliott as he's been calling for a pit bull ban for years. In 2011, following a number of pit bull attacks, he helped spearhead an ordinance to regulate pit bulls and pit bull mixes within the city limits – and it passed.
"We're an urban city. We have 108,000 people living in 13 square miles. You can go to some very densely populated areas in the city and I think that would be appropriate," Elliott said. "I don't think the law in the books is effective enough, and I do think the responsibility is on the owner, but if we didn't have pit bulls in the city, this attack would never have happened."
The state then passed its own law prohibiting cities and towns from labeling specific breeds as "dangerous" and regulating them. Elliott believes it should be up to each community to make that decision.
"At the very least, give us the authority to implement strong measures as we did in the past to hold dog owners accountable," Elliott says.
However, many strongly disagree with Elliott, saying the majority of pit bulls are gentle, loving creatures.
WFXT reporter Stephanie Coueignoux spoke with Mike Keiley, the director of adoption centers for the MSPCA by phone.
Keiley told WFXT that proper training, socialization, and spaying or neutering a dog play a large role in their behavior.
"These particular dogs are the dangerous animals that we are talking about. There are so many other pit bulls out there that never would be involved in this type of situation," Keiley said.
Elliott said there are 74 registered pit bulls in Lowell, but he says many more are being illegally bred. Overbreeding is a problem that can easily lead to overly aggressive dogs.
Keiley said the issue arises when people who aren't properly trained mate two overly aggressive pit bulls together and can end up breeding an increasingly aggressive generation of dogs.
"I think that's why you're seeing aggressive dogs continuing to be in the community because they're continuing to be allowed to breed and continued to give a bad name to this breed of dog," Keiley said.
Keiley said pit bulls are loving and gentle by nature, but lack of training and care can lead to aggressive behavior.
The department of public health said the number of injuries caused by dog bites is a "pretty rare set of circumstances."
In 2014, 189 people were hospitalized due to dog bites, which accounts for a total of 0.3 percent of all hospitalizations in Massachusetts for that year.
Elliot said that if Lowell can ban raising chickens because of health concerns, the city should be allowed to ban pit bulls for safety reasons.
"That makes no logical sense to me. There are other animals and species in this city, in this state, in this country so when we feel there is a problem with a particular breed – and there is," Elliott said.
Last year, on Oct 3, a citywide ban on pit bulls went into effect in Montreal following a pit bull attack that killed a woman in Pointe-aux-Trembles, Quebec.
The MSPCA said Lowell is one of a number of local cities with what they call an overpopulation of pit bulls, so the organization is now offering free spaying and neutering of pit bulls in those communities.
More information regarding their "Pit Pals" program for spaying and neutering pit bulls and to check if you're eligible to receive those services for free, check out their website here.