PAWTUCKET (WPRI) – Pit bull enthusiasts in Pawtucket held a parade to celebrate the lift of the city’s breed ban.
Since 2004, the city of Pawtucket had a ban on pit bulls. On November 18, a judge ruled the ban was in violation of a Rhode Island state law passed in 2013, which states cities and towns cannot ban the ownership of specific cat or dog breeds.
Opponents of the ban say they wanted to honor pit bull owners who left town or gave up their dogs, because of the past restriction. On Sunday, pit bulls with jackets, bandanas and even jerseys, were freely walking the streets of Pawtucket for the first time in ten years.
Tim Devine is a pit bull owner who recently moved to Central Falls from Swansea. “I was a little under the radar for a while, because I didn’t know if someone was going to come and pick up my dog and take him from me,” he said.
Devine attended the parade Sunday afternoon and talking about his dog he says “It’s the first time in almost a year that I’ve been able to take him for a walk.”
The non-profit group, Pit Bulls for PTSD, trains service dogs for people living with the disorder. The group organized Sunday’s victory walk from Slater Park to Newport Avenue.
“We wanted to celebrate all the dogs who have been, unfortunately, living in this city underground. They can finally be properly socialized, and properly walked and mentally free to meet other dogs and humans and be proper dogs,” said Ann Clark, Vice President of Pit Bulls for PTSD.
Clark says training can make all the difference in a potentially volatile breed.
“Dogs don’t know how humans want them to act until you teach them and train them. They don’t know not to jump on a table until you tell them that’s impolite. It’s up to us as handlers to teach them how to be good citizens,” she said.
Pawtucket city officials took a different approach a decade ago, after a rash of pit bull attacks. They say the ban worked all around, reducing both human injuries and pit bull euthanasia.
Now that enforcement is over, Clark has a message for citizens who may be fearful: “Meet a well-adjusted, well-trained pit bull and you will change your mind.”
There is still no word on whether the city of Pawtucket intends on appealing the judge’s decision.