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Judge Rules Ban on Pit Bull Terriers Constitutional

March 18, 1986 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ A judge’s decision to uphold a ban on American pit bull terriers in the village of Tijeras is discriminatory, the president of the American Dog Owners Association said Tuesday.

″If we had a certain ethnic group of people committing crimes, we wouldn’t pass a law prohibiting the ethnic group from coming into the country,″ Gordon Carvill said.

″We would pass a law dealing with the crime and the individual criminal. It should be the same thing with dogs,″ he said.

Carvill said his Albany, N.Y.-based group would continue to challenge the Tijeras ordinance.

″What they are saying is that it’s OK for a shepherd or a Doberman pinscher to chew someone up but that is not OK if a pit bull does it,″ he said.

District Judge Richard Traub ruled Monday the village’s ban was constitutional.

″The breed is unique among dogs in that it possesses characteristics of aggression, strength, gameness, viciousness ... unpredictability and savageness not possessed by any other breed of dogs,″ Traub said.

″The breed attacks without warning, and for the purpose of killing or destroying its victims,″ he said.

Several pit bull owners in Tijeras, east of Albuquerque, challenged the constitutionality of the ban put into effect in May 1984 after Angela Hands, then 9, was seriously injured in an attack by four pit bulls.

The girl’s mother, Donna Marie Hands, testified during the weeklong trial that as a result of the attack, her daughter lost much of the control of her right leg and must undergo therapy and corrective surgery until she is 35.

The ordinance makes it illegal to own or possess a pit bull terrier in the village limits and gives officials the right to catch and destroy any of them found in the community.

Anyone violating the ordinance could be fined up to $300 and jailed for up to 90 days.

The ordinance had not been enforced pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

″This is the first time it has been ruled this way,″ said attorney Billy Blackburn, who represented the Duke City Pit Bull Terrier Club Inc. and the Tijeras pit bull owners. The club said it would appeal the decision.

Teresa Jaramillo, village clerk, said about 18 dogs lived in the village when the ordinance was pssed, but officials now know of two.

Tijeras Mayor Felix Garcia said letters probably would be sent to village households explaining Traub’s decision. People who still have pit bulls would be given about two weeks to get rid of their dogs, he said.