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The Pitbull Profile

By Kathy Y. Wilson · June 11th, 2014 · Kathy Y. Wilson
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Irresponsible pitbull owners fit a profile.

There is something inherently ominous, mysterious, latently vicious and even irresponsibly deadly about pitbulls and their owners that most people are either afraid of or unable to name.

The very mention of the breed also brings to mind owners who are either drug dealers, meth cooks or involved in illegal dog fighting rings who use the animals as guard dogs, protectors and enforcers. Or they’re poor white people who let the dogs they claim are “gentle, loving” dogs live largely unchained and untrained among their small children.

The latter population unfailingly registers shock and horror when their pits turn and attack their children or someone in their community.

Bad pitbull owners, you will not like any of this, but latch onto it, much like your dogs do when they attack the innocent. 

Swallow this whole.

Zontae Irby, 24 and formerly the owner of three pitbulls, was some kind of amalgamation of each type of pitbull owner because when police searched his home after two of his pits viciously and mercilessly attacked 6-year-old Zainabou Drame on June 4 while she played on her Westwood street, they found weapons, drugs, signs of drug abuse and a third pitbull.

He’s now being held on $75,000 bond and is charged with having weapons under disability, meaning he’s been previously charged and convicted with a felony forbidding him from having weapons; he’s also charged with drug abuse and drug trafficking.

So, in addition to owning two pitbulls that were unleashed and unsupervised on a street filled with children playing on an early summer evening, Irby may also have been moving drugs in the neighborhood.

I am not sure which is more egregious and threatening to the safety of the community — the drugs or the unsupervised dogs.

For the girl’s family, I bet it’s the dogs.

Zainabou’s attack made headline news here when it happened but it also made headlines in the U.K., where reports are the most complete, compelling and accurate.

Her attack bears repeating because it serves as a gruesome and bloody reminder, once again, that we cannot live with pitbulls and that they cannot safely live among us.

They should not.

At least not in city limits.

Want a pitbull? Move to the country.

London’s Daily Mail reported that witnesses told police two pitbulls had Zainabou by either side of her face and that the dogs were dragging the girl up the street. Her family said she’d been outside playing with a group of kids when the dogs approached, chased her and she tried to get away.

Her brother, Moustapha, witnessed the attack and yelled for his mother, Tanina, who was inside their home and came running with a baseball bat and beat the dogs, but to no avail.

Zainabou’s jaw was nearly ripped off; one eye was sewn shut because the lower muscle was inoperable; her tongue was nearly ripped away and was surgically removed; doctors put the girl in a medically induced coma.

The dogs did not back off until Cincinnati Police arrived, dispatched after at least two frantic 911 calls, one each from women who sounded like grandmothers — the first presumably white by her tone. 

The second caller, who sounded black, was crying and screaming for help.

“Three pitbulls got a baby by the face!” she yelled, as the operator tried calming her down to get the address from her.

“Oh my God! They killing her and dragging her up the street!”

Police dashcam video shows two pitbulls mauling the girl as she hangs limply like a life-size play doll from their mouths as the cruiser approaches.

One officer jumps from the cruiser before it comes to a full stop, his weapon drawn on the beasts. The dogs drop the girl to the sidewalk in a bloody heap before running off while more officers descend on them, but one dog turns back toward the officers. Both dogs are shot and retreat off camera to a yard where they died.

Leslie McElrath, Zainabou’s grandfather, was just pulling up to the house when he heard the gunshots and ran to see what was happening.

Officers stood over the girl on the sidewalk until medics arrived to take her to the hospital where she remains in critical condition, maybe unable to speak normally again, if at all.

Who would own such animals and leave them unleashed and clearly untrained to terrorize and stalk a neighborhood with playing children?

Many pitbull owners fit a profile and no one ever wants to come out and say this. I am a dog lover and I know how to approach strange dogs and respond when they respond to me either cautiously or playfully. If I were a dog, my tail would turn down and disappear between my hind legs and my head and eyes would cast downward at the nearness of a pitbull because that’s the palpable anxiety they make me feel. I don’t care how much their owners assure me they’re friendly and well trained.

Gov. John Kasich in 2012 signed a bill removing the “vicious” status assigned to all pitbulls in Ohio. The designation had stood for 25 years, making Ohio the only state with a breed-specific discrimination law.

It didn’t matter at the time in Cincinnati because any dog defined as a pitbull was still deemed with that “vicious” status until shortly afterward, when City Council repealed a 2003 ordinance that outlawed dogs defined as pitbulls within city limits.

None of this is the dogs’ fault, of course, but as with children, our animals speak volumes about who we are.

And if we are only as good as our children, how good are we if our animals can attack, maim and kill our children without notice?

I can answer that.

We are not any good at all.

Not good humans, good neighbors, good dog owners.

Vicious people own vicious dogs.

Ask Zainabou’s family.


CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: letters@citybeat.com


 
 
 
 

 

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