MIAMI (CBS4) – Visible scars are etched into Melissa Moreira’s face.
“I am always self-conscious, always insecure because of the scars,” said Moreira.
Her scars are a daily reminder for her and her mother Pilar of February 19th, 1989. A neighbor’s pit bull had gotten loose and was sitting on their driveway when then 8-year old Melissa and her mother walked up.
“I mean it didn’t give us any warning, any chance to do anything,” Pilar said.
The pit bull attacked.
“It took a quarter of her lip and her scalp was all the way back,” recalled Pilar.
Melissa and her scars are the reason the ban on pit bulls was implemented in Miami-Dade County.
“We were able to pass an ordinance to keep kids safe and to keep this from happening again,” said Moreira.
Current state law, enacted in 1990, allows local governments to take action against dangerous dogs after a complaint is made and served on the owner, who can appeal the classification to county court. The law prohibits regulations by breed. Miami-Dade County and several of its municipalities, however, were allowed to retain their pit bull bans.
A move to change that was introduced into the Florida Legislature this session, but as of Wednesday it was stuck in a House budgetary committee with time running out to get it to the floor for a vote.
Pilar and Melissa Moreira say if the bill comes up for a vote they’ll continue to fight to ensure their story isn’t repeated.
“The main fact is that we are trying to avoid another family to go through this,” Pilar said.
This year those who opposed the ban were joined by the Miami Marlins newest pitcher. Mark Buerhle owns Slater, a two-year old American Staffordshire terrier, also known as a pit bull.
“This dog likes to cuddle with you, lay in bed with you, always laying at your feet,” Buerhle said.
Because of the ban Buerhle and his wife Jamie decided not to live in Miami Dade if it meant giving Slater. Instead, they moved to Broward with their two children and faithful dog.
“I feel like so many dogs that have a blockier head and are bigger are mislabeled, there are several breeds that have those characteristics,” Jamie Buerhle.
The Buerhles say pit bull attacks like Melissa’s are not the fault of the dog.
“I think the owner should have been more responsible, but I think that way of any breed,” said Jamie Buerhle.
Miami Dade is the only county in Florida with a ban on a specific breed of dog. The fine is $500 and your dog could be euthanized. In fact last year 216 pit bulls were euthanized. Florida is among only 12 states that prohibit breed-specific regulations.