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.

Comments (42)
  1. Perplexed says:

    Why now? Why after 23 years?

    People have been working to over turn this ‘ban’ since before it was passed.

    A more appropriate question would be why all pit bulls? Why didn’t the victims hold the ONE dog owner accountable?

    1. patti lister-barriga says:

      How many lives will it take before you understand,all dogs can hurt/kill/a/person. It is up to people to train them so they will not hurt someone. The horse that scared me for life passed of old age. She was more deadly than a pit bull. I never thought to ban horses from where I live I love life to much.

  2. good heavens says:

    It is difficult for the quiet voices of survivors like Melissa and Pilar Moreira to be heard over the shrill complaints of pit bull advocacy. Every victim says the same thing “nobody should have to go through this” but it takes great courage to tell the story over and over so that legislators hear the truth. Breed specific advocacy is VERY well organized and VERY well funded. The Utah based PAC Best Friends Animal Society is rolling across the United States, scorching the earth with their single minded pit bull advocacy. Best Friends makes no secret of the fact that they are behind the effort to deprive the residents of Miami-Dade of their Home Rule rights.Best Friends takes in millions of dollars a year in contributions from pit bull advocates but has never donated one cent for the medical bills of victims like the Moreiras.

  3. john j moore says:

    Its the dog owmer thats bad,not the dog.My son has on and also has a year old little girl.Both the dog and the babby always curl up and go to sleep.Pit Bulls used to be called Nanny dogs,because they had to watch the babbies

    1. With Brains says:

      Ah, the famous “nanny dog” urban legend. You’re a moron, and worse if you were nannied by a mutant people-eating dog.

      1. Dianne says:

        Sorry but other than the wolf, all other breeds were also created by man and all other breeds do bite/attack.. Nanny dogs an urban legend?? check your canine history books.. Sorry again… People-eating?? Human aggression was bred out of so called Pit Bulls… handlers need to be in the pits with them during a fight and medical care needs to be administered after a fight 🙂 Any showing human aggression were “disposed” of, before they even got to the pit :0 Sibs and parents were also “disposed” of. soooo With Brains?? hmmm

      2. Jaloney says:

        I can’t believe Dianne says human aggression was bred out of pitbulls. EVERYWHERE around the country they are the top maulers and killers of humans and pets. Even the pitbull advocates like Darla Napora from group BAD RAP who raised her pitbull from a puppy are obvious examples of the lunacy of the pitbull fad: Darla was mauled to death by her own pitbull. Pitbulls get a bad rap not because the media is after them but because the attacks are so lethal police and ambulances have to be called. Neighbors and family are often shredded and feel powerless as they can’t stop an attack in progress. Spreading your nonsense lies about pitbulls only makes you an accessory to the dismemberment, mutiliation and death of other citizens. You won’t read research studies proving the breeds much higher rate of killing and harming people because bottom line, you don’t care. We all know that pitbull related gang violence goes down in areas where the dogs are banned. Wealthy dog fighters funnel money into reality t.v. shows and advocacy groups to keep the breed active so they can engage in their dog fighting sport without worrying about being caught. Pitbull bans are for the greater good of all, including pitbulls. PETA supports pitbull bans too as they look at all the facts.That sappy ASCPA group commerical with starving dogs on television asking for money puts a lot of its money into protecting and defending pitbulls but show none of the dogs on its commercials because they know a lot of people have become aware of the pitbull problem.

    2. Jaloney says:

      So what if? My son-in-law was suddenly attacked by his pitbull after years of normal behavior and his pitbull was neutered. Why can’t you understand do parents buy safe toys, car seats and cribs and then bring in a dog breed with the worst record with the children? Its the old “it can’t happen to me’ thinking. Our landscape is dotted with killed and mutilated faces of children who had parents who beleved the nanny dog myth. These dogs turn and act out of character suddenly for no apparent reason. The nanny dog myth was started by a pitbull advocate. If you go back in history you will find records of pitbull mauling and attacking people in the 1800 and 1900’s. It is no wonder that the breed was first outlawed in the early 1900’s in areas of the U.S. Denial is deadly. Believing the often repeated but empty mantras of pitbull advocates is dangerous. Why take a chance with your grandchild? You can’t bring back faces and limbs and lives. Why recklessly endanger an innocent person because you don’t want to beleive? Overwhelming research, such as the study Mortality, Maiming and Mauling by Vicious Dogs, Annals of Surgery, April 2011 have proven pitbulls are much more dangerous and deadly.

  4. nomorepitbulls says:

    Pit Bulls are vicious animals. They all should be put to sleep.

    1. mayito514 says:

      Ignorance like your should be put to sleep….

    2. gimvemeabreak says:

      The most vicious animal is a human. How about putting down all the animals that hurt innocent animals or blame an entire breed for the actions of one?

      1. SteveT says:

        How about let’s banning anyone who makes an idiotic comment on this site? And this rule is ever instituted, you’ll be the first to go! If you can’t make a sensible comment, don’t waste our time! And for your uneducated information, pit bull is a “type” of dog, not a “breed”!

      2. Dianne says:

        Steve.. I understood quite well what he was getting at and isn’t this a free for all forum?? Why personal attacks??? I thought that was how “Pit Nutters” handled these things???

    3. Jaloney says:

      A ban such as the one we have in Miami dade protects more of these animals from being needlessly overbred and euthanized. Over 50 percent of all pitbulls born are put down voluntarily by their owners in the first year or two of life as many people have problems with the breed. Keeping the ban is much more humane than subsidizing constant euthanizations and allowing random sacrifces of humans and pets to pitbull maulings. Pitbulls have been the top mauler and killer of humans for decades. If we keep the ban there are no dogs to put down. It is much more humane which is why PETA supports pitbull bans.

      1. Linda says:

        Wow, there is so much baloney in your post, I don’t know where to begin. I know, here’s the best way: Your entire post is one big lie. That covers it nicely.

    4. hanabaig2015 says:

      We bred pitbulls to be the dogs that they are. We are responsible for them and their actions, and it is completely unfair to be willing to kill them because their owners can’t be bothered to teach them correctly and control them. This is basicly racial profiling for animals and frankly, it is awful.

  5. Carol says:

    This had better not happen because those dogs are way to dangerous and people who have them has no idea how to handle them and they don’t realize how dangerous they truely are.

    I feel badly for the dogs because they are man made and not a true breed but they are very dangerous to me they are loaded at all times waiting to attack.

    One evening we were walking down a street and we saw the Pit Bull in someone’s yard and thought nothing about it because it was behind a fence but it got out and if it weren’t for my husband’s quick action that dog would have attacked me but he put his foot out and kicked the dog in the face and backed away but I was frozen in my tracks and couldn’t move I was so afraid to move.

  6. Ann says:

    100% strict owner liability could be a credible deterrent if you want to keep your pits…your dog hurts someone, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, kills, then it’s manslaughter. Oh wait, if your dog attacks or kills, your loophole in not being accountable, is to blame the victim. Honor victims, keep the ban.

    1. Jaloney says:

      Well said Ann. The victims should be acknowledged. Instead these advocates how candlelight vigils for pitbulls that are threatened with euthanization even after they attack and kill. SELFISHNESS at its worse.

  7. Dianne says:

    I would gladly take 100% liability for my pit and so would any other responsible Pit Bull owner!!! That is what we are fighting for.. The ACO, police officers and other authorities are not going after the aggressive dogs; they are still being abused, starved, fought or chained in back yards with no socialization, they ARE however going after, taking away and euthanizing family pets (this has not and will not solve the problem) Dog bites/attacks have NOT gone down although 1000’s of so called pit bulls (most of them misidentified) have been killed since this legislation came into effect so you tell me how this ban is “working” for the public’s safety!! Maybe we SHOULD be looking at the other end of the leash? Wake up, smell the coffee and help with the solution. Legislation for aggressive dogs (all breeds) and holding people (owners) accountable not dogs… IS what’s needed!”

    1. SteveT says:

      Taking “responsibility” and having the money to compensate a person for the damage done by a pit bull are two entirely different things. Most homeowners insurance companies will not insure pit bulls and most pit bull owners don’t have a pot to pi** in, so their willingness to accept responsibility means absolutely NOTHING! Additionally, it never ceases to amaze me that even when the owner, law enforcement and animal control identify a dog as a pit bull, the pit nutters still cry “misidentification.” Just because YOU cannot identify a pit bull when you see one doesn’t mean we all have that problem!

      1. Ann says:

        you said it Steve T…they always say they will take responsibility, then they don’t…sure, blame the deed not the breed, until it happens, then they blame the victim. Just one or two of them being jailed for what their animals do should be credible deterrent. No more victims should suffer because of those who have lion tamer syndrome or some sort of saviour fetish.

      2. BullyBob says:

        I have two adopted pit bulls… and I cetainly do have a pot to pee in… last I counted there were three in my house.. close minded people just irratate the heck out of me.
        Oh yes I do have home owners insurance…and a pit bull is a TYPE of dog not a breed …moron is a type of person though

      3. Dianne says:

        I did say take liability didn’t I? You do know what they say about ass-u-me don’t you? I hate to break your stereotyping bubble but as a matter of fact I have a couple of pots to pi** in and both my house and cottage are paid for and insured so is my car and my truck!! Considering there are over 25 breeds plus all their crosses who ARE being misidentified as Pit Bulls.. Why would it amaze you?? I’ve owned Pit Bulls for over 12 years now why would YOU again ass-u-me I would have a problem identifying one?? I will take the word of an owner but when law enforcement and animal control identify a 100 lb dogs as Pit Bull (you can look that one up) I do have a problem considering a 70 lb Pit Bull is considered to be HUGE. As for being a Pit nutter?? Sorry I’m an ALL breed nutter!!! Maybe a little unbiased research on YOUR part would be in order rather than just believing everything you read in the media, fear mongering and hype is how they “bring in the sheep”

      4. CarlisleHall says:

        To Dianne and BullyBob: Those bathrooms at the nearby gas station or convenience store where you pee don’t count! If either of you had the proverbial pot, you would be able to compose a sensible, grammatically correct sentence!

    2. Jaloney says:

      Comparing dog bites/attacks of pitbulls with other breeds is simply stupid. It is like comparing a mosquito bite to a shark attack. In addition pitbulls are not killed by this ban but instead are saved by the constant kill/breed cycle. 50 to 70 percent of all pitbulls born are VOLUNTARILY brought to shelters for euthanization by their owners in areas with no bans. So if the ban was lifted many MORE pitbulls would be killed DAILY and this expense would be publicly subsidized. PETA supports pitbull bans for a reason: It is a humane solution. In addition, saying the maulings of pitbulls are misidentified as pitbulls insults animal control officers who know dogs and it still doesn’t help your argement as even if 2/3’s of all pitbull attacks were thrown out because of some freak determination that the wrong breed was attributed, pitbulls would still be the top killers and maulers. Maybe you should look at what you are holding at the other end of the leash. REMEMBER DARLA NAPORA. She spoke the same words as you and now… she is DEAD

  8. SteveT says:

    I am so sick of pit nutters blaming owners for the damage these 4-legged sharks do. It has been proven time and time again that even when a pit bull-type dog is raised by official pit nutter standards and is never mistreated or taught to fight, they still escape from their owners’ houses or yards and attack pets, livestock and human beings. Just recently, two pit bulls climbed a 6-foot-fence in Wyoming and killed a pony and last year, several owners were killed by their pit bulls that turned on them for no discernible reason. Furthermore, once a pit bull decides to attack, they ignore the voice commands of their owners and a lot of the time, nothing short of a bullet will stop the attack. The fact is that pit bull owners are unable to contain or control pit bulls and no one should be allowed to own an animal he cannot contain or control.

  9. nomorepitbulls says:

    Like I said before. Put all the pit bulls to sleep. The owners are nothing but a bunch of low class, uneducated Punks!

    1. BullyBob says:

      I own pit bull type dogs… be glad to compare my net worth against yours… close minded bigot.

      1. Jaloney says:

        So how is your net worth relative if your SOUL is empty? EMPATHY for other humans is a value that will always far exceed your net worth. Pitbull type dogs kill and serously injure innocent people at a much higher rate than other dogs. NET WORTH.. WEALTH.. doesn’t stomp out selfishness or denial.

      2. nomorepitbulls says:

        Let me guess, you have a higher net worth because you run illegal pit bull fights and you are a cast from the show Pit Bull & Parolees? Pathetic waste!

    2. Snoopy says:

      who is the vicious one? Anyone that wants to kill a huge group of dogs, that isn’t really a breed, but many different breeds, and doesn’t have expereince is an idiot. Pit bulls are here to stay, and we can thank the people that want to ban them for that, because you made pit bulls infamous. This is exactly how German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Rottweilers became well know, highly respected household pets. Only a person that has no expereince with pit bulls, and learns everything by hearsay thinks they should be banned. No experts agree with restrictions or bans, because scientifically, it is proven that pit bulls are no more of a threat to society than other dogs. Breed discrimination is nothing new, and every generation or two, it is a different breed in question. The only difference with pit bulls, is that ‘pit bull’ is not a breed, but rather a breed type, consisting o many different breeds, which includes mutts. Pit bull is more of a catch all phrase, describing a dog that is short haired, athletic, and a blocky head.

      1. Jaloney says:

        Mortality, Maiming and Mauling by Vicious Dogs, Annals of Sugery, April 2011 and many other studies have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that pitbulls are more dangerous. Plenty of experts and animal welfare groups such as PETA recognize that the breed is both dangerous and overbred, which is why PETA supports pitbull bans. People who fight pitbull regulations insure that massive amounts of pitbulls will be voluntarily killed by their owners, as 50-70 percent of all pitbulls born are voluntarily euthanized by their owners now. German Shepards, Dobermanns and Rottweilers account for a mere fraction of all fatalities compared to pitbulls. Pitbulls describes a dog created for evil by evil people like nuclear bombs.. this creation has caused a lot of problems. Allowing the breed to continue is vicious to humans, pets and the breed itself.

  10. Jane says:

    Safe to say that if a Labrador had been sitting on the Moreira’s driveway the story would be completely different. Yes, a good – and lucky – pit owner can keep a pit that never hurts anyone. And, yes, there are a lot of pit bulls out there that never would harm anyone even if given the chance. But, the fact is that idiots will own dogs and if those dogs are pit bulls we will continue to see attacks like the one suffered by Melissa Moreira. If idiots only have access to Labradors we are all a lot safer.

    1. BullyBob says:

      the first face transplant ever done was in France… the result of a labrador mauling.

      1. CarlisleHall says:


      2. CarlisleHall says:

        No, it was NOT a Labrador MAULING! The woman got her face torn off because she, like so many dog freaks, attempt to humanize dogs — instead of treating and respecting them as the animals they are — and stuck her ignorant dog freak face into the face of an animal that was injured and in pain! Anyone with half sense knows not to stick your face close to a dog that is injured!

  11. Jeremy says:

    ban all breed of dog that has ever bitten someone…then there would be no dogs, every breed has a dog that has bitten someone. Banning the breed obviously has not done anything as there are still attacks, so why do we have a ban in place from 1989 because of 1 dog, really? lets bring back slavery, white and black bathrooms, discrimination is discrimination and if you are against a breed ban then you are participating in discrimination just like whites did against blacks.

  12. Bruce says:

    I understand their pain but i was attacked by a German Shepard and my son was attacked by a labrador. I have owned two pits and one AmStaff and I love them very much. So much so I decided not to move to Miami-Dade. I bought a house in Monroe County instead and am very happy. I will not part with my dogs or deal with ridiculous laws.

  13. CarlisleHall says:

    “This dog likes to cuddle with you, lay in bed with you, always laying at your feet,” Buerhle said.

    So tell us Mr. Buerhle, how many eggs did the dog LAY while it was LAYing at your feet? Hens LAY, dogs, humans, etc. LIE. You just proved the type people who own pit bulls — IGNORANT!

  14. sibylla says:

    Many years ago I was “attacked” by a collie, neighbors down the street had several German shepards behind a 5 foot chain link fence because they were so vicious, my sister-in-law had some chihauha’s that unless they were put in a separate room away from guests, they would nip, bark, and growl at you. We’ve always had a dog and presently two AmStaff’s and a Coolie live with us. While they are not banned, where we live has an ordinance against them, so we have to prove that we have homeowner’s insurance and pay extra to license them . I don’t usually put my face in front of any dog, horse, cow, goat, cat, etc. – even humans react when someone gets “in their face”. I agree that some humans are more dangerous than many dogs and I believe that any breed or type of animal has the potential for violence. This is not to excuse any bad behavior, human or animal, but even when our gentle, beloved (now deceased) chocolate lab/mix was maced by a neurotic postman who bragged that he had helped to destroy several dogs, Scooby was never the same.

  15. NDenisse says:

    Pitbulls are loving pets. I have two and three kids A 6, 4, and 2 year old and my dogs have been around before my first son was born and they have always been such great and lovable pets, never have seen them be agressive or attack my children. So sad that there’s still IGNORANT people.