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Two of 85 dogs ousted from South Carolina Marine bases for aggressiveness

October 9, 2009 | 11:26 am

Pit bull

Most of the pit bulls, Rottweilers and canine-wolf mixes assessed at Marine bases in South Carolina this week get to keep their Marine dog tags.

Of 85 dogs from the three breeds checked by experts from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, only two were found to be so aggressive as to pose a danger to Marines and their families. Those two will have to leave base housing. Two others showed aggressive tendencies but one will work with a trainer and another will be neutered.

The Marines have banned the aggressive breeds, because their "dominant traits of aggression present an unreasonable risk to the health and safety of personnel."

Last year, a 3-year-old boy was fatally bitten by a pit bull at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Owners who can show thorough assessments that their pets present no danger to humans or other pets may get waivers and keep them on bases through 2012.

The pets at the Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot, the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and the Beaufort Naval Hospital were assessed by experts from the ASPCA during three days of tests this week.

"We believe breed bans cannot be effective because of this. We found some really great animals and families," said ASPCA animal behavior expert, Emily Weiss, who said individual assessments are preferable. "We don't think it's a breed issue. We think it's an individual behavior issue, and what we saw at the base verifies that," said Weiss, who said it was the first time the ASPCA had done such assessments for the Marines.

"We saw a lot of big, macho dogs, but they were safe dogs," she said.

Capt. Brian Block, a Marine Corps spokesman, noting what happened at Camp Lejeune, said "having one dog who would do that is not an acceptable risk from our point of view." He said pet owners at other Marine bases can have their dogs assessed by veterinarians.

"If the dog passes the temperament test, that's great. The dog gets the waiver," he said. "We think pet ownership is absolutely fantastic for the morale of our Marines and sailors who live on base. But our point was to make a judgment that it's not worth it to have dogs that are dangerous on base," he said.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Associated Press

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