MIAMI -

A ban on pit bulls has been in effect in Miami-Dade County since 1989, but a proposal to lift that ban on the Aug. 14 ballot has people debating both sides of the issue.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman is a lover of dogs, including pit bulls.

"I honestly believe (the problem) is not a bad dog, but an irresponsible owner," Heyman said.

Pit bulls have been banned in Miami-Dade County for 23 years after one mauled and disfigured a girl.

"A lot of things get called pit bulls that aren't necessarily pit bulls or part pit bull," said Alex Munoz, of Miami-Dade Animal Services.

The ban was debated Wednesday at the Downtown Bay Forum, although no one spoke in favor of keeping the ban.

"What would happen if someone came to your door and gave you a $500 fine, took your dog and killed it and gave it back to you in a trash bag without the dog having done anything?" said Dahlia Canes, who favors lifting the ban.

"And what if my granddaughter were out in the street, walking, and an aggressive dog, pit bull or not, came and attacked her unprovoked? I mean, don't I have a right? Doesn't she have a right to not have that happen?" Local 10's Michael Putney asked.

"You have every right to feel safe in this county," Canes said.

But, many don't feel safe around pit bulls, whose attacks garner media attention, even though other breeds bite more.

"This ban affects the American pit bull terriers, the American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers or any mix thereof that would substantially conform to those breed characteristics," said Kathy Labrada, of Miami-Dade Animal Services.

Owning a pit bull is not against the law in Broward County. Those who want to lift the ban in Miami-Dade County said its dangerous dog ordinance will be toughed up to crack down on aggressive dogs and their owners.