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Is Pit Bull Legislation Right For San Mateo County?

Our answer is far simpler and more effective.

Fatal dog mauling.  That’s all I heard last Thursday when our Captain of Animal Rescue & Control called from Pacifica to say we picked-up one dog who had been shot by police, and a second dog not believed to have been involved in this horrific attack.  As the contracted provider of animal control services, we respond to dog bites and attacks; never before have we been be involved in a human fatality.  

I figured people would draw comparisons to Diane Whipple and the horrific, sensational dog mauling case that rocked SF Animal Care & Control, which was responsible for housing both dogs during the legal proceedings. We saw the dogs behind chain link kennels, nightly, on the news, as well as the footage of the dogs being led from animal control trucks on catch-poles.

We decided we would not allow media access to either dog for photos or footage. I fielded calls all day on Friday, gave three interviews for TV, two for radio and a dozen or so for print media. We granted every media request for interviews, but would not budge on photos.  We knew this would be best for us, that it would be best for the victim’s husband and family.  I do not regret that decision.

We had another decision: what to do with the second dog. We knew her owner, the victim’s husband, very much wanted her back. For someone who lost his wife and unborn child, getting his second dog back would mean everything. Unfortunately, that wasn’t our decision. It was our role to perform a necropsy on one dog and examine the second dog, and information from these procedures told us it was very likely the male dog was involved in the attack and that the female was not. Still, this was not enough. 

The County’s Medical Examiner and two odontologists compared our dental impressions from both dogs to bite wounds on the victim, and concluded, with no uncertainty, that the male dog was involved and the female was not. Of course, this meant returning the second dog to her owner, which we did on Monday.

End of this story for now.

A sidebar throughout the media coverage centered on breed-specific legislation.  San Francisco currently has a law on the books that requires owners of pits and pit mixes to get their dogs fixed.  And, unknown to many, the Peninsula Humane Society helps SF residents comply by bringing our mobile spay/neuter clinic to the City two times each month to offer free fixes.

This past week, we were repeatedly asked how we felt about a similar law for San Mateo County.  We feel all dogs (and cats) should be fixed, but we don’t push for legislation.  For one, our County is different from SF, where city and county are one. In San Mateo County, legislation would have to be proposed and passed in 20 cities; cities currently struggling with budgets, cutting or merging police and fire services. I doubt many would have the bandwidth to tackle an animal issue.

There’s that, plus the fact that spay/neuter laws often look good on paper, but come with little or no enforcement and no funding for those for which it’s being required.  Just because something becomes law, it doesn’t mean people will comply. Legislation, like this, targets the least responsible people, since the most responsible get their pets fixed without it. And, the least responsible people are highly unlikely to respond when enforcement is spotty and the surgery costs them $200 to $350 at their vet office.

Finally, we don’t pursue legislation because we’re not good at lobbying city councils. That work is far from our organizational strengths.  But, we are very good at being a humane society. Five years ago, with support from a donor, we purchased a mobile spay/neuter clinic and began visiting targeted communities offering free fixes. No strings attached, no appointments needed. And, since that time, pits and pit mixes have dropped from 23% to 18% of our incoming dog population.  Our 25ft.-long surgery suite on wheels has custom graphics and says “Go Nuts!” on the back. We have to have fun where we can! 

We average 1,000+ surgeries on our mobile clinic each year; this is in addition to the 5,500 low-cost spay/neuter surgeries performed in our on-site clinic.

This, combined with education, is the answer for our county; the best way to control companion animal population and the best way to reduce the number of dog bites and attacks, given more than 90% come from unneutered males.

Our cities have serious issues and we can’t expect them to focus on animal legislation. But, we control our clinic. We have no agenda other than to get it out and make it difficult for people to say no.

Ben Toy August 20, 2011 at 12:27 AM
Personally so dislike the broad usage of "pit bull" for all of these incidents by reporters. Would using the term: "pit bull hybrid" better serve the breed's and public? Is or would that a correct or better term?
dogcentric August 20, 2011 at 12:41 AM
Nope. The dogs involved in these incidents are overwhelmingly bred, marketed and sold as "pit bulls," not as "pit bull hybrids." The owners identify the dogs as "pit bulls," not "pit bull hybrids." When various humane societies offer free or low cost spay/neuter to (or even to PAY owners who agree to have it done) PIT BULLS only (on a BREED SPECIFIC basis), pit pushers never complain that it is just impossible to tell what a pit bull is. They take the money and run. Why no complaints about how "unfair" those programs are or about how it is just impossible to ever identify a pit bull. Nobody seems to have any trouble identifying a pit bull when a BENEFIT is being conferred on a pit bull owner. It is only after a pit bull kills somebody that pit pushers suddenly remember "there is no such thing as a pit bull." (So why did Petsmart Charities give a quarter of a million dollars to various animal welfare groups to fund pit bull programs?)
dogcentric August 20, 2011 at 12:52 AM
MikeRine makes the unusual argument that the only people who are qualified to have an opinion on pit bulls are pit bull owners and pit bull breeders. Hmmm....it seems like pit bull owners and breeders have made a sorry mess of things out there in Pit Bull Land. Shelters are absolutely glutted with them, there are breed specific programs all over the place that try to bribe pit bull owners to do what everybody else does for free (i.e. programs that pay pit bull owners to have their dogs spayed/neutered...on a BREED SPECIFIC basis, of course). And Mike Rine doesn't answer how he would address the horrible issues that he actually complains about in other posts (for example, grossly irresponsible pit bull breeders who breed for dangerousness and don't do health screens.). Are there plenty of pit bull breeders breeding UKC-PR registered or AKC registered pit bulls who I wouldn't personally breed? Absolutely, but my standards are higher than those of virtually any pit bull breeder, so no surprise there. Mike hasn't told us what ADBA dogs he thinks are worthy of being bred, nor has he denied that there are virtually no ADBA dogs with multigenerational health screens recorded in the OFA database. So, Mike, please answer the question: With adorable pit bull puppies and adult dogs glutting virtually every shelter and dying in horrific numbers, is there ANY justification for breeding a pit bull who doesn't at least have multigenerational health screens?.
dogcentric August 20, 2011 at 01:01 AM
MikeRine keeps making the completely bogus argument that there are no AKC pit bulls. In fact, there are many, many AKC registered dogs (registered as AmStaffs) that are also champion UKC American Pit bull Terriers. That is, the very same dog is registered with AKC as an AmStaff and by the UKC as an American Pit Bull Terrier (and the conformation standards are similar enough that dogs can be champions in both registries). So Mike's strange contention that an AKC dog can't be a pit bull is ridiculous.
DanC August 20, 2011 at 01:09 AM
It's inevitable, the pit bull species must and will be eliminated from Earth. All the hot air above doesn't address the basic fact: pit bulls were bred to kill.
mike rine August 20, 2011 at 01:59 AM
your right jdavis,looks alone don't make it a pitbull. but like as i said before with the dogs involved with the Concord boy's death,the photos i found weks later clearly showed the dogs to be mixed,if it looks like a German Shepard mix and a Labrador mixed it usually rules out it being a pitbull,even to the novice and it stops newspapers from their usual breed specific fear mongering and other pranks.
mike rine August 20, 2011 at 02:00 AM
Plus Jdavis,i want to know if it was a bluedog or one of those big reds that backyard breeders favor.
mike rine August 20, 2011 at 02:03 AM
i've argued DNA testing to Scott at PHS,maybe they will see some merit in that idea.so far they are not even keen on tracking that dogs history and where it orginally came from, which i see as an error in judgement on their part.
mike rine August 20, 2011 at 02:10 AM
not when they are wrong and not doing their homework like your idea of 'only allowing UKC-PR dogs be breed given their breeding standard seems to have drifted away from the solution and has become part of the problem.
mike rine August 20, 2011 at 02:19 AM
are you talking about T.Garner's dogs?? i think i mentioned his health guarantees against defects like hips etc stated on his website. i don't know if you can get a better offer from a breeder,besides no pre-check is going to catch all health issues in a dog.there is no crystal ball.One thing you will notice about his dogs is their structure is first rate they are the correct size whichs helps ensure durability, and his breeding standard is unquestionably what i see as the standard i would seek in selecting an APBT.his first priority is 'intelligence and people friendliness at ALL times.those are what i would look for first in selecting. whether you approve of his methods or not or his past history.his breeding standard is first rate.
mike rine August 20, 2011 at 02:32 AM
AKC doesn't recognize ABPTS,Your right AMSTAFF blood does spring from the same well,but they are bred to differnt standards and stock,are they the same?? yes and no.it's not a strange contention given they are bred to different standards and purpose and are different in structure in most cases and show different in weight and personallity. but they are both good dogs...i prefer APBT over AMSTAFF. as far as ADBA dogs i would consider worthy.. that is hard to say as i have not been keeping up on the direction the dogs are moving in, but i do like the carver/eli cross and Bolio dogs or combination,i like a smart dog that loves peoplE,doesn't bark ,bite people,i get that in the APBT.I also can get all those qualities from choosing a dog at the local shelter.
mike rine August 20, 2011 at 02:33 AM
have anything intelligent to say besides barking out your hateful,silly nonsense??
mike rine August 20, 2011 at 02:37 AM
go to "World of X-pert" website for more info on AMSTAFF bloodlines. check the history section. good info on aMSTAFF and ABPT history.they are the same,but different as you will see.I think they also mention the AKC/UKC deal and why they do not reconized APBT yet AMSTAFF IS OK.
mike rine August 20, 2011 at 02:42 AM
JULIE HOWARD isn't up to speed on APBT issues or behavior,i read her piece.she's more opinion than fact.. my ABPT sleeps on my bed too.big deal.
Susan August 20, 2011 at 03:38 AM
I just have to say that I agree with dogcentric regarding mandatory s/n of these dogs. Clearly, the vast majority of pit bull breeders are grossly irresponsible, if not downright criminal...breeding dogs for malicious purposes, dogfighting, guarding drug ops, etc. I checked the Penninsula Humane Society's website....you are an open admission shelter, which means you take every animal surrendered. With limited resources, how do you justify subsidizing owners of one, specific breed of dog? This diverts resources from other, healthy animals, in order to subsidize dog owners who, demographically, are the least responsible, and least capable of providing a permanent home and proper care. Your stats show you euthanized 616 dogs last year and 1631 cats....since cats are obviously at greater risk, why aren't you offering free s/n for cats? And of the 616 dogs euthanized, how many were pit bulls? And how many had to be euthanized for behavior issues like aggression? I think that humane organizations relentless promotion of pit bulls, subsidizing (even paying!) owners to provide basic vet care, sends the wrong message, and actually contributes to the problem. Currently 22% of the adoptable dogs on your website are pit bulls; clearly all this education and giving out freebees to pit bull owners, is NOT working, and merely taking resources away from other animals.
dogcentric August 20, 2011 at 11:40 AM
Neither Mike Rine nor JDavis defines "backyard breeding." If you mean non-professional breeders who don't show their dogs but breed dogs to make money, then outlawing those kinds of breeders will be nothing but a boon to out of state puppy millers who sell to pet stores, because people are going to still want small breed puppies and if they aren't available from the backyard breeder who produces a few litters every year or every couple of years, they are going to get them from petstores that buy from huge puppymillers. The show breeders aren't going to BEGIN to meet the demand for, say, toy poodles. Moreover, any definition of "backyard breeders" inevitably gets into discussions of quality. That is, if I like you and the kinds of dogs you breed, you are a "responsible breeder." If I don't like you or the kinds of dog you breed, you are a "backyard breeder." Mike Rine obviously has some .strong opinions about certain breeders of pit bulls. Guess what? Lots of those breeders have equally strong opinions about the kinds of pit bull Mike Rine likes. (For example, faulting the lines for not having health screens, which does seem completely indefensible, doesn't it?)
dogcentric August 20, 2011 at 11:48 AM
MikeRine, Oh, give it up. The VERY SAME DOG can be registered in AKC as an American Staffordshire Terrier and in the UKC as an American Pit Bull Terrier. In fact that AKC dog (who you apparently don't think is a pit bull) can be a champion in both registries (and plenty are). That is, an AKC dog can be a champion American Pit Bull Terrier. Re the lines of pit bulls you say you like, those lines are named after either famous dog fighting dogs or dog fighting dog breeders, right? And virtually none of the dogs in those lines have multigenerational health screens, do they? Hip dysplasia (as well as many other health problems) is pretty rampant in pit bulls, isn't it? So what possible excuse can ANY pit bull breeder have for breeding any pit bull who doesn't (at least) come from multiple generations of OFAed hips? Are you under some impression that there is a shortage of pit bulls, so it is okay for breeders to breed something that doesn't even have health screens? If so, I urge you to take a tour of the death row of any urban shelter.
dogcentric August 20, 2011 at 12:01 PM
Good post. At the recent no kill conference in Washington DC, shelters were told that they should aggressively "market" their pit bulls to potential adopters. This isn't good for adopters and it isn't good for pit bulls. Potential adopters need to be told the TRUTH about pit bulls--they tend to be high drive and high energy and most are dog aggressive. This last trait is a temperament flaw that makes any dog far, far less fun to own. Nor is it good to send the message to pit bull owners that they needn't be as responsible as are dog owners of other breeds. Free and low cost spay/neuter, if available, should be offered based on the income of the dog owner, not on what kind of dog is on the end of his leash. Telling a pit bull owner who can well afford to pay for spay/neuter that you will pay HIM if he spays/neuters his dog (while you turn away the indigent owner of a lab mix who desperately wants to do right by his dog but truly can't afford it), just contributes to further irresponsibility in the pit bull community. Or maybe not. Maybe you know what you are doing and these pit bull owners will magically turn around. I don't see it, though.
dogcentric August 20, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Up above, Mike Rine kind of outs himself by defending Tom Garner's pit bull breeding practices. Aside from doing no health screens on the dogs he breeds, Garner keeps huge numbers of pit bulls on logging chains in a "yard," has multiple litters at one time (12 different litters were available in August) and is clearly breeding and marketing pit bulls for money ($1200 per puppy). Can you say "puppy mill?" But wait, there's more. Garner's market is either dog fighters or wannabe dog fighters (people who think that dog fighting is way cool) because he markets puppies by talking about how closely related they are to dogs known ONLY as dog fighting dogs. His line goes back to "Chinaman" a famous dog fighting dog who is also a dog known to have bitten at least one human being. (So much for Garner supposedly breeding only dogs who are completely reliable around humans--if it is a good fighting dog, dog fighters will breed it even if it wants to rip the limbs off children.) . Garner claims his dogs are "athletic" but kind of forgets to say what their sport is. We don't see any agility titles on any of his dogs, however....hmmmm... I wonder what those numbers behind names in his dog's pedigree mean? (2xw, 4xw, etc). It can't be that he is bragging about dog fighting wins, can it? Why would ANY responsible dog owner be attracted to a pit bull because it is bred from a line known for an ability and propensity to rip other dogs to shreds? ..
Ben Toy August 20, 2011 at 09:38 PM
Circular now and part of my issue...there is no real definition of what the press/media refers to as 'pit bull' That has then caused mass hysteria AGAINST all pit bull like breeds/mixtures/etc. The pit bull type I knew as a kid is nothing like the ones in the news these days. The only similarity is in the shape of their face and head. Maybe their tenacity or better stated their strength and stamina How am I, someone familiar with the old type of pit bull, suppsed to be able to decipher a news article that states attack by a 'pit bull'... Why suggested pit bull hybrid, or whatever is more appropriate than just 'pit bull'
dogcentric August 20, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Ben Toy. You are right that pit bulls today are probably far more dangerous to human beings (on average) than were the pit bulls of the misty nostalgia of your youth. Dog breeds change. Dobermans are probably a whole lot less dangerous than dobermans of the 1960s. That doesn't mean tht they aren't still dobermans. Dog breed dangerousness is largely a function of what fanciers of that breed are breeding for. Sadly for pit bulls, many pit bull breeders are breeding to produce a weapon, not a companion.
DanC August 20, 2011 at 11:46 PM
mike rine, in all his nonsense, says I am hateful. He's right. I hate pit bulls. News item: 12/21/2010 With her arm heavily taped and her wounds still bleeding, Susan Zhao stood outside her San Jose home early Tuesday and described the horror of being attacked by two marauding pit bulls [in her own driveway].
JDavis August 21, 2011 at 01:20 AM
Dogcentric: For your edification, I don't care how you want to define backyard breeding. Start somewhere on the definition and adjust it from there. There are far too many animals out there awaiting good homes to justify any type of "backyard breeding." I'm good with any definition as a starting point.
JDavis August 21, 2011 at 01:25 AM
dogcentric: Your self defined rampant speculation does no one any good..except yourself perhaps. It is strictly that...rampant speculation. And, with regard to Gunner sleeping in bed with his owners, who cares if he did? I realize it isn't to everyone's liking to have their dogs sleeping in bed with them but what scientific evidence supports this as a trigger to mortally aggressive behavior?
dogcentric August 21, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Liane, So you think you can "educate" people who aren't responsible to be responsible? Good luck with that. Education works with people who don't know something. As you point out, responsible dog owners are already educated and already are not breeding the pit bulls who die in shelters. Education doesn't work so well with people who simply don't care which is the case of irresponsible pit bull breeders. You say that people won't spay/neuter their dogs "just because there is an ordinance." Uh...kind of the purpose of having laws (rather than mere suggestions) is to be able to force people who don't want to behave responsibly to behave more responsibly. They may not be doing it "just because there is an ordinance." They may only do it because they don't wish to suffer the consequences of disobeying that ordinance. Right?
dogcentric August 21, 2011 at 04:27 PM
JD, Since all we have here is rampant speculation about what set Gunner off, my speculation is as good as anything else. And, it is perfectly plausible that an intact male pit bull decided not to submit to his female owner if she asked him to stop doing something he wanted to do. It wasn't me who said that Gunner killed Ms. Napora because he slept in bed with her. It was extremely good dog trainer Judie Howard who implied that. I agree that pushy, dangerous dogs will often become more pushy and dangerous if they perceive themselves as equal to the humans and sleeping in bed with the humans is therefore a bad idea for a pushy, dangerous dog. But I think that a dog who is so pushy and dangerous that he shouldn't be sleeping in bed with humans is probably also a dog who is too pushy and dangerous to go on living. Of course, Gunner demonstrated very clearly that he was too pushy and dangerous to go on living.
Ben Toy August 21, 2011 at 06:33 PM
So telling on how society is torn apart by this topic and absolutism abounds...one dog a 'bad' pit bull...therefore the hysteria that 'all' pit bulls are bad and vise-versa To me, no different than racial profiling of any of 'them' that is deemed to be 'generally ALL bad'...therefore they ARE all bad people. Like people profiling...it is the environment and parenting that is the main cause. So it is also true for the 'pit bull' or whatever breed that this kind of person uses as their gun. It is with the breeders....no different than any illegal drug dealer...the demand and profit is very high in this type of trade (guns, drugs, dogs, etc) Sad for me to see these dogs being bred into what too many are. Punish the owners and sadly...destroy those dogs that have been ruined by these types of people. Have had a recent experience with this type of dog (I'll not call it a pit bull). Family and friends out for some fun at Fort Funston. 7 year old with the 9 month Aussie. As they walked 'near' (about 10 feet) a guy who does fit the profile of that kind of owner and that dog, which would be called by most here a pit bull...only the face/head, as the body was HUGE. That dog lunged at both the 7 year boy and 9 month old Aussie. That owner laughed and thought it very funny...as did his buddies That kind of dog, again not a pit bull but a hybrid, has no usefulness in our society.
dogcentric August 21, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Uh, no, Ben Toy. I dont' say that "all pit bulls are bad" because one pit bull mauls his owner to death. I say that there is a huge crisis with pit bulls that results, directly, in thousands of pit bulls dying every week in this country and some people dying and many more people being mauled because of pit bulls. This isn't about one incident. It is about lots and lots and lots of dead dogs and some dead and maimed people. And, no, "breedism" is not equivalent to racism. The reason it isn't is that dogs aren't people. We do lots of things and make lots of decisions about dogs (for example, sterilizing them against their will) that would be unthinkable if applied to people. It is OKAY to look at a purpose for which a dog breed is developed and the traits it has (in the case of pit bulls, that would be fighting other dogs to the death and "gameness" which is the quality of not stopping an attack until the victim is dead) and conclude that those aren't traits that we need to perpetuate in today's society. Anyway, your definition of "pit bulls" seems to be "dogs I like." Your definition of "pit bull hybrids" (the term you made up) seems to be "dogs I don't like." Sorry, but that really isn't very helpful in terms of setting public policy or protecting people from dangerous pit bulls.
DanC August 21, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Ben - There are up to 5 reports of pit bull maulings every year in the SF Bay Area alone. How many reports have you heard of any other canine species marauding around the neighborhood attacking people in their own driveways...or, which other species attacks and kills their owner? Here's a history lesson for you:"The Staffordshire bull terrier had its beginnings in England many centuries ago when the bulldog and Mastiff were used for the sports of bull-baiting and bear-baiting (the dog fastens his teeth strongly on the bull's snout until dead). In the United States, American pit bull terriers were used as catch dogs for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt, to drive livestock, and as family companions. Some have been selectively bred for their fighting prowess." - Wikipedia. Lesson learned: Pit bulls don't care who they attack. They were bred to immobilize and kill...any living thing. Even humans are fine when they decide to go on a rampage.
DanC August 21, 2011 at 11:29 PM
I should have added above: Google (verb) "pit bull attack statistics" and see whatcha find.

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