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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.

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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