Some San Diegans are wondering what, if anything, should be done about recent violent dog attacks involving pit bulls and a boxer. Should the pit bull breed be banned as they are in Denver, Colorado? Mari Payton reports.
A recent attack on a 75-year-old woman by two pit bulls fuels the ongoing debate as to whether or not the breed should be considered dangerous.
The woman suffered severe injuries, including multiple bites and a heart attack.
The incident has reignited the debate: Are pit bulls unsafe?
The controversy surrounding pit bulls has been argued for decades. A special report released by the U.S. Center for Disease Control in 2000 displayed that pit bulls were responsible for the majority of dog bite related fatalities.
The report has since received an overwhelming amount of dissonance from pit bull advocates. The CDC later released a statement saying there was no accurate way to identify which breeds are more likely to kill.
However, advocates at the nonprofit organization Dogsbite.org performed its own study that revealed more than 50 percent of fatal dog attacks are from pit bulls. The Texas-based website serves to warn the public about dangerous dog breeds and educate the public about possible solutions to prevent pit bull attacks.
Colleen Lynn, founder of Dogsbite.org, said the example of the recent attack exposes pit bulls as a hazardous breed.
“We know not all pit bulls are going to attack,” she said. “Pit bulls are not born vicious, they are born dangerous. If you’re going to own one you need to know.”
Lynn believes both genetics and a dog’s surroundings play a role in dog attacks.
“There’s no question that environment can play a role,” Lynn said. “But pit bulls bite, clamp, hold and shake. That’s totally genetic.”
Lynn suggested the pit bulls that attacked Emako Mendoza were displaying typical pit bull breed behavior. She said keeping multiple pit bulls elevates the risk, especially with puppies
Lynn worries that the dogs’ owners will not be able to pay for Mendoza’s injuries. Because of instances like this, Lynn wants to enforce legislation, which would make pit bull owners obtain insurance.
“These dogs can cause serious damage,” she said. “It’s very self-centered considering the risk they could pose.”
Nature vs. Nurture
Are pit bulls attack dogs by nature, or does training play a role?
The Pit Bull Rescue Central website advocates against the notion that the breed itself is dangerous. Marcy Setter runs the website educating dog owners and restoring the pit bull image.
“It’s not a breed issue, it’s a dog issue,” Setter said. “I hear about dogs getting loose and that relates directly to irresponsible dog owners.”
Setter said it’s important to socialize any dog, and expose them to as much as possible.
“A dog is a dog at the end of the day, and all dogs bite,” she said. “Every breed has attacks or fatalities against them.”
Despite negative connotations people have of pit bulls, Setter said people are still interested in adopting them because they are friendly and loyal.
“I would tell a new dog owner the same thing I’d tell other dog owners,” she said. “Make sure to socialize the animal with other dogs and animals.”
San Diego seems to be a pit bull hot spot; simply stroll by Ocean Beach and one will see owners walking pit bulls along the boardwalk.
Micaela Myers, a volunteer with the Pit Bull Rescue San Diego, said pit bulls are a popular dog type not just in San Diego, but also across the nation. As a pit bull owner, Myers believes the dogs make good pets despite unfavorable attention they often receive.
“They’re goofy, loving and great companions,” she said. Myers has two pit bull mixes, one that is a certified therapy dog.
Myers said some people want pit bulls for the wrong reasons, such as enhancing their image as someone who is tough.
“When they become popular with the wrong people for the wrong reasons pit bulls get a bad rep,” she said.
Myers said the recent attack must take into account how the dogs were kept and treated.
At the San Diego league experienced trainers evaluate pit bulls to determine whether or not they are temperamental, according to Myers.
PBRSD also encourages newly adopted dog owners to understand the image they present with their pit bull.
“I do think dog owners have an extra responsibility because the public scrutinizes,” she said. “We want them to be extra responsible with how they present themselves with their dog.”