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Pit Bull Attack Raises Questions Over Pet Regulations

Nearly half of all dogs at animal shelters are pit bulls or pit bull mixed-breeds.
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Above: Nearly half of all dogs at animal shelters are pit bulls or pit bull mixed-breeds.

Aired 11/30/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guests

Dan DeSousa, Lieutenant with the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services

Micaela Myers, pit bull owner and volunteer at Stubbydog.org

Transcript

An attack on two San Diego runners in Valley Center this weekend has revived questions about the safety of keeping pit bulls as pets.

Richard Garritson, 21, and his 20-year-old brother John were running with other family members when a pack of dogs attacked. The dogs bit at Richard's legs and armpit. He called on John to help him, at which point his brother was also attacked.

Garritson underwent surgery for his injuries, according to the AP. He said that, during the attack, he thought he was going to die.

Four 7-month-old pit bulls involved in the attack were put down at the owner's request, according to the AP.

This incident comes just months after a horrific pit bull attack on a 75-year-old woman in Paradise Hills.

While some San Diegans are asking for the breed to be regulated under tighter restrictions, others claim pit bulls are good dogs getting a bad rap.

Are you concerned about pit bulls in your neighborhood? Do you own a pit bull? We'll discuss on Midday Edition (audio on left) and on Evening Edition.

The Associated Press contributed information to this story.

Comments

Avatar for user 'MANNY3'

MANNY3 | November 30, 2011 at 12:39 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

I have shared my life with dogs since I was 13, and in the intervening time have cared for 6 different dogs; all rescues. My current 4-legged friend is a 10 year old, female pit-mix. She may be the most obedient dog I have ever had in my life. While she has some "excess baggage" from her previous life, I have never felt that I was unable to control or restrain her.

Pits can be good dogs, but unfortunately, individuals insist on breeding the animals for aggression. This is exacerbated when the animals are not altered. I believe ownership of these animals should be subject to greater regualtion. Individuals adopting these animals should submit to a background check, and those who have been irresponsible should not be allowed to own them. I also believe that individuals who have a history of animal abuse, neglect and general irresponsible behavior should not be allowed to own these animals, or any dog. Penalties for irresponsible behavior that results in injury to humans, or other animals should be severe.

If we want to nip this kind of irresponsible ownership, the county should make it illegal to breed dogs w/o a breeders license. Private owners of dogs should be legally compelled to alter there animals. Such restrictions would go a long way to mitigating incidents like that being discussed

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Avatar for user 'ebam'

ebam | November 30, 2011 at 12:51 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

I just heard 5 minutes of this program and am appalled at the prejudice against these dogs. While I have since left the field, I have spent 10 years employed as a veterinary technician.

Consider that- a veterinary technician's JOB is to do things to a nervous, anxious, animal that doesn't want things done to them. I have dealt with-literally-thousands of pit bulls and pit mixes. MAYBE 1% ever snapped at me in the course of my job. Other breeds, especially the toy breeds (those safe chihuahuas and poodles that one caller spoke about) were far more consistent in snapping.

I saw 3 dogs euthanized for vicious behavior that wasn't a result of upbringing- all three from the same litter (the were all bearded collies). Other dogs euthanized or given up for biting were ALWAYS the result of upbringing and improper training. It's also worth noting that improper training doesn't ONLY mean encouraging aggression. In fact, most of our patients who were prone to biting were spoiled and had learned from their owners that if they were slightly snippy, they wouldn't have to do what they didn't want to do.

99% of aggressive behavior is the owner's fault. not the dogs. I would have thought your listeners would know the difference.

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Avatar for user 'Oceanside'

Oceanside | November 30, 2011 at 1:28 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Previous next door neighbors had a dog, not exactly a pit bull, but some type of related breed - a bull terrier of some type. Very powerful dog with a huge head. Long story short, it grew up to be aggressive towards me. I was confronted by their snarling, barking, vicious acting dog on a number of occasions, at the back portion of my own property which is outside of either of our houses fencing because their dog broke through their back "fence" of chickenwire and old discarded doors. Usually, I would calmly make my way back to my house and let them know their dog was out. The fence never seemed to be addressed sufficiently. I just remember after being cornered, actually up in the fenced portion of my yard, with no where to go. Between my wife and I we yelled and shooed the dog out. But when I told the owner what happened, there was no apology, no promise to do more about the fence. I remember he was busy doing some yard work himself when I was telling him what happened, and he didn't even stop to look at me to discuss. Just said, "that's disappointing". I eventually got bit. He did come over and apologized when he found out. Said, "I'll have to talk to her" referring to the dog. True story of bad dog ownership.

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Avatar for user 'Valibaby12'

Valibaby12 | November 30, 2011 at 6:36 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Two weeks ago I was leaving my home with my two small dogs when two Pit Bulls attacked us on my front porch. It was one of the most horrific scenes I was victim and was witness to. I even sprayed pepper spray directly into their eyes and it did not stop the attack. After what it seem a life time of several screams for help. Two men came to the rescue and removed the dogs. My dogs barely escaped with their lives after with 2000 dollars of vet bills.
Before the attack I often could hear the dogs barking all day in the backyard. I am guessing they were probably never walked or exercised. The dogs were taken to animal control until a safe dog hearing was conducted.
I attended the safe dog hearing and learned there were two other compliants of attacks on other pets by these dogs. The names of the dogs are Felony and Misdemeanor need I say more. I learned that the female was in heat and the male was her mate. The female PB already had puppies twice.
The hearing was a joke. The owner came to the hearing dressed so provocative that her breasts were practically falling out of her blouse. She also had a friend accompanied her at the hearing who was dressed in the same attire. I am sure that was calculated move on the owner’s manipulation to get the attention off the issues with her dogs. This could have been a skit on Saturday Night Live. Both officers’ at the hearing were Men by the way.
I was asked to attend the hearing as a witness of the attack. Being a person who loves animals and values the lives of animals, I struggled with the fact that my testimony could influence the dogs to be put down because of the owner’s stupidity, but I also struggled with the fact what if the dogs get out again and it could be a life that is taken by the dogs. This caused me great anxiety to say the least.
The owner was given another chance, but at what price? The dogs will go back to the miserable life in the small backyard or will someone else get hurt or killed by the dogs? They are now deemed dangerous by animal control, so if they attack again they will be permanently taken away. The owner claimed she loved her dogs and they are very sweet with her two small children in their home. I do believe the owner truly loves her dogs, but she does not have the insight on how to take care of them? There should be some type of probation or specialize training of the owner before they can have this type breed of dog. The owner did have insurance for the dogs and I will be compensated for my bill, but what about the scene in my head watching the blood flow out my little Zoë’s neck by the huge jaws of the PB, feeling helpless that I could not help her. I believe most of this falls on the owner. My dogs are better, but I am not.

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Avatar for user 'Bullybob'

Bullybob | December 1, 2011 at 4:38 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

I have owned adopted pit bull type dogs for over 15 years now. I also volunteer at a shelter which is pit bull friendly. I would say they are definitely not a dog for everyone. They are a power breed dog. They take exercise and training. Cesar Milan (dog whisper) has the best comment ever about power breeds. "with the power breeds the level of responsibity goes up".
Pit bull type dogs are certainly over breed presently. They have a bad reputation which turns off alot of potential owners/adopters. Then there are the people that should not adopt a pit bull type of dog because they are basically too irresponsible to own this type of dog.
As for me I love these types of dogs. I am physically a pretty active person but also like a dog that is affectionate.
Just as a small not a pit bull is not a breed it is a type of dog. Many breeds of dogs will be called a pit bull.

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Avatar for user 'Bullybob'

Bullybob | December 1, 2011 at 6:12 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Pit bull type dogs should not be left unwatched in a backyard. They are way to smart and can dig out. When my dogs go in the backyard I always watch them or are in the backyard myself. I have a very good fence but still they are strong intelligent dogs.

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Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | December 1, 2011 at 10:17 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Sure a chihuahua or other dog may snap at people more than a pitbull. The problem is, when a pitbull "snaps" the results can be deadly.

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Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | December 1, 2011 at 10:19 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Pitbulls might be nice if you are a single male living with other single male adults. But I would not want a pitbull in the house with my 2 year old child.

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Avatar for user 'Bullybob'

Bullybob | December 1, 2011 at 11:25 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Satariel... dont worry our shelter wouldnt adopt a pit bull type dog out if you have a two year old. It might be ok if the PB were a puppy and grew up with your child but an adult pit bull would probably not be a good choice.
Most of our adoptions do go to households with adults only or older children. With the best mannered PB we adopt to 10 and above. Some are adults only with power breed experience.

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Avatar for user 'Len'

Len | December 1, 2011 at 2:12 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Here we go again, as pit bull owners assert how sweet their dogs are, and they'd not hurt a fly. Fact: Pit bulls kill more Americans every year than any other breed, by far. "Incidents" regarding pit bulls in the U.S. are greater than all other breeds combined. Worldwide, pit bulls are the most dangerous dogs. I forget the exact number, but at least half of all pit bull attacks are on the families of the owners. Pit Bulls are banned on all U.S. Navy and Army bases and housing, most Navy bases and almost all Air Force bases. If they're too dangerous for the Marines, they're too dangerous for the general public.

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Avatar for user 'Len'

Len | December 1, 2011 at 4:22 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Correction by Len. That should have read, "Pit bulls are banned on all U.S. Marine and Army bases and housing, most Navy bases and almost all Air Force bases.

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Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | December 2, 2011 at 10:59 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Well said Len.

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Avatar for user 'luckysuz'

luckysuz | December 3, 2011 at 11:58 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

I am angered by this whole discussion on pit bulls. I'm a responsible owner of a pit bull and couldn't be happier with her. Pit bulls definitely get a bad rap.

There is a media bias with regard to pit bull attacks. For example, during a four-day period in 2007, four dog attacks were reported, three of them were mixed breeds, one was a pit bull. The three mixed-breed dog attacks were only highlighted in local papers around the nation. The one pit bull attack was broadcast on nationwide networks including CNN, MSNBC and FOX. While this may be a small sample of dog attacks, it is an illustration of how pit bull attacks are hyped up in the media.

The American Temperament Test Society, Inc. (ATTS) is a national not-for-profit organization for the promotion of uniform temperament evaluation of purebred and spayed/neutered mixed-breed dogs. 2011 test results are as follows (a high percentage means a high pass rate for an even temperament breed):

Results:
American Pit Bull Terrier: 86.4%; American Staffordshire Terrier: 84.2%; Australian Shepherd, 81.6%; Basset Hound, 85.7%; German Shepherd, 84.4%; Golden Retriever, 84.9%. As you can see, the American Pit Bull Terrier's temperament is only 5 percentage points different from the Golden Retriever. These dogs are truly misunderstood. (Source is at atts.org)

I will say pit bulls are noted to have high impulsivity, but that is simply because some have been bred to fight. The environment a pit bull is brought up in is truly key. I have three children and two cats and my pit bull has never shown aggression to anyone in our household, two-legged or four-legged. Having said that, I don't know that I would personally take my pit bull to an off-leash dog park simply knowing about the pit bulls' tendency toward impulsivity. However, my pit bull is well-trained and controlled via voice commands. But other pit bulls that might be at the dog park may not be so well trained. It really is up to the owner to be responsible in all facets when owning any type of dog, not just a pit bull.

I would suggest if the commenters here have not educated themselves about the truth about pit bulls, take the time to do research and learn the facts before quoting so many myths about the American Pit Bull Terrier breed.

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Avatar for user 'luckysuz'

luckysuz | December 3, 2011 at 12:05 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Forgot to mention one more thing. The organization that studies dog bites and dog fatalities is the National Canine Research Council. The below link talks about attacks reported in California.:

http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/resources/CA/

ESPECIALLY INTERESTING - the three dogs pictured at this link are pit bulls, and are award winning search and rescue, and therapy dogs. Please learn more about this breed before accepting the stereotypes!!!

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Avatar for user 'Jeremybednarsh12'

Jeremybednarsh12 | December 3, 2011 at 3:18 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Wow, I normally never say anything, but this is ridiculous! Please , when you (Len) make a statement of fact, have some evidence to support it. Go look at the akc bite stats sheet on their website. Studies prove your statement of fact to be BS. I am a pit bull owner. I raised my dogs to be respectful of people and animals. I bring my dogs to the beach and allow them to socialize with everything from a pug to a golden retriever. I have never had any issues. Unfortunately , many people who own these dogs are punks and like to be betrayed as badasses. The problem is not the breed , it's the people. If people are going to keep throwing out misguided myths as fact, you only create more ignorance and get further from solving the problem. By the way, my dogs are around children all the time, and they love them.

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Avatar for user 'Len'

Len | December 3, 2011 at 4:02 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

When my building was considering action about dogs, I thoroughly researched pit bulls. A google search will reveal the truth of everything I wrote, if you care to take them time. If you wish, you can learn if Marine and Army bases and housing ban pit bulls by checking with them. What I wrote about most Air Force and Navy installations is also true. I didn't list all the countries and cities in the U.S. and elsewhere that ban put bulls, but they number in the collective hundred or more. I won't spend any more time discussing pit bulls here. It won't change anything, pit bull owners are immune to facts.

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Avatar for user 'Jeremybednarsh12'

Jeremybednarsh12 | December 3, 2011 at 8:48 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Like I said you quote no facts. I have done the research. I have provided you with an example and documentation to prove what I am saying. I don't care what the military does as far as housing for dogs. What I do care about is people like you try to state fact and can't back it up. Google is full of misinformation. You show your ignorance when you make statements like that. By the way according to numerous studies chows bite more people then any other dog. Do you research!

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Avatar for user 'Len'

Len | December 4, 2011 at 2:09 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

As I said, pit bull owners as a group are impervious to facts. This is a psychological phenomenon proved in multiple studies--true believers of all stripes can not process unfavorable information; their minds cannot process it. Jeremy is typical of true believers.They must find fault with sources and other evidence. It is subconscious. So debating them is pointless. I'll show one example. Jeremy doesn't "care" what the military does, because it contradicts his belief. In fact, there was an attack by a "family" pit bull on the young son, who was just watching TV. As I recall, it killed him. The Army then conducted an in-depth 7-year retrospective study of dog "events" on its bases and housing. It learned that pit bulls accounted not only for the majority of them, but also for the worst, when people were seriously injured. The Army's decision to ban pit bulls, as was the Marine's, was based on facts. One Air Force Command, following a similar review, banned pit bulls on all its bases, with most do the same on a base basis. I could provide evidence of thenumber of countries, and cities in the U.S. and worldwide that ban pit bulls, but there's no point. Jeremy wouldn't believe them. I commented only from an interest in informing the general populace. I literally have no dog in this fight, pit or otherwise, and will offer no further comments.

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Avatar for user 'Len'

Len | December 4, 2011 at 2:10 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

I should have made clear that the fatal attack on the boy was in Army base housing.

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Avatar for user 'Jeremybednarsh12'

Jeremybednarsh12 | December 4, 2011 at 9:07 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Again skirting around the issue. I am stating I don't care about what the military does because what they do has nothing to do with the factual numbers. I ask you again to produce numbers to back up what you are saying. I have the dogs and been exposed to them for years. Do you have Pitts? How much experience do you have with them. Again before you open your mouth, I am asking you to show the stats. You again are citing isolated incidents. Show us the facts, show us the studies. You can't . Do respond unless you can prove what your saying. You call me a true believe, I am a true believer of evidence. I can show lots of fatal dog attacks that did not involve pit bulls. Akc has conducted the studies and as them published. Look for yourself. The media loves to sensationalize dog attacks and also likes to group lots of dogs into the pit bull group. Show us the studies before you say anything!

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Avatar for user 'Laura12'

Laura12 | December 8, 2011 at 12:33 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

This is a first for me. Posting any comment on the internet. Just last week I found a Pit Bull in my neighborhood. I have tried to help many dogs roaming the area, but this guy came running up to my car wagging his tail and licking my face. I knew instantly he had a good nature. I've had him for about a week and have tried finding his owners. In just a week I have fallin in love with him, but have been reluctant to keep because of the stories you here. I have been doing my research and what it boils down to is this. Depending on what website you research and how you research will show you exactly what you want to hear. If you search Pit Bull attacks - you see nothing but bad news. If you search Pit Bull Personality - you read about how great they are. Everyone one is entitled to there opinion, my opinion is don't judge a book by it's cover. Be good to your pets, be responsible, and they will do nothing but give you love back no matter what breed. I have had my rotty who recently passed for 13 years. When I had her put down, All my family and friends came to say goodbye to her. They all said she was the best dog they ever knew, but of course when she was a puppy they were all scared because of the media hype. Now the focus is on Pit Bulls. I read a lot about bad owners, yes I think that is biggest problem. I also believe there are just bad dogs, not bad breeds. For my personal rescue dog, I think I have decided to make him a member of my family and yes I have 2 kids and 1 year old Rotty who absolutly love him. Thanks for reading

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Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | December 8, 2011 at 2:31 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Maybe pit bulls have a temperament and bite rate comparable to other breeds of dogs. The problem is, when a pit bull does have an incident, the result is often death or tragic mutilation. I don't care how sweet your pit bull is. My german shepherd is sweet, if it has an incident, I am not going to die. If your sweet pit bull has an incident, your life will be in danger.

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Avatar for user 'ghernan'

ghernan | December 9, 2011 at 6:09 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Everybody says if you have a vicious dog, its the owners fault, yet, if you have a very friendly dog, like I do, I got lucky. Which is it?
I dont own a pitbull, but have run into some that seem that they want to tear my throat out. The only breed that has, by the way.
Ive met a person who's owned pitbulls since they were puppies and were "very loving" until it viciously attacked him for no reason.

I love dogs but dont trust pitbulls.

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