A breed apart

A breed apart

Critics say city’s pet sterilization program is an attempt to get rid of pit bulls

By André Coleman 10/09/2013

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Poised to pass a measure designed to spay and neuter all cats and dogs — including troublesome pit bull terriers — a divided Pasadena City Council Monday decided to hold off another six months before considering the issue again.

The ordinance, if enacted, would have required all dogs and cats 4 months old or older to be spayed, the sterilization procedure used on female animals, and neutered, or castrated. Guide dogs, service dogs and police dogs, as well as show dogs and cats, would be exempt.

Under the proposed ordinance, pet owners out of compliance could be charged with a misdemeanor or an infraction and face fines, amounts for which have not yet been determined, said Pasadena Assistant City Manager Steve Mermell.

The move to sterilize Pasadena’s domestic pet population was met by an outpouring of opposition, much of which came in the form of letters received at City Hall the morning prior to Monday’s council meeting.

At the meeting, people opposed to the proposed ordinance said the new law was really aimed at eradicating the city’s pit bull population. That sentiment was held by many who wrote letters in opposition to the proposed measure.

“Are you people on crack?” wrote Sue Avila in an email to Mayor Bill Bogaard, who supports the ordinance. “This is ludicrous. We are supposed to be a free society. I don’t live in Pasadena and I never will. In fact, if I can leave California, I will. This state has gone over the cliff and all you politicians have taken too many drugs in your past. You are turning regular people into criminals and lining your own pockets doing it. I think you all should be spayed and neutered and quit reproducing.”

“This ordinance isn’t about population control,” said Linda Rollins, an Altadena pit bull owner. “It’s about getting rid of the pit bull population in Pasadena.”

In another email to Bogaard, Kathryn Call called the ordinance “a Big Brother concept that the animal rights activists think will resolve the overflow of unwanted pets in shelters.”

“This is actually an infringement on our civil rights,” Call continued. “These animals are our property. They do not belong to the city, county or state. I understand limiting the number of dogs on a given piece of property to protect the animals from hoarders and the neighbors from noise, but there should be a better way to limit strays.”

All told, there were 18 letters sent to the council opposing the measure, including letters from the California Federation of Dogs and the Cat Fanciers Association. There were no letters in support of the proposed city law.
“I am persuaded by the correspondence we received. It is late, but it is here,” said Councilman Terry Tornek. “This is an overly intrusive piece of business.”

A matter of time
According to Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA spokesperson Ricky Whitman, Pasadena is home to about 47,000 dogs, but less than 8,000 of those animals are licensed. In June, the Humane Society, a nonprofit organization which serves Pasadena, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, Arcadia, San Marino, La Cañada Flintridge and Glendale, began canvassing local homes to make sure people in Pasadena had the proper licenses for their pets. Currently, owners of unaltered dogs and cats pay $40 for an annual license. Owners of spayed or neutered pets pay $20.

On several occasions since 2008, city officials have discussed imposing a ban on pit bulls or initiating mandatory neutering of the breed. Each time, the council was discouraged from taking those routes due to a California state law prohibiting the banning of particular breeds. Spaying and neutering have been shown to reduce aggression in dogs, according to a city staff report, which is what a number of council members said they want to see happen, especially when it comes to pit bulls.

“It’s very frustrating, because data show about 4 percent of dogs in the US are pit bull breeds, but they are responsible for over 50 percent of fatal dog attacks against humans,” said Councilman Steve Madison, who said he would support an outright ban on pit bulls in Pasadena.

On Tuesday, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to target pit bulls for mandatory sterilization, requiring spaying and neutering of all pits older than 4 months.

“Just in the last couple of weeks, a 2-year-old was killed in Colton and an 8-year-old in Corona [in Riverside County] was severely injured and almost killed. Both of the attacks were by pit bull breeds,” Madison said.
“It’s only a matter of time until we have another attack in Pasadena. But, inexplicably, state law prohibits municipalities from adopting breed-specific legislation. So the spay and neuter ordinance is a tepid response to an urgent problem,” Madison said. “At present, it’s all we can do, supposedly. We should change this state law and then immediately ban pit bulls from Pasadena before we have another attack that might cause death or severe injury to a kid or a senior.”

Lowering aggression
Pit bulls have been around since the 1700s, when bulldog breeds from Scotland and Ireland were mated for fighting, according to the Web site pitbullregistry.com. By World War II. But decades later, pit bulls replaced Doberman pinschers and Rottweilers as the most vicious canine killers, due largely to their use in urban areas as guard dogs for drug dealers and gladiators in underground dog fights.

Due to erroneous reports in the media, many people believe the animals are inherently vicious, and that they have locking jaws that cannot be pried apart once a dog has clamped down. Studies have shown that the animals’ jaws are no different than any other dog breed. And based on temperament tests conducted by the American Temperament Test Society, in which the animals were placed in a series of unexpected situations, some involving strangers, pit bulls are not born with a mean streak, as some believe. According to that organization, the breed had a passing rate of 82 percent or better.

Locally, however, just two weeks ago in Victory Park a man was bitten by a pit bull that was not on a leash. The man was trying to stop the animal from mauling his dog. Councilman Gene Masuda, whose district includes Victory Park, told the Weekly that the man was not seriously injured. Masuda, who said he has nothing against pit bulls and supports the spaying and neutering ordinance, has asked the Public Works Department to place more signage in the park, reminding dog owners to keep their pets on leashes.
“We are hoping the mandatory spaying and neutering lowers the aggression in pit bulls and all aggressive breeds,” said Masuda, who, along with Madison, sits on the council’s Public Safety Committee, which has recommended that the full council adopt the ordinance. “We are trying to make our community safer. We’re not allowed to just concentrate on a bully breed. The last thing we want to hear is that we lose a child or a senior because we don’t have a stronger ordinance.”

Life and death
In July, two people suffered minor injuries after two pit bulls wandering the streets savagely attacked a puppy that was being walked by its owner near Michillinda and Mountain View avenues in Pasadena. A man who pulled over to help and the grandfather of the puppy’s owner were bitten by the pit bulls, which were not found by animal control officers with the Humane Society.

In 2011, former Pasadena Fire Battalion Chief Milford Fonza was attacked by two pit bulls during his morning walk in his hometown of Glendora. Fonza attempted to escape by climbing a fence, but was pulled down when one of the dogs bit his leg. Fonza credits a Glendora police officer, who rammed one of the dogs with his cruiser and shot the other one, with saving his life.

“I think they ought to outlaw them,” Fonza told the Weekly. “Anything that reduces the aggression in pit bulls and holds the owners accountable for their dogs is outstanding.”

In 2008, Pasadena police officers, responding to calls about a pack of pit bulls attacking people on Michigan Avenue north of Orange Grove Boulevard, were forced to shoot and kill two of the animals while the owner slept. Three people were hospitalized with injuries from the attack and the owner was later arrested.

Ordinances forcing the sterilization of cats and dogs — including pit bulls — have been enacted in other cities. Los Angeles, for instance, requires all dogs to be spayed or neutered by the time they are 4 months old.

It was once believed that such an ordinance could place undue strain on the Humane Society. Officials with the agency told the Weekly in 2011 that they would not have enough personnel to handle the overload in cases if the city passed an ordinance requiring the mandatory sterilization of dogs and cats. Two years later, it appears that situation has changed.

“It is my impression that the Humane Society agrees with this approach and they are ready to staff up to meet the needs,” said Bogaard.  

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Pit bulls have locking jaws; that makes them a dangerous animal. Very dangerous. A breed apart from other dogs. Some of the people who walk those dogs on leashes are not strong enough to control them if their dogs decide to attack another dog or human. And occasionally, a dog gets loose from its yard. The pit bull population has exploded in Pasadena due to back-yard breeders in our city. It is only a matter of time until someone is attacked and killed. I now carry mace with me for protection when I walk my golden retrievers on our city streets. Sometimes individual rights have to be infringed upon for public safety. That's why we have red traffic lights at busy intersections.

posted by Mark Bark on 10/10/13 @ 05:37 p.m.

No pit bulls do NOT have locking jaws! That is a myth that is perpetuated over and over again by those who know nothing about dogs. They are not some mythical killing creature. They are dogs. Unfortunately now they are the dog of choice of bad owners. The dogs have been around a long time. The way they are treated has changed. Their temperament is actually rated as high or higher than the golden retriever. Unfortunately any dog that has a higher percentage of bad owners is going to also have a higher percentage of bites. I blame people who are using these dogs for malicious purposes. And there are WAY more than 4 percent of pit bull dogs in this country - they are in the top 10 most popular dogs so that is a lie when they say they only make up 4 percent of the population but 50 percent of bites. It is impossible to get accurate counts of any breed since most estimates are based on registered dogs and only a small percentage of dogs are registered. ALL DOGS BITE! It's just that pit bull dogs are the ONLY ones that get covered in the news so everyone thinks they are the only dogs that hurt people. If media only reported crime stories committed by brown-haired, blue eyed people we'd also think all brown-haired blue-eyes people were bad. Same thing. My niece got bit in the face by a friend's beagle - she required surgery. It didn't make the news or the paper. Had it been a pit bull it would have been "Pit Bull Attacks Child" in ever media source. I'm so sick of the pit bull witch hunt. I'm certainly for spaying and neutering but if you are going to require it, then they will have to pay for it too and make it accessible to people.

posted by jennieo on 10/10/13 @ 08:37 p.m.

Sterlization for all dogs and cats is a good idea because there are more of them than there are people who want pets. I have been bitten by 3 aggressive dogs in my life (twice on the face) and none of them were pits. I have owned pit mixes, and they showed no aggression. So, I agree with the Council's action but no Mr. Madison's reason.

posted by Vivavilla on 10/11/13 @ 07:34 a.m.

This ordinance indeed smacks of big brother. Pasadena has become akin to the police state of China--trying to regulate dog populations, demanding proof of dog licensure at doors, and even trying to get Neighborhood Associations to drink the city's Kool-Aid (which by the way no one is falling for). This proposed ordinance is a mess. Steve Madison should be ashamed and kiss those mayoral aspirations aside. Get out there and do something constructive!--like stopping the 710 Freeway!

posted by Pasadena Watch on 10/12/13 @ 03:00 p.m.

I find this type of reactionary profiling embarrassing, and quite shocking, coming from any civilized human being. Discrimination concerns aside, look at the identification process, or lack thereof, and look at the due process from a property rights standpoint, or lack thereof. You want to talk about public safety? How about we talk about the actual enforcement of already existing laws? Enforcing the leash laws, and the already existing breed-neutral “dangerous dog” law. Create an anti-chaining law. Mandate a sterilization policy for any dog caught running loose. These are all concepts that are based around responsibility. Human fatalities are preceded by an utter lack thereof. Educate, reach out to the communities, make them a part of the process and show your genuine care and concern by explaining the need to be more responsible. Shun breed discrimination. Shun grandstanding on the opportunity to provide a false sense of security. Shun exploitation, fear-mongering and hate.

Truth is that dogs are incredibly safe. Truth is that there are 72+ million of them in this country alone. Truth is that there is well over 300 million people in this same country. Think about how many daily interactions that creates. No, seriously. Take a moment. Dogs are incredibly safe. Pit Bulls are dogs. There are millions and millions of Pit Bulls in this country. Throw whatever cherry-picked, unverified, media-reported statistic out at me that you want… 99.9999999999999% of all dogs, of all Pit Bulls, and no matter the breakdown–by breed or type or city or county or state–have never done anything to anyone. That is a stat that no one can refute.

Fortunately the truth will always shine through, and further, the truth will repeatedly lay waste to those aiming to criminalize millions of completely innocent dogs, or groups of anything else, who have been generically and unfairly deemed to universally fit some negative connotation as a whole. That is fundamentally wrong on every level. People are individuals, and so are dogs. If you treat them in the opposite ways then you not only discriminate wildly but also resoundingly fail to even attempt to address the problems associated with the individual incidents or “attacks” that have jump-started these debates in the first place.

More: http://www.swaylove.org/a-call-for-commo...

posted by swayloveorg on 11/18/13 @ 08:32 p.m.
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