A matter of time
Pit bulls, which are genetically predisposed to be aggressive, should be banned in Pasadena
By John Grula 10/16/2013
Suddenly, a loose pit bull descended on the foursome and began attacking the dog my friend was walking. My friend's dog tried to fight back, but soon the pit bull had the side of its head and throat in its jaws. Because the pit bull did not even have a collar, all my friend could do was try to kick the pit bull to stop it from killing his dog. In so doing, he lost his balance and fell on his back.
His daughter, who was already terrorized and traumatized, became even more so at the thought that the pit bull might now go for her father's throat. Fortunately, her father regained his footing and again tried to stop the pit bull from attacking his dog. During the struggle, the pit bull bit my friend several times on his right arm, causing serious bleeding. If some nearby volleyball players had not then intervened and managed to corral the marauding pit bull until an animal control officer arrived, things could have gotten much worse for my friend and his dog.
However, his woes were not yet over. After getting his daughter and their two dogs safely home, he drove himself to the San Gabriel Valley Medical Center. There he waited three hours in the emergency room before receiving treatment for his wounds and getting an antibiotic prescription in case of infection. The next day he took his injured dog to a veterinarian for treatment of its wounds, which miraculously were relatively minor. The total out-of-pocket medical and vet costs came to $125.00. Fortunately, Medicare covered most of the ER bill.
That a vicious and terrifying pit bull attack such as this happened within the confines of Pasadena (or anywhere else, as far as that goes) is deplorable and inexcusable. Unfortunately, this attack was by no means an isolated incident. So far this year, Southern California has seen at least two human fatalities as a result of pit bull attacks. As recently as Sept. 23, a two-year-old toddler in Colton was killed in his backyard by five pit bulls that were family pets, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Back in May, the Times reported on a 63-year-old woman who was mauled to death by several pit bulls while jogging in the Antelope Valley. In his very informative news story about pit bulls in the Oct. 10 edition of the Pasadena Weekly, Deputy Editor André Coleman documents other recent pit bull attacks on humans in and around the Pasadena area.
Nationwide, there have so far been at least 14 people killed this year as a result of dog attacks. In every case but one, the dogs were pit bulls, according to the Web site DogsBite.org. According to Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison and other sources, pit bulls are now responsible for more than 50 percent of fatal dog attacks against humans, even though they make up only 4 percent of the US dog population.
Pit bulls have been selectively bred over the last few centuries to be fighting dogs (by the way, the barbaric "sport" of dog fighting is now outlawed as a felony in all 50 states). While many pit bulls have not attacked other dogs or humans, they nevertheless have a well-deserved reputation for often being aggressive and violent. A predisposition for aggression and viciousness is in their DNA. As a geneticist, I know that an organism's genotype (genetic makeup) has a powerful influence over its phenotype (observable characteristics, including behavior). Sure, how owners treat and care for their pit bulls is also important, but in too many cases the dogs' genes become an overriding factor and they become violent.
On Oct. 7, the Pasadena City Council considered an ordinance that would require all dogs and cats in the city which are older than 4 months to be spayed or neutered. Such an ordinance would yield two big benefits: First, it would reduce the aggressiveness of male dogs, and second, it would help control the dog and cat populations in Pasadena and reduce the number of unwanted animals. It is noteworthy that Los Angeles County already has such an ordinance that affects unincorporated areas of the county such as Altadena.
Unfortunately, On Oct. 7 our City Council decided to delay any decision on the spaying and neutering ordinance for six to nine months. The council should follow the example of LA County as soon as possible.
Finally, Councilman Madison has perhaps the best idea of all: An outright ban on pit bulls in Pasadena. He also urges changing state law to make this possible. Bravo Mr. Madison! He is absolutely right that it is only a matter of time before we have another pit bull attack, possibly fatal, right here in Pasadena.
John Grula, PhD, is affiliated with the Southern California Federation of Scientists.