A matter of time

A matter of time

Pit bulls, which are genetically predisposed to be aggressive, should be banned in Pasadena

By John Grula 10/16/2013

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During the balmy late afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 22, a good friend of mine (a graying senior citizen) and his eldest daughter were peacefully walking their two dogs in Victory Park, near Pasadena High School. Both dogs, of course, were on leashes.

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.

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Shame on you. If you had done your research you would know the statement "A predisposition for aggression and viciousness is in their DNA" is completely false. A myth, much like the 'locking jaw' myth or any of the other fabricated stories about how pit bulls cannot be trusted. I'm not going to piece-by-piece disprove all of your biased, myth-based article but I will say that these dogs are NOT the problem. The irresponsible owners who do not train or socialize, who do not properly keep their dogs enclosed, and who do not take responsibility for the problem that THEY have created - THESE are the people who should be punished. NOT the dogs and especially not the entire breed, most of which are perfectly lovable, sweet, and gentle dogs. Thank goodness for the BSL ban in California that protects our dogs and prohibits ignorant people like Councilman Madison from banning an entire population of dogs, most of which are not the problem.

posted by ldillon on 10/17/13 @ 12:31 p.m.

This: " . . . in too many cases the dogs' genes become an overriding factor and they become violent."

Is ignorant, useless crap to anyone who has ever known or trained one of these dogs — or any dog, for that matter. Dogs have been selectively bred to work with humans, period. Fighting was one form of work, once, but my "fighting" dog instead puts her heart and soul into the agility course. She might have been dangerous in other hands. So would my neighbor's German Shepherd.

Here's what we do know: Dogs on leashes don't attack other dogs unless those dogs get near them. Why not enforce leash laws, Pasadena? And someone will always manage to breed a dog that can do damage. Ban one, give rise to another. The problem can't be cured by banning a breed.

And anyway, it's against state law.

posted by JLM on 10/17/13 @ 12:39 p.m.

While I don't deny that irresponsible owners have led to both pets and humans being harmed by pit bulls, the fact that you would quote dogsbite.org makes your entire article a joke.

Dogsbite has called a husky a pit bull. Dogsbite has called a mastiff a pit bull. Dogsbite has called a retriever/lab mix a pit bull.

You are doing the same thing the crazy folks over there do. Ignoring the real problem. The humans. whether it's an irresponsible owner who doesn't train, contain, socialize and pay attention to the dog or an irresponsible parent who doesn't supervise and teach their kids to behave properly around what are, in reality, large and strong dogs, the fault ALWAYS falls on a human.

You are spreading misconceptions and fearmongering and you should be ashamed.

posted by volalupi on 10/17/13 @ 02:19 p.m.

The simple fact that you quote dogsbite makes your entire argument invalid. That site is run by a hack who refuses to take responsibility. Instead, she is on a crusade to kill all pit bulls by misinformation, fear, and outright lies. She and her cohorts, which I suspect have been in contact with you, are nothing more than a bunch of goons. If you want to quote sources, use valid and credible ones. Otherwise, you will be made a fool just as they continually do to themselves.

posted by redeemer1 on 10/17/13 @ 02:49 p.m.

Insisting that all dogs be spayed or neutered is a terrific idea for many reasons – it curbs aggressiveness in both male and female dogs and battles canine overpopulation, to name a couple.

But breed-specific legislation of any kind is extremely dangerous. “Ban pit bulls.” What does that entail? Will policemen come to my house and rip my sweet 4 year old rescued pit mix out of my arms? If I walk my dog in Pasadena, do I risk having my dog shot on sight by a police officer?

Furthermore, with so many dogs having some degree of pit in them, how does one determine if one’s dog should be banned, especially if one’s dog is a rescue and you don’t know the lineage.

All dogs bite. If a poodle bites you, it’s a small wound. If a pit bites you, it can cause some serious damage. Because of that, owners of pit bulls have a great responsibility. When pits have attacked humans, further investigation shows that the dogs haven’t been socialized; haven’t been neutered or spayed; are often kept in groups, which fosters a dangerous pack mentality; are left alone for extended periods of time and are thus bored; are mistreated. And sometimes, the attacks have been provoked.

So rather than ban the dogs, we need to ensure that owners do what they need to do. All dogs are dangerous if mistreated. Let’s direct our energies toward educating potential owners about the right way to treat their pets so all of us are safer.

posted by neib12 on 10/17/13 @ 05:50 p.m.

The scoffing at the author's credentials re genes is ridiculous. He states that he is a geneticist, i.e. a PhD in genetics. I would venture to guess he knows something about DNA.

posted by pone on 10/18/13 @ 09:33 a.m.

When a pit bull attacks for NO REASON, without first trying to avoid a conflict, and then doesn't stop, it is being a "good" pit bull.
These traits are essential for pits to travel to a distant pit, where upon arrival, again for NO REASON, it will attack another dog and continue attacking, even if the other dog submits, even if receiving severe personal injury.

While not all pits are "good" pits, you won't know your pit is becoming a good pit until it is too late, because good pits do not give warning.

I get it that pit BULLY people are selfish, even sadistic and don't care about the well-being or safety of humans or other dogs, but what I can't understand is how pit bully people do not care about pit bulls.

Check out YouTube "FRIO BOYS YARD *1*l", or other "dog yard" videos. When they describe the dogs as champions, that means they WON FIGHTS.

These dogs spend their lives chained outside in extreme weather. These dogs live boredom only interrupted by fighting and breeding. These dogs are there because pit mongers, pit owner "advocates", such as those posting on this article, are no different from those who fight dogs.

Pit bully people care about themselves and their ability to breed and own the dog of their choice. The disproportionate suffering and death that is the pit crisis is acceptable to the bully people. "Suffering dogs? Dying dogs? What problem?" asks the pit bully person.

These fighting dogs are the relatives of the pits living next door. When pit-bully people resist pit/bully specific breed-ban laws you enable dog fighting to continue and you enable pit attacks on victim dogs. In our area, pit attacks of victim dogs don't even make the news, as there are too many of them. How do I know they occur? The pit owners call our dog rescue, looking for placement of their pits. "My pit killed my landlord's dog, so now I gotta get rid of my pit. I'm done with pits!"

Many who monger pits met some of these sweet comical affectionate dogs and then decided that pits are normal dogs who needed promotion.

Pits are not normal dogs. Pits remain THE only dog that dog fighters use because pits are different, they were created to attack for no reason and then not stop.

posted by Debbie Bell1 on 10/18/13 @ 10:23 a.m.

This is the most irresponisble journalism I've seen in a long time. Shame on you - I'm no a Pit Bull owner, but have more common sense than you do. It's the owner not the breed. Your references are from dogsbite.ord one of the most biased sites out there. I can do what you just did. Geesh - This is a stereotype that is biased toward generalizing and condemning an entire breed based on the actions of a few bad people. The truth is that each dog should be evaluated by his own merits and not by his breed. A corollary truth is that there truly are no bad dogs, only bad people. In his essay Troublemakers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses what Pit Bull stereotypes can teach us about the wrongness of racial profiling of both humans and dogs.

posted by Frustrated43 on 10/18/13 @ 10:52 a.m.

I have been bitten by 3 aggressive dogs in my life, twice on the face. None of those dogs who bit me were pit bulls. I have had owned many dogs, and one was a rescue, pit bull mix who lived 16 years and never showed any aggression, nor did she bite anyone. My guess is that the folks who jump on this band wagon have not spent much time around dogs. I support sterilizing dogs and cats because there are more of them than people who want pets. But, start targeting dogs by breed, and it is going to need to be a long list of breeds if you are really after the potential biters.

posted by Vivavilla on 10/18/13 @ 07:55 p.m.

Councilman Steve Madison is egomaniac who wants to ban "man's best friend" in Pasadena. Shame on him. This is NOT the Pasadena way. (Maybe it's the China way but NOT here!) Voters will remember this at the ballot box. Let's get real people.

posted by Pasadena Watch on 10/18/13 @ 10:23 p.m.

Debbie Bell1: Shame on you for viewing dogfights in video format. Don't you know that by doing so that you support them? Your presumptions about pit bull owners are skewed and for the most part, incorrect. Yes, there are a few bad apples out there. But don't lump all owners in the same category. That is akin to saying anyone with the name of Debbie Bell is ignorant, as you have proven to be.

posted by redeemer1 on 10/19/13 @ 08:38 a.m.

People who are improperly socialized also randomly, brutally attack other people every day. People who are put in a pack and trained to kill each other kill each other. Those are called soldiers.

Maybe we should ban people.

posted by Tangerine on 10/19/13 @ 11:56 a.m.

I don't mind pit bulls one bit! They give me much needed target practice with my deer rifle when they come onto my land.

posted by johnscott on 10/19/13 @ 12:07 p.m.

Excellent piece, Dr. Grula. Actually, you're a little off regarding the number of pit bull fatalities this year. As of today, a total of 23 people in the US have been murdered by dogs and pit bulls were responsible for 20 (86%) of those deaths. Last year, pit bulls killed 24 (63%) of the 38 people killed by dogs. In 2011, they were responsible for 21 (68%) of the 37 deaths-by-dog in the US; and in 2010, 23 (67%) of 37 humans in the US killed by dogs were murdered by pit bulls. Additionally, five (5) people in southern California -- Elsie Grace (age 91), Claudia Gallardo (38), Pamela Maria Devitt (63), Nephi Selu (6) and Samuel Zamudio (2) -- have been killed by dogs thus far in 2013 and pit bulls killed all five of them.

It doesn't take a Rhodes scholar to figure out these monsters aren't normal dogs. Unfortunately, the people who own them are of the lower socioeconomic levels, have no more than a high school education (if that) and actually believe the misinformation they read on pit bull advocate websites.

Back in July 2010, I was attending an event in Burbank and we drove to Pasadena one day. We were trying to find a parking space near the restaurant and turned off Colorado Blvd. onto a side street. When we got out of the car, we were confronted by a big, ugly pit bull. We immediately got back into the car and drove back to Burbank. I'm sure the same thing has happened to other visitors. The sooner pit bulls are banned in Pasadena -- and everywhere else --the better. As for California's breed ban prohibition, isn't California a "Home Rule" state?

posted by lee77 on 10/19/13 @ 01:39 p.m.

Is it the dog, or is it the dog's environment? DB1's commentary confirms that the greatest problems with pits are created almost invariably by their owners. But to propose committing a selective genocide against a whole species because bad-boy punks who own bad-dog pits enjoy owning their dogs stupidly is -- well -- kind of stupid.

Ultimately, what kind of scientific standard will be used by any LEO in order to decide how much pit a dog can have in its genetic makeup before enforcing a summary execution?

Pit bulls are a whole lot like LEOs, with the proper training, they can serve a community well. But if you neglect their training (in any way) or let them go feral, then they are predisposed to become murderous.

So let's put this into a context. A whole lot more innocent, non-aggressive and danger-neutral people have viciously been slaughtered by criminal LEOs than by pit bulls (if for any other reason, because pit bulls don't commonly wear military-grade weapons like a surrogate jock-strap).




posted by DanD on 10/19/13 @ 07:57 p.m.

@DanD: First, the definition of "genocide" is "the deliberate killing of a large group of people, esp. those of a particular ethnic group or nation" and, therefore, does NOT apply to dogs.

Second, dogs are animals, NOT humans and the same rules do NOT apply. Human beings have guaranteed rights (i.e., privileges) under the US Constitution, while animals do not even have the "right" to live.

THIRD, The amount of "pit a dog can have in its genetic makeup before enforcing a summary execution" is ZERO!

Radcliffe Robins, DVM and animal behaviorist, says: "Temperament is 100% genetic; it is inherited, and fixed at the moment of the dog’s fertilization/conception/birth. Temperament in the dog cannot be eliminated nor transformed from one type to another. It cannot change during the dog’s lifetime. It is the permanent mental/neurological characteristic of the individual dog. Environment, socialization or training can MODIFY the expression of an individual dog’s temperament, but they cannot transform it nor eliminate it. The dog will die with the temperament with which it was born."

posted by lee77 on 10/19/13 @ 09:56 p.m.

So lee77;

You presume then that cutting the balls off a newborn puppy-pit will yet fail to sufficiently alter that dog's temperamental predisposition to violently rip somebody's throat out -- regardless additionally of its socialization and training -- by the time it grows to adulthood?

Also, your second assessment is factually wrong, or is it your contention that "The Endangered Species Act" is not a mandate of US law establishing that certain species of animals have a legal (and severely enforced) right to live?

Also, Asian, Caucasian, and Negroid are all geno-types of the human species, just as Labrador, German Shepard, and Pit Bull are geno-types of the canine species. If you kill off the entire geno-type (especially) of ANY "higher-order" species, unless it's human, you don't believe the wholesale annihilation of that life form qualifies as a genocide?









posted by DanD on 10/21/13 @ 10:52 p.m.

In any event, I must amend somewhat the next to last paragraph of my post immediately above. Fundamentally, the term "Pit Bull" actually encompasses a variety of canine breeds. So when all you pit bull haters go out into the streets looking for forbidden canines to slaughter, exactly how many and exactly what combination of dog breeds will you target for extinction?


Perhaps everyone (including Mr. Grula) should educate themselves about that which they're talking at least a little bit before a whole lot of unnecessary (and mostly innocent) blood flows. As it predominately is with most people, while pit bulls also break bad because of bad environments, beyond any breeding paradigm, sometimes we just don't know why it happens.


posted by DanD on 10/22/13 @ 11:11 p.m.

Ah...Pitbulls! The dog of choice of dirtbags,drug dealers,inbred mouth breathing morons,and gang bangers. The only people who admire these vile, vicious beasts are denizens of welfare recipient housing projects and run down on the wrong side of the tracks trailer parks.

posted by BonnieTheWise on 10/24/13 @ 07:52 p.m.

To DanD: "Cutting the balls off a newborn pit-puppy," just like cutting off your balls, would alter "aggression," (i.e., the expression of temperament), not temperament itself. You really need to borrow someone's library card, go to the library, check out some books on dog-breeding and genetics and READ THEM! Furthermore, if you knew anything at all about dogs, you would know that male dogs are NOT neutered when they are "newborn" pups!

And while you're at it, you should take a course in Constitutional law. If you did, you would discover the Endangered Species Act is NOT part of the US Constitution!

There are many genotypes of canine and other species that have been "killed off." Dogs are man-made creatures in that they did NOT evolve naturally, but were created by man from wolves. This is the reason that dogs, unlike the wolves from which they are descended, chase down and kill other animals purely for enjoyment of killing. Dogs are also the only mammals on earth that will eat human waste, besides pigs and rats (and even pigs and rats won't eat it unless they're starving), but dogs lap it up like ice cream. Unfortunately, in addition to possessing all the other loathsome characteristics of dogs, pit bulls also have a propensity to attack and kill because that is what they were created (bred) to do!

posted by lee77 on 10/29/13 @ 09:45 a.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 @ 08:30 p.m.
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