Riverside County, California to Consider Mandatory Spay/Neuter Law for “Pit Bulls”

From the Palm Desert Patch:

….After hearing from their constituents, the [Riverside County Board of] supervisors voted 5-0 Tuesday to direct staff to draft an ordinance that would mandate spay and neuter of Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes across unincorporated areas of the county.

The draft will come before the board at a later date for consideration.

Among the citizens to speak before the board was Willa Bagwell, executive director of Wildomar-based Animal Friends of the Valleys. She spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance, arguing that Pit Bulls fill up the shelter she operates.

Shouldn’t Bagwell know that breed-specific laws, any breed-specific laws, make shelter intakes skyrocket???

Bagwell also agreed with Beaumont City Councilwoman Brenda Knight, who spoke Tuesday. Knight said she had been attacked twice by Pit Bulls, and argued the dogs have a different, more lethal bite than other canines.

They rip and tear, she said. Their bites are more vicious.

I am a dog lover, Knight continued, but she urged the supervisors to move forward with an ordinance.

A dog lover?   Really?   Then why support legislation that’s going to see so many dogs relinquished to local shelters to be killed???   And the tired old line about “pit bulls” (whatever they are since “pit bull” isn’t even a breed) supposedly being more aggressive or more dangerous than any other actual breed of dog, is just that: tired, and long ago debunked.  

There is no study that proves — at least via properly-gleaned data which employs the scientific method — that there is any such thing as an inherently vicious breed or breeds.   There are, however, junk science “studies,” faulty statistics, hysteria, and a media propagating that hysteria, that label almost every attacking, biting, or killing dog a “pit bull,” though, as already noted, there is no such breed.   Indeed, when even Chihuahuas are mistaken for “pit bulls” what breed of dog can’t be called a “pit bull”?

Most recently, the laughable junk science Internet site Dogsbite.org seems to have been a common source for BSL.   The dog lobby and anyone with a sense of logic can say with much authority that Dogsbite.org is a purveyor of unscientific information since at the outset, the site’s “statistics” incorporate that non-existent “breed” “pit bull” and rely on mere newspaper sources for dog bite “statistics” which are notoriously inaccurate. (And information that suggests Dogsbite.org founder Colleen Lynn may have fabricated her own dog bite story, at least in part, has been widely disseminated around the Internet.)

In addition, the claim that “pit bulls” are more dangerous than the average canine is just another variant of the locking-jaws/more-powerful-jaws urban mythology of the “pit bull,” which is wholly false.   In 2005 Dr. Brady Barr in a show for National Geographic called “Dangerous Encounters” conducted bite-force tests for several kinds of animals.   Also included in the tests were three breeds of dog: the German Shepherd, the Rottweiler, and the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT). [And while the APBT is an actual breed, it is unclear if this is the breed to which the media and others are referring when they use the slang term “pit bull” to describe bites/attacks, though APBTs are almost always one of the breeds named when breed-specific legislation is passed.]   Of the three, the American Pit Bull Terrier had the least amount of bite force, which was found to be well below the average dog’s 320-pound bite pressure.

Further, I. Lehr Brisbin, Ph.D., who is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and an expert in training, handling, behavior and the anatomy of bulldog breeds has said that,

“The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of [American Pit Bull Terriers] show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any [other] breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of locking mechanism unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier” (Source: American Dog Breeders Association, “Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier”).

In testimony from the Toledo v. Tellings case in 2006, Dr. Brisbin also explained “gameness,” which many people incorrectly believe makes “pit bulls” more dangerous than other “breeds” of dog.   The court affirmed Dr. Brisbin’s findings that,

“Many pit bulls [which the court defined prior as meaning the American Pit Bull Terrier] may also exhibit a behavior or trait referred to as ˜gameness, which, simply stated, is the ability or willingness to continue doing an action once begun, i.e. stick-to-it-iveness. Gameness, in itself, is not a negative trait. For example, the ability to carry out duties or trained tasks, despite injury, distraction, or frustration, is desirable in [APBTs] which have been trained to be search and rescue dogs, protection dogs in the U.S. military, drug sniffing dogs, and therapy dogs.”

As ever, dogs of any breed can be trained to do good things, or, if left unattended like when an owner allows a dog to free-roam (which seems to be the real problem in Riverside County), dogs may do less than desirable things.   The less than desirable things are more conspicuous, certainly, but are still an indication of an owner problem, not a breed problem.   The irresponsible owner problem isn’t going to go away simply by banning or restricting the breed of dog they own since these types of irresponsible owners — who are in the extreme minority compared to the majority of responsible dog owners — typically demonstrate their unwillingness to abide by the law well before breed-specific legislation is even ever proposed.

Please contact the Riverside County Board of Supervisors here and politely tell them that breed-specific laws, in any form, are unconstitutional, ineffective, and unenforceable.

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