A tragic incident in the High Desert community of Littlerock, California is putting breed specific legislation in the spotlight there. On Thursday, a woman was fatally mauled by dogs while she was on her morning walk. A witness told sheriff’s officers that she saw four or five dogs attacking the woman. The witness honked the horn of the car to try and scare the dogs away. She reported that the dogs then attacked her car. When a deputy arrived, one dog was still at the scene. The officer shot at the dog, and it ran off into the desert.
The fatal attack is being investigated as a possible homicide, and Los Angeles authorities are investigating whether several dogs, pit bulls, as well as other breeds, seized from a man suspected of growing marijuana in his home were responsible for attacking and killing the 63-year-old woman on her morning walk. Alex Jackson was arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana at the house where the dogs were seized, and he is a “person of interest” in the fatal mauling. DNA tests will determine whether some of his dogs were involved in the attack.
The husband of the victim, overwhelmed with grief, has spoken out about the death of his wife and best friend. He stated that neither he or his wife had any animosity toward pit bulls, and they realize that people are ultimately responsible for their animals.
Media outlets are reporting that the fatal mauling is one of several alleged “pit bull” attacks raising concern about the breed and whether stricter regulations should be in place. However, what most of the media outlets fail to point out is this community has previously expressed concern and fear with respect to dogs traveling in packs on numerous occasions. As is the case with most news stories, those problems failed to garner media attention because they didn’t involve pit bulls, as this incident is alleged to involve.
California state law prohibits municipalities from banning specific breeds of dogs, and according to the Los Angeles County Supervisor Office, the Littlerock attack “is the first fatal ‘pit bull attack’ in the county’s history. ” Let us not forget, however, that no dogs, pit bull or otherwise, have been connected to this incident. Despite this, and according to a spokesman for the County Supervisor’s office, county officials are going to approach the legislature with respect to changing the state law to allow local communities to “make up their own minds with regards to breeds.” The representative went on to say that “pit bulls are a different breed of animal.”
The County Supervisor’s Office is working on tougher restrictions and an ordinance to crack down on bad owners, and specific reference was made to Denver’s law that banned pit bulls in 1989, and has since caused thousands of dogs to have been seized and euthanized.
As noted above, California state law prohibits municipalities from banning specific breeds of dogs. Its also very important to note that Los Angeles County Code Title 10, Sec. 10.32.010, specifically states:
No person who owns or has charge of a dog may allow the animal to run at large. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times when out of their yards. Violation may result in a citation, court appearance and a fine of up to $250.
Its clear that a problem has long existed with the enforcement of the current law in Los Angeles County. Any dog, regardless of breed, allowed to run at large poses a risk to citizens. In this case, and apparently in many others in this area, dogs are traveling in packs and causing concern and fear among residents. Dogs in packs pose a particularly dangerous threat because dogs running in groups are more likely to exhibit aggression than lone dogs, says Michael D. Breed, a professor who teaches animal behavior at the University of Colorado.
According to Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University and an expert in pack behavior, the unified power, strength, excitement and confidence of the pack transform individual dogs, and when pack mentality takes over, dogs do things things they wouldn’t do under normal circumstances.
It is, of course, not known what the coming weeks will bring in the aftermath of this tragic incident. Despite the obvious lack of enforcement of existing laws, focus will undoubtedly be placed on an entire breed based on the actions of a few dogs owned by a careless and irresponsible criminal. Dogs are individuals and should be judged accordingly. Nevertheless, the media and pro-BSL groups will try to put pit bulls and their owners in a “one-size-fits-all” box. Please DO NOT let the media define us. We must continue to be strong advocates for the breed, as well as responsible dog ownership practices. We must continue to encourage people to understand dog behavior and be “in tune with” their dogs. We must continue to demand strong enforcement of existing law and strict punishment for those who break the law.
We, the responsible dog owners, represent the majority of pit bulls owners out there, and we — NOT the media or the breed ban proponents — MUST define ourselves and our dogs.
*The information for this post was gathered from several media sources. This incident is being covered by media across the country and, of course, quite heavily in California.