A call for common sense in Pasadena

In October of this year the Pasadena Weekly published dual articles, a week apart, which took aim at Pit Bulls. One began by talking about a mandatory spay and neuter law for all dogs, which then quickly led the author (Andre Coleman) down a path of repeatedly vilifying Pit Bulls. The other, written by John Grula, was far more egregious and erroneous than the first, which was also egregious and erroneous enough.

They both had a central character, Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison, who routinely drives this type of a conversation into the proverbial ditch. Mr. Madison began publicly announcing his desire to ban Pit Bulls from the city a little over a year ago. Although state law prohibits this, he repeatedly put out statements noting his desire to accomplish this idea. This quickly shifted to a breed-specific mandatory spay and neuter plan once he realized that that was legally his only option. Citizens of the community, myself included, went in November of 2012 and gave public comments to the City Council in an effort to confront Madison’s witch hunt mentality and give proper perspective to this multifaceted issue. The rest of the Council tended to agree with common sense, and tabled Madison’s proposal altogether. It was stated that they would reconvene at a later time to discuss a breed-neutral law, whatever it would be, that didn’t target specific breeds or types of dogs.

Fast forward a year and I’m coincidentally made aware of these discriminatory write-ups while out on a massive pack walk at the Rose Bowl (also in Pasadena) that took place on National Pit Bull Awareness Day. This walk included well over 100 dogs and their owners and came off without a hitch. Imagine that.

Mr. Coleman’s article quickly went off the rails and into a pseudo-profiling regurgitation of cherry-picked information taken from Pit Bull hate group DogsBite.org. Within this article he actually quotes Councilman Madison, who is still out on his banning crusade, by quoting him quoting DogsBite.org. Nice. Madison then references Riverside County’s new unconstitutional law, while also exploiting the death of a Colton boy and the serious injuries of a Corona boy. He quickly attributes both incidents to “Pit Bulls” and then fearmongers the readers by stating that it’s “only a matter of time” until a Pasadena citizen is killed. Madison wraps up his discriminatory rubbish with another call to “change state law” and “immediately ban Pit Bulls from Pasadena.”

What Councilman Steve Madison repeatedly fails to ever mention though is the quite relevant circumstances behind almost every fatality ever attributed to any type of dog. Roughly there are about 30 of these horrible incidents a year in the United States. The 2 instances that were referenced above by Madison non-suprisingly fit the 2 most common scenarios that are almost always behind any human fatality (or serious attack) involving a dog. These are preventable circumstances being undoubtedly created by reckless individual owners, but pushers of breed-specific legislation never want to look at the real issues.

In the case of the Colton boy, this was a 2-year-old who somehow crawled out of a screenless window and ended up in a backyard where 7 resident dogs (media claimed that 4 of them were Pit Bulls) were chained and fenced. These were not family pets. There was no adult supervision whatsoever. With the Corona boy, he was out riding his bicycle when he was attacked by 2 roaming at large “Australian Shepherd-Pit Bull mixes” who had escaped their owner’s property. Never does Madison, or Coleman, notate the recklessness of these 2 individual owners. It’s common to see this go ignored by the factions that consistently push for discriminatory laws targeting these types of dogs. So how they can get away with claiming to genuinely care about public safety is beyond me.

Coleman then describes 4 other instances of people being menaced by dogs alleged to be “Pit Bulls,” and in all 4 instances the dogs in question were out roaming freely and without any leash or supervision. Incredible.

This article is wrapped up by noting the mandatory spay and neuter law in Los Angeles, yet it goes unmentioned that this law isn’t even being enforced. The city of Riverside, following the actions of Riverside County, recently enacted breed-specific mandatory spaying and neutering of all dogs deemed to be Pit Bulls. Inexplicably they already have a mandatory spay and neuter law for all dogs and that law goes totally unenforced. Why would any municipality pass a breed-specific sterilization law when they have a sterilization law for all breeds already in place? On top of that, they also have a “dangerous dog” law that is meant to deal with dogs of all breeds who have individually shown a propensity for causing incidents. Pasadena has this same law!

John Grula’s article from October 16th was far worse, if that was possible.

Mr. Grula starts his piece by detailing an attack and then comes right out with an admittal that the attacking “Pit Bull” was completely loose and unsupervised. He details how the Pit Bull bit his friend “several times,” impressing upon the reader that the dog was at some point attacking a person. What he was really describing was a loose dog that was attacking another dog. His friend, trying to stop the fight between the dogs with his hands, was likely accidentally bitten. Still terrible, but more context. And even though Grula described the Pit Bull as having the side of the other dog’s “head and throat in its jaws,” this dog’s injuries were fortunately “relatively minor.” Grula’s friend was bitten however, and he ended up in the emergency room.

All of this was written in a clear effort to demonize all Pit Bulls, yet it all could have been avoided if that dog’s reckless owner was not allowing his dog to freely roam the streets!

Grula then also mentions the Colton boy, claiming that he was killed by “family pets.” A total lie and misrepresentation. He was actually killed by 1, or up to 7, of the tethered yard dogs that were all residing in the backyard of the home that this unsupervised 2-year-old boy found himself in. He follows that up with exploiting the death of the lady who was attacked while out jogging in Littlerock, which again, was done by up to 4 roaming at large dogs described as “Pit Bull mixes” by the media. I say “up to” because witnesses saw 4 dogs running in a pack and 1 that was actively attacking when the police showed up. They all ran off and then were supposedly tracked back to a home where their owner was charged with murder. This owner’s specific dogs had numerous prior violations and routinely ran loose.

Mr. Grula then predictably quotes hate group DogsBite.org, the completely unscientific and irrational website whose blatant goal is to exterminate all dogs deemed by them to be Pit Bulls by any means necessary. He regurgitates unverifiable statistics promoted by this website, and then calls millions of dogs “aggressive” and “violent.” Grula then alleges that he is a geneticist, and claims that Pit Bulls have “a predisposition for aggression and viciousness in their DNA.” This can absolutely not be proved, at all, and other geneticists would refute out of hand this ridiculous assertion. Grula’s claim also pays no mind to the utter fact that there is little to no scientific basis for even identifying the dogs as “Pit Bulls” in the first place. Animal control workers can’t even properly visually identify their own impounded dogs. Numerous studies (Victoria Voith, Kristopher Irizarry, Kimberly Olson, Julie Levy) illustrate this quite clearly.

He wraps up his pathetic rant by applauding Councilman Madison for calling for an “outright ban” on Pit Bulls and then suggests changing state law to achieve it. This comes after cheering L.A. County for having a mandatory spay and neuter law for all pets, although he clearly has no idea that this law now goes unenforced.

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.