If someone walks up and takes a bite out of your arm, the charge is assault.
But if their dog bites you, mauls you, sneaks into your yard to ambush and kill you … well, there’s nothing local law enforcement will do about it. Not unless the dog has bitten at least two other people in the past.
California does more to protect aggressive dogs than it does to protect their victims. Now, some very misguided people – including most of California’s legislators – are trying to make it even easier to unleash aggressive dogs on our communities.
We’re tired of reading about people and pets being attacked, mauled and killed by aggressive dogs – most often, but not always, pit bulls. Two years ago, a man was killed in his Modesto backyard by his neighbor’s three pit bulls. The dogs were euthanized, but no charges were filed against the owners.
Last week, a 67-year-old Ceres woman out walking her tiny dog was attacked by a 50-pound pit bull. It bit the woman under the arm, and savaged the Yorkie; both survived. The penalty? Ten days of quarantine for the dogs, and a lifetime of trepidation for the woman and her dog. She can go to civil court to recover damages, but she’ll never recover the ability to walk her neighborhood without fear.
Three days later, a 2-year-old boy playing in his driveway was bitten in the face by a 75-pound pit bull; he, too, survived.
Dogs have killed 17 people in the United States this year; six under age 10. Fourteen of those 17 deaths were blamed on pit bulls or pit bull mixes.
Many who own pit bulls refuse to accept that the overwhelming majority of attacks are blamed on just three breeds – and the most common aggressor is the pit bull and its hybrid cousins. Instead, they equate dogs to people, insisting each should be judged individually. That ignores hundreds of years of selective breeding that has created an animal perfectly suited to kill – often without warning.
California law makes it difficult for communities to protect themselves from aggressive dogs. Before being labeled vicious, a dog must have bitten two people in separate incidents. Still, some communities are acting.
Ripon, like many cities and counties, requires aggressive breeds be neutered, chipped and leashed. Stanislaus has no such law.
When dogs attack, little happens to owners. Four people have been killed by pit bulls in California this year; charges are being considered in only one case.
Now, Assembly Bill 1825 would make it much worse. It would revoke the rule that requires dogs removed from dog-fighting operations to be destroyed. Instead, they would be observed and “rehomed” if judged redeemable. It is awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature. He should not sign it into law.
A large number of attacks are from dogs that have been “rehomed” after being rescued. It’s impossible to know, or predict, what turns a pit bull from affectionate to vicious.
Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen was one of the few legislators brave enough to vote against this bad bill.
“It ought to be a requirement that their history be disclosed to any potential adoptive family,” Olsen said. But it wasn’t. Without that caveat, she believed “the risks far outweighed the benefits.”
The governor should refuse to sign AB 1825, keeping traumatized pit bulls from being placed in our midst.
And our legislators should vote to join nations such as Germany, France, Russia, Norway, Israel, Portugal and even the U.S. Army in banning or heavily regulating ownership of certain breeds – including pit bulls. Consider: In Romania, you need a psychiatric evaluation before you can own a pit bull.