Mike Dunbar

Pit bulls are inappropriate pets for criminals

Randy Scott Salazar is a bad guy, admittedly so. That’s why he’s spending the next six years in prison.

But what about his dog?

Salazar used his pit bull as a weapon to attack one of his two victims on a night in July 2014. He also used a knife, and for that he was convicted (along with assorted other crimes). But just as surely as the “sharp instrument” was a weapon, so was his dog.

Salazar, his girlfriend and their pet pit bull were out and about in Ceres when they came across a guy trying to fix a flat tire on his bicycle. First they took the victim’s hat then tried to take his backpack. When he resisted, Salazar stabbed him. When the victim ran, Salazar sicced his dog on him. When Salazar caught up, he took the backpack while his girlfriend made off with the bicycle, flat tire and all.

Perhaps this charming couple was ready to call it a night, but their dog wasn’t. The dog ran into the street and was hit by a car.

The driver, not being one of those people who hits an animal and just keeps on going, stopped to check on the creature’s condition. That was a mistake of compassion. Salazar confronted him, took a few swings then stabbed him, too.

Both human victims were eventually treated and have recovered. Salazar now resides in a cell and his girlfriend, after serving a year in county jail, is out on probation.

But what about the dog? We don’t know what happened to it. But we think it is inappropriate for Salazar or his girlfriend ever to have a pit bull again.

After all, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson would never issue Salazar a gun permit; convicts can’t have them. So why should Salazar or his girlfriend be allowed to buy a license for a dog that is just as deadly as a gun?

That’s not hyperbole. We can’t forget the four pit bulls that escaped their yard last October and attacked a 77-year-old woman in her yard. When her 54-year-old son came to her aid, they turned on him and mauled him to death. Pit bulls aren’t like many other breeds. As we cited in our March 22 editorial, 27 people were killed by pit bulls or close cousins in 2014, according to the website dogsbite.org. Of the 203 deaths-by-dog since 2005, two thirds have been attributed to pit bulls.

This is a broader issue than whether a single criminal (assuming he gets out of jail) should be allowed to own a pit bull – or any aggressive breed. Communities should be allowed to make and enforce sensible laws relating to ownership of dogs that can be used as weapons.

California has a law that prohibits communities from enforcing “breed-specific” laws. Meaning the law recognizes no differences between pit bulls and dachshunds.

If Salazar had sicced his Pekingese on the first victim, we doubt there would have been much of a problem escaping. Perhaps he never would have caught up and the victim could have kept going.

“We’ve had this conversation before,” said Christianson. “It is absolutely inappropriate for (Salazar) to have a pit bull ... Mr. Salazar used (the pit bull) as a weapon. He used it for intimidation or in the furtherance of a crime. … I don’t think he should (be allowed to own pit bulls).

“But how do you prohibit felons from having certain breeds of dogs?” asked the sheriff.

To do that, you’d have to pass a law because no law prohibits it now.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, says she would consider the possibility of such legislation next year. “We’ve looked at a number of different (approaches) ... but a strict prohibition on felons from owning pit bulls in the same way they’re prohibited from owning a gun” is what she is considering.

Would such a law have a chance to pass?

“Hard to say. I would sure hope the chances would be very good; it seems like a common-sense piece of legislation,” Olsen said. “But the animal-rights lobby is strong. If they decide to rally against the bill, the chances would be slim.”

It would be nice if such a law existed before Salazar, or any of his current roommates, arrive in our communities.