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Pitbulls spark controversy

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By: Matt Green and Frank Ford
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Pro: Dog owner is key By Matt Green Special to the Journal “Up, up and away!” Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion about “pitbulls” in Placer County. Some people have described them as completely untrustworthy, a breed that will “turn” on you unexpectedly. Others have said that this is the furthest from the truth and that the breed can only be bad if you raise them that way. During these discussions I have also heard pitbulls labeled as a “super breed,” capable of feats other dogs are not. I have been told about their locking jaws and that they bite harder than any other breed of dog. So what is the truth? First, the term “pitbull” is short for “American pitbull terrier,” a breed of dog developed in America, likely from a combination of bulldogs and terriers (as a side note, the original bulldog was bred to help ranchers subdue unruly cattle and looked far different from the English bulldog we see today). “Breeds” of dog are related groups of genetically and physically similar animals that produce similar offspring. They are developed through artificial selection, by humans, who are selecting for certain appearances or behaviors. Pointers point and beagles bay because that is what breeders want them to do to make them more successful at their jobs as hunters. A pitbull is a breed of dog like any other. Do they have locking jaws? No. They are structurally and physiologically the same as other breeds of dog and there is no mechanism which causes their jaws to lock. How hard do they bite? In a 2005 study, it was found that a pitbull’s bite pressure is no harder than any other breed and, in fact, was typically lower than that of a German shepherd or Rottweiler. Is it all in how you raise them? All dogs are capable of biting and aggression. One 2009 university study stated that owner-dependent factors are strongly linked to dog bites. So what are some of those factors? Whether or not the dog is allowed to roam off-leash, continuous tethering or chaining of a dog, a lack of training and early socialization and not being spayed or neutered were all factors that were found to contribute to dog bites. In addition to spaying and neutering and early training and socialization, the Placer SPCA recommends strong enforcement of current laws regulating dangerous animals, as well as owner education about responsible ownership. For those who want to know more about the American pitbull terrier, the Placer SPCA will be offering an educational class on the breed from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23. There is no charge for the class but it is an adults-only class and the public must preregister by calling (916) 782-7722, ext. 103 Matt Green is a biologist who is very involved with competitive dog training and animal behavior. He is director of operations at the Placer SPCA, where he has worked for 10 years. Con: Pitbulls earned their ‘rep’ By Frank Ford Special to the Journal The recent serious attack on an Auburn man by a group of pitbulls is just the latest example of this breed’s persistent threat to public safety. The worldwide pitbull population explosion has reached Auburn. In 2007, a Foresthill woman was killed by her own pitbulls at her home. Last year, pitbulls attacked horses on two different occasions in the Auburn Recreation Area, producing serious injury to the horses. Just a few weeks ago, an Auburn man was sent to the hospital after pitbulls attacked him in Downtown Auburn. (Hopefully, the victim of that attack will sue the dog owner.) Governments around the world have taken the lead in the last 20 years to protect their citizens from pitbulls. Pitbulls are now very heavily regulated or outright banned in England, France, Italy, Spain, Romania, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Ecuador, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and parts of other nations. More than 250 U.S. cities and counties have either banned pitbulls outright or heavily regulated them. San Francisco requires mandatory sterilization of all pitbulls. Ohio requires pitbull owners to carry at least $1 million in liability insurance. Pitbulls are also banned on all U.S. Army and Marine Corps military installations, both in the U.S. and abroad. Historically, pitbulls were bred for the purpose of dog fighting. They are highly aggressive fighters with very high jaw pressure, large shoulder mass, the ability to keep their jaws firmly tightened onto their prey and a very high tolerance for pain. Due to these in-bred traits, it is easy for them to render serious injuries or death. The seminal Merriam Clifton Report that studied dog attacks in the U.S. causing bodily harm to humans during 1982-2006 found that pitbulls accounted for 53 percent of all canine attacks on humans (1,110 of 2,209), 41 percent of all canine homicides on humans (110 out of 264), and 48 percent of all canine maimings on humans (636 of 1,323). Our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, kept a pitbull at the White House, but permanently banished the dog from the premises after it attacked the French ambassador to the U.S., sending the diplomat to the hospital. In a bizarre case out of Arkansas just a few weeks ago, police responding to a 911 call found that two pitbulls had attacked a parked car with no one in it, tearing off a 2-square-foot portion of the fender with their jaws. The pitbull earned its reputation one attack at a time. The Auburn area is a victim of antiquated dog regulations that protect the exploding pitbull population so they can attack innocent citizens and animals, with no legal consequences for the owner. The recent Downtown Auburn pitbull attack showed that the current strategy of ignoring the pitbull isn’t working. Frank Ford is a 23-year Auburn resident