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A little more than a week ago, a 65-year-old Las Vegas woman endured seven hours of surgery, including 100 stitches, after being mauled by four pit bulls.
Pit bull attacks are nothing new in Las Vegas, however, or across the country.
The group DogBites.org keeps track of people killed by dogs each year. Over eight years, between 2005 and 2012, pit bulls contributed to 60 percent of those deaths.
Around the country, some 700 U.S. cities have already enacted breed-specific legislation. These are laws that mostly force spaying and neutering upon certain breeds like pit bulls.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say like all cats and dogs, pit bulls need to be spayed and neutered.
“Pit bulls specifically of the ‘bully breeds’ are of huge concern to us because they constitute such a huge majority of animals in shelters currently,” Lisa Lange, the executive vice president of communications for PETA said.
She said they’re easily the most abused animal in America and one of the best ways to end that is by bringing down the population through spaying and neutering programs.
Cathy Brooks is a dog trainer and the owner of the Hydrant Club in downtown Las Vegas. She knows firsthand how aggressive and dangerous dogs can be.
She testified in one of the most infamous dog mauling cases in the country. Diane Whipple was attacked and killed in the hallway of her San Francisco apartment building in 2001 by two dogs. The dogs were presa canario and Brooks said they were trained by their owner to kill.
“They ripped her to pieces,” Brooks said.
The owner was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life. Brooks had had run-ins with the dogs’ owner and recognized that they were dangerous.
However, Brooks does not blame the dogs.
“They were crippled from the get go by owners who taught them to kill and gave them the taste for blood,” Brooks said.
Brooks told KNPR’s State of Nevada there is a difference between dominance and aggression. She said that all dogs can be dominate because they are pack animals.
“There are some breeds where dominance is enhanced because of the work the dog was designed to do,” Brooks said.
But when that is combined with poor ownership, training and environment it can be a recipe for the attack that happened in Las Vegas in February.
Under current Nevada law, a breed-specific legislation can’t be instituted, but according to an ordinance passed by the city of Las Vegas in 2010 all dogs over 4 months old need to be spayed or neutered. Clark County also makes spaying and neutering mandatory. But, the jurisdictions both struggle to enforce those laws.
Both Brooks and Lange agree that policies like the ones in the city and the county will help the overall population. Plus, having a dog which is dominate fixed can help with some behaviors, but Brooks said that is not the solution to aggressive behavior.
“Behaviorally stabilizing your dog, regardless of whether you fix it or not, is an imperative, especially when you’re talking about a dog that can literally rip someone’s throat out,” Brooks said.
Lange said pit bulls have suffered from their popularity.
“There are breeds that become trendy, unfortunately for those breeds, it means people get them without thinking. They breed them. They buy them from breeders. They buy them at pet stores. And they then abandoned them,” Lange said.
The Animal Foundation says it had to put down roughly half of the pit bulls in took into the shelter last year.
Cathy Brooks, dog trainer and owner, The Hydrant Club dog day care; Lisa Lange, executive vice president of communications, PETA
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