California Should Outlaw Pit Bulls


California Should Outlaw Pit Bulls

An attack by two pit bulls on April 24 injured a Pico Rivera mother and her 1-year-old daughter. The woman ended up stabbing one of the pit bulls to death in order to save her child’s life.

A call was received by deputies at 10:18 PM regarding a dog bite at the 9600 block of Homebrook Street, according to a Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokesperson.

According to authorities, at least one of the pit bulls bit the 1-year-old after she started crying. Members of the family attempted to pull the pit bulls off, according to the toddler’s grandmother, who said that she walked into the kitchen and saw her son and two daughters on the floor attempting to get the dogs off the toddler.

The dog had the toddler by the leg, according to the mother, who said her hands were cut and her face was bitten as she attempted to free the toddler.

The mother said she was forced to stab the pit bull, as it was either the pit bull or her daughter, and she chose her daughter.

Both pit bulls ended up being stabbed, with one of them dying at the scene, according to authorities.

The surviving dog was taken into custody after the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority arrived at the scene, according to sheriff’s officials.

The mother and daughter were taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where the toddler underwent surgery for injuries to one upper shoulder and arm.

Pit Bulls Are Disproportionately Responsible for Dog Bite Attacks

We have been representing dog bite victims since 1990. And in that time, we have seen too many people horrifically bitten by pit bulls. We call for pit bulls to be outlawed in the State of California.

Pit bulls are disproportionately responsible for dog-attack-related injuries compared to other breeds. The statistics make it clear that pit bulls present a substantial threat to public safety:

Pit Bull Statistics

Pit bulls make up around 5.8 percent of the United States dog population. Keep this in mind when reading the following pit bull statistics:

  • Dogs killed 568 Americans from 2005 to 2020, and pit bulls contributed to 67 percent (380) of these deaths; the next closest breed, rottweilers, only killed 51 people in this time span
  • A 2018 study found that pit bulls were involved in 36.2 percent of pediatric dog bite injuries at a Central Texas emergency department
  • A 2015 study found that pit bulls were responsible for 25 percent of dog bite-related eye injuries, and 63 percent of eye injuries caused by attacks by unfamiliar dogs
  • A 2014 study found that one-third of dog bites were caused by pit bulls
  • 79 percent of fatal dog attacks which killed adults in 2020 involved pit bulls, and 92 percent of fatal dog attacks which killed males 25 years old or older involved pit bulls
  • 100 percent of fatal dog attacks involving multiple victims in 2020 involved pit bulls
  • 85 percent of fatal dog attacks which killed adults in the 30-49 age group in 2019 involved pit bulls
  • 48 percent of infants killed by dogs from 2005 to 2019 were killed by pit bulls
  • 62 percent of incidents where dogs killed their primary owner from 2005 to 2019 involved pit bulls, over 11 times more than any other breed of dog
  • 65 percent of fatal dog attacks by family dogs, from 2005 to 2019, involved pit bulls
  • 76 percent of dog bite fatalities which led to criminal charges from 2005 to 2019 involved pit bulls
  • 78 percent of fatal dog attacks involving three or more dogs in 2019 involved pit bulls
  • A 2019 study found that pit bulls were responsible for 22.5 percent of dog bites
  • A 2016 study found that half of all dog bites requiring surgery involved pit bulls
  • 66 percent of dog attacks doing bodily harm in the United States and Canada from 1982 to 2021 involved pit bulls
  • 55 percent of fatal dog attacks in the United States and Canada from 1982 to 2021 involved pit bulls
  • 91 percent of Americans and Canadians who were disfigured by dog attacks in 2016 were mauled by pit bulls
  • One-third of dog bites from known dog breeds in South Carolina in 2019 involved pit bulls and their mixes
  • 52 percent of dog bites (or 195 dog bites) in Kansas City, Missouri, from January 1 to November 30, 2020, involved pit bulls; the next closest breed, Labrador Retrievers, were only responsible for 34 bites
  • 25 percent of dog bites in unincorporated Harris County, Texas, from 2013 to 2016 involved pit bulls; pit bulls were responsible for 50 percent of “severe” or “mauling” dog bites
  • 17 percent of dog bites to humans and animals in Maricopa County, Arizona, in 2019 involved pit bulls and their mixes; the next closest breed, German Shepherds and their mixes, inflicted just 7 percent of dog bites
  • 36 percent of dog bites and attacks on people or other animals in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, from July 1, 2014, to September 30, 2019, involved pit bulls
  • 24 percent of dog bites in Fairfield, Ohio, from 2016 to September 2019 involved pit bulls
  • 42 percent of dog bites in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, from 2014 to September 2019 involved pit bulls or pit bull type breeds
  • 25 percent of severe dog bites in San Bernardino County, California, in 2018 involved pit bulls
  • 34 percent of dog bites in New York City, New York, from January 2015 to January 2018 involved pit bulls
  • 46 percent of dog bites on humans and animals in the City and County of San Francisco from January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2018, involved pit bulls
  • 35 percent of dog bites in 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky, involved pit bulls
  • 26 percent of dog bites in San Antonio, Texas, from October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017, involved pit bulls
  • Over one-third of dog bites in Casper, Wyoming, from January 1, 2017, to June 27, 2018, involved pit bulls and their mixes
  • Almost 40 percent of dog bites in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2017 involved pit bulls
  • 24 percent of dog bites in Franklin County, Missouri, in the 18 months leading up to June 2018 involved pit bulls
  • 53 percent of dog bites in Gulfport, Mississippi, from May 2016 to May 2018 involved pit bulls; the next closest breed, German Shepherds, were only responsible for 5 percent of dog bites
  • 27.2 percent of dog bites in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, from 2007 to 2015 involved pit bulls; the next closest breed, German Shepherds, inflicted only 10.5 percent of all bites
  • Over one-third of dog bites in Sacramento, California, from May 2012 to May 2017 involved pit bulls
  • 11 of 13 dog attacks on humans from January to June 2017 in Pueblo, Colorado, involved pit bulls
  • 24 percent of dog bites in Dayton and Montgomery counties, Ohio, from January 1 to late April 2017 involved pit bulls
  • 38 percent of serious dog-bite-related injuries in Montreal, Quebec, from January 2015 to September 2016 involved pit bulls
  • Over half of reported dog bites in Port Huron, Michigan, in 2014 involved pit bulls
  • 40 percent of all dog bites where the breed was identified in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2014 involved pit bulls
  • 48 percent of all dog bites from 2011 to October 2015 in Hastings, Michigan, involved pit bulls
  • 35 percent of all dog bites in Orange County, Florida, from October 2013 to September 2014 involved pit bulls and their mixes
  • 39 percent of dog bite injuries involving ambulances treated at a Phoenix, Arizona, pediatric center from 2007 to 2013 involved pit bulls
  • 34 percent of dog bites in Houston, Texas, from January 1 to September 24, 2014, involved pit bulls
  • 41 percent of dogs on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s dangerous dog registry in 2014 were pit bulls
  • 27 percent of dog bites in Boston, Massachusetts, from January 2012 to June 2014 involved pit bulls and their mixes
  • 38 percent of dogs designated “nuisances,” 43 percent of dogs designated “dangerous,” and 57 percent of dogs designated “vicious” by the Franklin County, Ohio, Department of Animal Care and Control in 2013 were pit bulls
  • 93 percent of dogs declared dangerous in Madison, Wisconsin, from 2011 to 2013 were pit bulls
  • 44.3 percent of all dog and cat bites in Chicago, Illinois, in 2012 were inflicted by pit bulls and their mixes
  • 31.4 percent (242) of all dog bites in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 2012 involved pit bulls; the next closest breed, German Shepherds, only represented 51 bites
  • 48 percent of all dog bite incidents in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2012 involved pit bulls
  • 57 percent of all dog bites in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 2012 involved pit bulls

In addition:

California Should Outlaw Pit Bulls
  • A 2020 study found that pit bulls are 4.4 times more likely to bite people and leave a complex wound compared with other top-biting breeds, and 2.7 times more likely to bite people in an off-property attack
  • A 2016 study found that operative interventions were over three times as likely to be associated with pit bull attack injuries than with any other breed; the study also found that pit bulls are 2.5 times more likely than other breeds to bite in multiple places on the body
  • A 2014 study found that pit bulls are 31 percent more likely than other breeds to attack unknown people and 48 percent more likely to attack without provocation
  • A 2011 study found that pit bull attacks are associated with a higher risk of death, higher hospital charges, and higher morbidity rates than attacks by other dog breeds
  • Pit bulls are regulated in 54 countries

Is Breed-Specific Legislation Effective?

  • A 2010 study found that dog ownership regulation, including breed-specific regulation, resulted in a 38 percent reduction in hospitalization caused by dog bite injuries in Catalonia
  • A 2012 study found that pit bull bans led to an 18.2 percent reduction in dog bite injury hospitalization rates in Manitoba
  • A 2017 study found that, since pit bull-specific legislation was put in place in Denver, Colorado, 5.7 percent of dog bites in Denver involved pit bulls compared to 54.4 percent in the rest of the United States

Is Breed-Specific Legislation Constitutional?

We at Nadrich & Cohen believe that pit bull-specific legislation is not only constitutional but vital for public safety.

The primary constitutional challenges to breed-specific legislation have been based on three arguments:

  • Substantive due process
  • Equal protection
  • Vagueness

Substantive Due Process

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution mandate that statutes “bear a rational relation to a legitimate legislative goal or purpose,” unless they implicate a “fundamental right” entitled to constitutional protection. Courts have consistently ruled that pit bull bans are logically related to the legitimate legislative purpose of public safety.

Dog ownership is not a fundamental right. The United States Supreme Court has declared:

“Even if it were assumed that dogs are property in the fullest sense of the word, they would still be subject to the police power of the state and might be destroyed or otherwise dealt with as in the judgment of the legislature is necessary for the protection of its citizens.”

Pit bulls are clear threats to public safety. Not only are they statistically disproportionately responsible for dog bites and fatal dog bites compared to other breeds, but they possess specific characteristics which make them so dangerous:

  • They bite with a force of 1,800 to 2,000 pounds per square inch, twice the force of an average German Shepherd or Doberman Pinscher, and they have specialized jaws that essentially lock onto a bitten object; pit bulls tend to hold a bite and shake rather than letting go after biting
  • Pit bulls have been selectively bred to attack without provocation and continue to attack until they are near death
  • Pit bulls have a genetic insensitivity to pain, making it difficult to beat them off a dog bite victim
  • Pit bulls give no warning signals before attacking, don’t stop attacking when victims submit, and have even been known to disembowel other dogs that roll over to submit

Some argue that the problem with pit bulls lies not with the breed but with the owners. However, countless examples of family pit bulls suddenly turning on their owners have been reported, making it obvious that irresponsible owners are not the only problem. As a judge in Garcia v. Village of Tijeras put it:

“[Pit bulls] have been known to be friendly and docile at one moment, willing to sit on your lap and lick your face, and at the next moment to attack in a frenzied rage… such berserk frenzies do not occur in other breeds of dog.”

Pit bull bans can survive constitutional challenges on the basis of substantive due process because they logically relate to the legitimate legislative purpose of public safety.

Equal Protection

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution mandate that legislative classifications be proper. There must be a logical relationship between statutes and their ultimate purpose. The question here is if discrimination between pit bull owners and owners of other breeds is logically related.

The question of if dog owner classifications based on pit bull ownership will stand up to constitutional challenge rests on if said classifications are reasonable. Challenges to pit bull legislation typically argue that the classifications are unreasonable because they are underinclusive or overinclusive.

Those who argue these classifications are underinclusive argue that it’s unconstitutional to treat pit bull owners differently than owners of other breeds because many breeds of dogs have hurt people. However, laws are not unconstitutional simply because they are underinclusive.

A judge in Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York stated, “it is no requirement of equal protection that all evils of the same genus be eradicated or none at all.” And, a judge in Starkey v. Township of Chester found that a town “did not have to regulate every dangerous animal at the same time in the same way to pass constitutional muster.”

The underinclusiveness argument against pit bull bans argues that they’re unconstitutional because a pit bull ban can’t completely accomplish the objective of eliminating all severe dog bite attacks. However, all such a law needs to be constitutional regarding equal protection is that facts exist to justify categorizing pit bulls as a public safety threat, and the statistics clearly imply they are.

Some also argue that pit bull bans are overinclusive because the classification of pit bull owners encompasses more dogs than necessary to protect the public, and that outlawing dogs who haven’t shown vicious tendencies is unfair. However, plenty of evidence exists that pit bulls can suddenly turn on owners. And pit bull breeders know that it’s impossible to know what a pit bull will do because it’s impossible to perfectly ascertain its hereditary strains.

In addition, “unfairness” does not make a law unconstitutional. Legislation is allowed to protect the public even when it involves doing so more broadly than what is sufficient to do so.

Pit bull bans do not survive constitutional challenges on the basis of equal protection because they are logically related to the legitimate legislative purpose of public safety.

Vagueness

California Should Outlaw Pit Bulls

Some argue that pit bull bans are unconstitutional because they don’t clearly define pit bulls, arguing that the term “pit bull” includes many different dogs.

However, a court found in City of Lima v. McFadden that a pit bull ban “pertained to a particular breed of dog with characteristics generally conforming to the characteristics set forth in… specific references.” And, a court in Garcia v. Village of Tijeras found that the “breed could be recognized by its physical characteristics.”

Statutes banning pit bulls can withstand vagueness challenges if they sufficiently describe the breed of pit bull so that citizens know what is being banned. In addition, those who acknowledge pit bull ownership cannot attack pit bull-specific bans based on vagueness, as it was found in Village of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside that “a plaintiff who engages in some conduct that is clearly proscribed cannot complain of the vagueness of the law as applied to the conduct of others.”

Pit Bull Myths

There are many common myths and faulty arguments regarding pit bulls:

It’s Not the Breed, It’s the Owner

Courts have identified genetic traits that pit bulls possess, such as tenacity, being unpredictably aggressive, having a “hold and shake” style of biting and having a high tolerance for pain.

Human-Aggressive Pit Bulls Have Been Culled From the Gene Pool

Many well-known fighting pit bulls in modern years have carried the title of “man-eater” or “man-biter,” and their famous owners never thought about culling them.

Pit Bulls Can’t Be Identified

Courts have ruled that pit bulls can be identified by their physical characteristics.

The Media Conspires Against Pit Bulls

While individual pit bull attacks are commonly reported by the media, it is uncommon for the media to report on long-term pit bull attack statistics, such as 380 Americans being killed by pit bulls from 2005 to 2020.

Pit Bull Statistics Are False

A September 2000 CDC 20-year fatal dog attack study is often argued to be inaccurate because it relied partly on newspaper articles, meaning the authors must have double-counted some pit bull fatalities since pit bull attacks are so heavily covered by the media.

However, all five authors of the study are openly against pit bull-specific legislation. So, if errors were made in the report, it’s likely that pit bull fatalities were under-reported instead of over-reported.

Pit Bulls Don’t Lock Their Jaws

While pit bulls’ jaws don’t physically lock, pit bulls tend to not let go once they bite. And their bite force is so strong that it is essentially impossible to force their jaws open, meaning their jaws are, for all intents and purposes, locked.

The American Temperament Test Is Passed by Pit Bulls

The data this test produces is not based on a random, scientific sampling of any breed of dog, so it is scientifically unreliable since the base population source group cannot be identified.

Pit Bulls Are Predictable

Pit bulls are known to attack without warning or provocation, and courts have noted this tendency.

Pit Bull Bite Lawyers

Nadrich & Cohen have been representing dog bite victims in California for over three decades. Call us today or contact us online if you have been bitten by a pit bull. You may be eligible for financial compensation, and we don’t charge a fee unless and until we win your case.


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