Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Norfolk-based organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) favors "breed specific" legislation aimed at pit bulls.

The Norfolk-based organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) favors "breed specific" legislation aimed at pit bulls.

"We know attacks by pit bulls on small children are more likely to end in life threatening injuries or death," said Daphna Nachminovitch of PETA.

"They are very determined dogs and when they lock onto their victim it's hard to let go. Their jaws have to be pried apart. They also shake their victims which can cause a great deal of damage to babies," she said.

PETA favors legislation making the spaying and neutering of pit bulls mandatory.


NEWPORT NEWS - The infant who was mauled by a pit bull in Newport News on Monday remains in critical condition but is expected to survive.

Doctors believe the 8-month-old boy will recover from the severe facial injuries he suffered when he was attacked by his baby sitter's 11/2-year-old neutered male pit bull terrier, Newport News police spokesman Lou Thurston said Tuesday. The attack happened Monday morning at a home on Barclay Road in the Deep Creek area of Newport News.

The animal, which had been adopted from the Peninsula SPCA, was euthanized after the attack.

A spokeswoman for the Peninsula Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said animals are carefully vetted and the puppy showed no signs of aggression when it was adopted more than a year ago.



"We are just terribly saddened to learn of this tragedy and our thoughts are with the family," said Denise Waters, a spokeswoman for the Peninsula SPCA.

The child's family has declined to comment, and police have not identified either the child or the sitter by name. Thurston said the incident is being investigated as a potential case of child neglect, but no charges have been filed.

The attack has again focused attention on pit bull terriers and the national debate on whether legislation should be targeted toward the breed.

But Waters said the SPCA avoids labeling of breeds.

"Just like you can't stereotype a certain type of person, we try not to profile by breed," she said. "It's not that cut and dry."

Waters said extensive consultations take place with adopters to make sure dogs are a "good fit" and the animals are rigorously assessed and trained.

However, pit bulls have been involved in a number of high-profile attacks on the Peninsula in recent years.

Last July in Newport News, Beonquay Charmane Earley, 31, of Portsmouth suffered severe injuries after she was attacked by her former boyfriend's two pit bull terriers at Oak Place in Newport News.

The high incidence of pit bull terrier attacks has led for calls for legislation against the breed in a number of states.

Ohio — where all dogs of a "breed of dog commonly known as a pit bull" are automatically considered to be vicious — is the only state to pass legislation aimed specifically at pit bulls. The dogs must be kept on the owner's property on fenced yards or other locked enclosures, and owners must maintain at least $100,000 of liability insurance coverage.

A spate of high profile attacks on children by pit bull terriers led the British government to pass the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991. The act states that anyone who owns a "type of dog known as a pit bull terrier" must have it neutered, and keep it muzzled and on a lead in public.

The Norfolk-based organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) favors "breed specific" legislation aimed at pit bulls.

"We know attacks by pit bulls on small children are more likely to end in life threatening injuries or death," said Daphna Nachminovitch of PETA.

"They are very determined dogs and when they lock onto their victim it's hard to let go. Their jaws have to be pried apart. They also shake their victims which can cause a great deal of damage to babies," she said.

PETA favors legislation making the spaying and neutering of pit bulls mandatory.

Although Virginia has a dangerous dog registry, it currently avoids singling out breeds and states: "No canine or canine crossbreed shall be found to be a dangerous dog or vicious dog solely because it is a particular breed, nor is the ownership of a particular breed of canine or canine crossbreed prohibited."

Newport News City spokeswoman Kim Lee said the only dog on the city's registry is the German shepherd.

Adam Goldfarb, an issues specialist with the Humane Society of the United States, said all dogs should be supervised around children.

"Pit bulls can be wonderful pets for the right people, but they are not right for everybody. Kids and dogs isn't a breed issue. Dogs need to be supervised at all times when they are with children."

Goldfarb said the Humane Society also recommends dogs should be socialized with people and other dogs.

"Training is essential for every dog," Goldfarb said.

Pit bull terriers were first bred in 17th-century England by crossing terriers and bulldogs and were often used in dog fights because of their strength. They were brought to the United States in the 1800s by Irish immigrants coming to Boston, and then subjected to further breeding that gave rise to the American versions.

Pit bull incidents became so frequent in Boston that in 2004 city officials passed regulations requiring all pit bulls to be spayed or neutered and to be muzzled in public. Owners are required to display warning signs outside their homes, the Boston Globe reported recently.

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