The amount of pit bull terriers and pit bull mixes abandoned and euthanized in San Francisco, California has significantly decreased ever since the city implemented a law that requires pit bulls to be sterilized, animal officials said.
Animal Care and Control Director Cal Friedman said San Francisco has taken in 21 percent less pit bulls since the law was implemented 18 months ago compared to the previous year and a half. The number of pit bulls euthanized has decreased 24 percent. Before, about 75% of the dogs in San Francisco’s Animal Care and Control were pit bulls. Now, they occupy only 25% of the space.
The pit bull sterilization law was passed after a 12-year-old boy was mauled by two pit bulls that had not been sterilized.
Friedman said fewer pit bulls are abandoned now because less pit bulls are being born.
“Something is working,” he said. “I wouldn’t bet the house it’s all because of the ordinance, but nothing else has really changed.”
38 pit bulls have been confiscated by animal control officers because owners refused to comply with the law. Friedman said around 500 pit bulls have been spayed or neutered since the implementation.
Since the law was targeted only at pit bulls, the spay and neuter ordinance required a change in state law to allow cities and counties to impose “breed specific” requirements.
San Francisco’s SPCA does not believe in breed specific legislation, but they acknowledged that they have seen more pit bulls being brought in to be spayed or neutered.
“This law has been a success in reducing the euthanization of animals, and we do support that,” said SPCA president Jan McHugh-Smith.
Some animal organizations prefer that the spay and neuter process be voluntary. In cities around San Francisco, pit bull advocates and animal control officials are focusing on educating the public on spaying and neutering instead of making it mandatory.
“We have seen it become much more difficult to own a pit bull in San Francisco, especially if you’re a renter. The law has brought an added stigma to the breed,” said Donna Reynolds, executive director of the pit bull advocacy group Bad Rap. (Bad Rap is the group that has been called on to help the ASPCA evaluate the pit bulls seized from Michael Vick’s property.)
Reynolds said she has seen an increase of people getting their pit bulls spayed or neutered simply by offering resources and supporting dog owners instead of forcing them by law.
Despite the disagreement over the pit bull sterilization law, animal advocates on both sides agreed that spaying and neutering is essential because it decreases the number of abandoned puppies and lowers aggression in male dogs.
In San Francisco, Animal Control officers issue a fix-it ticket to dog owners who have not complied. They must sterilize their pit bull within two weeks. The officers also hand out pamphlets on low-cost and free procedures.
They then follow up with the owners, and a first violation can lead to a citation and a $500 fine. More than one citation can put an owner in prison and the city will seize the dog.
More often than not, Animal Control officers will take the dog after the first citation. They will spay or neuter the animal and return the dog to the owner.
Since the law has been implemented, 250 fix-it tickets and 204 citations have been handed out.
Friedman explained that the law did not reflect an official desire to condemn pit bulls. He said the breed is more of a problem because of the large numbers of dogs than their disposition.
“I’ve seen pit bulls make wonderful companion animals - they are good for families and children,” Friedman said. “I understand where (opponents) were coming from, but I didn’t want to see us going the same routes as other communities that are banning certain breeds altogether. In my mind, this is a very good compromise and it’s been a success.”
Source: San Francisco Chronicle