Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is mandatory spay/neuter of pit bulls a humane solution for this breed?

There are more pit bulls dying in US
shelters than any other dog breed.
I am proud to say that over the course of my career I may have been responsible for placing more pit bulls into loving homes than any other person in the United States. I am appalled by the fact that no dog breed in history encounters more misunderstanding and vilification than the pit bull; a breed I define as the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, and any crosses of these three. I admire these animals for their tenacious athletic ability, loyalty, intelligence, and high-energy.

Having said that, I have to ask, is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Consider these facts: The increase in dogs killed in U.S. shelters in 2011 was entirely attributable to an increase of 120,000 pit bull terriers killed. The total number of pit bulls killed rose to 930,300; the highest number in three years and representing 60 percent of all dogs killed in U.S. shelters.

Although pit bulls account for only 3.3 percent of the U.S. dog population, according to a 2011 Animal People survey, they represent 29 percent of all dogs surrendered nationally to shelters or impounded by animal control. This is a 23 percent increase since 2003.

However, pit bulls account for a whopping 51 percent (1,324) of all dogs (2,595) rescued by the Yavapai Humane Society in 2012, and 47 percent (51) of all the homeless dogs (107) euthanized that year.

During their lives, pit bulls are more often displaced than any other breed. Pit bulls are typically surrendered to shelters by their primary caretaker, but on average, each surrendered pit bull had three primary caretakers in just the preceding 18 months. Pit bulls also account for 22 percent of all dogs impounded for abuse and neglect; 46 percent of all dogs impounded for injuring humans; 51 percent of all dogs impounded for attacking other animals; and virtually all dogs impounded in dog fighting cases.

Pit bulls are adopted in greater numbers across the U.S. than any other breed. Still the volume arriving at shelters is so high that despite intensive national promotions by organizations like Best Friends Animal Society, the ASPCA, the American Humane Association, and the Maddie's Fund, the rate at which pit bulls are killed in shelters only fell from 93 percent ten years ago to 89.5 percent today. Even Los Angeles Animal Services, which adopts more pit bulls than any agency in the U.S., kills about 40 percent of all the pit bulls they rescue, and has reported increases in pit bull intakes every year since 2008.

Is there a way to end this disproportionate killing? Three U.S. communities have tried two different solutions. San Francisco, Denver and Miami each enacted breed-specific legislation. San Francisco requires pit bulls to be sterilized; Denver and Miami prohibit pit bulls within city limits. The latter seems onerous, if not unconstitutional; the former, however, may be a humane solution worthy of consideration.

Cumulatively, San Francisco, Denver and Miami kill about 40 percent fewer dogs of any breed than the U.S. national average. A comparison of San Francisco and Ontario, Canada is especially interesting. Ontario banned all pit bulls at the same time San Francisco mandated sterilization. Seven years later, the reduction in pit bulls is almost identical.

As a humane strategy for ensuring our community remains one of the safest in the nation for companion animals, should we consider mandatory sterilization of pit bulls, a breed whose offspring are at the greatest risk for being abused, killed or shuffled from home to home before being abandoned at a shelter? Please, let me know what you think at or call 445-2666, ext. 21.

All national data obtained from ANIMAL PEOPLE.

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society.