Pit bull attacks shed light on low adoption rate

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by Jason Volentine

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonvolentine

azfamily.com

Posted on March 18, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 18 at 2:20 PM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Several pit bull attacks have occurred throughout the Valley recently, shedding light on the problems facing pit bulls that are kept in Maricopa County Animal Control shelters.

Most recently, a Phoenix police officer shot and killed a pit bull Monday in Phoenix after reports that it had attacked another dog, according to police.

The other dog’s owner called police after the attack at a home near the corner of 64th Avenue and Van Buren Street, police said. The officers shot the pit bull, believing it could attack children at that home.

Jaciel Flores, the owner of the attacked dog, said he thought the pit bull would kill his dog.

"I closed my eyes and closed my ears because I knew the gunshot was going to be loud," Jaciel said. "So I covered up my ears and closed my eyes, I just heard two gunshots and just saw the dog fall."

This is the second pit bull attack in Phoenix in the last few days. Last week, Nancy Newbury, a Phoenix resident, was killed after her daughter’s pit bull turned on her.  Her family took the dog to animal control to have it put down.

Shelters in Maricopa County are full of pit bulls, and about half of them will be killed. Mickey, the pit bull who attacked a child a few weeks ago, has received an outpouring of support from pit bull advocates. These advocates want Mickey’s life to be spared as they wait for a judge to decide his fate next week.

Despite the support from advocates, a member of Maricopa County Animal Control said the adoption rate of pit bulls has not improved.

"It is great that we have so many people concerned about saving a dog that may not have gotten the best deal in the world, as far as dogs go," Lt. John Reynolds said. "But we have so many wonderful dogs, wonderful pit bulls, available for adoption, that we have a lot of animals here that really do need to be saved."

Pit bull attacks take up the majority news coverage, and Animal Control says it takes in dozens of the breed each day that get lost in the pit bull hype. Maricopa County says it has over 90 pit bulls available for adoption, and more than half of those dogs will not survive. That ratio is higher than any other breed of dog.

A Valley dog trainer has a theory about why so many unwanted pit bulls end up in animal control and face death.

"I think the people don’t recognize what they’re getting when they get the dog in the first place," Sam Basso, a professional dog trainer, said. "I think that most people don’t realize that a pit bull is a working dog. It is not a dog that just sits around like a fluffy stuffed animal."

People who can’t provide their pit bulls activity abandon them in shelters as a result, he said.

"Every single situation that I run across where pit bulls are having behavioral problems in the home, whether it’s just nuisance behaviors or aggression, those elements are missing," Basso said. "The dogs are just sitting around with nothing to do. And that is a formula for trouble for any working dog."

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