ABANDONED ANIMALS; DOG OWNERS DUMPING PIT BULLS AT THE POUND.
A deadly pit bull attack on a Compton toddler has had reverberations in the Santa Clarita Valley, where dozens of the dogs have been turned over to shelters.
About 20 of the dogs have been discarded by their owners in the last two weeks at the Los Angeles County-operated Castaic Animal Shelter. On Wednesday, all but five had been destroyed, said Lt. Terry Eversull, shelter manager.
``We have had a large influx of pits, the greatest number abandoned has been since the news reports of the mauling,'' he said, referring to the death of Fily Araujo.
The pit bulls' attrition rate at the Castaic shelter is high - indicating dog lovers' reluctance to adopt them. Out of the 20 pit bulls abandoned last week at the shelter, Eversull said none had been adopted as pets. Time is running out for the five that remain.
Policy requires that the shelter destroy abandoned animals that are known to bite or show a difficult temperament - or if no one has adopted them within a week, Eversull said.
The Castaic shelter has put down more than 50 pit bulls since July, he said. Shelter officials keep the pit bulls in separate cages because they fight with other dogs.
The breed is not Eversull's idea of a family pet.
Nevertheless pit bull puppies were being offered for the taking at Sunday's Saugus Swap Meet, said Jim Kelly of Saugus.
``It surprised me that the puppies were free. A lot of people were looking at them because that breed usually costs a lot,'' he said.
According to the American Kennel Club, the term ``pit bull'' has become a catch-all reference to several breeds of dogs, including the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier and the English bull terrier.
The square-jawed, stocky breeds were created in the early 19th century by trainers who appreciated the fierceness, jaw strength and courage.
Breeders began with the bulldog and mixed some terrier blood to meet their height and weight expectations.
Pit bulls usually stand about 19 inches tall and weigh 24 to 34 pounds. They typically demonstrate aggression toward other dogs, unrelenting bravery, a high pain threshold and a willingness to fight to the death, the American Kennel Club reports on its Web site.
``Once I had a pit who bit me on the hand, the bite didn't break the skin, but it broke my knuckles. That's how strong there jaws are,'' said Tia Torres, owner of Villalobos Pit Bull Rescue in Agua Dulce, who works with county officials to find homes for the abandoned dogs.
It is that strength that makes the breed a dangerous one if not properly trained, Torres said. Since the deadly attack in Compton, she, too has been busy.
``It's a frenzy that people get caught up in - I've been getting 30 to 40 calls a day with panicked owners trying to dump their dogs on me,'' Torres said.
But experts and owners also say the pit bulls are an affectionate breed.
Torres, who lives with pit bulls and her children under the same roof, said she has never had one of her dogs bite her children.
``I've cared for hundreds and hundreds of pits over the last six years and I've never had a problem with the dogs,'' she said. ``It's the way you handle the dogs that makes the difference.''
The dogs need special care to keep calm, she said, and noted that spaying and neutering can make all the difference. Educating the owner is also beneficial.
Formerly a gang counselor for the Los Angeles City Community Youth Gang Services, Torres has seen gang members steal pit bulls and use them for guard dogs or dog fighting games, sometimes pitting one dog against five others, then taking bets on the outcome.
The Castaic animal shelter is expanding its schedule - reinstating Friday hours and adding evening hours on Wednesdays.
The new schedule takes effect this week. The shelter, at 31044 N. Charlie Canyon Road, will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays.
Otherwise, the shelter, operated by the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and closed Sunday.
The shelter hours were cut in the early 1990s when the nation's recession cut tax revenue that operates public facilities.
``The expansion of shelter hours shows that things are looking better, not only for our state, but for pets as well,'' Santa Clarita Mayor Jo Anne Darcy said. ``Hopefully, these new hours of operation will increase the number of dogs and cats returned to their families as well as those who find new homes.''
The animal shelter phone number is (661) 257-3191.
2 Photos, Box
PHOTO (1--Color--Ran in SAC Edition only) These were two of the five remaining pit bulls at the Castaic Animal Shelter, where owners have abandoned many more to their deaths in recent weeks.
(2--Color in SAC Edition only) Anti-pit bull hysteria has doomed unwanted dogs to death in a pound.
Shaun Dyer/Special to the Daily News
BOX: (Ran in SAC Edition only) THE FACTS (See text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Apr 1, 1999|
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