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Why do Pit Bulls Attack People Who Love Them? 

ANIMAL WATCH

ANIMAL WATCH - A tragic Pit Bull attack on 1-year-old Ruby Cervantes by her grandmother’s two dogs, occurred inside a home in Pico Rivera, CA, on April 24, seriously injuring the baby and three adult family members who were trying to save the child.

The incident was so appalling that it was reported by media outlets all over the U.S.  

The dogs were identified as “blue nose Pit Bulls,” but neither appeared to exhibit the common blue coloring associated with this variation within the Pit Bull terrier breed. They had reportedly been owned by the grandmother since they were puppies. Both were male and were reportedly from the same litter. 

The grandmother, Margaret Morales, told CBSLA that the family was stunned by the attack.  

Both Pit Bulls were normally kept outside, she said, but had reportedly been given a bath and were let into the house when one of them immediately attacked the little girl without warning, the family stated. 

 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported responding to a call at 10:18 p.m. that a dog attack had occurred in the 9600 block of Homebrook Street, in a residential area of Pico Rivera, east of the city of Los Angeles. 

According to the spokesperson for the Department, officers were told that the two Pit Bulls “bit the toddler when she started crying.”   

The grandmother, Margaret Morales told ABC News that she walked into the kitchen and found her two daughters and her son trying to pull the dogs off her granddaughter, who was on the floor. 

Jamie Morales, the baby’s mother, told reporters that one dog had first latched on to her daughter’s leg, but it then bit the mother’s face and hands as she fought to free her daughter.  

“I had to stab the dog,” the child’s mother, Jamie Morales, told KNBC. She said she realized that the dogs weren’t letting go of the baby, and that was when she grabbed a knife. 

“It was either him or my daughter, so I chose my daughter. I did whatever I had to do to protect my daughter because he wouldn’t let go of my daughter, so I had to. I feel really bad, but I had to,” she said. 

The child was taken to a hospital where she underwent two surgeries, one was to repair a broken hip, CBS News reported. She is expected to make a full recovery. 

Jamie Morales also needed medical attention because her face was badly mauled in the incident. And the grandmother’s hand was also injured when she tried to pry the dog’s jaws open, and he released the child. 

An aunt of the child was also injured, according to the report. 

A neighbor, Steven Garcia, said he returned from a liquor store around 10 p.m. Sunday and heard a woman screaming, “Call the police!” 

He said he thought there was a shooting. “Those were screams of terror,” he told the Whittier Daily News.  

One male Pit Bull died at the scene from the stab wound, but both dogs were reportedly stabbed to try to free the baby, officials stated.  

Richard Lyons, Field Services Supervisor for the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority (SEAACA), which responded and removed the dogs, stated that the surviving Pit Bull was taken to a veterinarian with injuries, but he did not know its medical condition. Later reports state that the dog was humanely euthanized. 

Margaret Morales told CBSLA they have owned the two dogs for the past three years without any issues or signs of violent behavior.  

IS IT THE OWNER OR THE DOG? 

This description of two loved Pit Bulls with an owner who seemed to be providing care and a family that loved them, turned on all those who had shown them kindness and a small child who was no threat, and has left people all over the country again wondering, “What happened?” 

The fact that they were not “indoor” dogs provides a potential gap in socialization that has been pointed out by some; however, that cannot be used as an explanation or excuse for the violence of the attack on a child.  

Are attacks similar to this occurring more frequently—or is the media just becoming more aware that the “misunderstood” dog is a myth and that Pit Bulls were never intended to be pets? 

The effort to portray this breed-type as “Nanny Dogs” a few years ago resulted in a tragedy for one of the executives of the Humane Society of the United States, Annie Hornish, who “rescued” a dog that then attacked and killed a 95-year-old friend in Hornish’s home. 

Hornish was the Humane Society of the United States' Senior State Director for Connecticut. Janet D'Aleo, of Enfield, Conn., was there to visit Hornish's mother, Agnes Wosko, with whom she had been friends for almost 70 years.  

Hornish told the Hartford Currant on November 9, 2019, that “The dog has no history, whatsoever, of aggression,” and that he “has been around children and has been around Janet D'Aleo multiple times.” (See: Pit Bull Adopted by HSUS Official Fatally Mauls Woman, 95.) 

Pit Bulls Have Never Been “Nanny Dogs” 

During the early 1900’s, the more affluent “dogmen,” the term that describes those who breed them for fighting, posted photos of prized Pit Bulls with their own family members to convince potential buyers that their “bloodline” is safe around their family. That was meant to infer that, although the dog is deadly in the pit, it would not attack a human.  

To have a dog jump out of the pit and attack a spectator/gambler or bite the owner of the opposing dog during the fight or the pre-fight ritual of washing the opponent’s dog to assure no drugs have been rubbed into its fur, would destroy his reputation, and end a lucrative source of revenue from breeding pups of this heritage.  

The movement to convince the public to adopt these dogs as “nanny dogs” that can be universally trusted with children and other pets is very recent. It has become a focus of certain “rescue” groups since a few of the Michael Vick dogs were taken by Best Friends Animal Society for placement in carefully selected households and it was discovered that money (aka, donations) could be made by “saving these tortured, misunderstood animals.”  

However, even with Best Friends Animal Society’s ability for major outreach, Dogsbite.org posted in a  November 2010 “Progress Report: Only 3 Vick Dogs from Best Friends Adopted in 35 Months.”   

Also, recently numerous Pit Bulls adopted directly from the “No Kill LA” shelter have been the subject of lawsuits. (See: More Pit Bull Attacks in LA and Lawsuit Filed Against Best Friends.) 

Pit Bulls Won’t or Can’t Stop Attacking – Some Experts’ Opinions  

Pit Bulls have a “charm” that engages some humans and makes them feel that they are personally selected by the dog and that this dog can love them more than any other. They look deeply into a prospective buyer/adopter’s eyes and beg to be “yours.” There is also the misconception that this dog will always provide protection due to its devotion.  

A man with extensive time being “into dogs,” (which is vernacular for someone who has been involved in dog-fighting) explained that this stems from the origin of the dogs being bred for bull-baiting.  It makes sense when the history of Pit Bulls is considered. 

This breed descended from the primitive bull-baiting Molesser dogs, which were always kept on chains because they would kill each other and any other animal to which they had access. In order to survive, they had to be fed by humans. Those that showed aggression toward humans were obviously dangerous to approach and also disposable. 

Thus, individual survival depended upon convincing the feeder that it was safe and appreciated to provide food. The more amiable the dog was to that human, the better chance that it would also have the opportunity to mate and be fed until it was killed by (or killed) the animals it was bred to fight. 

This same characteristic has survived through the centuries because fighting “pit bulls” have always been kept on chains—far enough apart to provoke fear of attack by another dog or its food being stolen, which keeps the dog’s adrenaline level high. 

But these traits are now increasingly resulting in misdirected attacks by Pit Bulls. There are excuses made by breed advocates, animal shelters, humane societies, and major donation-based animal charities for any aggression shown by the dogs, claiming it is due to some action or inaction by the owner. 

An article by Sarah Etter seems to support the theory that dogs are opportunists more than lovers. In “Does my dog really love me? she writes: 

“According to Fred Metzger, a guest lecturer in animal sciences at Penn State and a State College veterinarian, ‘Dogs probably don't feel love in the typical way humans do. Dogs make investments in human beings because it works for them. … The more ‘cute factor’ they give us, the more we feel like they love us. This makes it more likely that we will give them more attention, food treats, outdoor access – all based on how much of a show they put on for us.” Metzger theorized that dogs ‘love’ us as long as we continue to reward their tricks and antics with treats and attention.”  

“Scared of Pit Bulls? You’d Better Be!!” 

An article by Brian C. Anderson, Scared of Pit Bulls? You’d Better Be! appeared in 2011 and provided a bold description of Pit Bull behavior which also references the differences in the chemistry of the dog which affects its behavior, as follows: 

The pit bull’s unusual breeding history has produced some bizarre behavioral traits, described by The Economist’s science editor in an article published a few years ago, at the peak of a heated British controversy over dangerous dogs that saw the pit bull banned in England. 

First, the pit bull is quicker to anger than most dogs, probably due to the breed’s unusually high level of the neurotransmitter L-tyrosine. 

Second, pit bulls are frighteningly tenacious; their attacks frequently last for 15 minutes or longer, and nothing—hoses, violent blows or kicks—can easily stop them. That’s because of the third behavioral anomaly: the breed’s remarkable insensitivity to pain. … This, too, has to do with brain chemistry. 

The body releases endorphins as a natural painkiller. Pit bulls seem extra-sensitive to endorphins and may generate higher levels of the chemical than other dogs. 

Endorphins are also addictive: “The dogs may be junkies, seeking pain so they can get the endorphin buzz they crave,” The Economist suggests. 

According to an October 2021 medical report, “L-Tyrosine or Tyrosine is described as particularly important in the production of epinephrine (which is adrenaline), norepinephrine, and dopamine.” 

ANOTHER INTERESTING POST ON THE CHEMISTRY OF PIT BULLS 

“Dopamine Addicts” is posted by MangoDogs, and states, 

These dogs I call the Dope seekers or dope addicts. These dogs are very easily overstimulated.  

The moment they walk out the front door, they are scanning for something to fixate on. They are pulling like a freight train, and losing their minds when they see dogs, animals, and sometimes people too. ... These dog owners need to understand what their dog is before they can fix the problem. Their dog is a dopamine junkie. 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (think of it as a hormone) and dopamine activates the pleasure-seeking cortex in the dog’s mind. Coupled with that, dopamine is extremely addictive.  

Humans create dopamine too. When you scroll up or down on Instagram, you are releasing a small amount of dopamine, that’s why you keep doing it 100 times a day.  

Your dog [pit bull] is like that, times 10,000. They are so addicted to dopamine, that little sounds will spark them off. While sounds will cause them to flare up, it’s visual triggers that set these dogs off the most. (Read more here.) 

FAMILY AGGRESSION BY PIT BULLS 

A Quora question brought this realistic answer by Regina Ulan: 

How does a pit bull raised as a puppy by a family become aggressive when it’s older and show attributes of a dog involved in dog fighting? 

Because all pit bulls are descendants of fighting dogs! Pit bull breeders have not made any attempt to breed the aggression out of them or to create a docile family pet. The vast majority of breeders are in it strictly for the money whether they are irresponsible backyard breeders (small scale puppy mills), selfishly breeding the family pet, active in the dog fighting ring or peddling these new “exotic" breeds.

 

Breeder web pages of the APBT, American bully and XXL pit bulls (like the infamous “Hulk”) routinely feature videos of bite training where their dogs are seen attacking humans wearing protective gear. So much for the myth of human aggressive pit bulls being culled! 

Tbh (to be honest), dog fighters don't care and never cared if their dogs were human aggressive, they only cared about a dog who could win and make them money.  

One of the most famous dog fighters and developer of the modern-day American Pit Bull terrier and American Staffordshire terrier was a man named John Colby. One of his prized fighting dogs bit his two year old nephew in the neck, shook him like a rag doll and broke the toddler's neck and spine, killing him instantly. These killers are now being touted as “nanny dogs” (another myth) and family pets. See original question/response here. 

RUNNING OUT OF EXCUSES FOR PIT BULL ATTACKS 

Some breeders have stated that most traits can be bred out of a bloodline within five generations of selective breeding. If that is true, why isn’t it being done and promoted by the major humane organizations? 

If it is not true, then what is the excuse by those who are trusted by the public and take millions of dollars in donations and promote a breed that attacks babies because they cry?  

(See also:  Mother Issues Warning After Child Mauled by Pit Bull)

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a contributor to CityWatch and a former Los Angeles City employee.)