Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When City Council Members Go Bad

Auburn, CA wants to revise its dog ordinances. Last night, I had the pleasure of sitting through agenda Items 1-8 about property tax assessments and the like before getting to Agenda Item 9--the agenda item just about everyone in the room (including the news media) wanted to hear.

What is Auburn going to do about dogs?

The mayor, who had previously emailed me with reassurance Auburn was not looking at any breed-specific ordinance, including a spay-neuter one, opened his remarks by stating that they would not be discussing a breed ban, acknowledging that bans violate CA law. The council went on to discuss dog incidents and statistics with animal control and law enforcement staff. By the end of the evening, it seems most of the city council would love to target Pit Bulls, but the mayor and the city attorney and some of the animal control/law enforcement folks aren't too eager to start trying to enforce a breed-specific ordinance. We'll have to wait to see what the draft ordinance actually says.

During last night's meeting, Councilmember Hanley read a statistic that "90% of all dog attacks are committed by intact dogs." Well, actually, the statistic often quoted is 90% of all fatal dog attacks are committed by intact males (the percentage is actually less when you look at dog attacks in general). So, Councilmember Hanley, the statistic is male dogs and fatal attacks, and as we all know, statistics are...well...only that. They do not generally prove cause and effect. In fact, almost all idiot dog owners own intact dogs (which, as anyone who has taken a logic course knows, does NOT mean that all intact dogs are owned by idiots -- i.e., "all cats are mammals but not all mammals are cats." But I digress!) So, even if the statistic is valid, does it show that having testicles causes dogs to turn psycho, or does it show that irresponsible owners who fail to properly contain, train, and/or socialize their dog, or are attracted to a "tough" image, by and large, and want to keep intact males? It's no surprise these might be many of the dogs that end up causing problems in communities, not by virtue of the reproductive organs, but by virtue of the idiots who own and breed them.

And as for the topic of sterilization and aggression, by the way, studies have correlated spaying females to increased aggression). (http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/1880/4/1_3.pdf).

However, there are benefits of spaying and neutering. Neutering males CAN lessen a dog's desire to roam, mark, and hump -- but then again, my parent's Pug, neutered at the age of 5 1/2 months can be quite the little marker -- as my mom's couch can testify! Neutering males, especially younger, can lessen the degree of same-gender DOG aggression (i.e., neutered males can be a little less testy with other males over territory/resource issues).

But as for human aggression -- no chopping off testicles does not miraculously turn an unstable, aggressive dog into a gentle, passive one. Behavior problems need to be dressed directly, through intervention, training, and diligence... a trip to the vet to chop off reproductive organs isn't going train and socialize you. (And if those methods don't work, just euthanize the dog for everyone's sake!)

Oh, and let us not forget the two neutered dogs in Napa a year or so ago that broke out of a yard and attacked a passerby.

I will leave you with the following photos from last night's meeting:

Author Dawn Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

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