Should there be more punishment after a pit bull attacks?

Loni Blandford

Should there be more punishment after a pit bull attacks?

CREATED Feb. 21, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Aggressive, vicious, kill dogs. That's the way some people describe pit bulls. After a Valley woman's daughter was attacked by one she says there needs to be harsher punishments for not only the dog, but their owners too.

But is this breed just getting a bad rap?

"The dog came out of nowhere, she didn't even see the dog," explained April Gates.

The scars on April's 9-year-old daughter are still very visible after a pit bull attacked her in December. April says her daughter, Alexis, was walking near their home near Washington Avenue and Rancho Drive when the dog came running towards her.

"It was an unprovoked attack," said April.

She took pictures of the puncture wounds left on Alexis' lip and leg. An ambulance rushed Alexis to University Medical Center and more than two months later she is still undergoing physical therapy. She says they lived just a few doors down from April's home. She called Animal Control and an officer took a report.

Days after the incidents, April says she was shocked to see the very same dog that attacked her daughter running loose in the neighborhood. She says she called Animal Control but when officers got there they couldn't find the animal.

"If I go out and harm a dog I can be held accountable which is fair but what about so the dog has more value than my daughter this is how I feel," explained April.

Frustrated, April emailed Action News. We called the City of Las Vegas who told us because it was a first-time bite report for that pit bull, the dog was home quarantined for 13 days and the owner was cited for not spaying or neutering. But April thinks the dog should have been taken out of the home.

"You can't predict what they're going to do," said April.

Lisa Kirk, President of Bullie Buddies of Las Vegas, says any dog can bite, no matter the breed. Kirk runs a non-profit organization that aims to educate people about the stereotypes associated with pit bulls.

"Pit bulls are generally very sweet, loving, happy, dogs they make great family pets," explained Lisa.

So is it a myth that pit bulls attack more than other dogs? No matter what you think, here are the numbers.

Last year in the City of Las Vegas, there were 364 reports of bites by pit bulls, the most of any breed. Next on the list was Chihuahuas with 122 reports, followed by domestic short hairs. But in the County, Pit Bulls account for 26% of all animal report bites.

It's not just people who are being bitten. Marlene Huderski's Jack Russell Terrier, Wilbur, died a few days after he was attacked near Rancho and Cheyenne Avenue. Wilbur was on a leash but Marlene says a pit bull wasn't and escaped out of an unlocked neighbor's gate.

"That's what I can't forget because I couldn't help him," said Marlene Huderski.

Several apartment complexes and homeowner's associations around the Valley put restrictions on what type of breeds residents can have. Clark County doesn't have any breed specific ordinances or bans, but other states do. In Denver, Colorado, it is against city ordinance to keep a pit bull. Some animal advocates say that's not the answer.

"You're really not doing any justice by banning the breed. Just educate yourself and make sure responsible people own the dogs," said Lisa.

April says her daughter still has flashbacks of the attack and she is looking at getting her into counseling. She just wishes there was some way to make sure this doesn't happen to another child.

"I get that they're animals and things like that but there has to be some kind of regulation," said April.

April says she has a lawyer and is considering legal action. We tried calling the owner of that pit bull who attacked her daughter but never heard back. Lisa Kirk says about 65% of all dogs in local shelters are Pit Bulls because it's so hard to find homes for them because of the stigma and restrictions homeowners face.

What do you think? Do pit bulls get a bad rap? Leave a comment below.

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