Mom in Mauling Trial: Pit Bulls Already Convicted

Pit bulls are notorious for being strong, aggressive dogs.

Bobbie St. George knows first-hand exactly how dangerous they can be. His 89-year-old grandmother was mauled by a pit bull last May.

"She broke her wrist trying to get a 90-pound dog off of her. Her breast was completely chewed and had to be reconstructed and most of the skin on her shoulder," St. George said, shuffling through photos taken for the family's insurance claim.

St. George's grandmother was hospitalized for weeks. Several surgeries, hours of physical rehabilitation and more than 200 stitches later, she's still recovering.

"It looked like she was run over by a car," St. George added. "It was awful."

Faibish Case: A Fatal Mauling

Attacks like that on St. George's grandmother form a growing list of recent pit bull maulings that have spurred new legislation across the country.

California state Sen. Jackie Speier said she was asked by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to amend state law after the death of 12-year-old Nicholas Faibish, who was mauled by his family's pit bulls last June.

Faibish's mother, Maureen Faibish, is accused of felony child endangerment leading to the death of her son. Closing arguments in the trial against Faibish concluded today, and if convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.

While Maureen Faibish's future rests in the hands of the jury, the fate of San Francisco's pit bulls has already been decided.

San Francisco Legislation's Choke Hold on Pit Bulls

California's Senate Bill 861 was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Oct. 7, 2005, paving the way for local governments to enact spay or neuter restrictions specific to a particular dog breed, such as pit bulls.

"This bill will make our streets and homes safer from aggressive dogs produced by irresponsible breeders and provide help to cities and counties with animal shelters overpopulated with dog breeds that people are afraid to adopt," Speier said.

On Jan. 19, 2006, San Francisco's new pit bull ordinance became law, just days after SB 861 took effect state-wide. The city legislation requires all pit bull terriers and pit bull mixes to be neutered or spayed. It also cracks down on pit bull breeding, making it illegal to breed pit bulls or pit bull mixes without first acquiring a permit from the city. Violators could be fined up to $1000 and face up to three years in jail.

"This [law] is completely reasonable. We don't want to be draconian, all we're asking is that you just make sure to spay or neuter your pit bull," said Carl Friedman, director of San Francisco's Animal Care and Control.

According to Friedman, intact or unaltered pit bulls, dogs that have not been either spayed or neutered, pose the greatest danger to public safety.

Higher levels of testosterone cause unaltered dogs to exhibit more aggressive behavior than their spayed or neutered counterparts, Friedman explained. Intact male dogs are also more likely to become possessive and jealous around females in heat, which is believed to be another factor in the Faibish mauling case. Both the prosecution and defense agree that Rex, a male pit bull, was agitated and acting more aggressive because the family's female pit bull, Ella, was in heat.

According to Friedman, nearly 26 percent of the 495 reported dog bites in 2005, were caused by intact male pit bulls.

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