Hundreds of pit bull and pit bull-mixed breed puppies are being bred in back yards and garages in the City of Rochester, a 13WHAM Investigation found. When they get sick, don’t sell or become too much to handle they’re dumped on animal control.
Hundreds of dogs, including puppies are being euthanized. So many that it’s too expensive to have them cremated.
“They’re put into heavy-duty garbage bags,” says Andy Dunning who worked for Rochester Animal Control. “If they’re a big dog, tow people lift them up and tie them and they’re put in the freezer.”
The deceased dogs wind up in a landfill. In 2011, 1028 pit bull dogs were dumped along with the trash. “I don’t think it should be a machine for killing pit bulls,” says Dunning. “We’ll always have a pit bull problem but it doesn’t have to overrun the place.”
The problem can be traced back to the popularity of the breed- especially among young men in the inner city. They are sought after as both status symbols and family pets and that is prompting the underground breeding frenzy that is producing too many dogs.
Rochester isn’t alone in having to deal with this problem.
Denver, a much larger city, faced a similar problem when it decided to ban the breed altogether 23 years ago. As a result, just 3 percent of all dogs that are put down in city shelters are pit bull breeds. The numbers dropped to 10 percent in Cincinnati which also bans the breeds.
By comparison 65 percent of the dogs put down by Rochester Animal control are pit bull breeds. That’s nearly two of three euthanasias.
“Personally I would like to see a stop to the breeding,” says Jenn Fedele who founded Pitty Love, a rescue organization for pit bulls. She supports a short term or temporary ban for one reason. “We’ve reached enough of an epidemic with the breed that I don’t have a problem with it.”
San Francisco found success with a different approach. Rather than ban the breed, city council there voted to require mandatory sterilization. Within a year, the number of pit bulls euthanized dropped by a quarter.
Yet new laws pose new issues.
“Certainly if there is a law it’s only as strong as the enforcement,” says Chris Fitzgerald, director of Rochester Animal Control. “We’re already thin in terms of enforcing existing ordinances.” Fitzgerald says there are also legal questions about breed-specific laws.
New York Law already prohibits any restriction on a single breed in order to curb dangerous dogs. But it is unclear whether the law applies when the primary goal is population control and not safety.
It’s likely any breed-specific law would be challenged in court.
Ultimately, while bans and sterilization requirements can make a difference, neither addresses the root of the problem. Most agree a permanent solution must address the demand for the dogs that is fueling the backyard breeding in the first place.
“We need more responsible people to own these dogs,” says Jenn Fedele. “We need people who own them to understand them and do right by them.”