The dog that killed a baby in West Montgomery County is a pit bull, a breed often maligned but one that can be loving and loyal, advocates say.
Jace Paul Valdez, 23 months, and his mother had lived with Jace’s grandparents for about four to five months, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Norris said. Last Saturday, the mother was visiting friends in Spring and the boy’s father was out of state on business.
Norris could not say whether the father also lived in the home.
He confirmed the grandmother was the only other person in the house during the attack by the approximately 7-year-old male pit bull.
No previous calls have been made to the MCSO regarding the house or the animal, Norris said.
The MCSO still is investigating the incident, Norris said, and will present its findings to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office to determine what will happen as far as potential charges.
The National Canine Research Council reported that, in one-third of dog-bite fatalities in 2010 in the United States, individuals blamed pit bulls even when they couldn’t definitively identify the breed responsible for the attack.
“The breed has a very bad stigma, and many shelters won’t even accept them,” said Cory Durand, coordinator of adoptions for the Montgomery County Animal Shelter.
Individuals who own powerful dogs such as pit bulls have more of a responsibility of socializing them at a young age, but Donald Cleary, director of communications with the research council, said statistics show smaller dogs tend to be more aggressive than larger ones. However, statistics cannot be used to generalize a breed.
“Dogs are not homogenized,” he said. “Dogs are individuals.”
Three specific breeds fit into the broad category of a “pit bull,” which include the Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier and American Staffordshire terrier.
Because of popular assumptions made about the breeds, pit bulls become difficult to put up for adoption, Durand said. Many apartment complexes and neighborhoods prohibit ownership, and if an animal has not been socialized at a young age, aggression later in life becomes an issue.
“Socializing dogs at an early age is important so they are comfortable with a lot of different scenarios when they are older,”said Aaron Ogden, president of Guardian Pit Bull Rescue, based in The Woodlands. “It is a big factor in aggression.”
Ogden specializes in rescuing and training pit bulls for adoption. His company is foster-based, so it places pit bulls in homes with various dynamics, including those with young children.
The breed is “dynamic,” Ogden said, and the dogs are strong and loyal. But it’s those qualities that also attract some owners to breed them for fighting and to train them to act in an overly aggressive state.
“People who want to do those wrong things,” he said, “take those traits and use them badly.”
Frequent abuse of pit bull breeding results in an overpopulation of the animal, Durand said, and with the increasing number of dogs,“you’re going to have some bad ones.”
“The bossy, alpha dogs are the ones left over from litters and over-breeding,” she said. They are also very prey-driven; they want to go after something.”
Such characteristics make the dog difficult to adopt out, but Montgomery County Animal Control Supervisor Joseph Guidry insists these characteristics can exist in any breed.
“Some of the nicest dogs I’ve seen are pit bulls, and some of the meanest are pit bulls,” he said. “A dog’s temperament is what the owners want it to have.”
By Carrie Thorton
Photos by Eric S. Swist