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42 Stitches Later, Rio Theatre Owner Shares Dog Bite Realities

Laurence Bedford wants to shine a light on a troubling safety hazard

Rio Theatre owner Laurence Bedford had to get 42 stitches in his right hand after suffering a dog bite at the hardware store across the street from his venue. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Rio Theatre owner Laurence Bedford was buying light bulbs for a show at the Ace Hardware across the street from his Seabright Avenue music venue on Jan. 27. After paying, Bedford neared the door to leave, and a dog named Teddy Bear mauled his hand, causing a degloving injury that took 42 stitches to repair.

Teddy Bear, who has a record of similar attacks, absconded with his owner after the incident.

Bedford remembers the dog, who was dragging a leash, showing no signs of aggression before the attack, and even wagging its tail. “It was a total surprise,” he says.

Bedford reckons Teddy Bear became spooked when he got too close to the dog’s owner, who was later identified as homeless woman Hope Parks. “He got a really good bite and pulled everything off,” Bedford says.

Bedford says he harbored no ill will toward the dog, who was later euthanized after Parks surrendered him to the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter. But Bedford wants to convince homeless people to seek services such as vaccinations for their four-legged companions. Many, he says, are reluctant to contact the animal services agency.

That was a problem for Bedford, who didn’t know whether his canine assailant was up to date on its rabies shots. That left him in limbo as authorities searched for Parks. “Homeless folks are afraid that Animal Services will take their dogs, so they are afraid to bring their animals in for care,” he says. 

Bedford hopes a talk by Santa Cruz County Animal Services officials during the upcoming Top Dog Film Festival March 13 at the Rio will help show everyone, including the homeless community, that shelter employees are there to help. “I want something good to come of this,” he says.

In receiving the bite, Bedford adds his name to a list of more than 1,000 people who need emergency care for dog bites across the U.S. every day, according to dogsbite.org. Colleen Lynn says she launched the Austin, Texas-based organization to be a clearinghouse of information for people across the U.S. to learn about the breadth of the issue. She hopes it could be a tool for lawmakers who might one day craft nationwide legislation to give teeth to local laws meant to remove dangerous dogs.

Lynn says regulating dogs—even those considered vicious—is largely a jurisdictional issue, generally left to cities and counties. The result, she says, is a confusing patchwork of rules—and it has law enforcement officials scratching their heads, leaving victims in the lurch.

California has a “strict liability jurisdiction” that places the blame for dog bites squarely on the shoulders of owners, says personal injury attorney Dave Spini, who specializes in dog bites for Santa Cruz-based Scruggs, Spini and Fulton. “There is no defense,” he says. “The owner is responsible for damages.” Liability could also fall on landlords if their tenant’s dog latches onto the mailman, Spini says. 

Lynn says being attacked thrusts victims into a system where the dog in question might get several chances to correct their behavior. “It’s a system we believe is broken and does not favor the victims,” she says.

It is also a system that can be emotionally charged, pitting friends and neighbors against each other in an argument that frequently focuses on whether certain breeds are more dangerous than others.

Dogsbite.org states that pit bulls were responsible for 66% of the 471 dog-related human deaths in the U.S. between 2005 and 2014.

Many other attacks count other animals as victims. One of those occurred in July 2019, when two loose pit bulls slaughtered five llamas at a property on Fairway Drive in Soquel. The animals were not seized or euthanized because they did not pose an immediate threat to public safety, authorities said. 

A local woman who wants to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation says she began looking into the issue years ago when a neighbor’s 5-year-old daughter was mauled. Shark attacks, she points out, prompt closures of entire beaches. Bears and mountain lions that attack people are frequently shot. They’re certainly not afforded the same protections as domestic dogs, she says. “It boggles my mind that we have these attacks, and there are people who still want to save the dogs,” she says.

In her research, the woman says that she fell “into a rabbit hole,” discovering dozens of attacks, many of which she says were from pit bulls. She says she’s lost friends and job opportunities due to her activism.

But Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter General Manager Melanie Sobel says that it’s unfair to judge a breed based on the bad behavior of a few of them, and that it is even more harmful to ban entire breeds because of such misunderstanding. 

She says the term “pit bull” is a misnomer used as a catchall to describe “bully breeds” of dogs such as bull terriers, American bulldogs and Staffordshire terriers.

Sobel points out that most dog bites are not reported, and that statistics surrounding them are unfairly skewed toward these breeds, since their bites have the propensity to do more damage.

“But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the breed is aggressive,” she says. “There are lots of factors that go into a dog’s behavior.” 

Sobel points out that Teddy Bear was a Labrador mix. “Any animal can be a dangerous animal,” she says. “You need to look for the individual behavior.”

The dog was also unleashed, which is against the law.

With few exceptions, dogs that are not confined on their property must be on a leash. Those that are not can be considered “at-large,” and as such can be impounded by animal control officers employed by the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter. There’s a handful of places scattered throughout the county that allow off-leash dogs, including Mitchell’s Cove, the beach near West Cliff Drive and Almar Avenue.

In the aftermath of a bite, Sobel says victims should first seek medical care, at which time they will likely fill out a bite report.

That will prompt an investigation by animal control officers, who will determine whether the animal is up to date on its rabies shots. If they are not, they face a 10-day quarantine, either at the shelter or at home.

Whether the animal is removed—either taken for quarantine, or ultimately even euthanized—depends on several factors. That includes the severity of the attack and whether the dog has a history of bites. Investigators also look at how responsible the owner is, Sobel says.

Frequently, owners are given a chance to rectify the situation, which can include installing secure fencing. The animals in question are typically neutered or spayed.

But in the end, Sobel says, the key to dog behavior comes from their human companions.

“When bites take place, the dog is usually running loose not being managed by their owners,” she says. “The key is not to ban breeds; it’s responsible pet ownership.”

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Onyx DW

    March 1, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    Some of us know from personal experience that pit bulls, their mixes included, are much more untrustworthy than other breeds. Seen them snap for no good reasons.
    Good owners of these dogs that never saw it coming when their dog goes pit. They weren’t abused or trained to go for the kill. It’s inherited, it’s what they were bred to do, historically. You think the name would give some people a clue.
    So I believe Dogbites. They’re out to save save both humans and other animals, including pit bulls the heartache. Any research at all would show a person that most dogs that contain pitbull DNA are risky to own.
    We just have a lot of stupid people out there, willing to take those risks, unfortunately.

  2. resident at blacks beach

    February 29, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Animal Control is unresponsive in Santa Cruz. I called several times to report dog attacks by an unneutered Husky that runs loose everyday at Blacks Beach. I never received a call back. The husky (male, rusty color) is extremely dangerous, has attacked several leashed dogs at Blacks Beach, including mine twice. The owner (blond female early 40s) refuses to put her dog on leash, lets the dog run far away from her, has no control over her dog. This dog is a deadly weapon. Many families with kids come to that beach everyday. Animal Control is waiting for a child to be killed.

    This owner was killed by her own pitbull in front of Animal Pet Hospital…. https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2019/04/01/911-call-irving-animal-hospital-deadly-pit-bull-attack-owner/

    This pitbull killed the 1yo baby in front of the mom https://www.insideedition.com/north-carolina-mom-tries-save-1-year-old-dog-attack-harrowing-911-call-48094

  3. Break sticks for Pit bull type dogs

    February 27, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    As someone mentioned it in another comment, the attacking dog in the Ace hardware was a Pit bull mixed with a lab.
    Consider this: Pit bull Rescue Central recommends ALL Pit bull type dog owners to carry a break stick with them in case their animal attacks, a break stick is a device to be inserted into the animal’s jaws to release its victim/prey. Is this what you want in your community?
    https://www.pbrc.net/breakstick.html
    About 30 states in this country have Breed Specific Legislation for the reason Pit bull type dogs (and fighting breeds in general which include Presa Canarios and others) attack without provocation, often with no warning (an advantage in the pit for Pit bulls, a pit is a small enclosure, in order to live and kill the other Pit bull, the Pit bull can’t show it’s intention and when it’s going to attack…).
    California is already a lost call since it fell to the Pit bull lobby’s propaganda that Pit bull type dogs and their mixes are just like any other.
    Mr. Bedford would have perhaps 2 stitches if the attacking dog would have been a beagle or any of all the safer breeds out there and most likely would not have been bit in the first place.
    California might be a strict liability state but dogs have a ONE strike bite, and it can be too late, especially with Pit bulls and brace yourselves are there are going to be more and more Pit bulls in your community, they are shoved and transported here from all over the country, breeders make a lot of money on them, many have them as a status symbol, and Pit bull litters are huge.
    There have been many other attacks involving Pit bulls that have not been reported in this county.

  4. Break stick for Pit bull type dogs

    February 27, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    As mentioned in of the comments here, the attacking dog was a Pit bull mixed a lab, High courts around the country have stated in multiple cases that any ordinary person can identify a Pit bull type dog, if it looks like one it has the dangerous potential of one. Yes, this is sadnbut it’s the reality.
    Consider this, Pit bull Rescue Central recommends all Pit bull type dog owners to carry a breakstick in case their dog attacks, this is a plastic device to insert in the Pit bull type dog jaws to free its victim/pray. Is this the kind of animal you want in your community?
    The Ace hardware attacking Pit bull mix had attacked before, this made for an unsafe community.
    Pit bulls and their mixes are banned in about 30 States in this country, California fell to the Pit bull lobby to have a preemption so Pit bulls cannot be banned in any Californian community. This will happen more, compared to Denver, CO which has had a ban for 30 years and has kept their residents safe.
    Californians are screwed.

  5. Suzan Clark

    February 27, 2020 at 4:51 am

    Dogs Bite is citable and accurate. Anyone that says otherwise no doubt owns a mauler.
    Despite insistence by many pit bull owners that their dogs never would bite, the breed often surprises them. Too often.
    “If you have 100 drugs that treat high blood pressure, and one of those drugs caused half the deaths, it would be taken off the market,” -Benjamin Van Raalte, plastic & reconstructive surgeon at Iowa Plastic Surgery.
    “Dr. Benjamin Van Raalte is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery”

  6. JayMac

    February 26, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    Dogsbite has never been challenged successfully. Its stats stand up which is why US courts have cited it in court rulings. The pit bull lobby hates facts about pit bulls because they destroy their PR push to make pit bulls acceptable as pets. The scientific, medical and factual evidence of the risks and dangers of pit bulls is overwhelming. The so called “respected commentators” mentioned are all from the pro pit bull lobby which continues to deny the evidence of the reality of the menace of pit bulls.

  7. Roger Gibson

    February 26, 2020 at 10:53 am

    The dog was a pit mix. Look at the video; the coat color is not found in Labradors. https://kion546.com/news/santa-cruz-county/2020/01/26/man-attacked-by-dog-in-santa-cruz-ace-hardware/?fbclid=IwAR2aQd8ODkXQ5dZBTd4KBxCXy1NernGrmMyMECuBW9a6KBN5JijTTPLaFt8.
    Shelters often mislabel pit bulls as lab or boxer mixes.
    As for dogsbite.org, take a look at it for yourself. Forbes and Newsweek has cited it. Professionals in law enforcement, journalism and the medical field have worked with dogsbite.org. https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2018/09/13/americas-most-dangerous-dog-breeds-infographic/?utm_source=FACEBOOK&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Valerie%2F#797f7e7062f8.
    If you look at dogsbite.org, you will see the appalling extent of pit bull attacks, which the media underreports.

    • resident at blacks beach

      February 29, 2020 at 11:48 am

      Yes pitbulls mix aren’t less dangerous, which proves that the pitbull breed is genetically aggressive.

  8. Thomas

    February 26, 2020 at 9:48 am

    Simply put, border collies do not herd sheep because they are raised on sheep farms; rather, they are raised on sheep farms because they herd. In addition pointers point, retrievers retrieve, and mastiffs guard, all because those traits are part of their breed expectations, meaning strong and continuous selection in the underlying breeding program ”

    Simply put Pit bulls do not attack because they are raised with dog fighters and drug dealers, dog fighters and drug dealers use pit bulls because they attack!

    It is their nature, their genetic truth and reality.!!
    It is not how you raise them rather it is simply what they are.!!
    Just like sled dogs run and pull, it is just their nature.!!

    A pit bull type dog is what it is and does what it is.You can no more alter it genetic makeup then you can a collies to herd, a hounds to track, a retriever’s to retrieve, a labs to swim, a pointers to point, a sled dog to run and pull.

    They do what they are and a pit bull type dog is a mauling violent killer that has been bred to be a land shark, nothing you do can change that, even if you have them from birth.

    No matter if you love them, or how you nurture, train, rehabilitate, raise them optimally as normal dogs from birth, you can not change their Genetic reality to Kill, Maul, Maim, Disfigure, Dismember, cause Life Flights or trips to the Intensive Care Unit.

    For over 800 years the current pit bull type dog was brought into being through careful selective genetic breeding to create the most violent murderous fighting dog possible.

  9. Karen Batchelor

    February 25, 2020 at 8:05 pm

    No-one who has done any real research quotes anything from Colleen Lynn’s anti-Pit Bull website. She might appear to be the other side of an argument but her agenda goes way beyond anything objective or productive and that has been well exposed now for many years by many respected commentators.

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