2005 battle over pit bulls revived for some dog lovers considering California's governor's race

The race to be California's next governor has revived a 13-year-old debate over pit bulls.

 

Dawn Capp has started a small but growing campaign against Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Facebook with the message that the Democratic front-runner "is bad for pit bulls."

 

What actually happened is more complex.

 

Following a series of attacks in 2005, when Newsom was mayor of San Francisco, he asked the California Legislature to give cities more power to spay and neuter certain breeds of dogs.

 

After heated debate, the measure passed by wide margins and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Soon after, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in favor of mandatory spaying and neuturing for all pit bull terriers and mixes, and prohibited pit bull breeding.

 

Capp lives in Sacramento and has been rescuing pit bulls since 1997.

 

"It's the main reason why I'm not voting for him," said Capp, 45. "He's the reason why California has allowed this prejudice against pit bulls." A 2014 poll of 1,000 dog owners nationwide by Huffington Post and YouGov showed that pit bulls were considered less desirable and more dangerous than other breeds.

 

Capp has raised more than $900 and in six months gained more than 1,700 Facebook followers for her Pit Bulls Against Gavin Newsom campaign.

 

Newsom had been mayor for two years when 12-year-old Nicholas Faibish was killed by a pit bull, and an 8-year-old girl nearly died in another incident.

 

"People like pit bulls, but there's a reason we don't have polar bears or mountain lions in the city," Newsom told news outlets at the time. He also said after the attacks: "You've got dogs that literally can kill. We've seen it demonstrated."

 

At Newsom's request, then-state Sen. Jackie Speier drafted breed-specific legislation for pit bulls. Initially, Speier's SB 861 called for mandatory insurance and identity microchips for breeds perceived as dangerous.

Speier, now a member of Congress, changed the law to require spaying and neuturing instead after constant pressure from protesters who felt the Democrat's initial draft was too harsh.

 

After the law passed nearly 13 years ago, multiple cities moved to adopt new rules. Antonio Villaraigosa, one of Newsom's top rivals in the June 5 gubernatorial primary, had just won Los Angeles' 2005 mayoral election at the time, but the issue didn