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Pit Bulls Out of the Doghouse

A long-maligned breed is getting an image makeover. But skeptics say those fighting genes are hard to overcome.

August 03, 2006|Carla Hall | Times staff writer

Karen Pomer, a Venice resident, had to beg her landlady to let her keep her pit bull, Amber. "She said, 'You have to get rid of her,' " Pomer recalled. "I said, 'Let me bring her by to meet you.' "

Pomer says she got letters from Amber's rescuer, veterinarian and trainer testifying to the dog's good temperament. Finally, the landlady agreed that Amber could stay.

At the Laurel Canyon Dog Park, this kind of loyalty is on display every day -- sometimes in the face of hostility from other dog owners and walkers.

On a recent weekday, Charlotte Caron watched as her 1-year-old female pit bull, Suzy, gamboled through the meadow, socializing with other dogs. "See how she plays with that puppy?" asked Caron. "She's gentle as a lamb."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday August 04, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
Pit bulls: A front-page article on Thursday said that in the fiscal year that ended in June, the city of Los Angeles issued more than twice as many licenses for pit bulls than it issued four years ago. It should have read "almost twice as many."

Caron, who sells real estate and lives in West Hollywood, scoffs at those who express fear when they see her with her dog. "I have a couple of older neighbors who said, 'That dog is a weapon!' " She chuckled. "Like I was standing there with a .44 magnum."

Earlier in the day, Ron Cabrera, a 27-year-old UCLA student, and Sonny Izzo, 22, a musician, arrived at the park with their sleek, muscular, unaltered pit bulls -- hoping that Cabrera's male, Biggie, would take to Izzo's female, Kyra, and mate.

Izzo knows Kyra draws suspicious glances as soon as she shows up in a park. "It's like a scape-dog," Izzo said ruefully.

The friends watched as their pit bulls roughhoused good-naturedly with other dogs. But when Biggie trampled a yelping Jack Russell terrier -- who scampered off, unharmed -- then started toward a frisky Tibetan terrier, his owner grabbed him. "No, you're too big to play with them," Cabrera said firmly.

Still, as far as dog park etiquette went, the damage was done. "No aggressive dog is supposed to be in here," dog walker TerriAnne Phillips told the two young men.

Phillips does not walk pit bulls. She held out her forearm. "See this?" she said, pointing to a faint scar. "Pit bull."

Karen Dawn knows how tough it is to navigate the world with a pit bull. "They come with problems," she said. But she couldn't resist Buster and Paula. "I wouldn't say 'don't adopt' if you fall in love with one."

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