Pit Bulls and Pot Growers
Mendocino County, CA - About two weeks ago, we reported that two pit bulls killed three miniature horses and badly injured a fourth in Willits, California. In the article, Agriculture Commissioner Dave Bengston mentions that a wildlife trapper in the county had recently trapped or killed 90 pit bulls that were killing livestock. Willits is located in Mendocino County. Unbeknown to us at the time of writing that post, Mendocino has an extensive history with pot growing.
Long tolerant of "mom-and-pop" marijuana growing, Mendocino County began to change in 1996 after Proposition 215 -- the landmark medical marijuana initiative -- passed. In 2000, Mendocino voters took it a step further by becoming the first in the nation to locally legalize marijuana for personal use. Rules under "Measure G" allow 25 plants per person. The rules remain in place even though marijuana use and production is illegal under federal law.
Illicit growers and commercial trafficking (medical marijuana plants) have created large-scale gardens, which is likely where the stray pit bull problem stems. The pit bulls are an additional reason as to why many local law enforcement, educators, community leaders and physicians see the new laws as a failed experiment. They believe Proposition 215 and "Measure G" wrongly put out the welcome mat to pot growers under the guise of medical marijuana.
"Pit bulls on the loose are wreaking havoc on livestock in rural Mendocino County and the problem seems to be getting worse, animal control officials said. "They're a huge problem," said federal trapper Chris Brennan, noting that the number of problem pit bulls has increased by about a third from five years ago. In the past 2.5 years, Brennan said he's killed 90 pit bulls caught in the act of killing or chasing livestock, primarily in the remote northeastern portion of Mendocino County..."
"Marijuana growers are suspected of bringing many pit bulls to the area to guard the large number of pot gardens in the northern part of the county; pit bulls are commonly found along with marijuana gardens at rural residences in the area, officials said. Many of the growers own or rent the property on which they cultivate marijuana, unlike the Mexican cartels, which prefer to hide gardens on public lands and rarely employ canines to protect their crops, said Mendocino County Sheriff's..."
Medical marijuana activists say that's just a guess. Dale Gieringer, a coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said, "That's an interesting theory. Never miss an opportunity to scapegoat the pot growers." Yet according to authorities, reports of loose pit bulls and attacks on livestock tend to increase in November and December, just after harvest season, when many growers leave the county, and again in April, when they return.
The stray pit bull problem has devastated livestock owners. Mendocino County Supervisor John Pinches lost 25 ewes last winter. Two weeks ago, three miniature horses in Willits were killed. Brennan said that pit bulls and their mixes account for at least two-thirds of the dogs caught chasing or killing livestock in the county. He said the deaths are particularly gruesome. They shred the animals, but don't always kill them. Ranchers are left to this miserable task.
Whether you are pro or con medical marijuana, we say to both sides of the argument: Yes, pit bulls go with pot gardens like peas go in a pod.
11/22/08: Pit Bulls Kill Three horses; Maim One in Willits, California
10/13/08: Apple Valley Attack: Pony Attack Victim Shares Photos
10/05/08: Killer Dogs Euthanized After Week Long Rampage in Apple Valley