People vs. Pit Bulls: Key Pen Deals With a Hairy Problem


William Dietz, KP News

Back in early March authorities discovered that 27 Pit Bulls were being kept on an otherwise vacant lot near 192nd Avenue KPN and 20th Street. Sadly, all of them had to be euthanized later that month. At this point it isn’t clear why the dogs were being held there, but the incident serves to raise the whole issue of dogs and personal safety.

First, some facts: According to Erin McCormick and Todd Wallack, who wrote an article on the subject for the San Francisco Chronicle, citizens of the United States suffer an estimated 4.7 million dog bites each year! Something to think about the next time you hold out your hand and say, “Nice doggie.”

But, since there’s no central agency to track dog bites, there’s no way to know which breeds are the most likely to cause the two-dozen or so fatal attacks that occur each year. According to the Chronicle article, German shepherds killed more people than any other dog back in the late 1970s, then Great Danes took over for awhile, followed by Rottweilers during most of the ’90s. Now, it’s pit bulls.

Which is why the folks who live in the vicinity of that vacant lot had every reason to be concerned. Of course some people like to point out that you’re more likely to be killed by lightning than killed by a dog. A fact that brings me very little comfort since I don’t want to be killed by either one. But I digress….

The problem, the real problem, is people, not dogs. Let’s not forget that people created all of the domestic dog breeds for specific purposes — which is why Labrador retrievers love to bring you gooey tennis balls. Authorities agree that most dogs, pit bulls included, can be excellent pets so long as they are properly loved and cared for. But there are some people who own potentially lethal dogs for the purpose of intimidating others. Or participating in organized fights…. Which is even worse. (You can visit for more information about pit bull fights.)

So why didn’t someone report the 27 pit bulls earlier? Was it because of the “big scary guys” referred to in the March 15 issue of the Gateway? The “strange goings-on” observed on the property? Or just the traditional reluctance of peninsulaites to stick their noses into other people’s business?

Whatever the reason, it makes Lt. Larry Bauer, commanding officer of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department Peninsula Detachment, feel frustrated. “I have a house full of animals,” Bauer says. “And I’m very sensitive to animal related issues. If I had a clue that there was a pit bull farm out there I would have been all over it. One of the things I hear (from Key Peninsula residents) is ‘we don’t call because you don’t come.’ But our staffing levels are based on the number of calls we get.”

Meaning that the detachment not only welcomes calls because they want to help, but because county resources are allotted according to the number of calls they get. So the more calls they receive — the more protection we receive. “You’ve got to say something,” Bauer adds. “And sometimes you’ve got to say it more than once….  But I have resources and we will respond.”

So whether it’s 27 pit bulls, a possible meth lab, or some other questionable activity, each of us has a responsibility to notify the proper authorities. Even if it means sticking our noses into someone else’s business once in awhile.


Key Pen News is unable to provide an update regarding the pit bull investigation because the sheriff’s media relations contact, Lt. Ed Troyer, is the only person authorized to speak about the subject, and failed to respond to repeated calls.