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New Mexico Breeders Defend Pit Bulls After Baby Is Killed

Las Cruces Police are continuing to investigate the death of a one-year-old baby girl who was mauled to death by her family’s pit bull.

Jazilyn Mesa was attacked by the dog at her grandmother’s house in suburban Las Cruces on Tuesday.

Police say her grandmother, Leticia Mesa, 52, tried to intervene and protect the girl during the attack. When a neighbor heard the screams coming from next door, 69-year-old Barry Snyder drew out a .45 caliber handgun from his home, and called 9-11, police say.

Snyder then fired shots at the dog. Six bullets struck the dog and one round accidentally hit Leticia Mesa, police say. Both Jazilyn and Leticia Mesa were transported to area hospitals. Leticia Mesa survived. Jazilyn Mesa died.

We attempted to speak with the family on camera, but they said they were not ready to release a statement.

“It’s all about how the dogs are trained and who trains them,” pit bull breeder and owner of Bone Crusher Kennels, Pablo Garcia, said.

Garcia, who runs his American pit bull kennel from La Mesa, New Mexico, says he has bred and owned pit bulls for 35 years. He says he has never had a problem and never been bitten.

“My daughter is three-years-old,” Garcia said. “She is with the dogs all the time. Feeding them, helping me clean and do chores with them. They are not an aggressive breed.”

Aggressive or not, pit bulls have a negative reputation in the eyes of many people. Garcia recalls the time he was kicked out of a dog park in Las Cruces by a police officer, he says because he had a pit bull with him.

But there may be research to back up that negative reputation. Dogs Bite, the Austin-based organization for dog-attack victims, claims there were 31 dog-attack deaths in the U.S. in 2011. Of those deaths, 22 involved pit bulls, 71-percent of all the attacks. It is a startling number considering that pit bulls make up only five-percent of all dogs in the U.S.

More than 700 cities in the U.S. have restrictions on pit bull ownership. Tijeras, New Mexico is the only city in the state with restrictions — they ban pit bulls altogether. In the state of Texas, Garland is the only city with pit bull restrictions.

Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock, director of the Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley, says lots of dogs bite — it is the power behind the bite which makes the difference. To illustrate, she says a bite from a chihuahua leaves a different result than a bite from a pit bull.

Vesco-Mock does not believe there is such a thing as an “aggressive breed,” but she says what could make a dog more temperamental is not being neutered. She says the added hormone production in male dogs often makes them more aggressive. Vesco-Mock viewed the body of the dead pit bull after it killed Jazilyn Mesa.

“I believe I looked at the dog and it was not neutered,” Vesco-Mock said. “It had its testicles.”

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