The Marine Corps has tightly tethered its domestic animal regulations and has banned specific dog breeds living on base. On Camp Pendleton, full or mixed breeds of pit bull, rottweiler and wolf- or coyote-dog hybrids are strictly prohibited.
On August 27 Camp Pendleton implemented these new regulations, restricting residents with dogs on the banned list from moving into base family housing areas.
For dogs living on Camp Pendleton before this date, pet owners have some leeway. Prohibited breeds may remain on base until Sept. 30, 2012, as long as they pass a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) temperament test.
This requirement has had base housing pet owners scrambling for classes that offer these nationally recognized temperament tests. The deadline for those pet waivers is this month.
Joe A. Grabman, police administrative services manager at Camp Pendleton, says Marine Corps Order P11000.22 Ch. 6 was in no way precipitated by minors who reportedly sustained dog bites back in June.
Base veterinarian reports show that on June 3 a teenager was roughhousing with a Jack Russell terrier and sustained a minor bite.
Another teen became severely injured on June 18 upon approaching a pit bull. And then on June 27, a toddler got nipped after getting too close to a Labrador that was eating its meal.
“The Labrador and Jack Russell lived on base, each in the home of the respective victim,” said Grabman, citing the dog attacks. “The pit bull was listed as a stray.”
Approximately 1,500 dogs live in select housing on Camp Pendleton.
The Marine Corps initiated the new order to protect families living on base from dog breeds known for aggressive or dangerous predispositions.
Camp Pendleton residents are gravitating to Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista for their CGC classes and tests.
“My husband, Paul Palika, and I are both former Marines,” said Liz Palika, founder and co-owner of Kindred Spirits. “We have lived in base housing in the past with dogs and we know it can be a challenge.”
Palika and her business partners, Kate Abbott and Petra Burke, are working hard to help military families keep their dogs.
Palika admits she was shocked to discover the base dogs and their handlers weren’t up to speed on basic training.
“We’ve had to do quite a bit of remedial training to bring the [dogs] to the point where, hopefully, they can pass the CGC,” she said.
The CGC program, Palika said, was instituted by the American Kennel Club to help promote, emphasize and reward responsible dog ownership.
“The CGC test consists of ten exercises and the dog must pass all ten,” Palika said. Aside from basic commands, a dog must remain calm when approached by people and other dogs.
If a dog has specific aggression issues toward other dogs, or people, it will fail the test.
“Several of the Marines have been told their dog needs to be certified by this month, but we’ve been talking to the base animal control about getting time waivers for the dogs that have the potential to pass but need some time to do so,” Palika said. “We haven’t received word that these time waivers have been accepted, but we’re working under the assumption that they will be.”
Palika doesn’t like breed specific legislation. She said it’s not fair to condemn an entire breed for the actions of a few.
“I did want to help these men and women save their dogs, so I said I would be happy to help in any way we could,” Palika said.
Toni Menard, an American Kennel Club CGC evaluator and co-owner of Snug Pet Resort and Animal Hospital in San Diego, said all breeds and mixed breeds have the potential to bite.
“I think that everyone should have to get a CGC on their dog…and [CGC] should be mandatory for a dog to be at a dog park, dog beach or even out at a major event,” Menard said. “I believe it is time for dog owners to learn about obedience and dog behavior.”
Palika and her associates have drilled into base pet owners the importance of keeping their dogs fine-tuned even after their CGC certification.
“I have told them that this policy isn’t fair, but it’s up to them to make it work,” she said.