On the last week of December, police found the body of a woman on a driveway near Crows Landing Road in Modesto.
Detectives with the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department believe 56-year-old Deborah Onsurez was attacked and killed by stray dogs.
Stanislaus Animal Services Agency along with Modesto Animal Control were able to find and catch the dogs involved in the attack after using surveillance video from a nearby business to identify the dogs.
While rounding up the dogs, officials said they also found a litter of six puppies believed to belong to one of the dogs in the pack. Now, the puppies are up for adoption at the Stanislaus County Animal Shelter.
When ABC10 posted this story on the station's Facebook page, it quickly started a debate on whether or not the puppies pose a risk of becoming vicious since they were born to an aggressive parent.
To find answers, ABC10 reached out to Dr. Melissa Bain, a professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine who specializes in researching dog and cat behavior.
The answers are not so black and white.
"There is always going to be a combination of genetics, early learning, and environment." said Bain in an email. "It cannot be said that there is definitely a risk or not in this situation,"
Since the role the parent dog played in the attack is unknown and details about the other parent canine is also unknown, it's hard to come to any conclusion on the genetic traits the puppies may carry.
Certain dogs are bred specifically, whether unintentionally or intentionally, for their aggressive behaviors, according to Bain.
Some breeds are bred for tasks such as hunting or herding. An individual line of dogs can also be bred for aggressive behaviors, regardless of their breed, Bain said.
"However, that doesn't negate the effects that training, socialization and environment plays on an individual dog's behavior, whether it is positive or negative." Bain said.
In 2010, a study from the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science found a connection between canine aggression and genes that are involved in neurotransmission in the brain.
Neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, play a function in the control of behavior. Many medical treatments used for psychological disorders have an effect on these neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters regulate the production and breakdown of psychoactive substances, according to the study.
All the stages of these reactions are controlled by genes and can cause behavior changes. The study found a variation in genes related to serotonin and dopamine in dogs and discovered certain variations of the genes were connected to aggressive dog behavior.
While genetics can play a role in a dog attack, they can also bite people for various reasons.
In the Onsurez case, the dogs were in a pack and dogs can act more aggressively when in a group, according to Bain.
More commonly, dogs attack people in reaction to fear or anxiety. In these instances, their aggression is mostly defensive.
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