Friday, August 05, 2005
Yup, more on pit bulls
Perusing pit bull related sites the other day, I came across this fantastic comment on BSL (Breed Specific Legislation). LS says it as well as I could hope to, and I received permission to post the comment here. All I can say to this is "AMEN!"
(Linked from blog at The Bark,
Why does everyone hate me?)
Ignorance, hysteria and urban legend are terrible grounds for generalizing about dogs, and even worse grounds for legislation.
Compare these quotes:
1. Denver Assistant City Attorney Kory Nelson: "Pit bulls are the 'nuclear weapon' of dog breeds compared with the 'hand grenade' of other breeds."
2. Julie Gilchrist (a doctor at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who researches dog bites): "If anyone says one dog is more likely to kill — unless there’s a study out there that I haven’t seen — that’s not based on scientific data."
Show of hands---
How many of you heard about the border collie involved in a fatal attack on an elderly man in Indiana on July 1? How many heard about the Siberian husky that killed a days-old infant in Rhode Island on July 14? How about the Massachusetts boy mauled by two wheaten terriers last week ("one of the worst attacks I've ever seen," said the animal control officer)? Or the Wisconsin girl who suffered permanent injuries when a Lab attacked her, "flinging her in the air" several times? (The girl's mother has filed suit against the store where the dog ran loose.) Or the fourteen year old New Jersey boy who needed four hours of surgery after being attacked last week by a friend's bullmastiff? These are the stories that don't get much media coverage---the stories that have "dog" in the headline, as opposed to "pit bull."
If you ask the bureaucrats in Denver (where good dogs are being confiscated and killed) how many dog bite fatalities they've had since pit bulls were banned, city officials will admit that other breeds have been responsible for at least five fatal attacks and dozens of serious injuries. A malamute killed a seven year old Fruita,CO girl in May. As Dr. Karen Overall has written, "[Laws] banning breeds will not make you safer, and the illusion that they will do so is dangerous to humans and unfair to dogs." (Canine aggression is part of Dr. Overall's study at UCSF: http://psych.ucsf.edu/K9BehavioralGenetics/ )
Given the problems of overbreeding and the horrendous abuse and neglect so many pit bulls suffer, it shouldn’t be surprising that some of them bite. The impressive fact is that the overwhelming majority of pit bulls don’t bite---not even, in many cases, in the face of abuse and neglect. By anyone’s educated guesstimate, there are more pit bulls in the U.S. than any other breed of dog, and if even the better part of one percent of them were “loaded guns,” “sticks of dynamite,” “ticking time bombs” and “nuclear weapons,” there wouldn’t be enough space on the front page of the newspaper to record the daily fatalities and horrible injuries these dogs would cause.
I keep and train working border collies, and am always struck by the fact that so many border collies in the “best” homes bite---and so many pit bulls in the worst homes don’t.
God knows pit bulls suffer terribly from overbreeding. But so do all popular breeds, and this problem can be addressed by licensing dog breeders and establishing (and enforcing) universal spay/neuter regulations---not through legislation compounding the media-driven fiction that there are "safe breeds" and "dangerous breeds." That illusion is why America has a dog bite epidemic in the first place.