Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Pit bull mix owner has mixed feelings about this story

The city councilman who led the fight to get pit bulls banned from Sioux City might end up having his labrador retriever put down after the dog bit someone.

Pit Bulls get so much crap because they tend to be adopted and purchased by irresponsible people who fight them or train them as guard dogs. We adopted ours young, we're training her properly, and the biggest problem we have with her is that sometimes when we've been gone all day, she is so happy to see us that she follows us around jumping and licking. (We're working on that in training and we need to take her for longer walks more often to help her burn off some energy.)

Anyway, here's Malcom Gladwell's comparison of pit bull bans and racial profiling that points out the absurdity of each. I agree with Gladwell's ultimate conclusion that making arbitrary rules against breeds is bad legislation.

Of course, there are legislators who can make bad legislation worse. In Kansas City, the anti-pit bull laws included an "amnesty period" where pit bull owners could bring in their dogs for euthanization and not risk a fine. I'm assuming this means regular people like me sadly but dutifully gave their dogs away to residents of other places or even more sadly took their dogs in to be euthanized.

My guess is that the drug dealers who wanted pits for protection and raised their pits to be dangerous ignored the law. This pretty much insures that when you see a pit bull story in the news in Kansas City, it will be hurting someone rather than, say, giving its life to save its owner. (Warning, that story is really heartbreaking, as is the photo attached.)

So anyway, with only the worst pit bulls left in the city to do awful things and make the news, Kansans will be even more convinced that it's a great law.

No, it's a stupid law. And like most stupid laws regarding animals PETA supports it*, saying "Are some pit bulls loving companions? Absolutely. But it is important to bear in mind that nice families rarely come to a shelter seeking pit bulls. The vast majority of people who want pit bulls are attracted to the “macho” image of the breed as a living weapon"

Um, actually, PETA, I don't think most people who come to shelters are looking for a specific breed of dog. Because, frankly, finding a specific breed at a shelter is really, really hard because they are almost all mutts. I think people who get dogs from shelters are looking to help out a dog who needs a home and to get loving companionship for themselves and pick it on personality rather than breed. We didn't know Ginsburg was a pit mix until it was casually mentioned as we were signing the papers. We just knew she was a good dog who'd had a rough life so far.

Anyway, I do hope that Councilman Aaron Rochester's dog is allowed to live. Rochestere's wife calls the dog a "great watchdog." "Great watchdogs" should not be allowed to run around without leashes. Judging by the article, the dog was left outside with the family's two children and may have interpreted something the victim did as threatening to the kids. So the issue was more an irresponsible owner than anything particularly wrong with the dog.

But I don't think he's very good at his job.


* They want laws to have a "grandfather clause" allowing current dog owners to keep their animals, so they wouldn't support Kansas City's version.


Comrade Kevin said...

Like always, it's easy to demonize an entire breed of animal or people, without all the facts being presented alongside it.

LinguistFriend said...

In my experience, labrador retrievers are among the most gentle and affectionate of dogs, supporting your guess about what happened.

Desmond Ravenstone said...

A couple of days ago, I saw a woman walking her lovely well-behaved dog - a Doberman, another so-called "killer breed".

IMHO if PETA really supported animal rights, then they would oppose laws and ordinances like this, and instead support efforts to protect all dogs from the abusive treatment which makes them dangerous.

And kudos for linking to Gladwell's exellent and informative article. Should be sent to every municipal official who is considering any proposal to ban specific breeds.

Unknown said...

The issue with pits is simple. They have been bred to fight other pits in a fashion that is amusing to many humans. In particular, they don't end their fights by submissing. They kill each other. This makes them the favored dog of the dogfighting industry.

So the logic is that if we make it illegal for people to own pits, we make it hard for dogfighting to exist. Groups like PETA are strongly opposed to dogfighting so they support the pit bans. If dogfighters can't have pits , they can't have fights. They will have to just shoot craps instead. PETA thinks that is much better.

This desire to suppress dogfighting has nothing to do with the moral character of pits. Pits are generally pretty nice dogs, especially compared to, say, intact male dachshunds.

If dogfighting were a tiny institution in America this wouldn't be an issue. But the fact that so many shelter dogs are pits is a direct reflection of the reality that dogfighting is a pretty big deal.

I don't really see how you can ignore this argument.

Unknown said...

Um... Thomas, I have to disagree. Dog fighting is already illegal. Making any particular breed illegal is not going to eliminate dog fighting. It will eliminate, however, reputable breeders and owners who train and socialize their dogs and instead perpetuate backyard breeders that have no regard for temperament, congenital defects, or concern as to who the dog is placed with.

One of the things dog fighters often do is mixing different breeds (like a pitt/dane mix, or ridgeback/dogo argentino, or rottweiler/doberman, or any variation of dogs known for excellence in chomping, quickness, and general tenacity). These guys are already under the radar with their operations and I'm sure they can get various dogs of indeterminate "aggressive breed" background through all kinds of channels, just as people managed to get alcohol during prohibition, and seem to manage to get weed, crack, meth, coke, and heroin without much problem despite the victorious war on drugs.

kim said...

The issue with pits is simple. They have been bred to fight other pits in a fashion that is amusing to many humans.

Maybe we should just ban people who are amused by this?
(or give them a lot of therapy....)