Thursday, July 02, 2009

What about dogfighting?

A reader says in the comments:

(((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)))

The comment later suggests that I might not have considered the issues relating to dogfighting. I have, I just think a breed specific ban won't solve them.

Let's take a slightly different example of the same logic. Child molesters, kidnappers and scumbags of all varieties love plain white vans. You can carry a lot of illegal stuff in them and nobody ever notices them since there are so many of them. So why don't we ban white vans? Three reasons spring to mind:

1. The scumbags who use them for illegal purposes are, pretty much by definition not law abiding people in the first place, so it is unlikely that more laws are going to solve the problem. Since they are already breaking the law to do what they do, at best they will probably just get a white van and put out-of-state plates on it.

2. The scumbags who don't live next to the state line will just buy a tan van, or a white SUV with tinted windows, and go back to what they were doing before.

3. The law puts a lot of innocent white van owners through a lot of aggravation for no reason.

The logic for pit bulls is the same. If someone is already fighting their dogs illegally, then they are usually doing it in a shack in the woods anyway and it is doubtful than a ban on their breed will make much difference.

Even if the pit bull ban were to work and all pit bulls were to magically vanish from this earth, I think it is WILDLY optimistic to assume that dogfighting would just stop and the fighters would content themselves with playing craps. I think, like the criminal who buys the white SUV with tinted windows, the dogfighters would accept that a different breed would be slightly less optimal for their purpose, shrug their shoulders and start training the next-most-optimal-breed for fighting. Presumably PETA will then want THAT breed banned, fighters will move on again, the cycle will continue and someday the only available dog will be the basset hound. (I'm being a bit facetious there.)

And yes, it puts innocent pit bull owners, to say nothing of innocent pit bulls, through varying degrees of aggravation and heartbreak depending on how the law treats current ownership and dogs that already exist.

Also, on a fairly regular basis in this world, a group of people will decide that another group of people is evil and is nothing but trouble and will do their level best to extinguish them because surely there would be far less crime and evil around if that pesky "breed" of people didn't exist.

There are a lot of words for the extinguishing group's behavior.

"Ethical" is not typically one of them.

I think that if you're going to run around calling yourself "ethical" you need to come up with better solutions than laws like this or change your name to "People for the Ruthlessly Pragmatic Treatment of Animals," which has a much less catchy acronym.



Sarahliz said...

It probably makes me evil but the image of fighting basset hounds makes me happy. They'd be sooooo cute.

That said, pit bull bans are stupid for a number of reasons. A big one, though, is that "pit bull" doesn't really have a specific meaning. It's most often used to apply to American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers (and American Pit Bull Terriers but apparently at least some people don't see those as a separate breed from the ASTs) but sometimes people just mean dogs that have similar characteristics to those breeds (which wikipedia points out can include a dozen or so other breeds). Do these bans require blood tests to determine what breed the dog is and exactly how purebred it is? (Or perhaps we should go with one-drop laws).

And really, what's special about those dogs? Yes, they're strong but so are Rottweilers and Great Danes. Badly trained dogs often bite. Large badly trained dogs can do significant damage when they bite.

Really, though, it seems clear to me that the best way to get rid of so many of these problems is simply to ban children. With no children we wouldn't have child molesters. We wouldn't have to worry about pit bulls injuring children. It's really the only way to be sure.

Unknown said...

Let me express my personal bias. Last night a kindhearted left-wing filmmaker friend came by for a glass of wine. She brought her retriever-pit mix. The dog had lots of scars when she rescued it from the shelter. Presumably, it had been involved in dogfighting, although we don't really know.

My pembroke welsh corgi likes to play-fight with larger dogs. He started a tussle with the more placid pit mix. Eventually the pit mix got annoyed and made a threatening growl. The corgi promptly rolled on his back and submissed. The pit wouldn't accept the submission and kept attacking. We had to pull her off, which wasn't difficult.

Nevertheless, it reminded me of the incident a few years ago when one of the Queen's corgis tried to play with Princess Anne's bull terrier and was killed.

After the incident my friend remarked mildly, "she plays by different rules". Indeed. Careful selective breeding over centuries has created a breed of dog that rejects hierarchy formation in favor of killing other dogs. In my view, my friend's understandable affection for her generally lovely dog has blinded her to part of its true nature.

Essentially everything positive about pits, which is a lot, can be found in other breeds. The only people who really need the pit's killer instinct are dogfighters.

Of course, this wouldn't be an issue if there were some easier way to suppress dogfighting. But since dogs can't testify dogfighting has all the enforcement problems of "victimless" crimes. You can't arrest people for being in a warehouse with a crowd of people and a few pit bulls.

And if people want to pay money to watch basset hounds fight, that's fine with me because I don't think basset hounds would kill each other. Certainly when my corgi fights other corgis no one ever gets hurt. And it really is pretty cute.

Desmond Ravenstone said...

I've been doing some research about the statement before that pit bulls were specifically bred for dogfighting. While there is some truth to that, there are other details behind that story.

Fighting dogs were bred to actually have a stable temperament and to respond well to humans. This was so the owner could better control the dogs outside of the ring, and a referee could end a match between two dogs with little fear of being mauled. In fact, individual dogs which could not be controlled by humans were culled, and more reliable and responsive ones allowed to compete and breed.

In short, pit bulls were bred to be smart fighters rather than overly vicious ones. And, as a consequence, their intelligence and relatively even temperament actually makes them good family pets. It is only when they are treated abusively that they become vicious - but, then again, that holds true for any breed, including chihuahuas (and yes, they've been known to attack people, too).

Even so, just because a dog is "bred to fight" doesn't mean that people continue to adopt them for that purpose. Dacshunds were originally bred to hunt badgers, and poodles to retrieve for duck and goose hunters. How many folks adopt these breeds to go badger and water-fowl hunting today?

kim said...

Interesting you should mention dachshunds. I was raised with (female) purebred dachshunds. Sweetest, good with little kids, etc. But killers: small birds, mice, a squirrel that was bigger than Heidi, and my cousin's guinea pig. Very efficient killers. Though Heidi was more of a killer than her daughters, Strudel and Miss Weidemeyer. Heidi had lived the first year of her life with a bunch of boxers and poodles on a big estate. Maybe they had an influence, but the efficiency of it was pure dachshund: she walked, or sneaked, up to them and broke their necks, sometimes from underneath. (Except the squirrel, Malcolm, who fought back.)

Anonymous said...

I would join "People for the Ruthlessly Pragmatic Treatment of Animals."