Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Seth Victor

The plight of the assailed pit bull has been mentioned a few times on this blawg. Even internationally, these dogs are targeted as problem animals who will sooner rip out your throat than look at you, which is of course blatantly untrue. There are circumstances in which pit bulls can be dangerous, but this is generally the work of the people raising these dogs than their inherent nature.

Last week in Ohio, someone finally got that memo, and a new measure will “[change] current law that defines a vicious dog as one that has seriously hurt or killed a person, killed another dog or is among those commonly known as pit bulls. The new measure removes the reference to pit bulls from the definition and requires evidence to prove pit bulls are actually vicious.”

Come again? Defining vicious dogs as ones that are actually vicious and not just including ones that are unfairly demonized? That’s as crazy as judging someone not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

5 Responses

  1. Sarcasm has a way of becoming gentle instead of cutting when the subject is good news about animals! Thanks for letting us know, Seth.

    Good for you, Ohio!

  2. Simply put, the below link is the best article I have read on the subject of not only pit bulls, but animal welfare in general. I urge everyone to read it, no matter how you feel about pits.

    “More adoptions will not end shelter killing of pit bulls”

  3. 19peace80, interesting article, but I feel it doesn’t really address the nature v. nurture debate, despite having a subsection with that title. The pit bull attacks largely come from adoptions, as the article states. “This overlooks that pit bulls, like other breeds produced for specific purposes, have been bred for the traits suiting those purposes. Pit bulls have been bred for the ability and the inclination to tear other animals to pieces. This has in turn made pit bulls attractive to the sort of people who have made them the dogs most likely to be violently abused and/or neglected: sadists, people with drug and alcohol addiction, people engaged in criminal activity, and people seeking tough surrogates to compensate for their own perceived inadequacies.”

    So the problem is still, at least by half, with the humans adopting. I’m not suggesting that breeding should be encouraged, mind you; we have enough dogs already in shelters. But regarding what Ohio is doing, if we do have pit bulls in shelters, they may be dangerous, but that is still likely the product of the “sadists” that had them in the first place, and we should not label all as dangerous. After all, wasn’t Cujo a St. Bernard?

  4. Indeed, Cujo was a St. Bernard, but a fictional one. While there have been deadly attacks and maimings by St. Bernards, their body count is quite low when compared to other large breeds.

    Click to access dog-attack-deaths-maimings-2008.pdf

    I think San Francisco has the right idea–allow pit bulls, but mandate that they must be spayed or neutered.

  5. As has already been mentioned, certain breeds have characteristics bred into them. Some of those specialized characteristics in the origins of various breeds go back to competitive fighting, security, helping to hunt dangerous game, or even warfare.

    For an example other than pit bulls, the Akita was first bred in Japan, for the express purpose of de-horsing and mauling enemy cavalry soldiers. To not take things into consideration when selecting a dog, or to simply pretend they aren’t even a factor, is both unethical and, frankly, stupid.

    The “it’s not the dogs, it’s the owners” argument is naive, at best.

    Yes, all dogs might bite, given the right (or more accurately, wrong) set of circumstances. But one simply can not ignore — again using the example of the Akita — breeding that goes back to specialization for use in warfare. That can make the difference between a bite, and the serious mauling of a person and/or another pet.

    The fact stands, some breeds are simply more potentially dangerous than others. “Potentially” being the key term there. But that potentiality does carry weight. Simply trying to act as if it isn’t a factor, and allowing just anybody to adopt or raise just any breed is, again, irresponsible and stupid.

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