Saturday, February 18, 2012

Breed Specific Legislation: Protecting Public Safety, or Demonizing Good Dogs?

I am so glad that we have (mostly) evolved to a place as a society where we recognize racism and stereotypes about people as what they are: fallacies (unless you've eaten with my family- the stereotype about how Italians eat dinner is pretty much dead-on). So if most people can agree that an individual's actions and behaviors aren't tied to the race to which they belong, why can't people see that each dog in a breed is an individual as well? 

Where I live, almost no homeowner's insurance will cover Pit Bulls because they are a "dangerous breed". As a result, very few homeowners adopt them. Additionally, it is almost impossible to find anywhere to rent that allows them. Since no pound will adopt out to a renter without the landlord's consent, they stay at the pound. The pound is literally FILLED with what seems to be almost exclusively pit bulls: sadly, in my opinion, one of the greatest, most loving breeds of dog in the world with the worst reputation. 

What dog fighters and the media have done to the American Pit Bull is a crying shame. When I walk my friendly, happy dog, people often cross to the other side of the street with fervent glances. I see the sideways fish-eyed glances at the park when she's gently playing with the other dogs. Some owners quietly relocate to another area of the park when they see her. It makes me so mad, because she is incredibly well-trained and good-tempered, but they don't see that. They look at her and see a liability, not my best friend. Would they do that for a Labrador Retriever? I want to yell at them: "MY DOG'S BEST FRIEND IS A FIVE POUND HOUSE CAT, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!"... but I can't be angry. I can't be angry because those people aren't being spiteful, they're afraid. 

The media has turned one of our nation's most beloved breeds into a monster- and for what? For ratings? To spice up headlines? Shame on the media. Nobody was nervous when the Little Rascals were cuddling up to Pete the Pup in the 1920's. According to (read all about it here), the ASPCA has issued a statement that media outlets have repeatedly told them that they have no interest whatsoever in reporting dog attacks that do not involve Pit Bulls. A study done over five years in Denver showed that Pit Bulls accounted for only 8% of the dog bites in Colorado, with the top billing for biters going to the Labrador Retriever. However, in that same 5-year period, out of the nine newspaper articles about dog bites with the breed in the title, eight of them named Pit Bulls. Why are they taking 89% of the blame for 8% of the problem? It's easy for a breed to catch a bad rap with discriminatory reporting happening, and it's costing thousands of good dogs their lives every day. Pit Bulls achieved an average canine temperament rating of 86.6% - three points above the passing percentage of the beloved Golden Retriever. Why are they being demonized?

Before this rant grows any longer (because trust me, I could go alllllllll day), I will end the tirade and leave you with a link to some wonderful stories of hero Pitties saving lives, and a photo of my lovely girls. 


  1. Dogs or our animal friends are a reflection of those who rear them. Aggression is learned behavior which owners can readily reinforce. Similarly, identical racial, disability, gender, religious stereotypes exist on the human side of the equation. Don't see much difference.
    When I have my son in the wheelchair with his contorted body, people also cross the street and avoid our eyes. As a society we just haven't evolved into a world without judgement...either toward people or animals. We have a long way to go...All prejudice is a function of fantasy.

    1. Hi Phil,

      Your comment raises an interesting question- I postulated that people act this way towards my dog out of fear of being mauled, but in your case, with Adam, there's no threat of danger at all. Why are people so uncomfortable with the presence of someone in a chair? For goodness sake, he's just a person sitting down. I sit down at least a few times a day, why is this taboo once the chair comes along for the ride? But you're right - the road ahead of us is long. As new generations are born, new attitudes will flourish... let's just hope we nurture the right ones.