Monday, January 2, 2012

Bad people, bad dogs.

Nothing ruins my day like waking up to a news story like the one that appeared in the Tribune today of two loose pit bulls attacking a 62 year old jogger. It's horrible, first and foremost, because an innocent person was terribly hurt. But it's also horrible, because every bite incident involving a pittie invites a new whirlwind of anti-pittie hysteria in the media. In some places, this hysteria has led to breed-discriminatory legislation and outright bans of pit bull type dogs--including thousands of beloved family pets.

I noticed something interesting this afternoon: There has been a little run on my blog today, and I suspect it's because so many of you came here looking for a response to these news stories. So, one more time, here's my response:
  1. The best predictor of a dangerous dog is a dangerous owner. People in the dog business know that breed stereotyping is rarely predictive of an individual dog's behavior.
  2. Pit bulls and pittie mutts are by far the most common type of dog in Chicago and are disproportionately likely to be owned by dangerous, neglectful, abusive, or criminal owners. (Though rescue groups are working diligently to change that trend.)
  3. Unaltered dogs (like those involved in this attack) are more likely to be aggressive and more likely to roam away from their homes. Part of being a responsible owner is altering your pet. Period. No one cares that your dog's big balls make you feel like the man that you aren't.
  4. Dogs who have been abused or neglected--e.g., fought, trained to be aggressive, isolated from human or animal contact, starved, ignored, abandoned, or actively harmed--are more likely to be aggressive toward the species who caused them such suffering.
  5. Big, strong dogs, and dogs with high prey drive (that is, the natural canine drive to chase things that move fast) should ALL be handled by EDUCATED, RESPONSIBLE HUMANS. Any dog is capable of serious aggression toward people or other animals. So drivey, strong dogs need to be handled accordingly. This means abiding by leash laws, properly socializing your dog with all shapes and sizes of humans and other animals, and keeping your dog safely confined when you cannot monitor it.
  6. Some dogs--regardless of their apparent breed--have real aggression problems. Responsible ownership means, when training and socialization have failed to prevent serious aggression in your dog, you should euthanize it.  Not dump it on the street. You are legally responsible for your dog's actions.
So, there you have my opinion on this terrible incident. For those people who will inevitably want to form some sort of pitchfork-toting posse over this, I suggest the following: If you want to make this city safe, go after irresponsible dog owners, not their dogs.  Demand that all Chicago's pets be spayed or neutered. License only reputable breeders and outlaw basement breeders. When we make our city safe for dogs, we will finally have a shot at making it safe from dogs.

If you would like to share more hysteria-free pit bull info with people you know, please direct them to Pit Bull Rescue Central. It's an excellent resource created by people who actually know the breed. And to the humans who are responsible for what happened to the jogger in South Shore today, may you pay for the suffering you have caused--to the human victim, to your dogs, and to all of the well-loved, well-behaved and still-hated GOOD pit bulls who struggle for respect because of irresponsible people like you.

1 comment:

  1. Great read. Thanks for setting the record straight about OUR babies.