Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Pack and Prejudice

Minneapolis City and Minnesota State officials responded to recent dog attacks with a proposal that would ban so called “dangerous” dogs from the city limits. These types of laws are becoming increasingly common in the United States as lawmakers attempt to respond to a few high-profile dog attacks. As an animal lover and dog owner I find breed discrimination laws that bar the ownership of certain breeds both offensive and misplaced. The problem of dog attacks is overblown and targeting a breed is not going to solve anything, targeting irresponsible dog owners will.

Legislators in Minneapolis are looking for a ban on any dog, pure or mixed, with the following breeds in their lineage; Rottweiler, Akita, Chow Chow, Wolf and all Pit Bull Terrier types. Different breeds are classified as dangerous in different cities and states with Doberman Pinchers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, German Shepherds, Huskies and Malamutes on other banned lists. The lack of consistency on defining dangerous breeds demonstrates that it is not breed characteristics but individual issues and incidents experienced in an area that cause certain animals to be singled out. Like humans discriminate against certain races and ethnicities due to the actions of a small subset of the population, canines experience their own breed discrimination due to the actions of individual animals. Not every black man is a murderer, not every Middle Eastern man is a terrorist, and not every Rottweiler is dangerous.

Certain breeds are more notorious for being dangerous because of what people are doing with those breeds. “Breeders” are purposely adding aggressive qualities into their lineage for a variety of purposes, including dog-fighting and protection for drug dealers. Banning these animals will just have people looking to tinker with other breeds to create a new class of dog-fighting and attack dogs. It would not be long before these groups would determine how to create mean animals out of a current docile but large breed like a Labrador Retriever or a Great Dane.

The recent incident in Minneapolis involving a 7-year old child who was killed by a male pit bull used for breeding that was chained in the basement was a terrible tragedy but screams family involvement in the dog-fighting industry or other types of crime. The public outcry is to ban the breed yet no one is closely investigating why the father would have such a dangerous dog in the house and a gun available and ready to shoot the animal. Any responsible parent would understand what that animal was capable of and would not have the dog in the home with their children. The dog did not kill the child; the father is responsible for the death of his son and should be investigated on why he was breeding such a dangerous and dominant dog.

Responsible dog owners understand their role within society to raise a well behaved animal that does not hurt or kill small children. Far too many people jump into dog ownership without the acknowledgement of what their responsibility is with the animal. Dogs need vaccinations to protect the humans from dangerous diseases. Dogs need their waste picked up to protect the community from dangerous bacteria in the water supply. Dogs need training and socialization to protect people and animals from dangerous behaviors. Dogs cannot vaccinate themselves or pick up after themselves, and they certainly cannot train themselves to be well-behaved. Owners are solely responsible for the behavior of their pets and having a lager or stronger breed comes with an extra set of responsibilities; not taking the initiative to train a large dog is just as dangerous as purposely training them to kill. My Mother’s Dog Roxie was going to be put to sleep as a puppy because she was a dreaded Rottweiler/Doberman mix. With good, strict parenting Roxie is now a dog you would trust with an infant, but would probably kill any stranger if they tried to hurt my mother; exactly what a guard dog should do.

There are laws currently on the books that put responsibility on breeders to curb aggressiveness and owners to train and control their animals, yet legislators are still targeting the dogs themselves in their efforts to cut down animal attacks for simple reasons; it is easier and cheaper to ban a breed then it is to enforce owner responsibility laws. Banning certain breeds is a temporary cure that does not target the root causes of dog attacks; eventually other breeds will fill in the market for aggressive dogs. If lawmakers want to really do something about dog attacks, they should focus on the following:
  • Enact a nationwide ban on dog-fighting to stop one major reason people breed aggressive animals.
  • Shut down backyard breeding operations put in place to supply fighting and attack dogs.
  • Enforce pet responsibility laws.
Ultimately the issue made over dog attacks is a reaction to a few incidents that have caught media attention. There are roughly 18 deaths each year in the United States resulting from a dog attack. Compare the number of animal attack victims with the 12,000 gun related homicides and 1000 accidental gun related deaths each year and it really appears that legislators have larger issues to combat that could save more lives. Heck, over 300 people die every year drowning in their bathtub, are lawmakers considering a ban on baths?

Breed discrimination laws are proposed frequently across the world. Check your local animal rights groups to see if any proposals are on the table for your city. For those in Minnesota, an online petition is in place to voice concern over the breed ban proposed for the 2008 session.


Nursedude said...

Hi 'Chelle, I agree with your posting 100%. The idea of banning a specific breed is really misplaced. I can tell you that if you took a Labrador or a Golden Retriever, penned it up or chained it all of the time, no walking, no exericise or socialization, you would have a dog capable of biting and killing a small child or even an adult. Part of the problem is you have too many people with dogs of any kind that are not doing the proper work with the dog. Add that to the fact that among urban youth, the Pit Bull and Rottwieller have become the macho "in" dog to have. When I have walked my bulldog, I have had more black kids near where I live ask me if he was a pit bull, that he was a 'bad looking dog' and where they could find one like him. Banning specific breeds will not stop maulings as long as we have this dysfuncionality in urban America.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Steve, you make a very good point. So long as there is a macho perception of having an attack dog, there will always be attack dogs. The very people who are getting killed by these animals are those who are perpetuating the issue by raising killer dogs.

Mom said...

Love the picture of your Vicious Solei and my docile Roxie. I totally agree. I've always beleived there are no bad dogs just bad trainers. Just like people believe there are no bad children just bad parenting. I think anyone who raises fighting dogs or agressive dogs should be put in jail. These poor animals are being abused by their owners and these owners should be held accountable.

NeeNee said...

I agree with you 100%. I remember when we got Roxie how they were warning us that she would need to go to a special obediance class because she will be agressive. We trained and loved her and she is a perfect dog.

It's crazy to think they are going to ban specific dogs, when I've seen plenty of small dogs bite children all of the time. And like you said not ALL of them are raised to be aggressive.

husband said...

yes, don't people know that you can knock the aggressiveness out of any dog with a cinder block?

sorry shoo-shoo... :-D