Saturday, June 09, 2007

BULLSHIT! Breed Specific Legislation

Im a huge fan of Penn & Tellers show 'BULLSHIT!' While I dont agree with everything they say, its a fun show, and I wish something like it were on NBC/CBS/ABC/PBS. Ive got a great idea for an episode, or at least a half episode: Breed Specific Legislation

Most people dont know that BSL is. People who do know probably think its a good idea-- why would policy makers introduce BSL if it wasnt needed?

Im here to tell you, BSL is BULLSHIT.

I admit, Ive got a dog in this fight-- I rescued Arnie Puppy last December (which is why there was no blogging Dec-Jan, nursing the pup back to health). Arnie is an American Staffordshire, one of the many breeds considered a 'pitbull.' Which brings me to BULLSHIT #1.

Find the pitbull.

Did you get it? No? How is a police officer supposed to know whether your dog is a banned breed or not? A mix-up could be clarified with AKC papers, but what happens in cases like mine? What if you rescue a pup off the street or from a pound, and you dont really know what breed your dog is? Im only guessing that Arnie is an AmStaf. He could be any of those black-brown-brindle dogs on that website. He could be a mix (I see lab in him, looks and behaviors, but I have no proof).

"Well," some might say, "we dont let people just buy guns. You cant just find a gun on the street and say 'Oh I found it, its legal!' BSL is necessary to protect society."
Some people, you just highlighted BULLSHIT #2-- Pitbulls are dangerous to society.
The majority of dog homicides are by Pitbulls, Rottweilers, and other hard breeds. But of the 5 million dog bites every year, the number of dog homicides is almost in the single digits. From 1982-2006 there were 264 dog homicides.
But there are problems with how the CDC collected their statistics for dog homicides:

Consider five fatal attacks included in the CDC statistics.
  • A man was bitten in the forearm by a Pit bull. The bite was not serious but introduced into the wound was a virulent and fast spreading bacteria. The man died 4 days later from this virulent bacterial infection.
  • A teenage girl give birth to a infant, distraught and frightened, she tossed the hours-old infant into a neighboring-junk-strewn yard where two Pit bulls resided. The dogs killed the newborn.
  • A German shepherd mixed breed dog went into a bedroom, lifted a newborn out of a crib and carried the infant (by the head) into the living room where the adults were seated.
  • A man restrains his girlfriend, while ordering his Pit bull to repeatedly attack her. He is eventually convicted of murder and is serving a 20-year sentence.
  • An elderly man attempts to stop his German Shepherd dog from fence fighting with his neighbor's dog, the dog turns on his owner, severely mauling him, inflicting fatal head and neck wounds.
The CDC was right, in that five people died as a result of a dog bite. But were all these bites the result of aggression? Were they the same type or level of aggression? Which behaviors initiated the attack, human or canine? So the number of deaths by dogs (as per the CDC) cannot be used to define aggression, or the aggression of certain breeds, as aggression is not defined or qualified.

And as far as non-lethal dog bites go-- there is no correlation with breeds, other than the most popular breeds in a given area are more likely to bite. That is, in areas where labs are most popular, there are more lab bites. In areas where German Shepherds are more popular, there are more Germy bites. Etc.

If you killed every pitbull tomorrow, the stats wouldnt barely show a blip.

"But I watch the news! Pitbulls are mean. Its just the nature of the breed." BULSHIT #3
Pitbulls (at least AmStafs) were bred to be farm dogs. It hasnt been until very recently that assholes have used them as pit dogs. Dog fighters will fight anything, but their preferred breeds have changed over time, Ive seen the preference for pitbulls to be as recent as the 1960s. Youre telling me you can change 'the nature of a breed' in 50 years?

Lets pretend its been longer. Lets pretend for a second it is 'the nature of the breed' to be aggressive. There should be stats to back this statement up. What do they say?

The American Temperament Test Society has currently tested almost 1000 American Staffordshires, another 1000 American Pit Bulls, and another hundred Staffies (British cousins of AmStafs). The lowest score for those three 'pitts' was given to the AmStafs, with a pass rate of 83.9%. Who has a similar rating? Golden Retrievers, 83.8%. Those vicious, vicious Golden Retrievers.

Lets start banning Goldies and refusing to adopt out Goldies that show up in shelters, choosing to kill them within 24 hours (tons of time for their owners to find them, if they have any, right?). Lets see how suburbia reacts to that.

Thats not an entirely fair analogy. Goldies are a 'soft' breed, and AmStafs are a 'hard' breed. This means that you can teach an AmStaf to not only be aggressive, but to go for 'the kill.'
But there is a key phrase: you can teach them. You have to teach them to be bad through abuse or neglect.

Someone was obviously trying to teach Arnie to be bad when I found him-- he was covered in scars (theyre hidden better now that his hair is full and healthy), but there are several large gashes in his legs that are never going to completely heal. I know someone was trying to make him a fighter. Dog fighting and cock fighting are big in Oklahoma (another reason its the BEST place on earth. Ugh.).

So even the hard-soft breed delineations arent cut and dry. Despite the efforts of whatever asshole owned Arnie before me, he is a sweetheart. To strangers, other dogs (even teeny tiny breeds), and he loves children and will bow submissive to them and take treats gently from their hands (and children flock to him when they know its okay to pet him-- his clownish grin is irresistible to kids). He only shows aggression when its appropriate (note: Arnies fine, Im fine, nothing happened, but it could have).
My brother has rescued two Labradors, and they are red-zone cases. They both want to kill strange dogs, and one (until recently) would attack human visitors. But that does not mean Labradors are mean dogs! It means my brothers dogs had hard fucking lives before he found them! Its not the breed. Its not the dog. Its the humans!

BULLSHIT #3a is another 'characteristic' of the breed-- Myths about pitbull jaws. Like their jaws lock when they bite, or their bite is 1600-2000 lbs psi.
The fellow quoted on on the pitbull rights sites, and the usual expert witness arguing against anti-pit legislation is Dr. Lehr Brisbin, an animal behaviorist at the University of South Carolina.
"The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of 'locking mechanism' unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier."
"To the best of our knowledge, there are no published scientific studies that would allow any meaningful comparison to be made of the biting power of various breeds of dogs. There are, moreover, compelling technical reasons why such data describing biting power in terms of 'pounds per square inch' can never be collected in a meaningful way. All figures describing biting power in such terms can be traced to either unfounded rumor or, in some cases, to newspaper articles with no foundation in factual data."
So be wary of politicians pushing BSL, theyre trying to compensate or distract from something. Fear-based legislation sells, even if its a wild-goose chase (remember the Satanic cults of the 1980s? What happened to those?).
And to most people, BSL seems reasonable on the surface, so theyd be inclined to vote for or support it if it came up. But all dog owners should be held responsible for their dogs behaviors. If you cant handle your dog, whether its a pit or a Pomeranian, dont get a goddamn dog! If you dont have the time to exercise them and train them properly, dont get a goddamn dog!

So pass the word on to your friends: Breed Specific Legislation is BULLSHIT!

And now, a shameless appeal to emotion-- Dont watch this if you dont want to cry:


Anonymous said...

There is an asshole radio-jock up here in New England named Howie Carr who has two subjects on which he liked to spew cant. One of them is illegal immigration, where the tone of his rants range from overt racism to racist innuendo. Examples go from playing "La Cucaracha" and soundbytes a Speedy Gonzales when he brings up some newsbit about immigrants to concocting slogans like "They're just raping the women that Americans can't be bothered to rape." As you can expect, he's pretty popular with the rural, middle-class, persecution-complex elated white-male demographic here in New England.

One of his other hobby-horses is talking about how all put-bulls should be banned, it's good to see that what he says is bullshit on that issue as well.

BTW, I once again love the pic. Very creative, and I love the effect on the eyes.

ERV said...

I view BSL as under-the-table racism. As pointed out in that video (if you didnt watch it), most people think that only blacks/mexicans/gangsters own pits, and theyre only bred for fighting.

Its no wonder that an anti-immigration racist asshole would be against pits. Call in and tell him PETA wants to kill all pits too, and ask why hes such a fruity PETA fairy. That will make me happy.

Thank you for the pic comment-- Mac photo booth is responsible for the wonderful effects :)
The pic change is appropriate with this post, as the night before I found Arnie, I was going to buy a new MacBook, but I was like "Ehhh, Ill wait one more day." Next day, found the puppy, and spent all my MacBook money getting him healthy.

As much fun it is to screw around on the internet and play with photo booth, I have to say, Arnie was a better 'purchase'.

Hes such an awesome dog.

Anonymous said...

I see lab in him, looks and behaviors, but I have no proof

Well, try the acid test: give him a pipette and some eppies (eppys?), and see what he does.


The Rev. Jenner J. Hull said...

Fuck anyone who wants to ban specific breeds for any reason.

I've known assholes with vicious dogs; they beat them, tied them up on short ropes, and trained them to be mean-ass attacking and killing machines.

And, thankfully, I've known far more good people who raised myriad "hard breeds" to be gentle, loving, family members.

My three favorite dogs have always been (A) a massive Doberman who would sooner do fun tricks than growl at you, (B) a massive Pit who is happiest when giving toddlers "horsie rides," and (C) a Great Dane big enough to pin me (at 6'0" and 200-some-odd-pounds) on a couch and lick me me incessantly until someone dragged her off. (What can I say, the mutt loves me; and I her.)

The main variable in canine temperment is always, ALWAYS, the human raising the dog.

If a dog is properly socialized and trained from puppyhood, aggressive or violent behavior will only manifest in the rarest of circumstances.

The bottom line is, if you raise a Pit, Rott, Dobie, Dane, or any sort of big dog right, the dog will be cool. And as long as you continue being nice to that dog, the dog will continue being nice to you.

And P&T should definitely do a "Bullshit" episode about this. It's right up their alley, it will help educate the ignorant public, and, hey, only jackasses don't love dogs.

And how 'bout some Arnie pics?

ERV said...

Bob-- I know you were joking, but I discuss my research with Arnie Puppy on a regular basis. Give him another couple months, and he will be able to teach biochemistry at Leigh University.

The Good Reverend-- It makes sense to you, it makes sense to me, but its sensationalist legislation that gets politicians 'good, community values' attention.
And Ive known 'mean dogs' that were adorable and 'adorable' dogs that were mean-- I always say a million anecdotes arent worth a lick of data. And we HAVE the data. BSL is bullshit!

Ill try to upload some more Arnie Puppy pics later today, but my internet connection is being stupid, and Im currently stealing a neighbors signal (super weak, cant upload pics).

Foxy said...

The thing that bugs me about the find a pitbull test is that there are no pitbulls. Sure, it makes the point, there are lots of dogs commonly mistaken for pitbulls, but it's biased in that it /forces/ you to choose something that is not a pitbull. There may be someone who well and truly can tell the difference, and yet picks something that is not a pitbull because he or she supposes that one must be it. Would it have made a difference if they had included an actual straight up pitbull?

It just seems ... unfair.

Other than that I agree whole heartedly, and Arnie seems like a sweetie.

ERV said...

Foxy-- 'Theres not a pitbull' is part of the problem, too. The AKC doesnt really know what to do with 'pitbulls'. Originally, they were a mix between American Staffordshires and French Bull Terriers. However they became so popular, AKC let them register.

But AKC sometimes lets dogs co-register as American Pit Bulls and American Staffordshires.

But while all AmStaffs can co-register, not all American Pit Bulls can co-register.

Pits with red noses cant be AmStafs.

Its so friggen stupid.

Oldfart said...

I'm not familiar with this particular argument (pit bulls vs reality) but it does remind me of the nuts at MADD who ignore all facts contrary to their position.

Zandi said...

I have a female pitbull I rescued from fighters. she was 3 months old and in a pen with a full grown male pitt only allowed to eat when he didnt tear her up. I gave them all the cash I had on me for her and have had her ever since. She is14 months old now and never even showed her teeth to my kids (kids ages: 2,3 and 6). She is a member of our family. I can't imagine our lives without her now. SO, I say to anyone who tries to tell me I can't keep her because of her breed... COme spend a week with us and you will learn to love them too. I have had more Pomeranians and pugs that have been more aggressive than my pitt.