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.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.
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.
- 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.
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: