Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pit bull love

Today I happened on a blog post about the controversy surrounding pit bulls. The author posed an interesting question:
Is it nature or nurture? That’s the question for pit bulls these days. Are they genetically inclined to be vicious, or has a bad human warped a few of the breed, giving them all a bad reputation?
The author went on to talk about pit bulls rescued from dog fighters (in particular, Michael Vick) - some of them have been deemed adoptable.
Would you adopt one of these dogs? How would you feel about your neighbor adopting one of the dogs?
I don't have any easy answers. I've never really interacted much with a pit bull; I generally avoid them probably due to their reputation. I would be very wary of a neighbor having a pit bull because I live in an apartment. But if I lived in a house? And my neighbor had one? I would be okay with that, I think, if my neighbor was a responsible dog owner. I doubt I'd ever get one myself, but that's because the dog part of my heart belongs to beagles. :-)

I perused the comments on the post and read a few aloud to Paul. Some really lined up with how I feel about pit bulls. I'll try to explain it here.

I do think that irresponsible pet owners are a lot of the cause of the bad rap that the breed gets. It seems that pit bulls can be really nice family dogs. However, I don't think they should be taken lightly.

My analogy was this...

It's like a semi-truck driver. Semis are really big vehicles. They ride alongside other much smaller vehicles and even pedestrians on the side of the street. When their drivers are being responsible and following the traffic laws, all the vehicles and pedestrians can coexist in peace. However, you take the irresponsible semi driver. The one who's been on the road for 15 hours straight. Or the one who's been drinking, or just not paying attention. He (or she) makes a mistake, and the semi hits someone/something. When a semi crashes, the accident is really bad. There could be multiple vehicles involved and fatalities. See, it's not the semi itself that's bad - it's that when it DOES crash, it can be much more serious than when a smaller car crashes. You don't always walk away from semi crashes - you might need some plasma cutting just to make sense of the twisted metal. A car can crash, too, and cause fatalities. Sometimes a car can hit a semi and cause further damage. But you have to realize that semis are a more serious vehicle on the road. Therefore, their drivers need to shoulder the extra responsibility and realize the seriousness if they lose control of their vehicle. The drivers need to be even more careful and alert when on the road.

To carry the analogy further, I shudder when I pass semis on the highway. Almost two years ago a semi was the cause of a really tragic accident that took the lives of five people from my alma mater. This doesn't mean all semis are bad, or that all drivers are irresponsible. I certainly don't think semis should be banned from the road. I just hope that we continue to realize that they are serious vehicles, and train their drivers to realize that as well.

In the same way, a pit bull is like a semi. When a pit bull attacks, it's much more dangerous than, say, a Yorkie. This isn't to say that every pit bull WILL attack. I just think the owners need to realize that their dogs can cause more serious damage, so they try even harder to be responsible and raise their dogs in a good, loving situation.

I hope that makes sense. It's certainly not an easy situation; judging from the 89 comments to date on that post, I can see that people feel passionately about this subject!


Joanna said...

I have a friend who is an animal advocate and very against breed ban laws for a number of reasons. I've come to agree with her. The owner is responsible for his pet. He is responsible for knowing about the breed, for training the dog, keeping the dog in safe situations, and supervising interactions with the dog. I would say that parents are also responsible for teaching their children how to safely approach a strange dog, just as they teach safety around other, potentially dangerous things like swimming pools- what to do if it is threatening, to always ask before petting someone else's dog, etc. I cringe when I see children running from a strange dog, approaching it with no caution, or sticking their faces in its face.

Any dog can bite, and the problem comes when these very strong dogs bite- more damage is done. I grew up with neighbors with a very-well-trained rottweiler. I was always careful when approaching it, but thought it was a great dog, happy and friendly. My sister was bitten as a child by a beagle, and her good friend by a labrador- there's nothing wrong with these breeds, but the supervision and training of both the dogs and the children wasn't there.

ashley @ twentysixcats said...

I like what you said - about teaching children to approach dogs carefully. To fit that into my analogy, it's like teaching new drivers to respect semis and the fact that they are big vehicles and you can't just whip around them. (Once, I saw a little Civic slip in front of a semi in heavy traffic. The semi had no CLUE that the car was there and hit it! Little to no damage was done, because we were going like 5 miles an hour, but I realized that you have to be very careful about passing and getting in front of these large trucks because their blind spots are so much bigger.)

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

I did two major posts on pit bulls, once before I got one, and once in our first days with our own (you have to scroll down to my comments to see my full opinion/recommendation on them.

ashley @ twentysixcats said...

Amy Jane - Was the reason you found a new home for your dog have anything to do with her being part pit?

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

Oh no, not at all!
But I do think it explained our difficulty in re-homing her ourselves.

When/if we ever do a dog again (I've told the oldest we'll try again when she's 12. She'll probably remember) I would be thrilled to get one exactly like Shadow.

It was mostly about my husband feeling compounded extra stress of one more layer of relationship (going from 20 ways of interacting to 30-- from 5 of us to 6 (I'll explain the math if you ask)) with zero perceived benefits and extra hair to put up with.

Basically it compounded his stress-level beyond his tolerance-level. And we now think it could/will happen with any dog.