Monday, April 27, 2009

Op-Ed Calls for Reversal of FL Ban on BSL

An editorial (with poll) in the Orlando Sentinel starts out like this:

Spike is gone, mauled to death earlier this month by a pit bull on the loose.

The little Dachshund was the latest casualty of an out-of-control breed whose irresponsible owners are letting their animals terrorize dogs and people alike.

It's all downhill from there.

The piece goes on to say that because BSL is prohibited in FL, nothing can be done to protect people from dangerous dogs. And that Pitbull advocates don't post stories about Pitbull bites, only the nicey-nice stories.

Wrong, wrong and wrong-o-mundo.

There's no such thing as monsters and no such thing as "an out-of-control breed" of dog. Some individual dogs of all breeds bite, for various reasons. But most dogs don't bite. Some owners are irresponsible - they may own any breed of dog, including Dachshunds for example. But most owners are well intentioned people who, if they aren't already behaving responsibly, may need a hand up in the form of education and community support. Making low/no cost neuter surgery accessible to all pet owners who want it is just one way the community can make a difference. And the idea that nothing can be done to protect the public from dangerous dogs unless BSL is passed is utterly false. Non breed specific legislation regarding dangerous dogs is already on the books in many areas.

I'm a Pitbull advocate and I post stories about bites in addition to the hero dog and other positive stories. Some people don't like that. But we can always learn something from tragedy and every opportunity to educate is important. I don't blame the breed, I look at the backstory and try to figure out what went wrong. Too often, bite incidents could have been prevented by something as simple as not leaving a child unattended with a dog or keeping a dog confined. These are basic tenets of responsible dog ownership and yet the need for education is apparent. So I don't shy away from those. On the other hand, I don't fall for every "Pitbull Mauling Rah-Rah-Rah!" headline that makes its way on to the internet. We have seen time and again that the dog in question is in fact not a Pitbull, that there was no mauling, etc. while bite incidents involving other breeds get little media coverage.

As for who is terrorizing who, I'd say irresponsible journalism and wrong-headed thinking are partly to blame for perpetuating the myths (and ratings grab) surrounding Pitbulls. Everyone is entitled to his opinion but fear mongering and discrimination have no place in our communities. We are a no kill nation of pet lovers and a humane society. Join us.


mb. said...

we currently have a pitbull mix (mixed with GSP we think) as well as other mystery-mix dogs & I would agree, he is no more or less aggressive than any other dog we have ever had & we have had a few.

I am sorry to say this was not the case with the other pitbulls/pit-mixes on our street. Again, I do not think there is anything wrong with the breed, I think all the hype might be attracting the wrong kind of owner. Along our stretch of country road, there are four german shepherds (including ours), one akita, seven beagle/foxhound- looking-things (what a racket!), at least three little yappie dogs (yorkie's & chi's, & one of them is ours) & easily another 1/2 dozen+ mixed breeds (two more of them ours, again). There are also two breeders, one of aussie shepherds & one of great danes. That is a lot of dogs for 10-12 houses.

Since the beginning of the year, the neighborhood is down from four pitbulls to just one (ours). One was shot by his owner when the dog attacked him (after spending most of it's life chained outside & ignored) & two were euthanized by the county after they got out of their yard & attacked a horse. Would the other dogs react the same way if treated the same way: absolutely. In fact, the hounds were being loaded one morning for a hunt & a couple took off after some horseback riders in the road. The owner dropped EVERYTHING, chased them down, caught them & apologized profusely for the damage they did-not-but-could-have caused. & there have been other small incidents over the years (dogs getting into henhouses or chasing chickens being the big one) but people take responsibility.

This was nothing like what the owners of the two pitbulls that attacked the horse; they were genuinely surprised when the county would not just hand their dogs back over. This was hardly the first time the dogs had gotten out, their response was always the same "yea, we just can't keep them in the yard". When our donkey injured one of these same dogs which was chasing our goats around our pasture, they were angry with us!

There is another thing these three dogs had in common that none of the others do: the owners did not keep current on their shots. We know this because we formed a small group & went door to door after the horse attack.

Sorry for the long post. I LOVE your blog & agree with 95% of what you say, but I think that some of the problems that pitbulls have, part of the reason they make the news is because there are some people that are attracted to the mean-dog reputation. Ignoring that does not help the breed.

YesBiscuit! said...

Feel free to comment as long as you like. I love to read. And I often find I can't express myself satisfactorily with a few words.
I agree with your point that sometimes the wrong type of owner (irresponsible) is attracted to Pitbulls. To expand on that idea, I would add that some irresponsible owners are attracted to other breeds too. Such as Chihuahuas for example. (Think what Paris Hilton did for that breed.) I think it comes back to evaluating the dogs and the owners on a case by case basis. As you mention, things can happen but how an owner handles the sitch plays a big role.
I just hate to see any group (Pitbulls, Pitbull owners, whoever) painted with the same broad brush we would use to describe criminals or other undesirable members of society .