Monday, April 19, 2010

Breed Specific Legislation...and why it DOESN'T WORK!

I found this article on USA Today over the weekend and it rung SO true that I just had to post it here again.

Most of you know that Lil' Pup is a Pitbull, or at least mostly Pitbull mixed with something else. Part of the reason he was so hard for Main Line Animal Rescue to place him in a home was that as soon as his breed was brought up, people walked away from his kennel and further down the line, looking for a 'nice dog'. Believe me, Mr. Pit and I would have NEVER brought home a NOT NICE dog, but people have it in their heads that all pits are bad dogs. I've said it before and I'll say it till I'm blue in the face. There are no bad dogs. There are bad owners. Owners who have NO idea how to train a dog, and show no interest in doing so, they simply want this animal and that's as much as they've thought about it.

Training a dog is HARD WORK. No one tells you any differently when you bring an infant home, you have to change a TON of diapers, teach them how to sleep and eat and it's a full two to three years before the little darlings start going to the bathroom like grownups, but you don't see anyone returning their infant because they had an accident! People return puppies to breeders and rescues ALL the time because they are not potty trained and they can't teach them how...well, what if YOUR parents returned YOU because you weren't potty trained, it took you multiple years to get it right! No one smacked you when you wet the bed, no one threw you out the backdoor when you peed your is that fair?! You have to TEACH your dog how to live in the house. You have to TEACH your dog how to play with other dogs, be nice to kids, not bite the mailman...YOU have to TEACH. I know, it's a crazy concept, dogs should just 'get it' right? NOPE. They don't. YOU are the human and they are the animal. It is your job to teach.

Anyways, on to the article, I have cut and pasted below. I love it, and the fact that it comes from a Vet, I think it's even better. Enjoy.

At the outset, let me state that I am unwaveringly in favor of gun control measures designed very specifically to keep guns out of the paws of our country's criminal element.

With that in mind, it seems reasonable to assume I'd be blanketly supportive of more restrictive gun control measures. And yes, when it comes to confirmed criminals, I'm all for keeping arms as far from them as possible. Surely we can justify that as a penalty for their offenses.

But recently, I tuned into arguments put forth by those who convene inWashington, D.C., today to march in support of gun rights. In so doing, I couldn't help but observe the almost identical nature of arguments made by those who support the preservation of basic gun rights and those who oppose breed-specific legislation such as the pit bull ban we have here in Miami-Dade County.

Icky though that may have sounded to a leftish-wing animal lover who would never deign to keep a firearm at home, my individual rights-supporting side won out. I got the message — part of it, anyway.


As a veterinarian, Miami-Dade resident and former pit bull owner, I've been a close watcher of breed-specific legislation. And consequently — let me speak plainly now — I hate these laws.

They are based on:

• Biological misinformation (pit bulls' jaws don't "lock").

• Lack of attention to dog-bite statistics (breed bans have not curbed dog bites).

• A profound lack of attention to reality (pit bulls are even more popular now that they're banned).

• A failure to recognize the obvious (those who want aggressive dogs will raise them, regardless of breed).

And these laws are so arbitrarily enforced that those who would socialize their dogs properly in park settings are predominantly targeted over those who would wreak violent havoc with their (mostly hidden) dogs.

These myopic, tyranny-of-the-majority-enacted bans are fear-based. Aimed at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, they have no regard for science or public welfare — just for the kind of political expediency that prompts municipal leaders to get their names attached to a proposal that any safety-loving voter stands prepared to swallow whole.

But then, I guess it'll always be sexier to ban something than to actually work hard to deliver intelligent laws — or to enforce them.

OK, rant over.

But perhaps you see my point now. The ban on pit bull dogs (among other breeds), as for weapons, would seem anathema to our national values given that the Second Amendment is right there with all responsible dog owners: You can't take away my dog based on her breed any more than you can take away my revolver just because bad people tend to use a .357 Magnum. The law doesn't allow you to make those decisions for me. Not if I haven't given it just cause to discriminate against me.

Sure, the problem with the Second Amendment is that our forefathers never foresaw a nation of AK-47-wielding street thugs terrorizing common citizens with their drive-bys, or an urban culture where spike-collared, muscle-bound dogs (of all breeds) straining against their chains was considered the epitome of street-sexy.

As a mother and a frequent animal-bite observer, of course I'd like more laws targeting these evildoing, dog-wielding creeps (not least because the dogs suffer, too). But am I willing to accept the consequences of such laws? Not when they unfairly target the dogs instead of the people. What we need is not more laws crafted to punish the dogs. Rather, we simply need to enforce existing laws to punish animal cruelty offenders and those whose dogs commit violent acts.

As with guns, the push should be to punish the criminal, not his weapon, and not to penalize those who would choose to peacefully keep a dog of any particular breed.

Now, don't condemn me for equating pit bulls with guns. As a former pit bull owner (and a defender of dogs in general), I don't typically see dogs in this light at all. But that doesn't alter the fact that those who would ban them do. And with that recognition comes the obvious conclusion:

If you respect an individual's right to bear arms, whether for protection, sport or collector's obsession, then any censure of an individual breed of dog (ostensibly for its inherent danger to the population at large) deserves the same broad protections — along with the kind of enhanced enforcement of crimes that result from their abuse.

I think this article is well written, precise and exactly to the point. I love the line about punishing the user of the weapon, not the weapon itself. Such a good point that not many people think about.

You all know my stance on rescue dogs in general, and I am not saying everyone has to go out and adopt a Pitty, because they aren't the right dog for everyone, neither is a Golden Retriever or a Chihuahua.

What I am saying, is that if every dog owner was a RESPONSIBLE dog owner, we wouldn't have half the problems that we have with Pitbulls getting blamed for every dog bite you hear about. I am sure there are some mean and nasty Pitbulls out there that aren't socialized and would harm a child, a mailman, another dog and all sorts of things.

Another thing I am sure about though is that there are quite a few Pitbulls, Lil' Pup included who would rather snuggle with you on the couch or take a nice long walk through Valley Forge Park before they would want to get in a fight or harm a child. I also know that Mr. Pit and I have to CONSTANTLY remind Lil' Pup that WE are the Alphas in the house. EVERY morning we remind him that we feed him, we let him out and it is up to him and his behavior of how smoothly these things occur. 95% of the time he is great about it, but we still have to teach everyday. It isn't his fault he pushes the boundaries, it's what he does, it is OUR responsibility to confirm those boundaries and reteach him when he thinks he has successfully moved one.

Ok, this is now officially the longest blog post ever.

Have a great week!! xoxo Mrs. Pit


Dollface said...

Uggg.... obv you wouldnt have a mean, viscious dog... and if you train the pit right, then you get a loving furbaby like yours! xxxoo

AEOT said...

We have a neo mastiff (also considered a bully breed) and while she is HUGE and could knock over pretty much anyone with her tail, she is not agressive at all and would never hurt anyone intentionally. I don't worry about her at all with the baby- people have asked and it has never occurred to me. I worry more about the baby's toys b/c they look so much like her toys!