All dogs bite. Every single one of them has the potential to turn on their very owner and as studies and news tell it they turn on children, strangers and other pets more often than we care to know about. What make makes a dog aggressive to the point they attack innocent victims? Is it their genes and nature, their training or perhaps their owners? Some individuals have proposed banning certain breeds that display a propensity for aggressive behavior as a solution. Banning might get results faster but it’s not the only or best solution. Without a doubt certain breeds seem to be naturally more aggressive and protective than others.
The breed that comes to mind first is the Pit Bull Terrier known as pits or pit bulls. While these dogs have a reputation for being tough, strong and aggressive, they are not the only ones that should be shouldering the entire blame for their behavior. I’m not saying that the victims are to blame; the blame should fall on irresponsible dog owner whose mistreatment of dogs is the deciding factor on whether any certain dog will bite or attack. When choosing a dog, families should consider the temperament, physical size, and exercise needs of the breeds they are considering. Researching the characteristics of the dogs the families are considering is a great way to ensure the families ends up with a dog that will complement their family environment and lifestyle.
Sadly, taking the time to truly research a dog before it is bought is something that very few owners practice. The deciding factor on which dog to buy comes down to the appearance of the dog without any thought given to the resources and time requirement for the specific dog. Buying a dog because it looks cute when it is a puppy could result in a headache later. The cute little puppy can turn into a large dog that needs to be walked a couple of hours a week or a dog that has a compulsive need to chew on every piece of furniture inside the house. Individuals and families need to be realistic about how much time and money they can dedicate to a pet and the pets need. Similarly, buying a dog because it looks tough is a mistake that the dog ends up paying for in the future. Often times Pit bulls are only purchased because they look cool and somehow that coolness and toughness factor supposedly translates onto the owner. It’s these owners that have no regard for the dog or its needs. They only think of dogs as an accessory that elevates their status among their friends and social groups. Its owners like these that do more harm than good for Pit bulls.
Pit bulls can and are good family dogs. “They’re awesome dogs as pets as long as the owner is responsible” states Ashley Clark, a member of Saving Paws Animal Rescue of Kentucky (qtd. in Mayse). A key mistake committed by many owners is they don’t take the time to socialize their dogs, which is paramount for a healthy pet, both mentally and physically. As dog trainer Victoria Stillwell asserts in USA Today “A dog is a social animal, so lack of social interaction can seriously damage its psychological well being”. Dogs need to be taught how to interact with members of the family as well as with other pets and strangers. Yes, socializing a pet is a time consuming task but one that should not be avoided. To leave a dog to its own devices is doing a great disservice to them and to any potential victim of a poor socialized animal. Another huge error by the owner is not exercising their dog. We all have basic needs like food, water, and sleep. Exercise is a basic need for dogs.
Dogs will misbehave from lack of exercising. The misbehavior can come in the form of chewing, excessive barking, and acting aggressively. Leaving a dog in the house or in the backyard is not the equivalent of going for a walk or a run. When owners do this day in and day out, they are left with a dog that’s about to burst at the seams with energy. This is why potential owners have to be honest about how much time they can dedicate to their pets before they adopt or buy one. Victoria Stillwell states “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that keeping your dog in your backyard most of the day will replace his natural need for stimulation and get you off the hook for not walking him. In fact, it almost always does more harm than good.” Owners that relegate their dogs to their backyards or tie them up while they are away at work are causing the problems. As owners we can’t leave our dogs unattended, without interaction for long periods of time.
Regardless of breed, any dog that is subjected to these conditions will probably snap. When you have the combination of frustration buildup from being chained up, lack of social skills and pent up energy then that is a recipe for a dog bite or attack. Unfortunately the victims of this awful consequence are children most of the time as stated by Lisa M. Bernardo in the Journal of the Society of Pediatric Nurses “unintentional dog bite injury is the leading cause of death and disability among children”. Because of children’s small size they are not able to defend themselves when being attacked by dogs and when they are attacked they tend to be more severely injured than adults. With “49% of the injuries occurring in children less than 5 years old”(Bernardo), it seems that we as parents and adults should be moving towards a solution with more urgency and passion then is being shown. Unfortunately, we don’t pay attention until it’s too late, when a child has died because of their injuries or at the scene of the attack. When you have a strong powerful breed in the hands of a negligent, careless owner there is nothing but trouble. The mistreatment by owners of dogs is what causes not only pit bulls but also other breeds to bite.
Leading expert in dog-bite law, attorney Kenneth Phillips tells “One of the most horrifying cases I’ve heard about was when a little Pomeranian, no more than five pounds, killed a six-week-old baby”(Bred for trouble). Even dogs that haven’t been bred or trained to attack can occasionally act aggressively toward people. Lisa Bernardo writes, “ An 8 year-old male was distributing fliers in a trailer park when two Saint Bernard dogs ran out of a house and attacked him unprovoked”. What these two instances prove is that any dog can bite and attack; even Chihuahuas have been known to be protective of their owners and territory. While these are graphic examples, the public needs to be aware that this happens all over the United States. Dogs can and are unpredictable, at the blink of an eye they can react in a very primal manner. Once again this is where the researching of the right type of dog for your family comes into play.
Lets practice some common sense when bringing a dog into our homes. Pits are not the only ones that bite, other breeds that send people to the emergency rooms are Rottweiler’s, Mastiff’s, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds and a few others. Out of all aggressive breeds the Pit bull are the ones that have been exploited the most. Yes, pits are naturally more aggressive you have to remember they were bred for fighting. This is the very reason is why Pits have become popular with people with low standards and no respect for dogs, people that take part in dog fighting. These individual are only interested in seeing bloodshed and ruthless destruction of lives. This has also led some to practice unhealthy breeding of Pits to make a quick buck. Pits natural strong disposition combined with careless inbreeding results in unbalanced pets. Even though Pits are perfectly capable of being a loving part of a family, they have a terrible reputation that has been perpetuated by irresponsible owners. I personally have seen some of these no-license owners that keep pit bulls penned up and torture them to make them meaner for fights.
The poor dog spends most of its time behind a poorly built pen that seemed to be thrown together at the last minute. This pen was built out of compressed board on three sides and the fourth side was the back wall of the house. The dog couldn’t see out at all and he was purposefully kept there so he would have no contact with people or other dogs except for the owner. Every now and then the dog would be crudely blindfolded and was poked at it with sticks to ensure the aggressiveness of the dog. If the dog looses a number of fights it is considered worthless and is given away or gets put to sleep usually after being denied food for a couple of days. To this individual, a Pit bull was and still is a profitable badass accessory to their gangster lifestyle. Like Gall Golab, Ph.D., D.V.M stated in Fighting Fido “Twenty years ago people thought Great Danes and German shepherds were dangerous, today, it’s Pit bulls and Rottweiler’s. If you ban one breed, the people who want an aggressive animal will simply find another breed in which to foster that quality” (Neil).
Can you imagine what kind of dog the police force would be using now if the German shepherd had been banned twenty years ago? The statement made by Dr.Golab is one that needs to be repeated. The breed of the dog alone is not the deciding factor on whether a dog will snap and attack someone. It is a combination of reckless owners with under exercised, under socialized, and unbalanced dogs. As dog attacks seem to be on the rise some individuals in California and the United States have been calling for a ban on a specific breed. Claiming that these breeds are beyond reformation and help, they want to ban Pit bulls specifically. Currently “Ohio is the only state that declares a specific breed, pit bulls as vicious. That law was ruled unconstitutional in March by Ohio’s 6th District Court of Appeals in Toledo and is being appealed to the state Supreme Court”(Jones). While decreasing dog attacks is definitely a goal we should all be working towards I suggest that there are other options besides banning to this problem. Any breed-specific ban would be difficult to enforce.
First of all, Pit bulls are not the only large and potentially dangerous dogs, so right of the bat a few breeds would need to be banned. Second, because there are so many mixed breed dogs, who determines what percentage of vicious dog gene is allowed in a mixed breed? Lastly, what about those Pit bull owners that treat their dogs good and have taken all precautions to ensure their pet is a loving and gentle dog? A specific ban would punish those that have done nothing wrong and have followed all the rules. Outlawing breeds believed to be vicious and dangerous is not a long-term solution. Besides not being realistic a ban is unfair as it places the entire blame on these breeds. A better solution would be to make it mandatory for every person or family wanting a dog to get a dog owner license. Without a license no dog of any kind would be bought, sold or adopted. When potential dog owners apply for their owner’s license they should be advised about the pros and cons about the breed they are considering. It should be mandatory that these owners go to dog training/obedience classes with their new pets.
This can be taken a step further by requiring that with a license a dog owner should also need insurance, like a car. This would mean many man-hours and an extensive effort by animal control officers and police but it’s a worthwhile expenditure that would save many lives and countless visits to the emergency room. This might sound like an impossible task but it would be the first step in the right direction. Instead of waiting for a dog to bite someone lets enforce current leash and muzzle laws, which are in many instances ignored. If no laws currently exist then new laws should be passed that hold owners responsible to a higher level than before. In Kansas City the City Council passed a law that will require all pit bulls to be spayed or neutered. This would be a good start for all other counties and cities that are seeing the number of attacks and bites rise. Kansas has even gone a bit farther by requiring that “breeders will have to install fencing and document who is buying the puppies”, says Councilman Bill Skaggs (qtd. in Jones). Dog breeders can still have a business but they should be monitored closely for a period of time.
It should also be mandatory to have all puppies spayed and neutered, at the proper age, by their new owners if the dog is on the list as potentially dangerous. Another example of great laws being adopted comes from Illinois. Legislature was passed that states “Owners could face prison if they allow a vicious dog to run loose, or if they have not enclose, spayed or neutered and animal that injures or kills someone.”(Jones). Illinois also restricts felons right to own dangerous dogs and penalties for attending dogfights were increased. While going to prison because your dog is out and running the streets may at first seem a bit excessive. It would only be a matter of time of enforcing this law that we would get the desired results, owners acting responsible. If states like Illinois and Ohio can pass these laws than why can’t we adopt them with greater swiftness in our own state? Is it because it’s easier to point fingers and blame the dogs? Are we really that lazy that we would settle for the easiest, yet unfair solution called banning? Mandatory spaying and neutering would not only cut down on the inbreeding and over breeding of dogs like the Pits and make them less assessable to those that are prone to abuse them.
This would also save money in the long run because this simple law means less unwanted dogs in animal shelters. What happens time and time again is people go out and buy a dog that they have not researched at all and when they realize that the dog is too much to handle they dispose of them by dropping them off at animal shelters. Currently many shelters euthanize all Pit bulls because they don’t know whether the dogs have been trained to fight or attack. How sad, to know these dogs keep paying the price for selfish human behavior. A Pit bull will not bite or attack just because it’s a pit bull, after all the dog doesn’t know what breed it is. Like Shawn Webster states “I don’t think that genetics plays nearly the role in a dog’s behavior that socialization and training play”(qtd in Jones).
A properly bred and raised Pit bull can be an excellent, docile pet. The key is having the right combination of healthy dog with owners that are mature and responsible and truly care for their pet; so these horrible child-killing dogs can and are loving pets, go figure. I can guarantee you for every horror story you hear in the news or read in the paper there is a happy, healthy Pit bull that is a great family dog. As stated by animal control officer, Ashley Clark “they are fine as pets…they are awesome dogs as pets as long as the owner is responsible”(Mayse).
Psychologist Clive Wynne says “You can say that it’s not just a dog’s breed but also the character of its owner that make the dog aggressive.”(Vicious dogs have vicious owners). With these measures in place and enforced we could dramatically see the number of bites go down. Would this measure guarantee to stop those most responsible for vicious and out of control dogs? Maybe, maybe not, but instead of just complaining about this problem lets be proactive instead of just reactive. These laws can be a great deterrent for those who exploit the dogs and endanger the community, the pit bull owners who breed and sell out of their backyards, keep their dogs penned and chained in deplorable conditions and do nothing to train or socialize them
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