In an increasing trend cities are now beginning to ban certain breeds from residing in their cities, namely American Pit Bull Terriers. As a reaction to the dogs mauling and even killing people numerous cities have placed bans on these dogs. Some of the bans grandfather in existing pit bulls, allowing no new dogs in the city, and others require owners to turn in their dogs for euthanasia, prompting owners to flee the city or hide their dogs. But what is the real issue here? Are the dogs to blame or is it the owners? Are breed bans legitimate, or unfair?
It’s in Their Blood
Folks who are for the breed bans often proclaim that viciousness is part of some breed’s genetic makeup. According to a study done by the CDC, 66 dog bit related fatalities were committed by pit bulls. However, there were 238 fatalities committed by dogs of unknown breeds, a far larger number than pit bulls. Also, breeds connected with vicious bites include the little West Highland Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, and popular Collie. Would people suggest that fighting is in these breed’s blood?
Close your eyes and imagine for a moment what you would think of as a stereotypical pit bull owner. Gang members, drug dealers, do any of these stereotypes come to mind? While not everyone who owns a pit bull is shady, there are a fair amount of pit bull owners who are, and they like the breed precisely for its vicious image. These people want a dog which they can use to scare other people with, for practical purposes or simply because they think it is cool. A dog is mostly a product of its upbringing; after all domestic dogs in general were shaped solely by human intervention. Therefore, even if you take a breed such as the pit bull away, people will find another breed to turn into their own personal vicious bodyguards.
When you take a puppy from his mother and bring him home you are inserting him into a totally alien world where no one speaks his language and insisting he learn your ways. Now, the only way he can even begin to do this is with the proper socialization. How does he learn how he should act in public? By experiencing it of course. Dogs can’t read a book or watch a tape in order to learn, they have to have experiences. If all a dog has ever known is one house, or one room, then he is going to be frightened and potentially aggressive towards anything that is unfamiliar. Breed bans prevent proper socialization of dogs. People are either required to keep the dogs in their homes or have to hide them. Breed bans essentially take away the best method of teaching a dog to interact positively with humans.
At the end of the day, though the dog committed the crime, the human owner is ultimately responsible. Breed bans may temporarily get rid of dog attacks, but sooner or later a new large and powerful breed will arise to take the pit bulls place. Ultimately we will only be left with tiny Yorkies and Chihuahuas. If we want to stop dog attacks then we must place the burden of responsibility on the owners, and have more control over who can own animals. After all, we don’t let felons have guns, why would we let dangerous persons have deadly dogs? We need to ensure each dog has a loving home where he will be brought up to think that people are good and the world is friendly. Only then will breed bans become a thing of the past.