Banning Breeds Is Short Sighted
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Recently in Quebec, there has been a lot of public concern in regards to dog attacks. Specifically in regards to attacks made by Pit Bulls. A lot of this revolves around a very recent Pit Bull attack that left a woman dead in her own back yard. It was a horrific incident, something that we should all pay attention, and should serve as a reminder that dogs can in fact be dangerous.
The municipality I live in took action independently, banning the "breed", and imposing some fairly strict requirements to grandfather in the Pit Bulls that are already present in th city. These include items such as having proof of completing obedience training, proof that the dog is microchipped, keeping the dog on a muzzle when in public, and having liability insurance of at least $250,000. The Quebec government is currently seriously contemplating creating similar guidelines province wide.
I have a few issues with this school of thought, which I'll try and quickly run through:
- "Pit Bull" isn't an actual breed of dog, and is a catch all term that groups several breeds together. It also includes animals that exhibit physical traits consistent with what is expected of a "Pit Bull". I'm not denying that these Pit Bull breeds (like the American Pit Bull Terrier or Bull Terrier) can't be dangerous. But a a poor definition for what a Pit Bull actually is can create headaches and complications for a lot of people.
- A large part of the problem is not with the dogs themselves, but with the people owning them. Sadly, these bully breeds often attract owners that are more concerned with the "illusion of toughness" that comes from owning such a dog, and don't give the animal the care, discipline and training that a demanding breed requires. What happens when you ban Pit Bulls is that these people will move onto another "tough" breed like Rottweilers or Dobermans. The problem then continues with just a different breed.
- Quebec has some of the most lax and downright ineffective set of laws when it comes to dog breeding. It is often referred to as the "Puppy Mill Capitol of North America", and for good reason. Sorry excuses for breeders will mass breed animals in utterly appalling conditions, and then sell them to anyone that wants one without doing any checks. In a lot of ways, we are creating our own problem by having underdeveloped dogs from overbred mothers which often results in both health and behavioral problems. This is a huge problem, and no government we've had seems to want to tackle it.
- As a society, we are lax with our dogs and don't tend to understand what a dog is capable. This includes Pit Bulls and every other dog you can think of. The amount of time I see dogs off leash is staggering. People tend to think they know their dog and how harmless it is, but the sheer number of different situations that can take the friendliest dog and make them dangerous is alarming. And that's the thing: Just about every dog is dangerous. From the strongest Pit Bull to the largest Great Dane to even the tiniest Schnauzer, they can all inflict harm. A ten pound dog still has very sharp teeth, and can use far more force than you'd think. Are they less likely to kill a person? Sure. But they can and have bitten children badly enough that they need cosmetic surgery to fix the damage. And this follows into the thought that far too few parents actually teach their kids how to behave around dogs. Dogs simply react. They get scared and are unable to understand the intricacies of what a chile doesn't know. Teaching a child how to approach a dog can save a lot of harm down the line.
Ultimately, the issue is a complex one and requires a lot of thought and study. A ban on a dog breed is an easy fix, but it's one that just doesn't solve the problem. It just changes the problem to a different one. Dog attacks absolutely are a problem, but how we try and deal with them is important. By going with a blanket ban on one subset of breeds, we're not dealing with the very real education, breeding and ownership issues that are the root of the problem. We need to be looking at real fixes, and not fake "make the public feel better" fixes that simply mask the problem.
Note: I chose the image for this post purposefully. I didn't pick a "cutesy" picture of a pit bull, nor did I pick one that shows a vicious attacker. I chose a picture that reflected what they are. Very strong, incredibly well muscled and attentive dogs. They require a lot of time and attention, and are absolutely NOT for everyone.