A Sensible Vicious Dog Law
The town of New Bedford Massachusetts has come up with what is actually a good law in regards to dangerous/vicious dogs. Basically, the law is structured to focus on “the deed, not the breed”. That is, the law is geared to imposing penalties and restrictions on individual dogs that show signs of being dangerous/vicious.
“It goes after the deeds of the dog, the temperament it is showing,” said Mr. Maciel. Drafted by City Councilors Linda Morad and Jane Gonsalves along with Mr. Maciel’s office and various animal control groups, the ordinance avoids being breed-specific.
Instead, said Mr. Maciel, it allows animal control officers to judge a dog’s aggressiveness and actions before slapping restrictions, requirements and increased possible penalties on owners who ignore the rules.
He said a dozen dogs are now on the “dangerous and vicious” list, and only three are pit bull mixes. The others include a boxer, three German shepherds, a Rottweiler, Labrador retriever, “mini-pini” (Doberman)-chihuahua mix “and, unfortunately, a Boston terrier, the state dog,” he said.
This is exactly the right approach. Any dog can be vicious and size and breed are at best questionable guides in that regard. Take for example the chihuahua. Most people think that is an okay dog to own because of its small size. Even a young child could probably handle a chihuahua. However, chihuahuas are some of the most animal aggressive and human aggressive dogs. They also tend to be rather excitable and their small size could make it easier for a small child to injure or hurt the dog. While the latter might look like a possible benefit in terms of the child dealing with an aggressive chihuahua it could also mean that children will be more likely to have problems with this type of dog. Will a chihuahua kill a child? No probably not, but still it could inflict a nasty bite and since children like to do things like cuddle with dogs, that could mean getting bitten on the face or some other part of the body besides the ankle. So in this case, size is not a good indicator as to danger the breed poses.
At the same time a larger dog like the labrador retriever tends to be a stable even tempered dog. This dog passes temperment testing at one of the highest rates (and if we go with breeds that have had more than 200 dogs tested it has perhaps the highest pass rate). But this dog is also a medium sized dog and around infants and toddlers even an accident could send the child to the ground, off a chair or bed leading to injury.
A large part of the problem with dangerous/vicious dogs is that people often do not know how to behave around dogs and make for irresponsible owners. Did you get a cute little puppy that you failed to get neutered, licensed and usually spends the majority of its time alone in the backyard? I don’t care what breed you have, chances are your dog is more dangerous than the person who owns a rottweiler who has neutered his dog, licensed it, and the dog is well integrated into the family strutcture and well socialized around other people. Yet, most people would have the knee-jerk reaction of looking at the rottweiler as a death machine and the other dog as a lovable family pet.
Then there is the issue of training our children how to approach and deal with dogs. Dogs are ubiquitous in our society so it would be prudent for parents to periodically remind their children what do around dogs. Things like,
- Never approach a loose/stray dog.
- Never surprise a dog.
- Always ask the owner for permission to pet the dog.
- Let the dog sniff you before you try to give a hug.
- Never surprise a dog (e.g. wake it up by running up to pet it)
- Never run from a stray dog.
If more owners would spay/neuter their dogs, make sure they had a secure dog run, kennel, crate or back yard, socialized their dogs (and to be sure this is a continuous process), and train them in basic obedience there would be far, far fewer dog bites and maulings.
And for God’s sake treat your dog like a dog. I hate it when I hear peopel say, “They are babies,” or “I can’t help it, I spoil them.” Sorry, but you are a complete idiot. These are dogs and they should be treated as such. Trust me, the dog and you will be happier that way. It doesn’t mean you can’t love your dog, that you can’t buy it treats, or even let the dog sleep in your bed or take it with you when you go on trips. What it means is you should establish yourself as the pack leader, you should be set rules and boundaries for your dog, and when you give a command it should listen and follow the command. And if necessary, you may have to give the dog a job, even if it is something as mundane as carrying some water bottles in a doggie backpack during your walks.
And if you aren’t up for doing all of the above, then don’t get a dog. Get a cat, or even better get some goldfish. When you go out and get a dog you should be prepared for the commitments that such an action entails. Dogs are social/heirarchical creatures. They do well within the family and they languish and suffer outside of it. If you aren’t prepared to have a dog in your life, then you aren’t prepared to own a dog.
Still there are some bad parts to that article, IMO.
Dr. Dodman said any legislation ought to target breeders who purposely develop aggressive dogs. He cited the Doberman pinscher as one example of a dog that had a bad reputation, but has since had the aggressiveness removed through good breeding.
Karen Harght, co-owner along with Joan Hopkins of American Canine in Westport, concurred.
“When I was a child, Doberman pinschers had a horrible reputation. They were very aggressive, like pit bulls were. Then they kind of fell out of favor. And over the course of the last three decades the aggressiveness has been bred out of them. Now I see a lot of Dobermans that are sweet as pie.”
I don’t think that aggressivness has been breed out of the doberman, my guess is that since the breed is no longer the fad breed the many of breeders are responsible/reputable breeders who view themselves as “stewards of the breed”. These breeders are careful in what dogs they breed. First they’ll look at the overall health of the dog, then the temperment and only the best dogs with good marks in both areas will be bred. The rest will be spayed or neutered and placed as pets. Further, these breeders tend to be very rigorous when placing a dog. When the dog is in a fad phase every idiot with an unfixed dog looks to turn a quick buck through breeding their dog(s). They don’t worry too much, if at all, about health, and temperment isn’t even something they can judge. All dogs are placed with people unfixed and there are no conditions about taking the puppy back if things don’t work out. In this situtation you get badly bred dogs, dogs that wind up on the streets because their owners abadon them or lose them, and you have a much larger population of that dog. Hence dog attacks by that breed increase and they show up in the paper and you have the new “demon dog de jure”. This has been seen time and time again. Dobermans were the bad dog. Then german shepherds, St. Bernards, and Rottweilers and now pit bulls.
On the other hand, she said, “If I see an Akita, I turn around and go the other way.”
While the Akita isn’t a dog for your novice/first time dog owner this is just ridiculous. While there are quite a few dog bites every year (several million) there are tens of millions of dogs. And fatalities are even less frequent. Given this, the above attitude is emblematic of people simply not evaluating the risks correctly. If you get so nervous around an Akita that you head the other way, you probably should never go near a car, a pool, or take a bath or shower. Your risks of death/injury with all of these “safe” items probably far outstips any dangers posed by an Akita.
In New Bedford, Mr. Maciel said, the ordinance may require a succession of precautions to restrain and confine troublesome dogs, and fines for breaking the rules can be heavy, up to $600.
Bad dogs will be spayed or neutered and have a microchip implanted under the city ordinance, and annual licenses will cost more, along with the secure enclosures the city will require — and inspect.
Preventing the dogs from reproducing is the most important component, he said. “We don’t want them breeding and the offspring having the temperament of the mother and the father,” he said. “That way our community becomes safer.”
Somebody in the local government of New Bedford is guilty of having a brain.