Blame the Owner Not the Breed

One of the things that gets me about people and their attitudes towards the American Pit Bull Terrier (and other bully breeds such as the American Bull Dog, the American Staffordshire Terrier, etc.) is that they tend to read a story like this and conclude the breed is the problem.

Charges of reckless conduct and felony charge of failure to maintain a dangerous dog were filed initially against Mr. Davis this summer after his three pit bulls allegedly killed a 14-year-old German shepherd belonging to Colona resident Rocci Mascari on June 30. Those charges were dismissed, because additional investigation was needed, according to Henry County assistant state’s attorney James Cosby.

The dog, Leather, suffered wounds to her head, with blood in both ear canals, a puncture wound to her lower left jaw, and multiple lacerations throughout her body during the attack, according to Mr. Mascari. A lawsuit filed last week by Mr. Mascari alleges Mr. Davis allowed five pit bulls to run about without a leash on the Davis property near Mr. Mascari’s home. The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 from Mr. Davis and his mother, Judy Davis and L.D. Davis Construction.

If the facts are indeed as described, that Mr. Davis allowed his 5 pit bulls to roam around (off his property) and without being on a leash and unsupervised, then quite simply put he is a horrible dog owner and is indeed deserving of criminal prosecution. In fact, I’d go even further to agree with Mr. Mascari that the it is a damn shame the law doesn’t allow for a more serious punishment of Mr. Davis.

It is irresponsible and even criminal owner of bully breeds that give the breeds a bad name and potentially lead to breed specific legislation/bans. The truth is that any dog can be dangerous with an irresponsible owner. Take for example this story.

Anthony Romaro got the scare of his life Wednesday night when two Akita dogs, each weighing about 100 pounds, attacked him near his best friend’s home in Coral Springs. But another kind of dog — a type also known for vicious attacks — may have saved the boy from more serious injuries.

Witnesses said a 2-year-old pit bull named Missy played the part of hero during the attack. Missy, witnesses say, pulled the two Akitas — Cella and Baci — off Anthony after several struggles during a 15-minute span.

Anthony, a 7-year-old Hunt Elementary School second-grader, is recovering after surgery at
Coral Springs Medical Center. The dogs ripped much of Anthony’s left ear and bit his skull before Missy fought them off of him, said Anthony’s mother, Stephanie McGuire. ”He’s doing
better today,” McGuire said on Friday.

[snip]

Police and witnesses said Anthony and some friends were outside Ashley’s home when the
dogs escaped just before 7 p.m. Wednesday. ”The dogs got out of the house,” said Sgt. Rich
Nicorvo of the Coral Springs Police Department. “They bit him pretty bad.” Scott, the pit bull’s
owner who lives next door, was drinking coffee outside his house when the attack started. He
handed another witness a metal pipe to get the Akitas off Anthony. The unidentified person
used the pipe to hit the dogs, but they continued attacking. ”They were really mauling him,”
said Scott, whose son, James, is Anthony’s best friend.

Scott then let Missy out of the house to break up the fight. Police did not document any
information about the pit bull.

This isn’t surprising to anyone who has owned a bully breed. They have been breed to be friendly to humans, and that Missy would protect somebody she probably new is to be expected.

Still, as I have stressed before, the APBT and any bully breed is not for everyone. They require more in terms of socialization with other dogs if you are to minimize the risk of dog-on-dog aggression and fights. Also, APBTs and other bully breeds need a healthy dose of exercise (e.g. last night I took my dogs on a 2 mile walk, which at the end of a full work day is not something I always look forward too). Make sure that wherever you keep the APBT is escape proof. If you have another dog you’ll have to seperate the dogs so that a fight can’t break out while nobody is around to break it up (the APBT may not start the fight, but it will finish it). And since the chances are good that the APBT will get into a fight owning a breaking/parting stick is something you should always take with you when you leave your house/property. And when you leave your house/property make sure the dog is leashed. Also, dog parks are probably out, at least once the dog hits about 10 months of age or so. And teach your dog the four basic commands as well (sit, stay, down and come). If you aren’t willing or don’t have the time to do all, and I mean all, of the above then you are not a good candidate to own any bully breed. If you want a “bad ass” dog, a dog to guard your property, etc., please be advised that you are a complete idiot.

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Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Russ says:

    Speaking as one who, when a small child, was mauled by a dog, I’m inclined to agree with your premise. It is the owner and the training, not the breed itself, which is to blame.

    Admittedly, some dogs are by virtue of their breed more capable of injuring or killing — let’s face it, no matter how ferocious, a chihuahua doesn’t scare many people. But it is in the rearing, training and socializing of the animal that its behavior, for better or worse, is shaped.

  2. just me says:

    Poor training and lack of socialization can make any dog a mean dog. Poor behavior in dogs says much more about the owner than the dog’s breed does. As for training-I think anyone who isn’t willing to teach their dog the basics of behavior, probably should stick to houseplants.

    My brother in law has a couple of bull type dogs-they aren’t pit bulls, but some other bulldog, and they are mostly big old babies. I have never seen them aggressive around kids-I haven’t seen them around other dogs, so can’t speak to that.

  3. floyd says:

    ask SIEGFREID & ROY about the safety of well trained animals. you know what they say; “YOU CAN’T FOOL MOTHER NATURE”. i know how to safely run my chainsaw, but i won’t run it around children or unprotected adults.

  4. Tano says:

    I dont follow your logic here. You seem annoyed at attitudes that focus on the particular breed, and seem to consider breed-specific legislation as anathema, but then lay out a pretty convincing case that these breeds should only be in the care of well-trained, highly responsible individuals (such as yourself). And that, failing such standards of care and supervision, the dogs are, in fact, dangerous.

    Well, we dont have doggy-owner liscensing regulations, and I suspect you would oppose that. And given the general level of irresponsibility in the population at large, then banning such breeds seems rather reasonable. Its not like there arent dozens of other breeds that people can own.

    Lets be real here. These are not “natural” animals. They have been artificially selected for certain traits. It is rather disingenuous to absolve the breed and just blame the irresponsible owners. What it amounts to saying is that with proper, insightful, skilled training, care and discipline, these dogs can be controlled. Well, for animals that are going to live in a society teeming with children and other animals, it shouldnt take such attentive training, care and discipline in order prevent disasters happening. Who nees this crap? And what is the great attraction of owning a “bully” pet anyway?

  5. ravin says:

    My friends have an American Staffordshire and a small child. That dog has always been protective of both of my children, and since they had their baby she’s been no different. She’s never harmed anyone, though she has, on rare occasions, let out a small growl if she feels playtime gets too rough. When all of the kids are together, she will trot from room to room checking on them, and if a baby cries, she’s immediately there. The kids can crawl all over her, and her only reaction if she gets tired of it is to get up and move across the room.

    She also travels to the homes of other friends, who have other dogs. She knows them all, and they all get along very well together. She sometimes stays with the other dogs to keep her busy when her owners are on vacation.

    Based on this, and on the aggressive dogs I’ve seen relative to their owners, I’m going to agree that training and socialization mean a LOT more than breed. Every aggressive dog I’ve known has either been trained to be that way out of some misguided notion of what a watchdog is, or basic training has been neglected and the dog never learned proper behavior.

    Floyd, both entertainers knew the dangers of the animals. Based on later reports, the tiger was trying to HELP at the time of the accident, by dragging him to safety, away from the crowd, after he had a heart attack on stage. All animals are animals, and accidents can happen. So care should always be taken. But an animal’s personality and behavior have a lot to do with how it’s raised and treated.

  6. ravin says:

    I should add that the dog I mentioned has never had a formal training class. Her owners have simply made it clear who’s boss, encouraged good behavior, and made it clear that bad behavior is not acceptable. And made sure she was always socialized with people and other animals.

    No purebred dog is a ‘natural’ animal, they are all bred for certain qualities. Tano, you make it seem like you need a PhD in dogs to own this breed and control it, which isn’t true. You just need to put a little time and effort into it, which you should do with any dog. Any dog will have behavior problems if you don’t put at least some effort into training it and socializing it.

    I’m not saying that you won’t find the occasional ‘bad dog’, cuz you will. And you should always take a breed’s personality into account before you bring one into your life. (A lot of people get active dogs that they can’t handle and end up having to get rid of them.) But most dogs are trainable.

    I think some of the reasons for owning a bully dog are that people just like the way the dog looks, much like some people like, say, the way poodles look, or that regardless of their behavior, they LOOK like watchdogs, which deters intruders. Kind of like a husky looks intimidating, even though it’s more likely to run up with a wagging tail than to chase someone off. Personally, I like border collies. I couldn’t tell you exactly why I like border collies, as opposed to dogs with similar qualities, much like I can’t tell you exactly why I like mint chocolate chip ice cream more than rocky road.

  7. What you are talking about applies to just about every breed of dog, though some of the statistics vary. Yes a dachshund won’t be as much a danger and would probably not even do well on a 2 mile walk, but it still requires an owner to meet its needs.

    As an aside, when I was a very young child (younger than the boy who was attacked), we had a dachshund and a cat (Siamese). They were purchased as pup and kitten, so grew up together. If one was lying down, the other would likely go lie down next to/on them. The dachshund had a habit of picking fights with neighbor dogs. The fights were very predictable with the dachshund being in a ball, held by the scruff of the neck by the other dog and being shaken within a minute of the fight starting. He just wasn’t much of a fighter. But the fight usually ended before the second minute. The cat would hear the commotion, and come running. While the dog the dachshund attack was concentrating on shaking the dachshund, the cat would jump on its head, bite the dogs ear, dig in with the front paws and start scratching the eyes out of the dog doing the shaking. The sudden change in what was going on would inevitably make the dog open their mouth to drop the dachshund, and concentrate on getting rid of the cat. The dachshund would run off home to be doctored up, the dog who had been doing the shaking would usually be glad to run off when the cat jumped off, or at worse would get frustrated when the cat ran up a tree and pretended it had no idea why there was a dog with a bloody face barking at the base of the tree.

    So we had to keep our dachshund inside or on a leash to protect the neighborhood dogs. Not because the dachshund was a threat, but because the cat would very effectively end any fight the dachshund started.

  8. Steve Verdon says:

    Tano,

    There are so many problems with your comment.

    I dont follow your logic here. You seem annoyed at attitudes that focus on the particular breed, and seem to consider breed-specific legislation as anathema, but then lay out a pretty convincing case that these breeds should only be in the care of well-trained, highly responsible individuals (such as yourself). And that, failing such standards of care and supervision, the dogs are, in fact, dangerous.

    As YAJ has already pointed out most of the recommendations follow for any dog, especially large breed dogs. Dogs are social creatures that will live in a hierarchy, as such the human owners need to socialize their dog and provide the heirarchical structure. Failing in the latter the dog will do its best (which is never good since it is only a dog living with humans in a human world) to establish the hierarchy with itself at the top.

    Well, we dont have doggy-owner liscensing regulations, and I suspect you would oppose that. And given the general level of irresponsibility in the population at large, then banning such breeds seems rather reasonable. Its not like there arent dozens of other breeds that people can own.

    There you go again making assumptions about what I think. No, showing that you understand the special issues with owning a bully breed and any large powerful breed would probably be a good idea. This goes for rottweilers, akitas, german shephards, labradors, dobermans, dogo argentina, presa canarios, etc.

    Also, cars are very dangerous items and kill far more people than dogs do every year, same with booze when combined with cars. Should we ban those? By your reasoning the answer is an unequivocal yes. And yes, there are dozens of other breeds that irresponsible owners can own that are if anything possibly more dangerous. Rottweilers and presa canarios never had any breeding to reduce human aggression. Would you be happier with a 130 pound rott or 110 pound presa next door to you, or the well breed, well socialized American Pit Bull Terrier?

    Lets be real here. These are not “natural” animals. They have been artificially selected for certain traits. It is rather disingenuous to absolve the breed and just blame the irresponsible owners.

    No, but ‘we’, as in us humans, created them. They are a product of what we wanted the dogs had no say in it. To ban them (i.e. euthanize all of them) is simply grotesque and highlights the hubris and despicable nature of mankind, IMO. When we create something we feel we can no longer control we destroy it. Is that what you are saying?

    What it amounts to saying is that with proper, insightful, skilled training, care and discipline, these dogs can be controlled.

    This is true for any and all dogs, but given the bad rap the American Pit Bull Terrier has gotten it is even more true. The people who appreciate this breed need to take extra steps to demonstarte to the ignorant, such as yourself, that these dogs are not inherently any more dangerous than any other dog.

    Well, for animals that are going to live in a society teeming with children and other animals, it shouldnt take such attentive training, care and discipline in order prevent disasters happening. Who nees this crap? And what is the great attraction of owning a “bully” pet anyway?

    As ravin has already noted, they make great family pets. The stories like the one with Missy is not isolated. There are dozens more out there that I have found, and probably more that I haven’t. As for your complaint, why aren’t you arguing to get rid of cars, handguns, and drugs? They are far, far more deadly and far, far more likely to kill children than a responsibly breed and socialized dog, be it a APBT or another large breed dog.

    ask SIEGFREID & ROY about the safety of well trained animals. you know what they say; “YOU CAN’T FOOL MOTHER NATURE”. i know how to safely run my chainsaw, but i won’t run it around children or unprotected adults.

    Floyd, are you really this stupid? The domesticated dog is not a wild animal. The domesticated dog is not as large and powerful as a full grown tiger. As for your chainsaw analogy, your are quite right, which is why the responsible dog owner should take similar precautions. Banning dogs would be like throwing out your chainsaw. As I said, stupid.

    So, why don’t you trot on out the garage and toss that evil vicious chainsaw in the garbage…oh and disable it first so some other unsuspecting fool does not run afoul of it.

  9. floyd says:

    well steve; life is like a box of chocolates…..

  10. ravin says:

    Lol, I got a bit verbose, I know. But I get tired of that sort of thing. People blame the dog instead of blaming irresponsible pet owners. If you don’t have the time or inclination to deal properly with whatever kind of pet you chose, then you shouldn’t have a pet.

  11. […] Outside Beltway – One of the things that gets me about people and their attitudes towards the american pit bull Terrier (and other bully breeds such as the American Bull Dog, the American Staffordshire Terrier, etc.) is that they tend to read a story like this and . https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2006/09/blame_the_owner_not_the_breed/ […]

  12. […] Outside Beltway – This goes for rottweilers, akitas, german shephards, labradors, dobermans, dogo argentina, presa canarios, etc. Also, cars are very dangerous items and kill far more people than dogs do every year, same with booze when combined with cars. Should we . https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2006/09/blame_the_owner_not_the_breed/ […]

  13. […] Outside Beltway – One of the things that gets me about people and their attitudes towards the American Pit Bull Terrier (and other bully breeds such as the American Bull Dog, the American Staffordshire Terrier, etc.) is that they tend to read a story like this and . https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2006/09/blame_the_owner_not_the_breed/ […]

  14. […] Outside Beltway – Anthony Romaro got the scare of his life Wednesday night when two Akita dogs, each weighing about 100 pounds, attacked him near his best friend?s home in Coral Springs. But another kind of dog ? a type also known for vicious attacks ? may have . https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2006/09/blame_the_owner_not_the_breed/ […]

  15. […] Outside Beltway – Anthony Romaro got the scare of his life Wednesday night when two Akita dogs, each weighing about 100 pounds, attacked him near his best friend?s home in Coral Springs. But another kind of dog ? a type also known for vicious attacks ? may have . https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2006/09/blame_the_owner_not_the_breed/ […]

  16. […] Outside Beltway – One of the things that gets me about people and their attitudes towards the American pit bull terrier (and other bully breeds such as the American Bull Dog, the American Staffordshire Terrier, etc.) is that they tend to read a story like this and . https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2006/09/blame_the_owner_not_the_breed/ […]