Massachussetts Might Ban Pit Bulls

GiaOddly enough nothing about other dangerous breeds such as rottweilers, at least in this article. And as an owner of both a pit bull and a rottweiler, I have to say that is indeed curious. After all, rottweilers are large powerful breeds, typically larger than most pit bulls (my rottweiler, female, weighs in at about 120 pounds). Rottweilers are working dogs and part of the job is guarding. As such they didn’t go through the same breeding process that sought to eliminate human aggression that pit bulls (American Pit Bull Terriers, and American Staffordshire Terriers) went through. And female rottweilers are noted for being somewhat territorial. Not that I advocate breed specific legislation aimed at any large breed powerful dog such as rottweilers.

The problem with these laws is that they treat the symptom and not the problem. When you look at dog related fatalities statistics you’ll see that over time the number of fatalities attributed to a given breed changes. At one time St. Bernard’s were considered the big ferocious dog (could this be why Cujo was a St. Bernard and not a pit bull or rottweiler?). Dobermans, German Shepherds have also been in the “hot seat” as the “dangerous breed” that will kill a baby on sight. So the idea that we can simply ban a breed and dog related fatalities will decline is probably specious reasoning considering that the number of dog related fatalities tends to be vary only slightly over time.

So what is the problem? Bad owners. The owner who gets a dog and puts in the back yard and then only sees the dog when they feed and water it. The owner who wants a dog to protect his property and or person and fulfill the role as a family pet. The worst of all is the owner who wants a vicious dog for either fighting or to intimidate others. Ban a breed and kill all dogs of that breed and these owners will simply move on to another breed. The chow-chow, the akita, the bull mastiff, the cane corso, etc. Until the issue of bad owners is addressed the problem with dog related fatalities and dog bites will not change.

For example, we took our dogs to the UCLA Festival of Books. This event draws in thousands of people to the UCLA campus. While there we saw other people with dogs too. Most were small lap dogs. While we were walking amongst the booths there were indeed issues with dogs…other people’s dogs. A bichon friese type dog wanted to try going up against my pit bull. This dog was in a frenzy to get at my pit. I have taught my pit bull, Petunia, that such aggressive behavior displeases me, so she ignored the yappy little monster. Later while walking down the hill near Janss Steps a pomeranian like dog went bonkers and aggressively charged my rottweiler. Later a pug decided that it would start barking and acting very aggressively as my pit bull passed by. In all cases my dogs were very well behaved and the cute little cuddle “safe” dogs were the ones going psychotic.1

Or answer this question: My son has been around a german shepherd, a rottweiler, rottweiler mix, shih tzu, a golden retriever, golden lab, and a pit bull. Guess which one bit him on the cheek?

Then there is a more disconcerting problem with the arguments for banning specific breeds of dog. The argument is that a dog is considered dangerous/vicious simply by the fact that it belongs to a given breed. There is no attempt to judge the dog as an individual. Now, take a look at crime statistics by race, and as Michael Graham noted, you should find yourself in a very uncomfortable place.
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1To be sure, my dog has a problem with dog aggression. But unlike most dog owners I keep a close eye on my dog when I know another dog is around. At the first sign that Petunia is getting wound up, I will let her know not too. Usually all that is needed is putting my hand on her head and saying, “No,” other times a sit command can stop her. These other owners, they do everything wrong. They don’t know another dog is near them until their dog is in a frenzy. Then they start tugging on the leash, pick up the dog and start giving affection to the dog. This merely reinforces that kind of behavior. Dogs usually get affection when they do something right (e.g. follow a command).

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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. Tlaloc says:

    So what is the problem? Bad owners.

    True, but inbreeding is another factor. Keeping the species pure bred leads them to be awful quirky. Mutts are so much healthier.

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    Another example of how not to form public policy. Emotions, poor information, unfounded fears, and just plain ignorance all collide to push legislators into this kind of nonsense. Perhaps it needs to be harder to pass laws in all of the states.

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    True, but inbreeding is another factor. Keeping the species pure bred leads them to be awful quirky. Mutts are so much healthier.

    A well breed pit bull will have a very sound personality. And mutts can inherit all the problems that the pure breed parents had, so the conclusion is highly dubious at best.

    Steve,

    Yep, that is pretty much the problem.

  4. Steph says:

    If you’re not busy from 8-10 central on Sunday nights I think you’ll really enjoy listening to Pet Central at wgnradio.com listen live.

  5. Triumph says:

    So what is the problem? Bad owners.

    A better solution is to restrict all dogs from public places. This has been done with other animals to great success.

    There is no attempt to judge the dog as an individual. Now, take a look at crime statistics by race, and as Michael Graham noted, you should find yourself in a very uncomfortable place.

    This idiotic PETA animal rights argument is silly. Animals shouldn’t be accorded the same rights as humans. Dogs, in general, are public nusiances. If people want to keep them, for whatever reason, that’s fine. But society shouldn’t bend over backwards to accomodate them in public places. Restricting them to private places would achieve this.

  6. laura says:

    I agree about the owners. My neighbor’s pom is under house arrest for biting the mailmman.

    I think a cycle develops. A breed gets the rep for being aggressives so the pathetic losers who need to make themselves feel mightier through dog ownership go to that breed and encourage aggressiveness, so that incidents of aggression correlate to the breed with encourgages the wrong people to to buy the breed….

    Ultimately the owners need to be held accountable.

  7. floyd says:

    I’m sure you’re in a lot more danger around a pit bull than around some guy exhaling tobacco smoke, and they banned him!

  8. James McDonald says:

    Why not just require liability insurance for all animals, and let the market price the dangerous ones out of reach (or convince their owners to convince an insurance company that the public is safe)?

    Make it cover all expenses related to an attack, with no-fault coverage. (I.e., if attacked, you automatically get paid accordingly to some schedule, with strong standards required for any other action to be considered by a court.)

    In short, internalize the currently external costs, and minimize the legal overhead.

    Too simple?

  9. Tano says:

    “mutts can inherit all the problems that the pure breed parents had”

    Well, actually not. The whole point of inbreeding being a problem is that it greatly increases the probability of an offspring inheriting two copies of a rare recessive gene, one that might be problematical.

    With recessive genes of course, you dont get the problematical phenotype unless two copies are present. Outbreeding (i.e. mutts) greatly reduces the probability of getting two copies.

  10. Steve Verdon says:

    Well, actually not. The whole point of inbreeding being a problem is that it greatly increases the probability of an offspring inheriting two copies of a rare recessive gene, one that might be problematical.

    With recessive genes of course, you dont get the problematical phenotype unless two copies are present. Outbreeding (i.e. mutts) greatly reduces the probability of getting two copies.

    Sure, and responsible breeders are aware of the problems of inbreeding and there is the issue of culling when inbreending is done. Still the idea that mutts don’t have the “problems” the purebred dogs have is somewhat misleading. Crossing a pit bull (extremely game dog) with a bull mastiff (possibly human aggressive) can result in a very unfortunate mutt…one that is extremely game–i.e. wont quit unless killed–along with being humand aggressive.

    This, once again, goes back to bad owners–crossing two breeds that shouldn’t be crossed–to get something that the idiots want (e.g. a living weapon).

    And such a “hybrid” might get around such BSLs. That is the owner could claim the dog is a mastiff just as easily as claiming it is a “pit bull”.

  11. Tano says:

    Oh, so there is such a thing as a genetically determined “living weapon”?

    Should such mutts be banned?

  12. just me says:

    I kind of like the idea of requiring some kind of liability insurance.

    I think banning specific breeds is dumb. In general I think it is safe to assume that all dogs can be aggressive, if provoked, mistreated, startled etc. Some dog breeds may tend to be more aggressive than others, but a well trained aggressive breed isn’t going be as dangerous as a poorly trained dog of any breed.

  13. Steve Verdon says:

    Oh, so there is such a thing as a genetically determined “living weapon”?

    Should such mutts be banned?

    No, that is what these irresponsible owners want and why they go for the pit bulls. And to that end they’ll train their dogs to act in that manner up to and including abusing such dogs.

    I kind of like the idea of requiring some kind of liability insurance.

    Many insurance companies already require this if you own a home. Get a certain breed and you’ll have to get additional insurance. Of course, this is usually based on popular press reports and has damn little data to back it up. After all, pit bulls weren’t added to these lists until after they started hitting the papers as the man-killing-dog de jure. Consider the fact the American Pit Bull Terrier has been in this country for over 150 years without being considered the monster it is today.

  14. PK says:

    Brilliant idea Steve. btw. I really enjoyed reading all of your posts. It’s interesting to read ideas, and observations from someone else’s point of view… makes you think more. Keep up the good work. Greetings

  15. Andy says:

    Your dog is named Petunia?

    That is ridiculous.

    Because that’s my dog’s name too.

  16. Steve Verdon says:

    Yep, the pit bull is named Petunia, and the rottweiler is named Gia.

  17. floyd says:

    Mr. McDonald; Your idea has merit!
    ————————————–
    Just Me; Sure, all dogs can be aggressive!
    How many people have been killed or hospitalized by “killer yorkies”