The Pit Bull Problem: Bad Dogs or Bad Owners and Bad Laws?
A woman in Washington was badly injured when a pit bull type dog and a pit bull mix breed dog got into her house and attacked her dog, the neighbors dog she was watching and then her. In the ensuing attack Ms. Gorman suffered extensive injuries to her face, arms, breast and upper body.
Apparently the dogs got into her house through a sliding glass door she left open during the night to allow her cats to go in and out. She forgot to secure the door so that it wouldn’t open wider thus allowing the pit bulls to push the door open and gain entry.
Again we can see how people have once again acted irresponsibly and have made it harder for those who own stable pit bull type dogs and take precautions to ensure that their dogs are properly contained.
The details aren’t very specific but it is clear that these dogs were roaming off their property. Further, that the pit bull, Betty, has had prior instances of aggression where animal control had to intervene. This type of dog is atypical for the breed and should have probably been euthanized once she showed signs of human aggression.
The problem here isn’t the breed of the dog as there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of pit bull type dogs and pit bull mixes that live with families as the family pet with no problems at all. The problem is two fold:
- Bad owners,
- A lax legal system that does not prosecute bad owners, or a lack of laws to prosecute bad owners.
Bad dog owners abound. A bad dog owner is somebody who has a blind spot to their dogs inappropriate behavior. For example, if the dog growls at a person while on a walk the owner might blame the person walking by instead of their dog for an inappropriate display of aggression. Even worse is if the owner then “comforts” their “baby” because of that “nasty person who was probably up to no good anyways.” This kind of thing would simply reinforce the dogs inappropriate behavior. There is a saying, “There is only one perfect dog in the world and every dog owner has that dog.”
Owners need to evaluate their dogs behaviors from an objective perspective as possible. For example, I know that my Rottweiler does not like to have even me crowding her when she is lying down and sleeping. Hugging her while she sleeps is not something that she wants me or anyone else to do. So when she is sleeping I don’t crowd her and I tell others not to as well. Also, she can be quite territorial and when somebody comes to the house unannounced I have to make sure she is calm before opening the door. My American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) on the other hand simply loves people and any and all types of attention, but she wants to attack every other dog other than my Rottweiler. As such my APBT never goes anywhere off leash, she is not allowed to socialize with any other dog, and dog parks are simply out of the question.
The legal problem is also quite serious in that it allows the bad owners to often get off with a slap on the wrist. Even if the victim goes after the owner in civil court if the owner has few or no assets even that might not allow for much of a punishment. And lets face it many of the people who own APBTs and other pit bull type dogs these days are not what you call pillars of the community. In this case though it looks like the owner of the dogs will be facing some serious charges including a felony charge that carries with it a maximum jail sentence of 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
I think this is exactly the kind of thing that needs to be put in place everywhere. If you own a dog and it is human aggressive or trained to attack people you, not the dog, should be the one who is held largely responsible. Often times all that happens is the person pays a fine, allows the dog to be euthanized, and that is about it. Putting in place laws that would hit these irresponsible owners with felony charges that included serious jail time might actually induce people to be more careful in what dogs they choose to own and how they train and treat them.
In short, laws like the one in Washington single out the deed and not the breed and put irresponsible owners on the hot seat. Focusing on the breed is wrong-headed for two reasons. First it can create a false sense of safety when it comes to fatal dog attacks or even severe non-fatal attacks. Second, the real problem are irresponsible owners and a breed ban does not address irresponsible owners, but it does harm responsible owners.