Mike the Mad Biologist

…put down bad owners instead? From Boston’s Universal Hub:

Boston Police report seizing a pit bull on Talbot Avenue in Dorchester Tuesday morning after its owner allegedly tried to sic the animal on the young daughter of a neighbor with whom she’s been feuding.

Police say the dog may be the same one involved in an incident earlier this month, during which a woman on Talbot Avenue allegedly laughed as her pit bull attacked a girl waiting for a school bus.

Police report on Tuesday’s incident:

While the officer spoke with the caller, a black female appeared with an un-muzzled pitbull. The caller’s young daughter was immediately frightened by the dog and jumped onto her mother. The officer ordered the female to restrain her dog to which she refused. The suspect began yelling at the caller and continued to threaten her. She stated, “I will be waiting for you when you get home.”

I’m serious: the dog isn’t the problem here. Granted, it’s hard to intimidate someone with a chihuahua (although you could certainly annoy someone to death) as opposed to a pit bull, but, still, the problem is that this owner is using her dog like a weapon. Why not jail the owner?

Comments

  1. #1 MonkeyPox
    October 29, 2009

    How do you feel about gun control?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    October 29, 2009

    Given similar conditions of being raised, a chihuahua is statistically more likely to bite a person than a pit bull. Actually, the data on dog bites by breed suck, but there is a reasonably demonstrable relationship between size and bittiness. Any dog can be trained to be nasty and bite, but assuming you don’t do that, small dogs are more likely to bite.

    There probably are some breed effects once you control for size, but they seem minuscule compared to ‘cultural’ effects.

  3. #3 monoboyzmom
    October 29, 2009

    It’s not the bite so much as the jaw size and strength behind it.

  4. #4 NewEnglandBob
    October 29, 2009

    Greg: bittiness? Is that in the OED?

    Mike, euthanize the dog and the owner feels the pain. (it also gets rid of a wrongly trained dog.)

  5. #5 mk
    October 29, 2009

    Greg and Mike…

    Are pit bulls not “naturally” aggressive? Are attacks by pits mostly because of poor training/cultural effects? They should otherwise be a perfectly safe family pet?

    Genuinely curious.

  6. #6 mk
    October 29, 2009

    Also, what were pits bred for?

  7. #7 mk
    October 29, 2009

    One other thing… shouldn’t the dog owner also get a little love? As she (through no fault of her own) was likely raised by an ignorant, mean parent(s) resulting in her mean, stupid behavior.

    Though I do think she should be visited by the authorities and possibly jailed or heavily fined. And I think the dog should be euthanized.

  8. #8 Tyler DiPietro
    October 29, 2009

    If you train a dog to be a weapon, it will behave as such. It doesn’t matter what the breed is, just about any medium to large sized dog can be pretty dangerous. Witness police using German Shepherds.

    If you ban pit bulls, then the irresponsible owners will simply switch to another breed. German Shepherds, Huskies, Rottweilers, you name. And then the same idiots behind the pit bull legislation will call for eliminating those breeds. Rinse, repeat.

    “How do you feel about gun control?”

    It’s rather perverse to compare non-living tools to animals that are capable of suffering under the conditions introduced by Breed-Specific Legislation.

  9. #9 Roadtripper
    October 30, 2009

    Seriously, gun control? When was the last time a gun slipped its leash and mauled somebody? Or bit someone and gave them rabies? And a gun will never, ever keep the neighbors awake barking all night, or pee on the floor.

    No dissing the guns!

    Rt

  10. #10 stripey_cat
    October 30, 2009

    mk – as I understand it, pitbull breeds were mostly bred to fight other dogs in very specific circumstances (ie in a pit!), for baiting (again in controlled situations), and for herd-work with large, semi-feral livestock. Attacking humans isn’t on the list. Lots of other breeds have had fighting roles (either herding, or against predators) in their ancestry, but because they’re less attractive to arseholes, they don’t have the same bad reputation. If there are human-aggressive, or excessively dog-aggressive, strains of pitbull (I’ve never met one, but I’ve only met sane Staffs, owned by sane people, from responsible breeders; but I’ll believe they exist – same as some jerks breed arab horses to be temperamental), then you could easily enough selectively breed from only the well-tempered strains for a few generations until you’ve bred out the aggression.

  11. #11 mk
    October 30, 2009

    stripey cat… thanks.

    I was eventually going to ask about breeding out behavior, or for that matter the breed itself. But I’ve never seen/heard talk of that.

  12. #12 Hepcat
    October 30, 2009

    Mike…it appears we have the chicken or the egg argument here; are pit bulls aggressive because bad owners make them that way, or are bad people attracted to the breed because they are aggressive? Actually, this is Animal Husbandry 101. You get what you breed for.

    Pit bulls were, and still are, primarily a working breed bred for blood sport. Dog fighters selectively bred for dogs that would win in the pit…the losers died in the fight, or were culled. The result was a dog which was fearless, had a high threshhold for pain, was extremely aggressive,(especially toward other dogs), and did not exhibit normal dog body language, since signaling intent was a liability for a fighting dog. Pit bulls became genetically different than other dogs….they didn’t respond to normal canine body language of submission; if another dog went belly up to show they meant no harm, the pit bull would simply disembowel it. The normal, animal instinct for self preservation was bred out of them…the most prized trait of a fighting dog is gameness, the ability to keep fighting despite mortal injuries and extreme pain. They were bred to have no “off” switch, once engaged in an attack.

    It is a popular myth that the old time dogmen culled “manbiters”, which resulted in a dog that was dog aggressive but not human aggressive. This is untrue, and there numerous writings by the dogmen themselves that prove otherwise…if a dog was in the money, he was bred.

    The current propaganda campaign regarding these dogs is fascinating; the humane groups anthropomorphize them into misunderstood victims, the dog-breeder lobby groups put huge resources into fighting against regualtion to guard their financial interests, and the professional dog fighters help fund these campaigns. But the truth is, genetics matter, and the majority of pit bull type dogs in this country are bred for dogfighting or to guard drug ops, by criminals, thugs, gang members, and losers looking to make a quick buck. You won’t find any organized effort on the part of any APBT or AmStaff breed club or group of breeders in this country to clean up the breed and breed away from dog aggression, (which often results in humans being attacked when a pit bull redirects its attack on a dog toward the nearest human trying to save it)

    Thnaks for the interesting discussion…until you have seen a pit bull do what it was bred to do….kill another dog in an unprovoked, violent attack…its hard to really understand whats at stake here.

  13. #13 MarylandDogFed
    October 30, 2009

    Hepcat: To others you may sound like you know what you’re talking about, but you don’t fool me. In my years of fighting perverse dog law, I have never seen a single penny from a dog fighter, nor have I ever produced a single dog. I fight bad dog law because it’s wrong, an unnecessary drain of tax dollars, and doesn’t work. You are absolutely WRONG to think the majority of “these dogs” are bred or owned by criminals or gangbangers. The majority of these average dogs are owned by average people. The majority of “these dogs” live out their lives peacefully, just as the vast majority of all dogs do. I know because I have known THOUSANDS of them, the overwhelming majority of them have good homes or have been happily rehomed.
    The day you see two little boys each hanging onto a beloved dog’s leg screaming to the police, begging him not to drag their dog away, the terrified dog never ever defending itself because it would never think to bite anybody, and those boys crying themselves to sleep for weeks clutching the dog’s toys, maybe you’ll understand breed bans are wrong.

  14. #14 Ermine
    October 31, 2009

    So Hepcat;

    [T]he majority of pit bull type dogs in this country are bred for dogfighting or to guard drug ops, by criminals, thugs, gang members, and losers looking to make a quick buck.

    You obviously *must* have some really good evidence to back up that amazing assertion, right? I’d love to see it!

  15. #15 G.D.
    October 31, 2009

    Well, I have no ideas about dog breeding or dogs. I don’t mind dogs, but I don’t feel particularly attracted to them, and I don’t know anything about dogs or various breeds. From that perspective it is kinda interesting to follow the debate here. I notice that MarylandDogFed doesn’t remotely address Hepcat’s points, and that it seems like Ermine completely misunderstands the assertion she’s quoting – the way I read it, I see it as an assertion about types of dogs, i.e. that most of these types of dogs (which I wouldn’t recognize if I saw them myself) were bred for fighting – not that the majority of individual dogs of these types in the country was bred for fighting. And that point is supported, not contradicted, by the previous commenters. The gun control analogy does seem apt to me (although I do, in all fairness, see the difference Tyler DePietro points out), and Greg Laden’s comment is bizarre at best (for the reason pointed out by monoboyzmom).

    My point is: From the perspective of someone who knows nothing about the topic in advance, and who doesn’t care very much one way or the other, I can see a lot of fallacies and bad reasoning here, wishful thinking, confirmation biases, fallacies of vivid examples, appeals to emotion, and primarily from those who oppose such a ban. It strikes me, unfortunately, as very well supported that emotional stakes affect critical thinking skills rather badly. Sorry dog-ban opponents, you have to kick your reasoning up a notch – this is painful.

  16. #16 marylanddogfed
    October 31, 2009

    GD: Gee, sorry you didn’t like my rhetorical skills. I guess I should have framed my answer in the form of riding a supercillious argument merry-go-round.

    I actually save my best stuff lawmakers, not forums.

    Many people on forums come from your perspective; of admittedly knowing nothing about the topic. I tend to defer to the true experts of their topics. I beg you do the same.

  17. #17 Hepcat
    October 31, 2009

    Interesting that my one post in a rather obscure (sorry Mike) Boston area blog attracted a response from a dog lobbying group from Maryland.

    As far as my assertion regarding the kinds of people breeding pit bulls, there are several markers I use. According to the animal rights coalition, Unconditional Love Foundation, about 1 in 600 pit bulls born survive to adulthood. In the Boston area, a look in any kill shelter reveals that pits and pit mixes comprise a majority of the dogs abandoned. In my Boston area suburb alone, we have had several, abandoned, wandering pit bulls. CL Boston and kijiji are full of people trying to unload unvetted litters of pit bull puppies…in some cases advertising fighting bloodlines to justify a higher price.

    Using the accepted standard of what constitutes a responsible hobby breeder, it is very difficult to find ANY responsible hobby breeders of APBT and AmStaff in New England….a responsible hobby breeder breeds ONLY titled dogs, breeds from a waiting list, does all genetic health screening on breeding stock (like OFA, etc.), screens prospective buyers carefully (requires vet references, proof of home ownership, etc.) has a s/n contract for pups going to pet homes, has no more than a few litters a year at MOST, is a respected member in good standing of the breed club, has a contract that requires the owners to return the dog to the breeder if they can no longer keep it….etc, etc. Because of the rampant temperament problems with the breed, I’ll add that all breeding stock would have a CGC.

    Dogs from responsible hobby breeders don’t end up in shelters, on Craigslist or in any on-line classifieds. Clearly, there is a problem with the overbreeding of these dogs by people who are only interested in making money and who are not capable of producing stable animals. The great irony of the dog lobby is that they fight against sensible breeding restrictions that would reduce the number of poorly bred animals that glut shelters and make headlines. Mandatory spay and neuter of all AKC and UKC PR dogs, plus microchipping, would not hurt one responsible pit bull owner, and would help shut down the dogfighting rings and the back yard breeders. This would help keep the dogs away from irresponsible owners, and give communities an alternative to outright bans.

  18. #18 Lora
    November 1, 2009

    Hepcat: “Using the accepted standard of what constitutes a responsible hobby breeder, it is very difficult to find ANY responsible hobby breeders of APBT and AmStaff in New England….a responsible hobby breeder breeds ONLY titled dogs, breeds from a waiting list, does all genetic health screening on breeding stock (like OFA, etc.), screens prospective buyers carefully (requires vet references, proof of home ownership, etc.) has a s/n contract for pups going to pet homes, has no more than a few litters a year at MOST, is a respected member in good standing of the breed club, has a contract that requires the owners to return the dog to the breeder if they can no longer keep it….etc, etc. Because of the rampant temperament problems with the breed, I’ll add that all breeding stock would have a CGC.”

    I found three pretty easily, just by looking up the Breeders List in the Staffordshire Terrier Club. That may not sound like many to you, but it’s about equivalent to the number of breeders I’ve been able to find for most working dog breeds–and far more than some of the less-popular working breeds like the Kuvasz, Anatolian, Komondor.

    I agree that there are terrible problems with overbreeding by backyard breeders, but that pretty much applies to all breeds these days–the most common shelter dog in my particular Boston area suburb are in fact Lab and GSD mixes, not Staffordshire mix. It goes through phases of whatever dog TV/Disney has made popular at the moment and whatever local abuse case happened to be busted for recently, as most anyone who works with shelters knows. Last year it was those little teacup dogs.

    However, I must disagree with you that a dog bred for fighting is necessarily a danger to be banned by breed–any dog that is improperly socialized, regardless of breed or size, is a danger. The dog I’ve seen with frequent bite/fighting problems further out in rural areas actually tends to be the Great Pyrenees: Ranchers buy/breed them for livestock guardians, then refuse to train them properly or fence their property at all, so the dogs are completely unsocialized to humans. In more suburban areas, you tend to see more unsocialized Retriever types with bite histories. I know for a fact that Tyler is right on this one, as I have lived in areas with breed-specific bans, and they never work–the jerks who want a badass dog just end up with Dobies, Rotties, GSDs or wolf mixes.

  19. #19 Hepcat
    November 2, 2009

    Which is exactly my point…there are three responsible AmStaff breeders in Ma., Ct., N.H., Me., Vt., and R.I….yet there are thousands upon thousands of dogs being produced. The number of responsible breeders is statistically insignificant.

    I agree that there are many working breeds that can be dangerous, and that were never really meant to be companion animals, including many livestock guardian breeds. However, Great Pyrs are still a fairly rare breed, and seldom seen in New England…there are fewer than 70 dogs listed in rescue on petfinder in all of the N.E. states. Conversely, I quickly found around 550 pit bulls listed (AmStaff Staffordshire Terrier, Pit Bull), and that doesn’t even include those listed under terrier, lab or boxers as mixes. And remember, many urban kill shelters do not post on Petfinder, so this is really just a drop in the bucket.

    If you have an abundance of retrievers and retriever hound mixes in your local rescue, they are most likely being imported from high-kill shelters down south. There is actually a shortage of adoptable, popular breeds in New England, which is why rescues are importing dogs from the south and PR (Save a Sato). Small breed toy dogs, chis, poodles, maltese, are not euthed in large numbers in N.E., they are usually adopted out quickly.

    My point is, I am sure there are laws we could craft that would control the rampant overbreeding of aggressive pit bulls,and not hurt the 3 individuals in N.E. who are responsible breeders…my suggestion above for mandatory s/n would not impact the breeders you mentioned.

  20. #20 Lora
    November 2, 2009

    I am sure there are laws we could craft that would control the rampant overbreeding of aggressive pit bulls

    And then will you pass another law to curb the overbreeding of aggressive GSDs? And then the overbreeding of aggressive Dobies? And then a fourth law to deal with overbred Akitas?

    I’m also wondering how exactly you propose to enforce such laws, considering that the people who run these operations do not get busted for dogfighting as it is, unless it’s an extremely high-profile case like Michael Vick. They’re not the most law-abiding citizens to begin with, and they are at least semi-organized in terms of $$$. We already have laws about animal cruelty and illicit gambling rings, which are clearly being flaunted, and law enforcement doesn’t have resources to deal with them. Would this law also increase tax revenues specifically for this purpose? I just don’t see how it would even work, unless it was to add an extra fine for someone who was already in court on other animal cruelty-type charges.

  21. #21 Diana
    November 3, 2009

    I’ve been bitten way too many times by dogs (two of the bites I’ve had as an adult were all dogs coming at me from behind while I was walking or standing still and the other was pulling two small off-leash terriers off my on-leash dog). All of these cases resulted from bad owners. None of them were pit-types.

    The only time I was scared by a dog was when a pit-type dog tried to chew out of a parked car to get at me and my dog while we were walking past. It was truly frightening to see the dog biting and clawing at the window, the window frame and the door in an effort to get at us. So I understand the desire to ban pit bulls.

    My big question, though, is how do you define a pit bull? To the best of my knowledge these fighting dogs aren’t registered anywhere. And who decides whether a dog is a pit bull or not? I do believe that breeding fighting dogs results in dogs who are more likely to fight (and bite) but how do you find out about the personally of the dogs’ parents without public records? Add to that the fact that I have seen multiple news stories on dog bites that repeatedly misidentified the breed (one of my ‘favorites’ showed a Basset Hound which the anchor identified as a German Shepard).

    What is the solution? Stronger leash law enforcement. Strict penalties for owners whose dog bites either a person or another dog. I can get behind those. Punishing well behaved well raised dogs because of their physical type? Not so much.

  22. #22 Caltech
    November 8, 2009

    I whole-heartedly agree, it’s the owners who are the savage monsters, not their pets.

    Lock up the owners and give the dogs to worthy homes.

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