Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Vicious Dog, Vicious Owner?

According to a study of dog owners, people who own vicious and dangerous dogs, like pit bulls, have significantly more criminal convictions than the owners of tamer breeds. A vicious dog was defined as a breed that, without provocation, has killed or seriously injured a person, killed a dog, or was a pit bull. It excluded guard dogs and law enforcement canines.

Could this be used as a new form of profiling? (Continued below the fold….)

The study included 355 dog owners in Ohio, and was published in the Dec edition of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. The results showed that 30% of people who owned a vicious breed and had been cited at least once for failure to register it, had at least five criminal convictions of traffic citations; compared to only 1% of gentler breed owners who licensed their dogs.

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“Owners of vicious dogs who have been cited for failing to register a dog (or) failing to keep a dog confined on the premises … are more than nine times more likely to have been convicted for a crime involving children, three times more likely to have been convicted of domestic violence … and nearly eight times more likely to be charged with drug (crimes) than owners of low-risk licensed dogs,” said Jaclyn Barnes of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

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The explanation for their results seems unsurprising: aggressive people may choose to own aggressive pets.

“One can argue that choosing to own a vicious dog is a marker of social deviance because a vicious dog is, by definition, a socially deviant animal,” said Barbara Boat, director of The Childhood Trust at the University of Cincinnati, who worked on the study. “We suggest, regardless of dog breed, that failure to license a dog is a potential warning sign of other deviant behavior,” they wrote.

Full-text article here.

Comments

  1. #1 tbell
    November 20, 2006

    Cue the pit bull apologists to chime in with their anecdotes about what a sweet animal their particular pit bull is.

  2. #2 Blas
    November 20, 2006

    license a dog ?

    I will appreciate anyone that can direct me to dog/pet ownership regulations.

    e.g.:
    anyone can buy any dog?
    all dogs are sterilized?
    how do you take it in a park or public place?, tied?, I lack the word for “bozal” which is a device to protect the mouth of the dog so he can“t bite.
    do you have to care for your dog“s depositions?

    Another subject I find interesting is the psychological aspects of choosing a dog, many people project their desired image (strengh, size, etc).

  3. #3 coturnix
    November 20, 2006

    Well, I have a sweet little female toy poodle. Next time, when I get a Great Dane, I’ll have to consider a career in crime, I guess.

  4. #4 Shelley Batts
    November 20, 2006

    All dogs you’d buy at Humane Societies and many shelters are sterlized, but if you buy from a breeder it is unlikely. You’d take it to the vet to get it ‘fixed’ yourself unless you planned to breed. If your dog hurts anyone, you are responsible and in many cases can be prosecuted, or at least fined. So while muzzles aren’t required they are a good precaution if your dog bites.

    As for registration, I’m not sure as I’ve never owned a dog. Maybe someone else can answer that.

  5. #5 quitter
    November 20, 2006

    This sounds dead on. I’ve got anecdotes up the wazoo to support this, from our neighbors who left their 14 animals outdoors all year long chained to stakes (they were breeding them for fighting and Virginia doesn’t have the laws to stop it without them committing obvious violations), to my friends’ neighbors who moved out and left their pit bull chained up in the back yard for two days before they realized what happened and called the humane society.

    It’s great to see some data collected to prove my hypothesis that pit bulls aren’t necessarily the worst dogs, but pit bull owners are the worst dog owners.

    But before the anti-breed-specific legislation types start going all crazy, they should take a deep breath and acknowledge this is pretty good data to support their argument that owners should be more responsible and breeds shouldn’t be targeted. However, it doesn’t free them from the responsibility of acknowledging that the reason people fear pit bulls is similarly justified by these data. That is, really retarded criminal shitheads are attracted to the breed (some kind of vicious-dog-as-extension-of-penis issue or the dog-as-legal-weapon attraction), and as a result these animals are a legitimate source of concern for public safety. There must be room for a compromise here, maybe licensure of these breeds should require absence of a criminal record?

  6. #6 AgnosticOracle
    November 20, 2006

    It is all in how you look at the data. What this study demonstrates is that bad peopleā„¢ seem to be drawn to pit bulls (though 70% of pit bull owners are still good peopleā„¢). I stick by my hypothesis that bad owners are the problem.

  7. #7 Lord
    November 20, 2006

    Licenses and regulations vary by local government but typically require rabies or other vaccinations, fees to cover animal operations, leashes in public other than designated areas, picking up after them (plastic grocery bags work well), as well as numerous other humane laws, nuisance, noise control, health and sanitation, etc.

  8. #8 Shelley Batts
    November 20, 2006

    There must be room for a compromise here, maybe licensure of these breeds should require absence of a criminal record?

    Good point. And I doubt that the “good people” that own the “bad breeds” would mind that either. Perhaps it would be an absence of a violent record, as I don’t think traffic citations should necessarily be counted.

    However, one point in the study was that the most dangerous owners did not bother to license their dogs, so it might be a moot point.

  9. #9 pough
    November 20, 2006

    Have they done any similar studies on birds? I’ve always suspected that Lorry owners are kinda shifty, but never been able to point to any hard data…

  10. #10 Shelley Batts
    November 20, 2006

    Macaw owners are known to be loud, flashy, and none to bright. :D

  11. #11 AgnosticOracle
    November 20, 2006

    There must be room for a compromise here, maybe licensure of these breeds should require absence of a criminal record?

    That wouldn’t be a problem so long as you have a reasonable definition of criminal record.

    But if new regulation is the solution let me make a more radical if not politically practical suggestion. In a perfect world people would have to pass a species/breed specific test to own ANY pet. There are lots of people out there who don’t know how to care for their pets and it is a shame.

    The problem with breed specific laws is they miss the problem. My dog is a black lab mix. The reason he isn’t a threat to the community isn’t because he isn’t a pit (he was rescue mutt for all I know he may have some pit in him). The reason is my GF and I train and lead him correctly.

  12. #12 MarkP
    November 20, 2006

    Here’s what my vet told me several years ago, IIRC:

    Pit bulls tend to be naturally dog aggressive, but not naturally people aggressive. They have to be trained to do that. They tend to be tougher, stronger, and more aggressive than most other breeds naturally, but they are still flesh and blood dogs, and don’t really deserve to be treated differently. Also, there is a wide variety of natural personality variation in dogs just like with people.

    As for me, I’ve gotta go with the “vicious-dog-as-extension-of-penis” theory. Seeing the owners of the dogs go in and out of that clinic over the years, it got to where I could predict the kind of dog it was just by watching the owners get out of the car. You would think logically that it would be old feeble people that would have the powerful dog for protection. But no, walking in with the pit bull, it was so often the young, macho, knuckle draggers whose biggest accomplishment in life was being able to say “My dog can kill your dog”.

  13. #13 t. comfyshoes
    November 20, 2006

    ITA, breed-specific laws totally miss the problem. And it would probably be unconstitutional to just ban @ssholes. (But hey, a girl can dream, right?)

    That said, back in my dating days, how potential partners treated their pets if they had them, and how the pet behaved, were one of the first things I would consider in whether I was interested in pursuing anything. For the ones who had pets, it was a very reliable predictor.

  14. #14 mjh
    November 20, 2006

    Hey, us macaw owners are bright – we just like to ensure that the people who make furniture, expensive molding, and those crappy parrot toys have job security.

  15. #15 dH
    November 21, 2006

    Just goes to show that if you create a theory, convince some university to fund the collection of data to support their expected outcome to the theory you created so it will be passed off as a “study of grave importance” by academics to justify the lack of real work that could be done for the understanding of canine behavior. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that some scrot on the street is not going to walk the streets with a standard white poodle with a pink bow but with some dog that people have stigmitized. Having read through the entire study abnormal deviant behavior is beyond the preference of dog breed and whether they will license it. But there are wonderful people raising, breeding, training these dogs and are proud to have them.

  16. #16 Shelley Batts
    November 21, 2006

    dH, I’m not sure what your trying to criticize here. First, aren’t all theories “created” and then data either confirms or denies that theory? Its called the scientific method, and all research is built on this premise. Research is almost always funded by government grants, only very very rarely is a study funded by an institution itself. NIH grants are vigorously peer-reviewed as to methodology, etc before being approved. Many studies on canine behavior were used and referenced in the study to provide proof of concept as to the notion of what constitutes a ‘vicious dog.’ So, obviously they have been done. Of course abnormal behavior extends beyond what dog you buy–the authors never suggested otherwise. What they suggested, and found, was that there was a very significant correlation between people with violent criminal records and unlicensed vicious dogs. The numbers speak for themselves. As we’ve suggested in the comments, no one wishes to restict the ability to have these dogs if, as you say, you are law-abiding etc. It was suggested that criminal background should be taken into account when deciding the suitibility of a dog to that person, and if a license will be granted. This is already taken into account for gun licenses, etc. The good people raising and enjoying these breeds wouldn’t suffer at all.

  17. #17 Roy
    November 22, 2006

    t. comfyshoes: You’re so right! There are two big things I watch for in someone I’m thinking about dating- how does she treat her pet, and how does she treat a server at a restaurant.

    Treating animals or waitstaff poorly is a major problem.