we get a bad rap

Public hearings on the proposed ban of pit bull dogs in the province of Ontario began yesterday. Mothers of two children who were attacked by dogs testified.

One woman spoke in favor of the breed-specific legislation, but the mother of a child who was killed by a dog opposes the ban. I liken this to people who have had a loved one murdered and still oppose the death penalty, something I tremendously respect and admire.

Two things to note. One, contrary to what you may have heard, Ontario has not yet banned pit-bulls. It is still illegal for a landlord to deny residence on the basis of dog ownership, regardless of breed (though it might be very difficult to enforce).

Two, breed-specific legislation does not work. It simply does not reduce the incidents of attacks. For very good information on breed-specific legislation, and on pit bulls in general, see the good folks at BAD RAP, Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls. Click here for wonderful bully-boy photos.


Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Glad to see your checking up on this....

I thought they had already gone and done it, that's what the news made it sound like.

Rognar said...

I think the defenders of pit bulls and similar breeds manipulate the statistics for their own purposes. I have no doubt that people get bitten by cocker spaniels every day, but I have never heard of anyone being mauled to death by a cocker spaniel. You have to recognize the severity of the attack in any statistical analysis of the relative threat of different dog breeds. Personally, I can't see how anyone can support gun control and oppose dog control, they seem to be completely synonymous to me. Good dog owners, just like good gun owners, pose no threat to the public, no matter what breed or calibre they own.

laura k said...

1 - The numbers are not manipulated. They come from neutral (i.e. not animal-lover) sources. You hear about pit bull attacks because they make the news. What makes the news should not be confused with what happens.

2 - The vast majority of attacks are from abused, mistreated, mistrained animals. Likewise, the vast majority of pit bulls are sweet, loving, gentle dogs.

3 - Gun ownership has nothing to do with this. If the issues are linked in your mind, then so be it. But dogs are sentient creatures. Guns are inanimate objects. One should never confuse the two.

laura k said...

Something else to note. For decades one breed or another has been labeled dangerous and been the target of people who would ban them.

When I was a kid, it was German Shepherds. Now Shepherds are seen as intelligent, brave and noble. (Which of course they are!) Later, it was Dobermans, then Rottweilers. Now it's American Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Terriers ("pit bulls"). So the hype and panic is nothing new.

Rognar said...

I do not believe the media would choose not to report a lethal dog attack just because it was a cocker spaniel involved rather than a pit bull. If anything, that would make it even more newsworthy since it is so unusual.

Also, dogs are sentient creatures, but dog breeds are the result of human intervention in dog's natural evolution. Dog breeds are manufactured as surely as guns are. If we stop the selective breeding of pit bulls, the breed will eventually disappear without a single dog being put down. That is far more humane than the current approach of killing pit bulls after they kill people or other dogs.

laura k said...

I never miss an opportunity to see a conspiracy. :)

And yes, breeding is absolutely artificial and human-created. I actually hate dog breeding altogether.

I'd like to see all breeding stop. Eventually dogs would return to their natural state. If you've ever been in a country where street dogs abound, that's what the "natural" canine looks like. They are smarter and healthier than their overbred cousins. And if people weren't so intent on controlling dogs' appearance, there'd be fewer abandoned animals.

Yes, it's another soapbox of mine!

But still, though I agree that breeds are artificial constructs, the dogs are still here with us and can't be treated like things.

Rognar said...

I don't think rottweilers are off the hook by the way. We have had some lethal attacks by rottweilers too. However, the breed du jour for people who want to intimidate their neighbourhood is the pit bull, so the number of pit bull attacks is growing.

laura k said...

I would *love* to see the selective breeding of pit bulls - and all breeds - stop right now. All our dogs have been rescues, and the numbers of abandoned animals out there is staggering. Heartbreaking.

But bans won't stop the breeding. They will only lead to more abandoned animals.

And no, I don't think the media chooses not to report attacks by cocker spaniels. But lethal or near-lethal attacks are very, very rare. Banning pit bulls is like castrating all men because of rape. (Though the percentage of men who rape is waaaaay higher than the percentage of pit bulls who attack...)

laura k said...

More places to read about why breed-specific legislation doesn't work:



The second link is Canadian.

Over and out!

Rognar said...

I don't know all the details of the Ontario ban, but my understanding is that no existing pit bulls would be destroyed. The ban would prevent the breeding or importation of pit bulls.

I would be willing to entertain a proposal to castrate rapists, assuming the burden of proof was set pretty high. :)

Rognar said...

By the way, I'm just playing devil's advocate on this issue. I don't really have a strong opinion about it one way or the other. As long as my neighbours' dogs don't crap on my lawn, I'm happy.

laura k said...

Devil's advocate - I suspected as much. :)

Castration of rapists - There my feminist/anti-rape activism clashes with my strong belief in bodily integrity. I guess pre-emptive strikes wouldn't work in this case, huh? :)

Rognar said...

Now-now, as an American, you should know the danger of pre-emptive strikes.

Anonymous said...

The following breeds have killed people: Cocker Spaniel, Yorkshire Terrier, Pomeranian, and Lhasa Apso, to name a few. The Dachshund, alone, is attributed with four human fatalities.

But I bet you didn't know there has yet to be confirmed a single, unprovoked, dog-related fatality officially attributed to a 'pit bull' in Canadian history.

In addition, purebred American Staffordshire Terriers are included in the ban, as are Staffordshire Bull Terriers. There has never been an unprovoked attack by either of these breeds in Canadian history. That can't be said of Labradors or Golden Retrievers, for example.

Vancouver is perennially in debate about banning Poodles, based on the high number of bites they cause. Kitchener banned 'pit bulls' after 18 reported bites in 1996. That year, there had been 85 bites attributed to German Shepherds, with no calls to ban Shepherds.

As Dr. Gary Goree, DVM, testified, having been part of a panel that investigated the "facts" behind the 'pit bull' ban in Kitchener, he pointed out that 'pit bulls' ranked lower than Poodles in bite statistics in that city.

In many cases, breed bans have led to an INCREASE in dog bites. In England, where 'pit bulls' where banned nationwide, hospitalizations due to dog bites increased by 25! AFTER 'pit bulls' were banned.

In Winnipeg, dog bites increased for all but 5 of the 13 years since the ban on 'pit bulls'. Seeing that the 'pit bull' ban had done nothing to reduce dog bites, they quietly sought out the help of Calgary officials, who've successfully reduced dog bites by 70% WITHOUT banning any breeds. Only once Winnipeg adopted Calgary's model did dog bite numbers start to come down in the past couple of years.

Bites by other breeds skyrocketed after Winnipeg's ban on 'pit bulls'.

And yes...the Liberal majority was made well aware of every facet of the faulty premise behind breed bans, during four days of public hearings. They chose to ignore every single expert, and went ahead with the ban for political reasons, not public safety.

The 'pit bull' ban contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in that is both discriminates against law-abiding citizens (two dog owners standing side by side can not be treated differently based on anything but their actions), and it presumes guilt, requiring the individual to prove his/her innocence. [In the case of proving one's dog is not a 'pit bull' or that a dog of any breed accused of being aggressive is not a danger, is scientifically impossible.]

Many, many groups and individuals have pleaded with media to present a more accurate picture of biting incidents that occur. Not one of the non-'pit bull' dogs involved in serious biting incidents that they've contacted the media about were followed up.

In Canada, we have something called the Canadian Hospital Injury Reporting and Prevention Program. The participating hospitals keep track of dog bite injuries, also by breed. Perennially, Golden Retrievers are at or near the top of the list of bites severe enough to require treatment in a hospital. 'Pit bulls' don't even make it into the top five. "If all 'pit bull' bites were so damaging, wouldn't they rank very high in these statistics?"

As many American are treated in hospitals each year for bites caused by humans as by dogs.

I bet you didn't hear about the 2-yearold attacked by his grandfather's Labrador Retriever last Christmas, with injuries so severe, he needed treatment at two different hospitals.

I bet you didn't read about the Chespeake Bay Retriever that left his owner's child in need of over 140 stitches in his head.

I'm certain you didn't hear about the Jack Russell Terrier that went on a rampage so severe, that the dog's owner ran to a neighbour and asked him to shoot the dog.

Similarly, I'm sure you didn't hear anything about the Poodle that attacked a neighbour's child in the throat.

Did you hear anything about the German Shepherd that attacked someone and was shot by police, just a few weeks ago? I bet you didn't because only one media agency reported the story, and they did so quickly, and without any sensationalism. Had it been a 'pit bull', it would've been front page news!

What about the Golden Retriever that had badly bitten the owner's child several months prior, and was ordered to be destroyed, but the owner fought the order in court and won? That same dog then mauled a child visiting the home (disobeying an order not to approach the dog, who was in a closed area of the home), before it was finally put to death.

If dog owners refuse to behave responsibly, they should be severely punished. However, this is not the case for the vast majority of dog owners in Canada.

With a dog being walked just once per day, and meeting just two people on that walk, we have at least 12 million uneventful dog-human encounters each day. This, as much as any statistics, says everything about how little we have to fear from the overwhelming majority of dogs.

A Toronto reporter pointed out that, on one day, a incident in which a person was chased by what they believed to be a 'pit bull' was on page two of the newspaper, yet a murder was reported on a back page of the paper.

Approximately 90% of reported dog bites in Toronto in 2004 did not involve 'pit bulls'. Does the media coverage reflect this? Are anywhere close to 90% of the biting/attacking dogs profiled by most media agencies non-'pit bulls'?

Severe dog attacks involving 'pit bulls' are extremely rare; fatalities (in Canada) non-existent. When they do happen, they typically involved those who were voluntarily interacting with the dog. In fact, the owner of the dog involved in an attack is typically also the parent, relative, or acquaintance of the victim.

There are always exceptions, but dog attacks are already one of the least likely events to happen to any of us...especially involving a dog we don't know, or one in a public place. "Basic systems theory teaches us that it is perilous to change the system to eradicate the exception..."

In every recent dog-related fatality in Canada has involved dogs and victims residing within the same home.

The Ontario 'pit bull' ban does not only ban breeding and importation, it forces brutal daily cruelty on all 'pit bulls' and potentially any dog that someone might confuse for a 'pit bull'.

The list of breeds that people have confused for 'pit bulls' includes (but is not limited to) Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Jack Russell Terrier, Bull Terrier, Shar Pei, Rottweiler, Bull Mastiff, Mastiff, Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Boxer.

A dog simply can NOT be properly socialized entirely on-leash. They must be taken for regular off-leash socialization and exercise, in order to become good canine citizens. The 'pit bull' ban prohibits proper socialization of 'pit bulls'. Does this make you feel safer?

No one with an ounce of compassion would affix a cage around the face of his/her obedient and loved dog's face anymore than they'd straightjacket or handcuff their innocent children. This means that many dog owners will no longer take their dogs out for VITAL socialization experiences, so they don't have to muzzle them (in public). Does this make you feel safer?

The fact remains that nearly all biting incidents take place inside the home, or on or directly adjacent to the owner's property, and involve someone who knows the dog. The vast majority of biting incidents don't involve "the public" at all.

Leash laws and muzzle restrictions only apply to dogs when they're in public, which is already the least likely place for a bite to take place.

Leash laws and muzzle restrictions are absurdly ineptly aimed, in that nearly all dog bites take place in a situation where there is zero expectation for either (inside the home, on the owner's property, or an unsupervised dog that "escapes" its owner's property).

Marbles and five gallon buckets cause more injury and death than dogs. If we're more afraid of dogs that the people around us, our fear is egregiously misguided.

Males commit 1,400 sexual assaults against females every single day in Canada. In the U.S., 3 women are killed by their male intimate partners, every single day.

As for castrating rapists in comparison to banning all dogs that inexpert individuals believe might be 'pit bulls'...

...That's really apples and oranges. The other person had it right when she suggested that banning all 'pit bulls' is like castrating all men because some men are rapists. The logic doesn't follow.

Few sane people would have a problem with castrating all rapists. Similarly, few would have a problem with euthanizing truly dangerous dogs, and severely punishing negligent dog owners. The onus is on the individual's actions, not sweeping generalizations, myth or hysteria.

All responsible dog owners want is to be held accountable for their own actions, not what some loser down the road did...even if he has a dog that is identical in appearance to ours.

To blame the dog for not properly rearing itself is ludicrous. It's like a drunk driver being allowed to walk away from a serious or even deadly car crash without punishment, while the model of car he/she drove is vilified and destroyed...even banned.

As every single expert in the field (myself included)concludes that any poorly reared dog can become a danger. The dog bite statistics in every region of the world bear this out. Dozens of dog breeds stand accused of bites, attacks, and fatalities.

Still, the emphasis should be put on risk assessment. Nearly all dogs are never involved in attacks.

Less than 0.1% of 'pit bulls' will ever be involved in an attack at any time in their lives. This means that 99.9% of 'pit bulls' don't deserve the spurious label of "dangerous".

In Toronto, in 2004, approx. 0.04% of the city's 'pit bulls' were reported for biting. Of that, maybe 4 or 5 could be considered "attacks", and only 2 were "attacks" against humans.

About 90% of bites in 2004 did not involve 'pit bulls' at all, leaving the vast majority of biting incidents attributed to dozens of other dog breeds.

Most cities report that about 0-4% of bites are attributed to 'pit bulls'. It is estimated that 'pit bulls' make up 9% of the U.S. dog population.

I know this was very long, but it is all factual information about a very important but poorly understood subject. All facts can be verified. It is only those who attempt to support breed banning who need to "fudge" numbers. The facts speak for themselves.

In closing, and as an expert in the field of dog bite statistics and dog bite prevention, I often like to ask people to give me their opinions on COX-2 inhibitors, or the budget crisis at NASA before discussing 'pit bulls'. They usually respond by admitting they do not have enough expertise to discuss those topics. That is when I ask what makes them think they have enough expertise to discuss 'pit bulls', dog bite statistics, canine genetics, and dog bite prevention.

A more reasonable discussion tends to follow.

Fact and reason have helped Calgary become a leader in municipal dog bite prevention strategies. It's not as sexy and doesn't offer as many quick sound bites as banning one hapless and commonly vilified dog breed. In that sense, it is clear why the Ontario government ignored their offer to help draft a truly effective dog bite prevention strategy.

Always look for the quick fix, and the saleable media slant, to get more press time.

The 'pit bull' ban is nothing more than that. And it is truly shameful.

Find one reputable expert (even in organizations that have nothing to gain, either way) who supports breed bans, and I'll send you a cheque for $100.

laura k said...

Excuse me, but I live with a wonderful pit-mix, defend the breed at every opportunity, and am thoroughly against breed-specific legislation of all types.

The person you are responding to wrote this 4 months ago and won't see any of this. Thanks for the info all the same.

laura k said...

On second thought, I'll link back to this so everyone can read it.