By Kelly Needham
August 30, 2006
Yes, I do fancy myself as a responsible dog owner, and I would be just as responsible if I owned a Cocker Spaniel, rather than an APBT. Just as another dog owner could be irresponsible, regardless of the breed they own.
While I am not exactly sure what the napping infant mentioned in your letter has to do with the 'incident', I commend you for reporting that form of dog abuse to the police. I would be interested in learning the results of this police visit. Was animal control involoved? Was the dog removed from the premesis? Most importantly, was the owner held resposible for his actions?
You have made a point that I think I devoted too little information about in my previous letter. I had an overabundance of information to present, and did not touch on many things I would have liked to.
In my 1st letter, I stated that 'dogs are what we make of them'. You drove this point home a 2nd time with your statement 'dogs are only as good as their owners'. You are correct in stating that certain dog breeds attract certain types of people, and that this particular breed is used as a status symbol for people often exhibiting anti-social and confrontational behavior. I wonder if more Pit Bulls are owned by these types of people, or people such as myself? Pit Bulls are not the only breed owned by irresponsible people for these reasons. Rottweilers, Dobermans, Akitas, Mastiffs, Dalmations, Poodles, Boxers, Shepards, Ridgebacks, Giant Schnauzers, and the many, many breeds of dogs lumped into the "pit bull" group are often owned and trained (or not trained) for the wrong reasons.
I do maintain that dog-bite statistics are skewed because of innaccurate breed determination, however, I do not dispute that pit bulls can cause more damage than your average family's Labrador, or I would not have cited the statistic that this breed is at the top of the CDC's dog-fatality list. My original letter was written to try and illustrate that the dog itself is not the problem, the owner is the problem. So how is it just to punish a breed of dogs for the actions of a few individuals? Comparing this in a more understandable way, it would be like punishing a whole race of people based on the irresponsible actions of a very small percentage of that race. Not every person or dog presents an identical risk based on race or breed alone.
You can't keep dogs from falling into the hands of irresponsible owners, just as you can't keep irresponsible people from raising their children the way they see fit. My point is we should not punish the breed, instead, punish the deed. Dog owners have too long not been held responsible for the actions of their dogs. I have no answers or suggestion on how to keep people from being irresponsible in their dog ownership, as this is a very unregulated issue. I do not defend these irresponsible owners, I defend people such as myself, who have taken on a large responsibility to own a dog much feared and misunderstood. I would be beside myself (comparing it to the loss of a child) if my dog was taken away and euthanized simply because another dog across town of the same breed caused some horrible damage to person or property, all but unrelated to me and my dog.
I understand that people think and feel differently than I do about this controversial animal. I see this when I walk my dog, the majority of people are intimidated by him and often cross the street as we pass by despite my assurances that he is a nice dog, and the ovious control I have over him. I cannot say that I have not enjoyed this intimidation when walking my dog through dangerous neighborhoods in the dark evenings. I do see people however, who approach us with curiosity and understanding. These people stop to chat, appreciate, and pet my dog with my permission. Most often I am approached by children, and I think this is because they have not been exposed to as much media hype about the potential dangers of this breed. I extend a thank-you to every parent who teaches their child to ask permission before approaching any dog, as owner-responsiblity is hard to determine and unpredictable.
Any dog can easily be made mean. Just as any dog can easily be made nice.
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