Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Add pit bull terriers to the list

Like many people, I read with horror the story of the 10-day old child that was mauled to death in Jackson while sleeping in a basinett.

As reported in today's Detroit Free Press:
The mother of the boy said she laid her son down for a nap in the bassinet and fell asleep in another bedroom. The pit bull entered the room and attacked the sleeping infant.
Officers said a preliminary investigation has not uncovered any negligence at this time.
If I give the parents the benefit of the doubt and assume they're as responsible as ourselves in matters both of the child and the dog, the only guilty party is the pit bull.  The parents, providing they've any sense of humanity, will be tortured the rest of their lives for the gruesome death of their child.

I wonder if they'll ever question their choice of dog breed.  I wonder if they'd ever bring suit against the breeder or pit bull advocates for defending the breed in light of the evidence against it.

It reminds of cigarette companies and their defending cigarettes from the mounting evidence of their negative health affects, and the massive lawsuit and windfall that became for states.

Nothing similar will likely happen with pit bulls, rottweilers, or other dangerous dog breeds.  There simply isn't enough money to make it worthwhile for lawyers to start the campaign pro bono.

The question is, does the government have the right to tell citizens which animals they may or may not have?

The answer, at least in Michigan, is yes.  There are many animals citizens are restricted from keeping including  stock, exotics, endangered species, and wild animals.  

And eventually, maybe pit bull terriers and Rottweilers.

Would laws banning pit bulls and related breeds be for the family's protection or their neighbors?

Similar to smoking, the state has already decided it can violate private property rights and require property owners to prohibit smoking in their own bars and restaurants.  I'm not a big fan of that law but it is a Camel's nose under the tent.

In 2011, is there any practical reason to have any breed of dog in a residential area except that people want them?  After the feeding, vet bills, and poop scooping, isn't it less expensive just to get a burglar alarm?  No one has ever had to pick-up after their Guardian Alarm System in my lawn, nor has anyone's kid had to wipe the ADT stickers off their pants after playing in the park.

PS  While looking at pictures of pit bulls through history I noticed they seem to look different today than the pictures I found at SaveABull.com.  I wonder if something different hasn't happened in their breeding that can be reflected both in how they look and their disposition.


  1. Dear Sir,

    Some food for thought regarding your post on banning pit bulls:

    Deaths in 2010 from all dog attacks in the US....34
    Deaths by lightning (average per year over past 10 years)....58
    Deaths in 2006 from snowmobile accidents (children under 16)...111
    Deaths in 2007 (most recent year available) from lung cancer (since you mentioned regulation of cigarette smoking..158,683
    In 2007 from accidental poisoning...29,846 deaths
    In 2007 from alcohol-related car accidents...15,387
    In 2007 from guns (just children)....3048 deaths

    I could go on, but I'm not sure that you're interested in using facts and statistical analysis in forming your opinions. If you are truly concerned about child safety, you could help many more children concentrating your efforts in other areas.

    It is certainly a terrible tragedy that any child dies needlessly due to the irresponsibility and poor judgements of the adults around them.

    Perhaps we can agree that a pit bull owner should be required to have a special kind of dog license, in the same way that we require heavy machinery or truck operators to have a special drivers license. Perhaps we can agree that it is foolish to have a pit bull in a family with children under the age of 12. We can certainly agree that someone who doesn't pick up after their dogs is thoughtless and a lousy neighbor.

    I hope you'll take a closer look and apply some intellectual rigor and consistency to your logic. Maybe we'll be able to agree that it is ridiculous to suggest that there is no good reason for people to have dogs, that they could just get a burglar alarm.

    Unless you think that we should no longer allow people on golf courses because they might be struck by lightning. No real need for golfing. Or ban snowmobiles and ATV's entirely. Those are pointless, too. What about playground equipment? Kids die from playground accidents every year. We could skip having medicine and cleaning supplies in our homes. That would save lives. And who needs a gun in their home? There's police, and that other fall-back, your burglar alarm.

    a responsible dog owner

  2. Dear responsible dog owner,

    No need to pretend to be "a responsible dog owner." Your comments speak for themselves.

    You're correct that there are far greater dangers statistically to children than dogs. But I wonder, what does the probability become when a pit bull is in the same house as the child? What of the house next door?

    The incidence of being molested is actually very low, but increases tremendously when the sexual predator is inside the same house or next door.

    If my argument lacks intellectual rigor, yours is deficient in integrity. You didn't prove dogs have a purpose, you only chose to point to other things you feel have little practical value that may hurt us.

    However, I've never been nor have ever heard of anyone else being attacked by unprovoked playground equipment, medicine, cleaning supplies, or even a gun. These are inanimate objects that don't have minds of their own, instincts, or even affection for their owners.

    And remember, the police aren't there to defend you from a burglar or rapist. They arrive after the event to apprehend and investigate.

    Just as adding a thunder storm to a Sunday afternoon increases the chance of getting struck by lightening, and that chance increases on a golf course, might not the same be said of having a pit bull?

    And while this particular event in Kalamazoo resulted in death, there are far more that are mauled and otherwise scarred permanently.

  3. Dog bans are difficult. The question will become what breeds to ban, and once you ban pit bulls soon the number of Rottweilers and German-shepherds will rise and they will become the big biters. The problem is people getting a pet without carefully considering it and taking the time to learn as much as they can about it. People get aggressive looking dogs because they like the appearance of being tuff, or they get pets when they don’t have the time or money to own one. We own weimaraners, and they would be a very poor choice of pet for most people because of their energy level. They will happily eat your house and knock over your children if they don’t get to run a whole lot (heck if you don’t really socialize them they will probably bite your neighbor too!).

    I don’t think people should be making pets out of wild animals nor should they be picking dogs for toughness or because they are cheap. I think a better weapon the government could initiate rather than breed bans (and with the support of veterinarians and animal welfare organizations to low cost spay and neuter) would be to require a license to keep an non neutered dog or to breed dogs (that would cost more than a low cost spay neuter clinic). It wouldn’t stop all back yard breeding but it may encourage more people to get there dog fixed and less poorly bred puppies to be sold to ill prepared owners. It may make the cost of owning a dog a bit higher so people who are not in an economic position to own a pet may reconsider, and since intact male dogs account for the majority of attacks it could reduce the overall number of attacks without taking away people’s right to own any particular breeds… as an end note I recommend this article as a good one looking at this very issue http://www.gladwell.com/2006/2006_02_06_a_pitbull.html

  4. An interesting article, but it suffers from a lack of empirical evidence, like many similar articles on both sides (including my own).

    The only study I've found that includes actual numbers show that as a percentage of the dog population, pit bulls account for way more attacks than do other breeds. Of course, many take issue with the study because it relies on police and other "untrained professionals'" identification of the attacking dog's breed.

    Profiling dogs isn't, however, the same as profiling people. Dogs are more governed by instinct than our humans. Comparing the two is fraught with errors.

    As even the article you suggested points out, pit bulls are genetically inclined to maul more than other dogs (the Labrador example not withstanding). This is, I think, what makes them more dangerous than other breeds.

    I'm inclined to agree with your suggestion, that through licensing and fines we can discourage people from owning and/or breeding these dogs.

    Of course, if the numerous stories of pits attacking their own family members doesn't dissuade people from owning them, what difference would license fees present?

  5. Tom,

    Good food for thought. I think parents need to limit risks they expose there children to. I.E dog(Pit Bull or Lab) kid turns 16 (v8 camero or 4 cylender Hundyi). Still learning this blog thing
    Pat K.