Friday, July 24, 2009

City Watch: Fear mongering one article at a time

I am not sure what inspired Ms. Chapman to pen this particular article. There's something in there about dangerous dogs and dog fighting and microchipping and, oh, did I mention dangerous pit bulls? I mean, dogs? Yes, well.

This is one of those articles that is best commented on by using excerpts and visual aids.
My son, having witnessed two pits kill a friend’s cat a couple of weeks ago, shifted uncomfortably, while he eyed the woman who, with great difficulty, tried to control the female canine with spitting yellow eyes and the face the size of a cow’s head.
Okay, so maybe the reason the dog is at the vet is because she has a face the size of a cow's head. I know the author is being hyperbolic or at least I hope so, because I've been around cattle and pit bulls and never have I met a pit bull with the head the size of a cow. Here is pictorial evidence of a cow head versus a pit bull head (poor Mina is all wth? at Howie who is also wth? but more "personal space" invading about it):

And, to be fair, here is a picture of Mina with another cow who is much smaller than Howie (who weight like 2,200 lbs)

As you can see, a pit bull's head is not the size of a cow's head.

What she means by "spitting yellow eyes" is anyone's guess.
Our dog, Boo, began to growl under his breath.
Wait a second! The entire introduction to this article is a veiled insult at this pit bull who appears to be nothing more than an overstimulated, excited dog with a swollen head and weeping eyes. The entire waiting room is stiffened in fear over this dog yet your dog is the one growling? Fascinating.
We all know this is a problem and something has to be done – because too often, these canines wind up in the hands of the wrong people – and sadly are trained to be weapons for dog fights and other menacing incidents.
Okay, first issue: there is a problem. Anyone who has told you that there is a "dog bite epidemic" probably thinks they could get you a sweet deal on the Brooklyn bridge. Dog bites have remained pretty consistent with a slight reduction since they started those nifty epidemiological studies. On average, 300-360,000 people require medical treatment at a hospital for dog bites of which, on average, 94-98% leave the same day. Very few require hospitalization. That's a tiny fraction of the population. Maybe 4.5-4.7 million people are nipped/bitten annually by the nearly 80 million dogs in this country. Maybe.

I don't say that to imply dog bites are a non-issue. They will always be an issue until the day we breed teeth and claws out of our dogs. It is the unwanted side effect of bringing a gregarious predator into our households and not always remembering that they are just that, social carnivores (or opportunistic omnivores if that's your preference). But dog bites are not an epidemic of epic proportions.

Second issue, "these dogs" - the problem isn't "these dogs" who are "trained" to be involved in "menacing incidents". People who get bitten are not generally bitten by "those dogs"; they are bitten by their own dogs. And they are bitten because they have done everything you probably shouldn't do with a social predator - chained them, socially isolated them, didn't teach bite inhibition, allowed them to roam/be territorial, etc. ad naseum indefinitely so on and so forth. Again, I'm not saying people who actively encourage aggression in dogs aren't a problem, I am saying they are not the root problem - dog guardians who ignore basic dog behavior pose more of a threat.

Then there is the entire middle portion of the article devoted to the mindless rantings of, frighteningly enough, an animal control officer at a Los Angeles shelter:
Why would they subject their own children to such a danger leaves me wondering. I suspect that living on the edge and owning a pit bull may have some deep rooted psychological needs that equates to selfishness and a desire to show the world they cannot be controlled by society
Wow, talk about someone who may have some deep-seated psychological issues, also called "crazy".

There's a bunch of silly talk about microchipping to keep track of dangerous dogs, which I'm sure would be as successful as the licensing campaigns have been - you know, the ones where like 5-15% of the population complies.

Here's where I agree:
My belief: we can continue on at let the entire mess go to the dogs – as we are doing now with a bit of chewing continually on society’s fabric – or we come up with a compromise that protects everyone: the dog, the owner and the public.
Except for the silly notion that the mess has "gone to the dogs" and the fabric chewing (my dogs do not eat fabric, thank you), I agree that it's important to create an environment that is awesome for both dogs and people.

Thing is, there are already programs that work. Studies in Canada and Switzerland have shown that a simple thing called "education in the schools" has dramatically reduced dog bites in the areas in which these programs become mandatory. Dramatically. Having dogs come into the classroom with experienced handlers is a phenomenal and cheap way to create better understanding of dog behavior. That takes care of children and, well, I just think adults should know better. :) We don't need complex, expensive microchipping mandates, we just need simple common sense.

And we must stop making a mountain out of a mole hill. It is unfair and absolutely deadly for the dogs.


EmilyS said...

"... I suspect that living on the edge and owning a pit bull may have some deep rooted psychological needs that equates to selfishness and a desire to show the world they cannot be controlled by society"

I dunno, sounds just like Terrierman's post about "pit bull blues".. and everyone just loves him...

Same old same old

Caveat said...

Great post! I came here from KC Dog Blog.

And yeah, Emily, Terrierman is so full of it when he tries to talk about 'pit bulls' that I don't even bother reading most of it.

He totally doesn't get it. Duh. He thinks 'pit bulls' are a breed - and a large breed at that....sigh....

Falen said...

I also came here from KC Dog Blog and i also don't read terrierman! Yay similarities!

Seriously though, hilarious post.