Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rehabilitating Fighting Dogs is Foolish and Dangerous to Children

Examiner.com, here I come! Turns out, anyone can write an article and call it news. Anyone, in this specific instance, is Luke Swanhart who works in the health care field but also fancies himself an expert on pet issues. He's a member of PETA and obviously they are the bastion of sane and level-headed...oh wait, nevermind.

Luke Swanhart is concerned about our nation's children. They must be protected from fighting dogs who apparently get flashbacks that send them into a rage.

Other Things Swanhart is Concerned About:

Anti-Hero Worshipping
According to Swanhart in his opening, "Pit bulls. The nation, including Florida,  has gone to pit bull worship based on the glory and fame of the NFL and Michael Vick."

I am unclear where Swanhart gets his information for this statement, but I guess he just starts his article with a false premise and goes from there.

Telepathy With Animals
"keep in mind - dogs - which are animals - can't talk. You may be able to correct the behavior but flashbacks do occur"

Dogs cannot talk but Swanhart has a direct line to their inner monlogue and knows that "fighting dogs" get flashbacks. I do not believe there is any peer-reviewed behavioral journal article entitled "Fighting Dogs - Computerized Model Depicts Violent Flashbacks". But perhaps Swanhart will start his own study, "Fighting Dogs - I Know What They Think", it will be a big hit, I'm sure.

Bold-Face Makes Me Right
 "Meanwhile the other dogs are sadly ignored and killed by the millions in municipal pounds everywhere-but they don’t count-they aren’t pit bulls. So in people’s minds they don’t even exist."

Bold-face makes it true. Bold-face makes it true. Just in case you didn't believe me the first time.

Racism, Classism Are My Friends
Lancaster, California is brought up. I fail anyone's breed-ban-support argument if they bring up Lancaster. It's like Godwin's law of BSL-discussion. The mayor of Lancaster believes "gang-bangers" (read: poor, not white people) are the only ones who own Pit Bulls and Rottweilers. Requiring the mandatory castration of Pit Bulls and Rottweilers will, in the mayor's mind, reduce gang-related crimes and keep those poor, non-white people in line, yo. On what planet is the removal of a dog's uterus going to reduce human crime? No offense to anyone who believes that crap (Swanhart!), but that is the stupidest attempt at causation I've ever seen made. Point of fact - gang related crime was declining two years prior to the mandatory castration, it was declining ACROSS the entire Antelope Valley, and it was declining in nearby Palmdale w/ no breed-specific castration and with similar demographics. You can read the details here.

Links Rule, You Drool
And then, in order to bolster his weird claim, Swanhart links us to a bunch of articles that...surprise, surprise supports his opinion. I could do the same, and then we'd be at a stalemate.

The issue of dog aggression is not black and white, it does not boil down to some magical single-variable factor. If that were true, I would absolutely support breed specific legislation. If it truly eliminated dog bites, improved public safety, and stopped animal abuse, I'd be on the BSL bandwagon. But the real world is not so simple, and banning breeds or requiring mandatory castration of certain breeds has not proven to be a consistently effective method of reducing dog bites (including significant ones). Instead it criminalizes generally law-abiding citizens and kills dogs.

It would be disingenuous of me to claim some cities haven't seen an improvement in public safety. But the reverse has been true and glaringly so, in many circumstances. In science, a study's validity can be tested by repeating the same experiment with the same variables and getting similar results or with meta-analysis of all similar studies. Researchers question methodology and data when flaws lead to inconsistent and statistically significant differences in repeated experiments. That is BSL in a nutshell - it is an inconsistent, invalid approach to dealing with the over-arching problem of dog bites...which is so multi-variabled as to make it impossible to eliminate. That's right - dog bites will ALWAYS happen. We've welcomed domestic predators into our homes who use teeth and claws to communicate. Ergo, there will always be times when even the dogs with extraordinary bite inhibition use their teeth to convey a message.

Now I know Swanhart is just some dude in Orlando who is probably a generally nice person. I don't give him much credence as it pertains to writing effectively. His arguments, though, are the same ones used to actually enact and attempt to enforce such wayward and generally ineffective (in terms of public safety) laws. They are dangerous positions that create a false sense of security while still endangering the well-being of humans and nonhumans. That is not acceptable or right.

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