comprehenive dog management

Sandra and Dogs

Vancouver, “Pit bulls” and Public Safety          

B.C. deliberates as citizen organizations rally to expose the unsubstantiated stripping of rights and threat to public safety imposed by Ontario’s pit bull ban. Meanwhile, the media makes every effort to revitalize its campaign to demonize the “pit bull”. The frenzy over the prospect of a demon to conquer overshadows any conscientious approach to public safety. Letters of discontent and demand flood newspaper editors and government officials. Schools go into lock down at the mere sight of what might resemble someone’s idea of what a “pit bull” is. Delusions of locking jaws, time bombs and super dog strength resurface. News of attacks by other breeds is kept localized, buried or ignored. This fixation with “pit bulls” is costing human lives and a preventable public threat remains unresolved while we risk losing invaluable service, aid and support companions.

There is blatant disregard for the vast majority of dog attack victims including fatalities, because they are the victims of other breeds. The pacifying of personal phobias is taking precedence over the lives of others. What are we saying to those who have lost loved ones to the many breeds other than those we have stigmatized as being dangerous?

Vancouver, with a reputation of being pet friendly to visitors and residents alike, could take a leadership roll in tackling the serious challenge of dog management. By recognizing the failed breed specific legislation approach and enforcing regulations which would target owners, issues of both public safety and the preservation of these essential canine assets would be addressed.

It is shocking, the lengths to which people will go to avoid owner accountability. The creation of dangerous breeds implies that some breeds are beyond management, consequently there is a significant degree of acceptance and excuse for negligent owners. If it is the breed that is responsible, an owner’s obligation then, ends at choosing the flavor of the month breed. Any pursuit of education, training or management of the dog is optional from that point. In the global absence of any reliable scientific studies and statistics associating breeds and dog attacks, numerical quotes constantly reappear in desperate efforts to promote the breed mania. There appears to be a kind of emotional self indulgence for some who participate in the unsubstantiated condemnation of a select group of dogs. Still others take it a step further and target the size of a dog for restrictions, somehow surmising that an unmotivated 160 lb Great Dane is more threat to a toddler than a 25 lb violent Sheltie. Many pretend that laws which address owners are adequate and being enforced. This is also the mentality, which fantasizes that banning breeds will stop owners from producing dangerous dogs just as they imagined gun restrictions would reduce violent crime.

Dysfunctional and violent individuals are the element of owners, which most people expect to impact by banning breeds, but in reality, have the opposite effect on. Liability is easily avoided by simply discarding the targeted breed by whatever means and reestablishing another breed or cross breed. In France, as the list of banned breeds began its ascent, gang members started using Barbary apes as a primary line of defense. Unlike Canada and the US, where dogs are known to refuse orders to attack the police, apes possess no such innate loyalty to man.

It is understandable how the public has been misled on the topic of breeds and dog behavior. Selective interpretation by public and inaccurate reporting by media, paves the way for creating and perpetuating the monster breed image. For every non targeted breed attack making small print on page 16 of one paper there are 20 alleged “pit bull” attacks making front page headlines in several papers. For example a May 6, 2008 article spotlights a Surrey B.C. attack by an alleged “pit bull” on an 11 year old boy and claims that muzzles and breed bans are the way to go. The author as usual, ignores a more serious Oshawa Ontario “Lab” attack on an 8 year old girl. Both attacks occurred in the same country, within 2 days of one another, on public property and involved victims of comparable age. In addition, the Lab attack took place where a “pit bull” ban and muzzling was and is in effect. Both victims survived, however the victim of the Lab attack was reported to have required surgery. Only one small paper from the community in which the incident occurred, ran the Lab story. Major papers from one end of the country to the other ran the “pit bull” story as numerous Fraser Valley papers reported and referenced the same story.

An opinion piece containing the usual propaganda such as, “Pit Bulls” are more dangerous, Pit-bulls” attack more often, and should be muzzled, ran in at least three B.C. newspapers.

 This popular collage of fallacies is common among letter writers and demonstrates a shamefully unprofessional practice among reporters and journalists. What is most disturbing about this particular article is that it was presented as the opinion of each of the three papers, consequently, promoting dangerous information. Several times, I have watched people steer their children away from a safe dog whose appearance fits the “Pit bull” misnomer, directly into the path of a violent, uneducated “family dog” breed resulting in an injured child.

This media preference for reporting “pit bull” incidents is common and by no means isolated to B.C. When the editorial board of Kitchener-Waterloo was posed this question, “Since three out of every 100 dog bites are alleged pit bulls, why do you only report pit bull attacks in the news?” their answer was, “because pit bulls are news”. In addition, people are several times more likely to report a targeted breed attack than that of the socially acceptable breeds, regardless of severity.

Dog bite related fatalities are rare, although bites requiring medical attention are all too frequent. All types of dog attacks are preventable. There is an extremely high potential for manageability and predictability in all dogs. This is difficult to swallow for most owners who have not even taught their dog to execute consistent recalls. Identifying a dog’s potential to react requires learning a more advanced skill, hence the ‘time bomb’ creation, an effective cop out for those who lack the ability to identify warning signs or the motivation to involve professional assistance. Our current laws reflect these very low standards of dog management.

Laws, which address dog owners are weak and generally not enforced. Currently, the majority of resources which would address these laws, are spent capitalizing on “pit bull” creation.

Many dogs, so called “pit bulls” included, enhance, service and save lives and all have the potential to do so. More and more we are discovering new values in dogs in areas of health, science, law enforcement as well as in domestic settings. People are eager to remove thousands of these life supporting assets with sweeping bans. Until legislators heed experts’ warnings that any dog in the wrong hands has the potential to cause both serious harm and fatalities to humans, the list of breeds to be banned will escalate along with the list of unnecessary victims.

                                                              Sandra Allison


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