Nick's Journal
2009-02-26 23:17:19 (UTC)

In Defense of Pit Bulls

i was stupid today. i got into a flame war on a forum.
normally i never reply to a forum but this one was targeting
pit bulls as the demons of the dog world. having owned a
pit bull/german shpeherd for about 5 months now i just can't
let this pit bull hatred go unchallenged.

the whole premise behind the argument is the usual. pit
bulls are inherently dangerous dogs, they should be banned
because of their dangerous disposition.

breed bans have become disconcertingly popular. denver has
outlawed pit bulls or anything that "looks like" a pit bull.
aside from the notoriety of such subjectivity in a law (i
will get to that in my rebuttal of these stupid bans) i
think it focuses on the wrong aspect.

as the guy in the forum and all others who fear pit bulls
these laws rely on the thought process of a) pit bulls are
used for dog fighting, b) pit bulls are aggressive (based on
"empirical" evidence) so c) pit bulls should be banned.

this logic is faulty for many reasons. first and foremost
people always cite stats. 71% of all dog bites are pit
bulls/rottweilers. stats in an of themselves are useless.

my argument is simply this: pit bulls do have the tendency
to be aggressive towards dogs as this is what they were bred
for; contrary to popular belief, they are NOT people
aggressive. in fact. the owners of the dogs who made them
fight would be in the pits with the dog (normally to wipe
the blood off of it in between rounds, almost like a
trainer), any dog that showed even an ounce of people
aggression would be put down and selective breeding would
eventually give you the pit bull: a dog that is dog
aggressive but not people aggressive.
now that we have atleast some background on the dog's
"violent dispositoin" i'll go to the faulty reasoning.

the great thing about dogs is that they are so in tune to
people. malcolm gladwell once wrote about how a dog was
able to figure out a puzzle faster than a chimp, not because
it was smarter (obviously) but because it was more in tune
to the human's cues. this of course leads me to the whole
case for pit bulls, they can be kind and gentle animals if
they are given the attention and discipline that they need.

pit bulls/rottweilers/german shepherds need a firm hand in
training because they are stubborn and are strong breeds.
the mere capability a pit bull has should be enough of a tip
off that you don't want an unruly pit bull. this of course
leads to the problems that quickly get people clamoring for
breed bans.

tough guys want tough dogs. unfortunately these idiots will
get these dogs (pit bulls/rottweilers, etc.) and either a)
neglect them or b) actively make them aggressive. so here
you have the sad reality and the misconception that causes
breed bans. the 71% stat mentioned above says nothing to us
untnil we take the simple fact into account that tough guys
want tough dogs and rarely have the dedication to keep them
obedient. rotties and pits are responsible for 71% of dog
bites because tough guys PREFER THEM OVER OTHER BREEDS; so
they are MORE LIKELY to be aggressive due to neglect and/or
active aggression training and therefore put up these stats.

the cause is not the dog in and of itself but the person
behind the dog. given how in tune dogs are to their human
masters (and the pit bulls overwhelming urge to please their
masters) this should be a simple cause and effect equation
for people.

sadly it is not. i understand even though i disagree. it
is easier and more convenient to demonize a breed than to
target the irresponsible individuals behind them. but this
is wrong and i can use a simple analogy that i think (most)
people agree with. this analogy concepts the cry of, "well
we can't do much if these idiots want the dogs so we might
as well keep them from getting their hands on them by simply
banning them!"

ironically enough, the guy who started the "i hate pit bull"
thread said he had bought a gun to go "pit bull hunting". i
couldn't come up with a better analogy than that. both pit
bulls and guns are property that people view as "inherently
dangerous." both if used correctly, can make one feel safe
and both, if abused can turn into deadly things. the
classic response in defense of guns is that "guns don't kill
people; people kill people" in other words, the idiots who
misuse guns are the problem, not those who are law abiding
citizens. this of cousre is the exact same argument i put
forth above. of course i got the "well we have a
constitutional right to bear arms" response but that is just
a red herring. irrespective of that right i think that the
argument for guns holds.

now to breed bans. people fight these in what i think are
losing battles. they assert privacy interests. nevermind
that there isn't realy a privacy interest anyhow, the fact
remains that, if a law is enacted, and you break it, the
government through its police power can come into your house
and take it (think of illegal drug seizures).

there are a few ways to argue against breed bans legally.
1) a dog is property under positive law. therefore, the
government taking it is a deprivation of property for which
you should get just compensation. i don't see any breed ban
providing compesnation to the owner for loss of their dog.
2) due process violation. corollary to the above, if you
are going to deprive someone of a positive law right (the
right to own property) you must give them their due process
(notice, hearing, impartial decision-maker); i also don't
see those provided in these cases either.
3) this last one really only works for the denver laws that
target "dogs that look like pit bulls." in my opinion this
law is void for indefiniteness. the constitution is big on
limiting power. one way to give over-broad power to a
police officer is to give him too much subjectivity (this is
why "gang-related" laws that targeted groups of 3 or more
were struck down). in my opinion, the "looks like a pit
bull" is too subjective and indefinite to pass
constitutional muster.

but all of the above are just legal ways to combat a stupid
law. juliann had the best solution in these cases. rather
than making it an all out breed ban, there should be a
carve-out exception. if a pit bull passes the American
Kennel Club's "Good Canine Citizen" Test then it should be
exempt from the ban.
sure this has a "Papiere Jude!" aspect to it reminiscent of
nazi germany but at least it would provide a safe haven for
responsible dog owners who put in the time and effort to
work with pit bulls and rottweilers.

in essence, all dogs can become violent; the reason why pit
bulls and rottweilers top the charts is because they have
the misfortune of being subjected to the care (or rather
lack thereof) of people who neglect or abuse them. just
like guns we have to look past the easy route and take into
account what the underlying cause really is. it may be more
difficult, but as Barack Obama said, "the time for putting
off hard decisions has surely passed."