S. 178 and H. 5287*: Rhode Island Considers Statewide Breed-Specific Legislation Via Senators Chris Ottiano, David Bates, Walter Felag and Representatives Raymond Gallison and Kenneth Marshall’s Asinine Bills
You know the only reason I can think of for bought-off, er I mean lobbied, politicians to keep proposing and pushing long-debunked and now embarrassing “pit bull” urban mythology is because they think the dog lobby is too demoralized and the general public is too stupid to fight their ridiculousness. How else do you explain Rhode Island Senators Chris Ottiano, David Bates, and Walter Felag, and “Representatives” Raymond Gallison and Kenneth Marshall proposing some of the most asinine breed-specific legislation (BSL) — S. 178 and H. 5287* respectively — the dog lobby may have ever seen!? The two bills are companion bills, meaning they’re the same, only one’s in the House and one’s in the Senate, and both start off with patently false “legislative findings” like that:
“In recent years the state of Rhode Island has experienced a tragic series of incidents in which citizens have been attacked and seriously injured by pitbull dogs…”
No it hasn’t because there is no “breed” “pit bull” ‘in existence and so any time you refer to “pit bulls” as if they were a breed, your statistics are automatically erroneous and therefore worthless. It doesn’t matter if you go on to define what YOU believe “pit bulls” are in your bill, that doesn’t mean those breeds are what was meant by the original use of the slang moniker “pit bull” in the originating statistics.
And from here on in I’ll just itemize the lying points of S. 178 and H. 5287, and refute them with my truthful counterpoint:
“Concurrent with these attacks upon human beings, the community has also experienced an increasing number of animal killings and serious injuries resulting from pitbull attacks…”
Again, no it hasn’t. See prior point about “pit bulls” not being an actual breed in existence. S. 178 and H. 5287 go on to lie, saying,
“Pitbull breeds were developed for the purpose of fighting dogs and other animals…”
Again, “pit bull” is not a breed, and even if it were, no breed is bred or “developed” to do anything. Breeds may be selected for certain traits which might lend themselves to a certain task, but breeding is not so exact a science that one can set out to breed seeing-eye dogs for example, program it in like it were a computer, and then *plop* out comes a seeing-eye-dog. The traits that have historically been chosen for bulldog breeds — if in fact that is what is meant when this garbage of a piece of legislation refers to “pit bulls” — are also traits which might lend themselves to being used to train search-and-rescue dogs, service dogs, or drug-sniffing dogs. Excluding bulldog breeds’ usefulness as working dogs, their pleasing temperaments towards people typically make them excellent family dogs as well, which is why they were given the moniker “the Nanny Dog.”
And here the legislation itemized so-called traits that have been selected for that supposedly “maximized” the “pit bull’s” “effectiveness as a fighter”:
“A set of powerful jaws with an exceptional ability to grip, lock and tear when the dog bites…”
Since they’ve pulled an old dusty urban myth out of storage, I’ll dust off my same old response (which can be found in the main menu under Dispelling “Pit Bull” Urban Mythology) to such lunacy. I. Lehr Brisbin, Ph.D., who is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and an expert in the training, behavior, and the anatomy of bulldog breeds has said that,
“The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of [American Pit Bull Terriers] show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any [other] breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of ’locking mechanism’ unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier” (Source: American Dog Breeders Association, “Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier”).
Dr. Brisbin has also testified in a court of law under oath that,
“…pit bulls [which the court defined earlier as American Pit Bull Terriers] do not have locking jaws. Based on actual dog dissections and measurement of their skulls, the evidence demonstrated that pit bull jaw muscles and bone structure are the same as other similarly sized dogs. No evidence was presented to demonstrate that a pit bull’s bite is any stronger than other dogs of its size and build. He stated that, contrary to information relied upon and perpetuated by earlier case law and law review articles, assertions that a pit bull can bite with a ‘force of 2,000 pounds per square inch’ have absolutely no basis in fact or scientific proof.”
The court affirmed Dr. Brisbin’s testimony as true.
The next dusty urban myth listed in S. 178 and H. 5287 is that “pit bulls” supposedly have,
“A unique insensitivity to pain that causes pitbulls to be exceedingly tenacious in the attack; and…An unusually aggressive temperament towards human beings and animals.”
The legislation does eventually define “pit bull” as meaning American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Terriers, but again, are these the breeds responsible when they have compiled their so-called “evidence” under the slang moniker “pit bulls”? And this is three different breeds, so how can you mix three separate and distinct breeds together, define them as one, the “pit bull,” and then have the audacity to say that this “breed,” which is made up of at least three different breeds and their mixes and anything that looks like those breeds and their mixes, are responsible for more bites, attacks, etc. If you define Labradors, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers all as one breed, and you call it the LabraGermaRott as if that’s an actual breed and then you add to that any dog that is mixed with the LabraGermaRott or that looks like the LabraGermaRott, you’ll get really high bite statistics too. But they won’t be accurate by any stretch of the imagination. So you can see how this lie works itself out and you can see how manipulating statistics based on a lie can be deadly. Yes, these liars are dog killers, because BSL, no matter what form it takes, always leads to the death of perfectly innocent, perfectly loving dogs who are “guilty” of nothing more than fitting a type: a type for which the BSL doggy killers control the erroneous definition. And I’ve just illustrated how their doggy-killing scam works.
But back to the point, as terriers, these dogs may have a trait called “gameness,” which I think is what the bills are referring to when they again misrepresent “pit bulls” and say that they supposedly have “An unusually aggressive temperament.” Where gameness is found, it may be directed via training towards positive activities, like search-and-rescue, or negative activities, like dog fighting. Dr. Brisbin defined “gameness” as,
“…the ability or willingness to continue doing an action once begun, i.e. ‘stick-to-it-iveness’.”
The expert testimony went on to explain that,
“Gameness, in itself, is not a negative trait. For example, the ability to carry out duties or trained tasks, despite injury, distraction, or frustration, is desirable in pit bulls which have been trained to be search and rescue dogs, protection dogs in the U.S. military, drug sniffing dogs, and therapy dogs.”
So there you have it. Gameness, where it is found, can be used for good, or exploited for bad. Dogs are not humans. They don’t reason, they don’t possess intellect, and they only know right and wrong behavior by what their owners teach them.
Like the APBT, the AmStaff, and the Staffy, Jack Russell Terriers, Scottish Terriers, and West Highland Terriers, as a few examples, are obviously terriers too. And as terriers, Jack Russells, et al, may also exhibit “gameness” because they were bred for traits that might lend themselves to rooting out moles, or hunting rats in a farmer’s barn. If you have ever tried to rid your lawn of moles, you know how hard they are to root out, so a dog that was bred for traits that might lend themselves to rooting out moles would have to be pretty tenacious in doing so. Hence the term “terrier tenacity” which, where it is found, can apply to a terrier of any type, from American Pit Bull Terriers to Jack Russells, Scotties, and Westies. But again, this “gameness” or tenacity, where it is found, is not inherently a bad thing, but it can be exploited by bad people for bad purposes. Those bulldog breeds who have “gameness” can make excellent hunting dogs, are great in agility trials, and can even act as herding dogs, not to mention as already noted they can make great service dogs. Put it this way, if you were buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center on 9/11, would you rather have a search-and-rescue dog that gave out once his paws were burned and lacerated, or would you want a dog like some of the bulldog search-and-rescue dogs who go on to look for survivors despite the fact that their poor paws are burned and bloodied or that they are in danger?
And this idea of dog-aggressiveness being limited or exceptional in some way to only bulldog breeds is likewise ridiculous. Jack Russells can also exhibit aggressiveness towards other dogs, but this does not make them inherently vicious…it makes them dogs. So, does the little Jack Russell “Eddie” from Frasier scare the sponsors of this bill too? Will the senators/representatives then try to ban these little lap dogs also? Labradors and Poodles and all kinds of dogs can likewise be dog-aggressive. It’s only recently that very evil radical animal rights groups are starting to reclassify these behaviors as “vicious” or “dangerous” because where they can’t just outright ban or restrict specific breeds of dog, they characterize behavior common to dogs as negative (i.e. “vicious”) so that they can so severely scrutinize pet ownership via “dangerous” dog laws, that eventually no one will want to, or no one will be able to, own pets. Don’t believe me? Read for yourself what radical animal rights groups have had to say about domestic animal ownership (including agricultural animals).
Additionally, since society learned from Michael Vick’s dogs that former fighting dogs can be rehabilitated to make perfectly pleasing and loving family pets, which isn’t hard since they are after all “the Nanny dog,” then the above statements that “pit bulls” are selected for certain traits or “bred” for fighting are patently false. Again, no animal is bred to do anything. Dogs are trained to do certain things, but again those things are dependent on their owners, which is why Vick’s dogs could so easily and quickly be rehabilitated. These dogs are lovers, not fighters. When they are trained to fight, they do so to please their wicked owners. Again, this is a societal problem, not a dog or even a breed problem.
And how heinous for this legislation to say that “pit bulls” have a “unique insensitivity to pain”! That’s what sicko dog fighters believe! So how in the world can this legislation or its sponsors claim virtue in cracking down on dog fighting when the legislation itself is propagating dog-fighter mythology!? Anyone who has ever had to rehabilitate a poor, abused bulldog breed knows first-hand these dogs feel pain. Just because some of them tend to be stoic, doesn’t mean they don’t suffer. But this out-and-out lie explains why this legislation goes on to propose legislating animal cruelty. But I’ll get to that in a minute…
And still S. 178 and H. 5287 weren’t done lying yet. The bills go on to say that “pit bulls” have,
“An extraordinary directness in their method of attack that does not include the common warning signs such as barking or growling displayed by other breeds.”
Again such a statement is outlandish and patently untrue. There is no such thing as a dog breed that overarchingly doesn’t give warning signs before it attacks or that attacks “unprovoked” (and it’s doubtful that there has ever been a dog that has truly attacked without warning or unprovoked). For instance, the parenting section of a typical question-answer website informs parents of the common signs of an impending dog bite or attack — which can include stiffening, raised hackles, a standing tail, a showing of the whites of the eyes, and of course bared teeth and growling — adding,
“Dogs typically don’t attack without warning. In most cases, dogs are sending subtle cues that signal distress before resorting to an attack.”
Simply because people may be ignorant of the subtle cues that a dog of any breed may give before attacking, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
So what does the bill conclude based on nothing more than hysteria and urban mythology? That
“…pitbull dogs present a danger to the health [safety] and welfare of the citizens of Rhode Island, different in degree and kind, from the dangers presented by other breeds of dogs.”
And there’s your “rational” basis — health, safety, and welfare — the argument for which isn’t based on rationality at all; it’s based on hysteria and urban mythology, i.e. outright falsities. Still, BSL fighters should know that the rational basis test is used to end-around the Constitution using the lowest level of scrutiny — a “rational” basis like “safety,” though due to its ineffectiveness, BSL doesn’t make communities safer — by which to negate “pit bull” owners’ rights to their dogs. And yes, breed-specific legislation is unconstitutional. BUT, because “pit bull” isn’t a breed and therefore statistics on that non-existent “breed” are therefore faulty, there is no actual PROOF that “pit bulls” are any more inherently dangerous than any other actual breed. To put that another way, since “pit bull” is a type that can describe a myriad of different breeds, their mixes, and lookalikes, statistics are a fabrication and therefore do not suffice as proof that “pit bulls” are dangerous; i.e. you can’t prove a dog “breed” is dangerous if it doesn’t exist.
Oh, and don’t worry Rhode Island. The bill’s sponsors don’t want to outlaw your “pit bull” dogs. They just want to unconstitutionally scrutinize them and you and make it easier for municipalities to then go on and ban your dogs. And once you’ve complied with the mandatory registration part of S. 178 and H. 5287, they’ll know right where to find you and your dogs!
“The intent of this act is not to outlaw the ownership of pitbull dogs but rather to stimulate responsible ownership through confinement, registration and liability insurance. The unique history, nature, and characteristics of pitbull dogs has been determined to require the special regulations and provisions contained within this act which the general assembly finds to be reasonable and necessary.”
I love the use of phrases like “has been determined” and “reasonable and necessary.” So the “unique history, nature, and characteristics” of that non-existent “breed” “pit bull” “has been determined” to require animal cruelty in the form of governmental overreaches like cruel and unnecessary confinement, burdensome bureaucratic registrations that will tell the dog Nazis where to find your dogs later when they do confiscate them, and liability insurance requirements even though insurers are less and less willing to insure “pit bulls” thanks to the kind of lies found within this legislation? And this is thought to be “reasonable” by the bill’s authors…er excuse me, the “representatives” who’ve been bought off to push whosever legislation this is? And what if “pit bull” owners can’t get liability insurance at all or in the amount required? Is that the point? To make it impossible to comply with this vague piece of garbage legislation so that “pit bull” owners will be forced to relinquish their dogs???
In addition, you’d think they’d know better than to use the American Kennel Club’s or the United Kennel Club’s copyrighted breed standards to aid untrained Animal Control Officers, etc., in determining what supposedly is and is not a “pit bull.” (See Margolius v. the City of Denver or read the decision in the City of Toledo v. Tellings wherein the opinion noted that “We are troubled by the lack of an exact statutory definition of “pit bull,” the evidence presented that more than ten non-pit bull breeds look very much like pit bulls, and the highly subjective nature of the identification process.” To put that another way, cities that pass breed bans or breed-specific restrictions have historically been unable to properly identify banned or restricted breeds based on their own ordinances.) The authors/sponsors of these bills should know that breed standards are not public domain, but are owned by either the respective breed parent organizations, or by the dog registry, which means the use of breed standards in breed-specific legislation is a copyright infringement, and an illegal usage. Further, the “standard” in breed standards refers to a breed ideal; the “standard” in breed standard does not mean average or typical. Only the most perfect specimens of any breed of dog will conform to its breed standard. Therefore, because breed standards were not intended to be used as breed recognition devices, but as a gauge of quality for dogs when being judged in licensed conformation dog shows**, the illegal use of club breed standards to supposedly identify the three listed breeds will cause no end of confusion and result in a widespread mislabeling of dogs by persons who have inadequate or no training in breed determination, and who have faulty information by which to determine breed.
And a mere 90 days compliance requirement? Are you kidding me? What if it’s not possible for certain owners to get $50,000 worth of liability insurance in so short a time? Again, this is a real problem given that many insurers, including most recently, Farmer’s Insurance, are refusing to insure so-called “pit bulls” thanks to faulty statistics and societal hysteria. How can you possibly pass a law with which your constituents have no way of complying? And constant muzzling and constantly keeping a dog confined indoors or in a locked pen is animal cruelty. So does the state of Rhode Island mean to institute cruelty to animals? Do Senators Chris Ottiano, David Bates, and Walter Felag, and “Representatives” Raymond Gallison and Kenneth Marshall mean to legislate cruelty to animals? Really? What’s wrong with you???
As indicated by the proposition of legislation that would legislate animal cruelty, it is obviously the dogs who suffer most when breed-specific laws are passed, especially one as conspicuously evil as S. 178/H. 5287. It is even more despicable when breed-specific laws are passed based on nothing more than urban mythology, hysteria, faulty statistics, and a fundamental lack of understanding about canines. Much of the media and some elected officials have neglected proper research opting instead to subscribe to an almost superstitious belief about “pit bulls,” whose unmerited infamy has become the equivalent of a modern-day hell hound. As Arthur Conan Doyle observed in his famous novella The Hound of the Baskervilles about a supposed hell hound, or “black shuck,” that was believed to supernaturally haunt the moors of the English countryside:
Behind every myth or superstition lies a reasonable explanation.
In Conan Doyle’s work of fiction, the “hell hound” in question was determined by the inimitable Sherlock Holmes to be nothing more than a poor hound that was horribly abused, starved, and unsocialized in order to make him carry out his master’s murderous intent. So too is the “pit bull” nothing more than a victim of superstitious mythology, hysteria, and the bad intentions of some of its owners and those who would legislate against them without even knowing the basic workings of any canine, let alone that non-existent “breed” “pit bull.” The dog lobby has demonstrated via scientific expertise and expert court testimony that so-called “pit bulls” do not have locking jaws, are not “bred” for fighting, are not inherently aggressive towards humans or overarchingly aggressive towards other dogs, and that gameness, where it is found, can be used for good or bad purposes, which points to humans as the problem, not the dogs themselves. And, yes, humans are the problem with “pit bulls,” which is why to be effective, legislation must focus on the irresponsible behavior of people. The media and elected officials can take the stigma off of so-called “pit bulls” by conducting proper research — which does not include urban mythology, faulty statistics, or hysteria — and properly concluding that the only way to limit dog bites/attacks from any breed is to put the onus rightly where it belongs: squarely on the irresponsible owner.
*I would urge Rhode Islanders to write the committee in which these awful bills have been assigned, but since the Rhode Island General Assembly site is such a disaster to the point where it lacks transparency in government, I suggest folks frequently check the AKC legislative alert for updates. According to the AKC who likewise strongly opposes these bills, Rhode Islanders are encouraged “to contact the members of the House Committee on Judiciaryand Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture and ask them to not allow these bills to advance (click on the links to access contact information).”
**Information concerning the illegal use of dog breed standards in breed-specific legislation was provided by Responsible Dog Owners of the Western States.