Springdale, Arkansas Opinion Editorialist Ponders Pit Bulls, BSL, and What’s in a Name

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In Breed-Specific Legislation
Nov 13th, 2013
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While Springdale, Arkansas is poised to consider breed-specific legislation (BSL), opinion editorialist Richard Drake in his piece “Springdale: Don’t ban pit bulls – ban morons, instead” opined about his dread at not only reading about a so-called pit bull named Damian who mauled a Peke-a-poo named Chewie to death on Nov. 4, but also about the carelessness involved when people or animals are needlessly hurt when a dog owner is negligent. 

Mr. Drake acknowledged that Damian was a rather unfortunate name for a pit bull adding, the “very name given to this dog conjures up an image of evil, of savagery.”  He continued,

But what name might we give the name of this dog’s owner? Well, Stupid Horses Ass might be a good start, since he was driving around town with a dog running around loose in the back of his pick up truck, for one thing.

Mr. Drake points to a key factor in all dog bites/attacks: Their owners.  And what Mr. Drake is getting at is that you can’t legislate against stupidity, at least not entirely. 

Nor was it the dog’s fault that his owner was reckless and irresponsible.  Unfortunately, the dog still paid with his life nonetheless.  

Mr. Drake then went on to give us a little background in breed-specific legislation (BSL) which we, in the dog lobby, know very well:

Not so very long ago, pit bulls were considered the perfect pet to have around children, and in fact many are used today as rehab dogs. So what has happened to their reputation? In the 1970s, movies and lazy folks in the media conditioned us to fear the Doberman. Later, both the Rottweiler and even the poor Saint Bernard caused panic attacks by lazy reporters and movie makers cashing in on the latest scare-craze.

None has been more maligned over the decades, however, than so-called pit bulls, which, as we always say, is not a breed but a type; a type that can encompass countless breeds of dog, their mixes, and lookalikes rendering pit bull statistics skewed and therefore worthless.

Mr. Drake then got to the crux of his argument, that there are three elements involved in most dog attacks: 1) The dogs are typically not spayed or neutered, and in fact, most mauling dogs are non-neutered males; 2) The majority of dogs in attacks are not socialized and in fact are often kept from people whether by constant, inhumane tethering, or by being constantly kept in a kennel, or basement, etc.; 3) Dogs involved in attacks are often otherwise abused and inhumanely treated.

I would add a fourth often overlooked element, and that is that Animal Control is often called about problem dog owners several times before a bite or attack occurs.  At that point, the Animal Control Officer could intervene, but often doesn’t out of laziness, fatigue at being repeatedly called about the same problem dog owner, or because s/he is hamstrung by poorly-written legislation that prevents him/her from properly punishing a repeat-offender irresponsible dog owner.  It is often at the point where numerous complaints have been filed that someone or their pet gets hurt.

As Mr. Drake notes, these three elements (and my fourth) are important mitigating factors that often go ignored by the media and the public who are hellbent on ignorantly passing ineffective breed-specific legislation.  In fact, BSL is no more than a knee-jerk that provides a Band-Aid answer to the gaping-wound problem of irresponsible dog ownership, which is never limited to any one breed.

Mr. Drake’s conclusion?:

I realize you can’t really ban all the folks who have an animal which actually attacks a person or another animal, but perhaps if you gave them a home in the county jail for a short time?

Indeed, I have long stressed the need for escalating fines and penalties for irresponsible dog owners, in addition to a well-enforced leash law, both of which are part and parcel of a dangerous dog (owner) law. 

Most reasonable, thinking people can come to the educated conclusion that dangerous dog owner laws just make sense.  Mr. Drake himself illustrates via his concise synopsis of the very complicated issue that is BSL that reasonable legislation can be sought if one takes the time to understand the dog law issues. 

Now, will the Springdale City Council understand that BSL doesn’t work precisely because it’s aimed at the dog and not the irresponsible owner?  Or will they refuse to knee-jerk and seek rational legislation — a dangerous dog owner law, and the enforcement to go with it — that has a proven track record?

 

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