Last week when a cyclist was dragged down the street supposedly by “pit bulls” (this, “coincidentally” mere hours after the Pasadena City Council decided to table Steve Madison’s breed-specific mandatory spay/neuter ordinance proposal for “pit bulls”), Councilman Steve Madison was quick to childishly play na-na-na-na-na-na with the public and stick his tongue out at his fellow councilmen.
. . . [“pit bulls”] have been bred over many generations to be fighting dogs, and to kill their opponent.
First of all, as we say ad nauseam, “pit bull” is NOT a breed.
Secondly, no dog is bred to do anything. All dogs are selected for certain traits like endurance, strength, agility, etc., but you still have to train them to do a desired task, whether it’s what we as a society define as good or bad. For instance, hunting dogs don’t come out pointing. Agility dogs don’t come out running through cones. Herding dogs don’t come out herding. And what Madison calls “fighting breeds” don’t come out fighting. For example, my Labrador was a lot more dog-aggressive and territorial than my American Staffordshire Terrier ever was.
And yes, a good owner can train a dog out of dominant behavior just like a bad owner, say, a criminal dog fighter, can so horribly abuse a dog that it becomes mean. But that abuse doesn’t make the dog bad; it makes the owner bad. Duh.
Maybe a better question to ask is:
Why is Councilman Steve Madison pushing breed-specific legislation (BSL) which promotes animal abuse by further forcing already criminal animal abusers — like dog fighters and drug dealers — further underground where their dogs, via systematic abuse, are made even more of a threat to the public?
But Madison wasn’t done being foolish. He went on to say,
[“Pit bulls’”] massive jaws. are extremely powerful, and when they bite they lock onto their victim and shake back and forth violently until the victim (be it another animal or a person) succumbs. Although they do not appear to bite any more frequently than some other breeds, when they do bite, because of these factors much more severe injuries or even death results. Ilegal dog fighting almost always involves pit bulls, for these reasons.
My gosh man, how did you get elected? Did your constituents know you were this gullible when they voted for you?
Since nothing has changed, including foolish and/or corrupt politicians, I’ll just debunk the “pit bull” urban mythology that has been told by dullards for decades with my usual schpiel. 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 bulls 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. Brisbins testimony as true.
As further evidence that pit bulls do not bite with thousands of pounds of bite pressure, in 2005 Dr. Brady Barr in a show for National Geographic called Dangerous Encounters disproved the 2,000 pounds per square inch myth. Dr. Barr conducted bite-force tests for several kinds of animals including three breeds of dog: the German Shepherd, the Rottweiler, and the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT). [And while the APBT is an actual breed, it is unclear if this is the breed to which the media and others are referring when they use the slang term “pit bull” to describe bites/attacks, though APBTs are almost always one of the breeds named when breed-specific legislation is passed.] Of the three, the American Pit Bull Terrier had the least amount of bite force, which was found to be well below the average dogs 320-pound bite pressure.
In addition to the wildly inaccurate 2,000 pounds per square inch bite force claim, many pit bull detractors point to a trait called gameness which they use as supposed evidence that all pit bulls are inherently aggressive and therefore dangerous. Yet, like they had done with Dr. Brisbins testimony, the court affirmed the expert definition of gameness which refutes pit bull detractors claim that gameness makes all pit bulls inherently dangerous. The definition stated that gameness,
. . . is 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.
It should also be noted that not all pit bulls have gameness, and indeed other breeds of dog, like the Jack Russell Terrier, can display gameness as well.
Like any dog, pit bulls can be trained to do good or bad depending on the intent of their owners. The less than desirable things are more conspicuous, certainly, but are still an indication of an owner problem, not a breed problem. The irresponsible owner problem isnt going to go away simply by banning or restricting the breed of dog irresponsible owners may happen to own since these types of irresponsible owners ” who are in the extreme minority compared to the majority of responsible dog owners ” typically demonstrate their unwillingness to abide by the law well before breed-specific legislation is even ever proposed.
As the U.K. has shown since its 1991 breed ban, banning specific breeds just made them that much more desirable to the very unsavory individuals ” drug dealers, gang bangers, and dog fighters ” that authorities didnt want owning them. In fact, it has been widely reported in the BBC that the UKs breed ban, which has been instituted for over 20 years, has been an utter failure as there has been a huge rise in banned dogs, with the number of banned dogs used for fighting, then abandoned, soaring.
A still better question to ask about Pasadena is: Why isn’t there better Animal Control? We know Animal Control in Pasadena isn’t adequate enough because there are too many free-roaming dogs. You can call them all “pit bulls” (Lord knows other municipalities pushing BSL have labeled every free-roaming or free-roaming attacking dog a “pit bull” in order to pad their numbers), but the truth is Animal Control budgets have been cut everywhere. Still, it’s sad, pathetic even, that elected officials will use “pit bulls” as scape goats to avoid acknowledging that the lack of Animal Control is their fault.
As I wrote in my last post about Pasadena, Councilman Madison can keep using specious arguments and dog-bite victims as political pawns, but, as ever, the truth has a way of getting out.
*Photo courtesy of Pasadena Now.