Thursday, May 18, 2006

The following article may cause high blood pressure, foaming at the mouth

Bite's worse than its bark
Regardless of who's to blame, pit bulls can be dangerous dogs
By PETER WORTHINGTON

When I went on the inaugural SUN TV show CANOE Live on Monday, I wound up being criticized by some for inadvertently suggesting that so-called pit bulls were "stupid."
The nice lady from the Humane Society objected that her pit bull wasn't stupid, but friendly, loving and well behaved.

I backed down a little, and said that compared with Jack Russell terriers, which I've lived with for years, pit bulls were kind of dumb. Even that was unnecessarily rude to the dog. Had I thought, I'd have said "mentally challenged" rather than stupid.

The "debate," such as it was, concerned the court case whereby lawyer Clayton Ruby is challenging the province's ban on pit bull dogs on behalf of Catherine Cochrane who adopted a 2-year-old Staffordshire cross from the Toronto Humane Society. (The THS refuses to euthanize healthy dogs that are slated to be put down).

Although Ruby is correct that defining exactly what constitutes a "pit bull" is difficult, it also seems undeniable that certain types of dogs are dangerous and need to be curbed.

Winnipeg has banned pit bulls for about 15 years; Kitchener for eight years. Despite Ruby's claim that only 4% of all dog bites are done by pit bull types, too often it's this 4% that result in deaths, or the neighbour's kid having his face chewed off.

Clearly, something has to be done, even though banning, or "putting down" pit bulls is a grotesque injustice to these dogs, which have been specially bred for the characteristics that critics now want eliminated.

Pit bulls are bred for extreme courage and loyalty.

They are afraid of nothing, and their "loyalty" is to be defensive over territory or against anything they see as a threat -- even when there's no threat. To me, that qualifies as somewhat stupid.

It also makes them formidable, and sought after for illegal dog fights, which occur in rural areas and attract big betting money.

Frankly, I think something is basically wrong with people who own these types of dogs. Especially in a city, or in an apartment. Sometimes, one is tempted to say that owners, rather than their dogs, deserve to be "put down."

UNSTABLE

While pit bulls are the canine targets of the moment, it used to be German shepherds that were considered unstable and dangerous -- until recent breeding made them more gentle and tolerant.

For years, Dobermann pinschers were considered lethal, then Rottweilers, and now pit bulls. Reality is that any big dog can be dangerous, but what distinguishes the pit bulls are large, powerful jaws that can do real damage, and a refusal to quit if riled.

So who is likely to own these dogs that Attorney General Michael Bryant has called a "menace," "dangerous" and "a loaded weapon waiting to go off"?

Drug dealers seem to like them for protection, as do people who live in risky areas. Others like the idea of a "pet" that intimidates others.

It's not the fault of pit bulls that they are what they are. They are guard dogs, weapons, not house pets like Tricky-woo, Spot or Lassie.

Clayton Ruby's argument in court that "bad dogs are made by bad people," is true only up to a point.

BRED INTO DOG

Characteristics can be bred into a dog that make it react in certain ways. Even a "lovable, friendly, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly" pit bull has the potential for inflicting serious harm that even its owner can't control.

Kids with chewed faces prove it.

So common sense dictates controls -- which is muzzling and prohibitive fines if the dog goes nuts -- and reducing their presence in crowded cities.

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