Thursday, November 16, 2006

Troubled owners, troubled dogs?

Crime, choice of pet linked

Dalson Chen and Sonja Puzic, with files from Shannon
Proudfoot, CanWest News Service
Windsor Star; with files from CanWest News Service
Wednesday, November 15, 2006

People who own "high-risk" dogs such as pit bulls are more likely to have past criminal convictions than other dog owners, says a new study.

But Natalie Kemeny, a local pit bull owner and advocate, was shocked by the suggestion.

"Where we live, and the people that I know, that information is truly false.

"I'm not a criminal," said the 36-year-old. "I've never even gone through a red light. And I own a pit bull-type dog."
In a study published in the current issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, researchers from the University of Cincinnati examined a sample of 355 dogs and their owners.

The authors categorized as "high-risk" all pit-bull-type dogs, as well as dogs of breeds that had killed or seriously injured a person without provocation, or killed another dog.

Of the sample group, 164 dogs including pit bulls, Rottweilers, Akitas and chows fell into the "high-risk" category. Every one of their owners was found to have at least one criminal conviction or traffic citation on record.

Only 27 per cent of those with "low-risk" dogs such as beagles, spaniels and collies were found to have past legal troubles.

The study also suggests that owners of "high-risk" canines are almost seven times more likely than other dog owners to have been convicted of aggressive crimes, eight times more likely to have drug convictions, and five times more likely to have alcohol-related convictions.

"For some persons, owning a dog that has a reputation for aggression is considered a highly desirable feature," the study notes.

But Kemeny said she'd like to know how the researchers collected their sample group.
"Where did they go to do this survey, the local prison?"

Co-founder of the Windsor-based pit bull rescue coalition Advocates for the Underdog, Kemeny said she doesn't know any owners of pit bull-type dogs that have ever been convicted of a crime.

"I, myself, am a professional. My rescue partner works for RE/MAX realty," she said. "We have over 850 people on our mailing list, and we know them all.... They all have full-time professional jobs."

Although pit bull ownership is restricted by Ontario legislation, Windsor city council preceded the province by introducing a city-wide ban on pit bulls in September 2004.

The city's licensing commissioner, Diane Sibley, said the new study was the first she had heard of a correlation between "high-risk" dog breeds and their owners' criminal records.

"There was nothing like this when we (introduced the pit bull ban)," she said. "In fact, that was one of the criticisms we received -- that there wasn't enough information to impose the ban."

Sibley said she was "definitely interested" in learning more about the study and said she would look into it.

Windsor-Essex County Humane Society president Doug Jeffery also said the study sounds interesting, but warned that people should be careful about how they interpret it. "There are pit bulls that are legal in Windsor that are not owned by criminals. I know those people," he said.

Jeffery said the bite of any large dog can be severe, and the matter comes down to the irresponsibility of owners -- "whether it be someone with a criminal background or someone who is just stupid, to put it very bluntly."


Owners of dogs like pit bulls and Rottweilers are being as badly stereotyped as their pets, says a local dog trainer.

"I know people that own pit bull terriers that are police officers," said Mike Beckett, owner of 21st Century K9 and a professional dog trainer for 10 years.

A past Rottweiler owner and current pit bull owner, Beckett said he feels the University of Cincinnati study is "one more thing for people to hate these dogs, and to hate the people that own these dogs."

In classes, he's never seen pit bull or Rottweiler owners to be criminal types.

Beckett said he was once walking a muzzled pit bull when they were confronted by an aggressive dachshund and its irate owner. "Just because I choose a dog like this, doesn't mean I can't walk down the street too."

-- Dalson Chen
Ran with fact box "Study Questioned" which has been appendedto the story.
© The Windsor Star 2006


Blogger Conners said...

Have you ever heard of such a wacked out theory in all your life!!! Some people have just too much free times on their hands and that was the best they could come up with.
Like I mentioned in one of my comments in my blog, I must have Shasta because I snuck a peek for an answer to a guy beside me during a quiz test back in grade 8 or 9. Does that count as being a criminal??? ROFL

12:03 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

The idea that the majority of pitbull owners are linked to crime is absoutly insane!!!

I guess its unimaginable to think that anybody could love these dogs for the loving dogs they are.

If this comment was directed inregards to another breeds, and directed towards another "group" in society that would be stero typing and or racist ect. ect.

11:54 AM  

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