Tuesday, December 19, 2006

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The history of the American pit bull

This story is sort of strange........


On November 20, 2006, three American pit bulls belonging to Tesmi Holdings in Mmamashia killed their second human victim and the veterinary officers had no option but to destroy them. The question now is what to do about this breed of dog in Botswana. Knowing more about the history of the breed might help to understand why this particular dog is so deadly.

The American pit bull breed can be traced back to the bulldogge used in a bloody sport called bull baiting, which was common in the 1700s and early 1800's in England. The bulldogge was put in an enclosure with a bull and it was allowed to tear the bull apart until it was killed. At the time, this appears to have been some sort of morbid entertainment.

In 1835, the authorities in England put an end to the inhuman activity but its fans would not be thwarted. They moved on to dog fighting in which two dogs were thrown into a pit and they fought it out until one was horribly maimed or killed. Spectators gambled money, betting on which dog would win the fight. It was a cruel and inhuman practice which, unfortunately, is still taking place, albeit illegally, in many parts of the world, especially in the United States

Breeders at the time crossed the bull-baiting bulldogge, with their killer instinct, massive skull and powerful jaw muscles, with various breeds of terriers of the time. The terriers were chosen for their tenacity and bravery. The result was what is today the American Pit Bull Terrier. This history helps us to understand some of the unique characteristics of the breed.

The American Pit Bull was bred to fight other dogs. Unlike other breeds, it will fight with little or no provocation. Dogs are normally controlled by the "dog pack" mentality. There is a strict hierarchy that is tested during fights. The victor is now the boss and the loser there after will show submissive behaviour, such as rolling onto its back and showing its stomach, to the winner if they meet again. They needn't fight again because the hierarchy in the "dog pack" had been decided. This is not so for the American Pit Bull. If it fights a dog and loses, if they meet again, it will fight again. Also, there are stories of submissive dogs showing their bellies to an American Pit Bull only for the pit bull to maul them. It was bred to fight and that is exactly what it does.

Besides fighting with hardly any cause, unlike other dogs, it will give no warning of attack. Other aggressive breeds, such as Rotweilers or German Shepherds, would growl and bare their teeth before attack to warn the other animal or human that an attack is imminent. A pit bull will suddenly attack without any warning at all.
The American Pit Bull has been shown to have insensitivity to pain and some scientists believe they may even be addicted to the endomorphins released when the body is subjected to pain and may go in search of pain because of it. They can withstand high levels of pain. American Pit Bulls also are much quicker to anger because they appear to have higher levels of the neurotransmitter L-Tyrosine.

The tenacity of the American Pit Bull can be seen in the length of a typical attack. Attacks last fifteen minutes or longer and nothing will stop the dog from continuing to attack. Most dogs that are fighting can be stopped if water is thrown on them or they are beaten, not an American Pit Bull. There are stories from people who have been attacked by American Pit Bulls who talk of beating the dog with various objects but it still held on and continued to attack.

Most dogs will either bite or hold the victim in some way. When American Pit Bulls attack they are intent on causing maximum damage, that is what they've been bred to do. This is the reason why most attacks by pit bulls will end in severe injury or death as compared to other dog breeds.

The original American Pit Bull was bred only to attack other dogs. In fact, a dog that attacked humans was killed. People running the dog fights had to ensure that the dogs could be handled safely inside and outside of the pit.

But then something went wrong. In the 1980's the American Pit Bull became the pet of choice for tough guys and thugs. How macho you were could be determined by how mean and vicous your pit bull was. People owning such dogs choose them for the very reason the rest of us fear them. In New York City, for example, police have found that drug bosses have taken to using pit bulls to protect their drug stashes- the meaner the better. In 1997 alone, 83 American Pit Bulls were captured and destroyed during drug busts.

Supply and demand economics came into play and irresponsible backyard breeders sprouted up, crossing pit bulls with guard dog breeds such as Rotweilers, German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers, long bred to attack humans. And to make matters worse, they bred them in the typically American fashion of bigger is better so the American Pit Bull breed of today is much bigger than the one of 15 years ago.
Voila! Now you have a big, tenacious dog, addicted to pain, with a short fuse and which will attack without notice; and it has human beings in its sight. You now have a problem- a deadly one.

And indeed the world over the American Pit Bull is quite successful in what it has been bred to do. From 1979-1996, 279 people were killed by dog attacks in the United States, and, of that, the highest number of killers was the American Pit Bull breed, with 60 deaths credited to them. In Australia, from 1991-2000 there were seven people killed by dogs, four of them met their deaths in the jaws of an American Pit Bull. The recent deaths in Botswana just add to the American Pit Bull's curriculum vitae as a killer.

What Can Be Done?

In the United States, they have found it difficult to pass laws against American Pit Bulls with dog enthusiast challenging them in court when laws are passed. However, in April 2005 in the city of Denver, Colorado, the American Pit Bull was banned by law. Two hundred and sixty pit bulls were confiscated and destroyed. Many municipalities have passed laws that require pit bulls to be muzzled and on a leash in public places. New York City is in the process of requiring owners of American Pit Bulls to have US$100,000 (P618,000) in liability insurance to get a dog license that is needed to keep a dog legally in the city.

Most states in Australia have passed laws requiring American Pit Bull owners to keep their dogs on a leash and, in most cases, muzzled outside of their property.

On August 29, 2005, after a particularly horrific attack of a 2-year-old boy and his parents by an adult American Pit Bull and its two puppies, the province of Ontario (Canada) passed a law that banned all American Pit Bulls. They could no longer be sold, bred or imported. The ones that lived in the province were not destroyed, but their owners were now required to muzzle and leash them in public.

The most comprehensive law was passed in the United Kingdom. The Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 banned American Pit Bulls. All pit bulls were confiscated and destroyed. Anyone found in possession of an American Pit Bull in the UK can now face up to six months in prison and an unlimited fine.

Dog lovers like to say that the problem is not with the American Pit Bull breed but with irresponsible owners who do not train the dogs properly. They claim dogs are dogs; it is the owners with the problem. But Katherine Houpt, the director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell University in New York, was quoted in an article written by Brian C. Anderson on City Journal website as saying, "Different breeds have genetic predispositions to certain kinds of behaviour, though they can be influenced by how they are raised.
The pit bull is an innately aggressive breed, often owned by someone who wants an aggressive dog, so they're going to encourage it".

The question now is whether the individual's right to own the dog of their choice, even an American Pit Bull, is outweighed by the protection of the public? Time will tell us the answer to that question in Botswana.

Boy receives stitches after bite from RCMP dog

Abbotsford -- An off-duty RCMP dog escaped from its kennel and bit an eight-year-old boy while he was sleighing.Residents and a passing motorist heard the child's screams and began hitting the dog to release him.

The boy was taken to hospital where he received stitches on his right forearm.

Dog handlers nip at remark about pit bulls


Friday, December 08, 2006

RIFLE — A Garfield County court judge caused a backlash Thursday from dog handlers and owners after he said Wednesday he would like to see all pit bulls killed.

Associate County Court Judge Jason Jovanovich said during Wednesday’s sentencing of the owner of a pit bull that attacked and seriously injured an elderly Silt woman in September that he would push a big red button that would kill all pit bulls, if he could.

Two dog handlers, Chris McKelvey and Laura Van Dyne, both of Carbondale, said Jovanovich’s statement would lead to more prejudice against pit bulls and was “very sad.”

“Anytime you have a breed with a fighting origin, you have to train them maybe 10 times more just for the public perception,” said McKelvey, who has trained dogs for 26 years. “These are dogs that were born to be aggressive, but it’s their environment and how they’re treated and trained that causes them to act out.”

Every one of the pit bulls she has helped train “were cupcakes,” she said.

Van Dyke said it was sad that Jovanovich said he wanted to eradicate an entire breed of dog.

“Any kind of dog can bite,” she said. “If we kill all the pit bulls, where do the people who used to have pit bulls go? ... How far do we go?”

Van Dyke has taught people how to train their dogs for 10 years and said studies have shown that more people die of injuries caused while wearing bedroom slippers than from dog bites.

“I’ve had problem pit bulls as clients, as well as other dogs,” she said. “And some of the best dogs I’ve known were pit bulls.”

Tim Larson of Battlement Mesa said he has owned a pit bull for four years and “took umbrage” when he read Jovanovich’s statement in Thursday’s Daily Sentinel.

“I get upset when I read statements like that because it causes a nationwide hysteria against pit bulls,” he said. “People get even more leery of the dogs, and the dogs get the short end of the stick.”

Larson said the term “pit bulls” refers to three different breeds: American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier and Staffordshire bull terrier.

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said he had heard from others that Jovanovich had made similar statements against pit bulls in other court cases.

Jovanovich could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Mesa County Animal Control Director Penny McCarty provided figures that showed 230 dog bites in the first 10 months of 2005, the most current numbers she had available. Of those, small breeds, such as terriers, Pekingese and schnauzers, bit 53 people in the county.

Working dogs, such as border collies, bit 38 people, while pit bulls bit 28.

Vallario said his department does not keep similar statistics in Garfield County because state statutes prevent breed-ban legislation in counties.

“We treat all dogs the same,” he said.

“If Fluffy the little terrier bites someone, we’ll cite her owner just like any other dog.”

McCarty said some dog breeds are “hijacked by a certain segment of the population that is irresponsible in many ways.”

Thirty years ago, it was German shepherds; 20 years ago, it was Rottweilers; today it’s pit bulls, she said.

They’re seen as status symbols, McCarty said, and are used as protection by those involved with methamphetamine.

“Some of the dogs we have seen recently have had contact with methamphetamine,” she said.

“It can certainly make them unpredictable.”

Local law enforcement officials, however, said they have not seen an increase in such dangerous dogs, such as when serving warrants.

“I don’t know that pit bulls are unique to any individual or type of individual,” said Tom Gorman, resident agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Agency.

“We have had two dog-related shootings this year as far as the task force is concerned. If you are threatened, you want to take care of the threat. Some dopers have them; some don’t.”

Sgt. Matt Lewis, a five-year veteran of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department’s SWAT team, said he has encountered vicious dogs in raids.

“Absolutely there are drug dealers out there with pit bulls, and there are fine upstanding people with pit bulls, and that has nothing to do with the dog,” he said.

“I truly believe it is the way you treat the animal, the way you train the animal.”

“A lot of it is that pit bulls have kind of become the epitome of a dog that someone in the counterculture would want to own,” said Cindy Haerle, a rescue coordinator for Mesa County Animal Services.

“It is tough-looking, and all sorts of the wrong people want to own pit bulls.”

But there are many responsible owners who love the dogs because of their loyalty, intelligence and strength, she said, adding they often are used as search-and-rescue and police dogs.