Man's best friend.
Part of the story of the human condition for the entirety of recorded history, they've always played an important role in our lives.
Usually, our relationships with them are friendly ones. We provide for their needs, and in exchange, they provide us with companionship, assistance, protection and love. I think that in the vast majority of cases, we humans are getting the better end of the deal.
I have always been a dog person.
|My dog Jake, every afternoon,|
waiting for his kids to get home.
That relationship isn't always mutually beneficial, however. Too often, dogs are not cared for as they should be. They are malnourished. They are kept chained up. They are housed in deplorable conditions. They are not taken to veterinarians.
Then there are the people who cross the line from neglect to abuse. They train their dogs to fight. They leave them intact, which increases aggression and breeding. They keep them isolated from people, they don't socialize them. They keep them in groups, which can set up pack mentalities with the animals. They don't contain them. They don't leash them.
Sometimes those dogs bite people. Rarely, they kill them.
Any breed of dog can bite. Any breed of dog can and will even turn on their owner under the right set of circumstances. Any breed of dog, when threatened, hungry or desperate, will revert back to their hunting instincts if necessary.
At least 25 breeds of dogs have been implicated in dog bite fatalities in the last 20 years, including breeds thought to be harmless such as the cocker spaniel.
I've been bitten once in my life.
By a chihuahua. A dog that was kept at home, with a neighbor family. One day, I walked over to the neighbor's house for some reason, stepped on to their front grass and didn't realize the dog was out.
He bit me. He bit a lot of people. No one ever reported it because he was a tiny dog, at most 4 pounds. The family didn't think it was a big deal because he wasn't a big dog. His story ended one sunny Saturday morning when the neighbor across the street took it into his own hands and shot the dog, who was out again, in our front yard. (oh, the things I have seen, my friends)
I don't know how many people that dog ever bit, and I wouldn't even venture a guess as to how many times, but the story illustrates my point that any dog can be vicious.
For over 12 years, we had a dog who was part Alaskan malamute, part German shepard. He was a big dog with a bigger bark, but he never hurt a soul. He showed up, literally, on our doorstep one day, abandoned as a puppy in the streets. He was cinnamon colored, the most gorgeous dog, but many people who met him for the first time were afraid of him. He was afraid of his own shadow.
When I look at the breed specific legislation that exists, both here in the United States, and around the world, I see pit bulls singled out almost uniformly. German shepards are almost always third on the list of both bites and kills every year behind Pit Bull breeds and Rottweilers, but they are hardly ever banned. This is a piece of the puzzle that makes no logical sense to me.
The trouble with banning pit bulls, or any breed for that matter, is that the determination of the breed of a dog is often difficult if not impossible without either AKC paperwork or a genetic analysis of the dog. Just looking at an animal is unreliable. According to the National Canine Research Council, the biggest problem with singling out pit bulls as the forbidden dogs is that the dogs implicated in attacks are very often misidentified.
An additional problem is that there is no evidence that these breeds are any more aggressive than others. One study actually found that lhasa apsos, springer spaniels and shih tzus are the most likely to bite.
The breed itself is but a factor in whether a dog will attack. Far more influential are all the human factors involved:
whether the dog is socialized
whether the dog is isolated
whether the dog has been taught to distrust humans
whether the dog is abused
whether the dog is altered
whether the dog is trained towards violence
whether the dog is malnourished
whether the dog is subject to being chained up
whether the dog is properly contained
whether the dog is kept with other dogs in the same circumstances
whether the dog is leashed
whether the dog is adequately supervised
whether the dog is around children without supervision
The National Canine Research Council releases a report every year after reviewing all dog bites resulting in death in the United States. The vast majority of breeds are unidentifiable, and the vast majority of attacks result from dogs that are not kept in family environments and/or that are neglected or abused.
Many cities, counties and even nations abroad have enacted legislation banning or restricting the ownership of dogs based only on breed. Arbitrary and expensive to enforce, they are a burden on dog owners as well as animal control officers and police, who often find themselves in the position of taking dogs away for no reason other than how they look. Those laws have not been shown to reduce dog bites. In fact, the one strategy that does is ticketing irresponsible dog owners when complaints are issued.
This issue tends to come up in the news again every time there is a dog bite death. Last month in Georgia, a toddler was mauled to death by seven dogs on the family property. Inside the house at the time of the attack, at least three adults, all asleep at the time even though the attack occurred at 6pm. A child is dead, the dogs were destroyed, and the adults are the ones truly responsible.
Far more important than just trying to categorize animals as good or evil, is demanding responsible pet ownership. Deal with the people in these cases, not the animals.
The humans are almost always to blame.