Firstly, I would like to pay my deepest condolences to the Victorian family that witnessed their toddler attacked and killed by their neighbor’s pit bull. I totally empathize with the mourning of this Victorian family and definitely support stricter laws being enforced by the government. These laws should include harsher penalties for the owners of un-contained aggressive dogs to prevent any accidental injury or death.
Often the pet is euthanized after it has severely injured or killed another pet or even a human being and the owners of these un-contained animals are left off the hook.
These irresponsible pet owners should be trialled for manslaughter for their animal’s actions. They need to be held accountable for their pet’s behaviour.
I thought it was important to start by touching on the tipping factor that drove the Victorian government to spontaneously pass this new legislation that bans Pit Bull Terriers, Presa Canario, Dogo Argentino, Japanese Tosa and Fila Brasileiro.
While I totally understand the need for the government to take initiative at preventing any more horrid unnecessary dog attacks leading to human injury or death , I do not think they went about it the right away.
I do not support the passing of this breedist law and I will give you 10 good reasons for it:
1. Pit Bull Terriers condemned purely besed on their ability to cause lethal damage.
Any large breed dog is able to kill and should then automatically make it to the list. I have met quite a few aggressive German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, even Great Danes and Staghounds and etc. They can cause just as much damage if not more than a Pit Bull Terrier. However, I have also met many amazing loving sweet-natured large breed dogs. I am simply not a fan of stigmas and labelling of specific breeds!
2. Pit Bulls and their crosses carry the DNA to kill.
Well, German shepherds were bred to protect and that can also lead to accidental injury or even death. Basically each breed of dog was bred for a specific purpose but most of the dogs today are not being purchased for that purpose. Hence, the traits being sought after are no longer bred for and are fading away. I mean people don’t own golden retrievers because they want to use them to hunt, track and retrieve birds. They mostly own golden retrievers because they have become a very popular family pet. They want a retriever that will be happy to chase and retrieve bouncing balls.
3. Snappy little dogs free of charge.
What about the tiny, aggressive and snappy little critters like Chihuahuas, Pomeranians or Jack Russel Terriers, why do they get off easy? I guess they don’t consider them able to cause serious lethal damage. They can still definitely kill a toddler if they put their mind to it. Again, I have met so many adorable and cuddley little fluff balls and never assume every tiny pooch is going to snap at me.
4. Legislation passed without clear goals and guidelines.
The legislation passed is vague, unclear and only states the description of the breeds banned starting with the Pitt Bull Terrier. They have not devised any guidelines on the implementation of this new legislation and how it will be audited. If you own a Pit Bull or Pit Bull cross, will the ranger have the right to confiscate and assassinate your beloved well-trained loving pooch purely based on its breed? What is exactly being enforced? Based on the description listed in the standard for restricted breeds, basically any dog can be considered a pit bull cross. What about the DNA testing of the dogs, they have been shown not to be very accurate or reliable and so who will be referred to as the breed expert?
5. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
There are many great and responsible pet owners out there. I mean check out ‘Kye’, one of our nurse’s dogs. He will run around greeting you with the most beautiful smile. I believe if he randomly went to greet a passerby on the street tomorrow, there will be an assumption he is bearing his teeth ready to kill them. This poor thing is a big sooky lah lah and the only time he has been reactive is when I have examined his very swollen and sore leg but his owner had great control over him. This brings me to the next point of the discussion.
6. Context of the situation not being considered.
Dogs don’t speak the human language and we sometimes expect too much of them. It does not help that there are a few pet owners out there that don’t even understand basic dog body language. So if a dog attacks a child, it is automatically considered an aggressive dog and the situation is not even evaluated and the poor canine is sacrificed without a fair trial! If a dog attacks a child that has been smacking the bejesus out of it, well what do you expect? Why was the child left with the dog without any adult supervision?
I mean, how often do you hear about child bullying that can often lead to the victim committing suicide. Are the bullies ever sentenced to death? No…so why are animals so easily disposed off. This new law is going to give counsel a green light to seize any dog that even slightly resembles a Pit Bull and so it can simply be declared a restricted breed and hence euthanized on those grounds. How is that fair?
Check out ‘Shepo’ my pooch looking all mortified because ‘Lewi’, our cat, decided to sunbake right next to him. Who do you think looks more worried or ready to strike in the picture, my dog or cat? Just trying to drill in the thought that you should never draw out any conclusions without assessing the full context of the situation.
7. Vets not being directly involved in the legislation.
We are the ones ultimately having to deal with the dirty end of the deal. Why not instead give vets and rangers legal jurisdiction to enforce appropriate training and education for pet owners with aggressive/anxious dogs. Education goes a long way, even further than just penalties and fines. I have met many dangerous dogs at the vet clinic with owners that allow them to run around town without a lead on. I have often emphasized the importance of basket muzzle training these dogs to prevent any incidents but my advise falls on deaf ears. Some owners are proud of having very aggressive dogs.
Now, I honestly don’t want to get into whether owners should be allowed to own aggressive dogs or not because that’s a whole new topic of discussion. I just feel that these owners need to be well-educated and equipped to house such dangerous animals. They must be reliable and responsible pet owners. A good legislation would allow vets to inform council about any pet owners worth investigating to ensure these aggressive dogs are housed appropriately and managed well to prevent any incidents.
8. Vet mauled by dog never makes news headline.
People seem to tolerate the news of a vet being mauled by a canine much better than any other non-vet related dog attack. I find it very interesting that vets have not been given any authority or protection by legislation against aggressive dogs. The argument I suspect would be dogs feel threatened at the vet clinic and even the nicest of dogs can snap. Hence, it is not fair to assume a dog is aggressive in these circumstances. I totally agree because our job as vets is to examine our patients and this can lead to discomfort and pain.
I have had the nicest Labrador’s snap at me during a consultation. On the opposite spectrum, we have been faced with very dangerous large dogs that the owners are scared off and unable to control and they expect us to examine their pets. How? I mean if you can’t even restrain it, why would you think we are game to? On those grounds, many vets have simply refused to treat those animals and that is absolutely fair. I am not sure if we have legal backing for doing so and worse yet, we have not been informed that it is our legal duty to report these dogs to council as they pose a very high risk of an incident occurring!
9. Genetics definitely play a role in breed predisposition but two other major factors need to be considered.
The two other major contributing factors include environment and socialization. If you met my dog ‘Shep’ when I first adopted him four years ago and then you met him now, you would hardly recognise him as the same dog. When I first got him, he was a nervous wreck and would mouth your face when threatened and now he will lick you to death and is so sweet and loving. He is still a very obsessive compulsive dog (genetic predisposition: working dog) that will chase the ball all day if possible and try to shadow my every move but he is by no means dangerous.
The point I am trying to make is that dogs can be intensely influenced by their owners and upbringing. While a dog may be born with nervous tendencies, you can still make an honest dog out of him/her with the appropriate care and guidance.
So while Pit Bulls are predisposed to carrying the aggression gene, they can still turn out to be amazing loving and loyal dogs if owned by the appropriate owners. These are responsible dedicated pet owners that will socialize their dogs and expose them to a harmonious environment. Some Pit Bulls will require more work and may never be considered non-aggressive. These unpredictable ones just like those very anxious German Shepherds or Bull terriers or any breed for that matter need to be housed appropriately and their owners should take full responsibility on preventing any incidents if they chose to keep them.
10. Dog breeding licence.
Not anyone should be allowed to breed. There should be a law requiring you to have a licence to breed a dog especially those that are high risk of potential injury and death to humans. The process of getting the licence should be difficult and include an educational part discussing dog body language and so forth. The aim will be to only allow the breeding of the well-natured bitches and sires and this will lead to the reduction of aggression in all types of breeds. This will ultimately really serve the community as a whole. It will open up opportunities to feel safe to own any type of dog as most are at low risk of developing/inheriting any fearful predispositions.
I finally leave you with a picture of ‘Punchkin’ chewing on a massive bone that is almost twice his size. His teeth can cause serious damage but if you raise your tone of voice to him, he will cower, flip on his back and beg for mercy with his tail between his legs. Looking at his picture below does not tell you what a submissive dog he is, does it?
I would love you to fill out a 4 question poll about this new law and I welcome all your feedback and comments.
- Councils to crack down on pit bulls (theage.com.au)
- It’s the end for killer breeds (heraldsun.com.au)