Sunday, June 17, 2007

Booooo, boooooooooooo!!!!

Boo on Rep. John Lesch, who says he plans to introduce a bill that would ban five dog breeds (Akitas, Rottweilers, pit bulls, wolf hybrids, and Chow Chows), or "mixed-breed dogs with any of the above traits."

Here are my favorite points on the above-linked article:
  • good luck getting the government to reliably identify "pit bulls". Can you?
  • even better luck getting the government to reliably identify "mixed breed dogs with any of the above traits". What traits? If it has sticky-up ears, does that make it part Akita? If it howls, does that make it part wolf? Who gets to decide?
  • "The dog that attacked Brianna was previously declared "potentially dangerous" by city inspectors." And why was the dog allowed to get into a situation where it could attack again? Because, the city stated, they don't have enough resources to follow up with people who have dogs that are deemed dangerous to ensure they are following the rules (using muzzles when in public, etc). If they can't enforce existing laws (which would have prevented the recent attacks that Rep. Lesch is using to promote his bill), how will they possibly enforce an even more stringent law?
  • "But you do hear about the pit bulls, who are responsible, according to Minnesota statistics, for up to one third of the vicious attacks in this state in the past five years." Here is a the major flaw- the dogs are the ones attacking, but are they the ones responsible? I would place responsibility on their owners, where it belongs. It is owners who are either not training and socializing their dogs properly, training their dogs to be aggressive, or not controlling their dogs if they know they have an aggression problem. It's rare to see a story of severe aggression in a dog that has never exhibited aggressive behavior towards humans or animals before... Dogs don't attack out of the blue. Some human knew, and didn't take responsibility. Why punish the dog and let the owner of the hook?
  • "A half-dozen members of a group that finds homes for neglected or abandoned Rottweilers, pit bulls and other nontraditional breeds criticized the proposal as too difficult to enforce and unfair to responsible dog owners." Uh, 'non-traditional breeds'? Is anything other than a lab or a golden 'non-traditional'? It's not like owning a Rottie is a sign that you're a social delinquent... According to the AKC, in 2006 Rottweilers were #17 in terms of number of dogs registered. They beat out collies, corgis, huskies, dalmatians... American Staffordshire terriers (one of the breeds usually considered a pit bull) ranked higher than Jack Russells. How are these breeds non-traditional?
  • Take a look at other cities and countries where 'dangerous breeds' have been banned... Have the bans had any effect on bite statistics? Our behavior professor said no for European bans, and apparently they haven't affected statistics in the states either.

Breed bans turn a handful of breeds into "dogs that bite" and all the rest become "dogs that don't bite". People who don't deal with dogs often end up assuming that anything that isn't a rottie or a "pit bull" is safe to pet or safe to own. Our neighbor was upset that some people in the building were violating the apartment's banned breeds list, but that didn't mean she was upset with Winnie, because "obviously she wouldn't bite." People quit using common sense when they think about dogs in a "dangerous/not dangerous" light- of course in reality, anything with teeth can bite. In 2000, a Pomeranian killed a six-week-old baby, and the only dog at daycare that has bitten an employee badly enough to need stitches was a poorly-socialized land-shark of a Miniature pinscher. I understand that some breeds have physical characteristics that make them more potentially dangerous, but if you want to make a pre-emptive strike on all potentially dangerous dogs, I think you'd have to go ahead and ban the whole species.

Death by dog attack is terrible, especially when the victims are children... but considering that about 10 children die per year by dog attack, that number is relatively small. Lord knows how many kids die in car accidents every year. An average of 10 children per year die in school bus accidents. 826 die annually at the hands of caregivers (usually family members). 25 die per year drowning in buckets. I think I shall ask Rep. John Lesch to introduce some anti-bucket legislation next year.

Rep. Lesch is also ignoring the fact that dog attacks have been decreasing in recent years... Frankly, the only reason dog attacks seem like such a threat is because they make good news, and I think it's terrible that some people are willing to be so fleeced by the media that they will support the deaths of thousands of well-behaved, well-adjusted pets to try and catch the handful of poorly-socialized dogs in a breed ban. Responsible owners with good dogs will comply. Irresponsible owners (who are the whole reason these attacks occur) will not, and the only ones who pay the price will be the good dogs.


Bjorn said...

So, what's the solution? Mandatory education for all dog owners? Stronger punishments for owners of dogs who bite? Breed bans are so successful, because the dog owners affected are in the minority, and it seems like an easy solution to the rest of the voters. Without any real effort, the supporters of the bill could get it passed. The opponents have an uphill battle, and need to do a better job of getting the message out, and replacing breed bans with a solution which appears as common sense to the uneducated masses.

dwatland said...

I've heard that the #1 dog breed for bites to people in the emergency room is Labs... guess if logic follows they should be the first to be banned. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Good blog! You really hit all the major points on this. That grandstanding dweeb is, by the way, bringing this up EIGHT MONTHS before the legislature gets back in session. Hmmmm.... but I guess he knows that he's more likely to get a slow news day now than when the legislature is in session and he could actually introduce the bill?
(I hate to post anonymously, but Google isn't letting me log in.) --pitbull friend

Boy, am I steamed about this. I can't wait to hear who is running against Lesch so I can start working for them. It was bad enough when he went on his solo "factfinding mission" to Iraq in early 2006, against the advice of the military. I guess he's trying to cement his reputation as a loose cannon...