Dogs can be dangerous. They’re fast and smart and have sharp teeth.
This applies to all dogs, including pit bulls. Yet every time there is a serious attack by a dog labeled a “pit bull,” some politician – often publicity-seeking – trots out the idea of singling out pit bulls for extra security precautions. A recent attack on a four-year-old Cole Harbour girl has brought the issue to the fore once again.
People are understandably upset about this dreadful attack. But before pigeon-holing one type of dog, emotion must be allowed to cool and facts must be considered.
Fear of pit bulls has led to bans in some communities. Yet an overwhelming number of credible authorities on dog behavior believe bans are ineffective. Some municipalities that banned breeds are reconsidering their prohibitions. And the very notion of the exceptional danger posed by so-called pit bulls falters under scrutiny.
Perhaps half of all dog breeds were created to kill, fight or attack other animals. Your fuzzy little white terrier with a bow in his hair is a rat’s worst nightmare. Dogs are gladiators. Some breeds were even created specifically to deter or takedown humans, although that was not the traditional role of pit bulls.
Despite their aggressive origins, however, dogs have become wonderful companions. Pit bulls are no exception: raised properly, they’re goofy, tolerant, loving family members.
If dogs can be dangerous, how do we decrease the risk they may pose?
Education and enforcement.
Children should be taught in schools, starting in primary, how to behave around animals. Parents should begin that process the minute their toddler reaches out to touch the family pooch.
Would-be dog owners should educate themselves. They should be in touch with kennel clubs, and buy their animals from reputable breeders or trusted rescues. They should read books on dog behavior, and they should enroll their dogs in basic obedience.
Finally, society needs to devote resources to enforcing animal cruelty laws. We need a sea change in the way we view animals, period. Dogs are not animated plush toys, but thinking, emotional beings that should be handled consistently and intelligently.