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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gasp! It’s a Pro-Pit-Bull Post

posted by on March 26 at 13:14 PM


Helen Keller with her pit bull terrier, Phiz

I know some minds around here are locked tight, but in case you have time to look beneath the sensational headlines and learn something about the pit bull breed, here’s one opportunity: After the jump, you’ll find a thorough and reasoned article by a local pit bull rescue director who has insight on where pit bulls came from, why there is currently such a problem with the breed in the U.S., and what can be done about it (beyond Dan’s boil-and-feed solution).


The Plight of Homeless Pit Bulls
by Lorrie Kalmbach Ehlers, President and Founder of BullsEye Dog Rescue, Seattle Pure Bred Dog Rescue Bully Breeds Representative

If you haven’t been down the halls of one of Puget Sound’s animal shelters recently, you might be surprised to learn that the predominant breed of dog currently found in our local shelters is a pit bull or some sort of pit bull mix.

Although there are no accurate or even near accurate census records for dogs in the U.S., much less specific breeds of dogs, there are far more pit bulls in our nation than most people realize.

In some areas, pit bulls are estimated to comprise between 30-40% of the dog population. Even in our nation’s animal shelters, it’s not unusual for pit bulls to typically make up “at least one fourth” of the total number of dogs in their kennels at any given time. Space constraints alone result in 90-100% of pit bulls ending their lives on the euthanasia table.

These same statistics ring true in the Puget Sound region. In the year 2006, three of our local shelters euthanized 1,375 pit bulls — roughly three to four pit bulls each day. This staggering number does not even begin to touch upon pit bull euthanasia rates for the area’s 100 other shelters and rescue groups.

SPDR’s statistics show a similar trend: For the last 10 years, American Pit Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers have been near the top of SPDR’s “top ten” list of most frequently handled breeds; last year, the number of pit bulls handled by SPDR was equal to the sum of the next eight most handled breeds on our list.

Because SPDR’s mission is to prevent unwanted purebred dogs from overloading the region’s public shelter systems, the Board of Directors decided that something had to be done to address the sheer number of homeless pit bulls. In a partnership with The Humane Society for Seattle and King County, Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue is sponsoring the free spay and neuter of any pit bulls living within the Puget Sound region.

Why are there so many pit bulls in the shelters these days? How has the homeless population of this breed reached such an alarming level? Are there just that many being bred? Or is that simply the proof of their “bad dog” behavior that we keep hearing about in the media, forcing them to be turned into the shelter far more often than the “nicer behaved” breeds?

In order to answer these questions, we need to take a look into the history of the pit bull.

History of the Breed
A cousin to the pit bull, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, descended from the old English bulldogge, or butcher’s dog — an animal bred since the Middle Ages to participate in the cruel “sport” of baiting large animals like bulls or bears.

A baiting consisted of confining or restraining these large animals and then allowing fearless dogs to attack and immobilize them, giving the people of the time both entertainment and source for gambling.

By the 16th Century, baiting events had garnered the enthusiastic support and patronage of royalty—including Henry VIII and his daughter Queen Elizabeth, who reportedly took great delight in the sport in which the bull-dog was often killed or thrown severely injured into the crowd.

As public awareness grew to acknowledge the suffering of the animals caused in this display of barbarous cruelty, animal baiting was banned by law in 1835.

Baiting enthusiasts satiated their need for a barbaric sport by then turning their attentions to training their bull-dogs to fight each other. As time went on, breeders began selectively breeding their dogs for dog-aggression and greater athleticism. Cross breeding of the bull-dog with the English black-and-tan terrier produced the strong, agile, intelligent “bull and terrier”.

In 1832 Sir Walter Scott acknowledged his beloved “Wasp,” a product of the bull-dog cross breeding, by citing him “The wisest dog I have had was what is called the Bull and Terrier,”

Although fiercely competitive with other dogs in the fighting ring, these same dogs were stable and trustworthy; often living in their master’s house as family pets where their reliability with children earned them the nickname “nanny dog”. To ensure dog handlers in this sport would not receive a redirected bite when leaning into the pits to pull the battling dogs apart, breeders would cull any dogs showing reactive aggression towards humans immediately.

It this point in the breed’s development, England’s Bull and Terrier began to be known by a new name, the Pit Bull Terrier. History also shows that as Englanders began settling the New World, the pit bull terrier also made the crossing of the Atlantic with them.

America’s Yankee Terrier
The pit bull originally came to the shores of America with English families who were beginning a fresh life in the new world. Soon after arrival, the breed became a common sight in wagon trains and on farms. Although the cruel sport of dog fighting had also made the crossing with America’s pioneers, bull and terriers also began playing an important role in the development of the country.

Because of their reputation as a loyal, intelligent, and courageous they were often used in protecting children and the farm from predators, rounding up livestock, and bringing down hunted game. An invaluable asset for the taming of a wild country.

As the country matured and cities sprung from farmland, the Pit Bull Terrier became rooted in the fabric of America. At the turn of the century, the breed’s likeness was used in advertising, novels, and even a stamp that depicted Helen Keller with her dog “Phiz”, patiently waiting at her feet. It was during this time that an official registration was developed for the breed and the name once again converted to the American Pit bull Terrier.

Icon’s of early 20th century American culture featured this pit bull dog prominently in their ads; Levi jeans, Buster Brown shoes, and the infamous black and white RCA dog. Meanwhile tales of American Pit Bull Terriers were featured by such infamous authors as John Steinbeck who wrote about Jigg; James Thurber’s Rex; and even Mark Twain described Andrew Jackson, a Pit Bull pup in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. The American Pit Bull terrier even made a debut on the television as the beloved and ever patient “Petey” of Our Gang fame.

As our country entered World War I, so too did the American Pit bull Terrier. Affectionately nicknamed the “Yankee Terrier”, a name given to liken the breed’s courage and loyalty to the American people, it was featured in posters wrapped in an American flag spreading the word of patriotism with a caption of “I’m neutral, but not afraid.”

The most decorated dog in U.S. History emerged from this war. A brown and white pit bull terrier named Stubby. Mascot and member of the 102nd infantry, the dog had served his country in 17 battles in France. His courage was infamous, having saved hundreds of lives, solitarily capturing a German spy, all after being wounded twice but refusing to quit his countrymen. At a parade celebrating the end of the war, it is told that as Stubby marched alongside his infantrymen he raised his paw in salute to President Wilson. At Stubby’s passing, he was to remain a part of history when he was preserved and put on display at the Smithsonian.

Though Stubby gained the most notoriety of any dog fighting in war time, there have been other pit bulls serving just a notably in other wars. Sally Ann Jarrett served valiantly in the Civil War, facing some of the heaviest battles such as Bull Run and Pope’s retreat. Another pit bull named Jack also served in the Civil War, where twice he was captured, and then perhaps even more notably, was then exchanged for a Confederate soldier.

It is no surprise then, that when America entered World War II, poster sprang up depicting a U.S. Marine and his American Pit Bull Terrier, declaring them “Defenders of Old Glory.” The time where pit bulls were considered heros and symbols of the good in America has sadly passed.

The Pit Bull Today
The historic fighting ability of this All American breed has been attracting a bad crowd recently. During the 1980s, after the novelty of German Shepherd, Rottweiler, and Doberman “tough dogs” wore off, the Pit Bull became the next target. Within a decade, this once-beloved breed began to be exploited by the darker side of civilization — representing poverty, crime, drugs, thugs, and newspaper headlines featuring back alley dog fighting rings.

With that new reputation came disturbing accounts of aggressive attacks on humans by badly bred, severely neglected and abused pit bulls and pit mixes. For the first time in history, the public view of this breed was one of fear and panic brought on by sensationalist reporting and irresponsible criminal owners.

The scheme of a quick buck by these low life owners quickly contributed to the epidemic of unwanted pit bulls. Craigslist and the Little Nickel overflow with $100 ads for “Big Headed Monster pit bulls”. Look in the Free or Give Away sections and you will just as many pit bull ads featuring the remainder of the puppies that could not be sold.

And it’s not just criminals or backyard breeders causing the problem either. Anyone seeking a “tough” look, status symbol, or controversial fashion statement is likewise irresistibly drawn to having a Pit Bull.

And yet as fashions change, so do the loyalties of these “casual” Pit Bull owners. This is how the pattern of pit bulls purchased for breeding, fighting, or novelty, then later discarded and duly euthanized by our overcrowded shelters, has erupted into a disturbing ‘business as usual’ cycle with no discernable end in sight.

Breed Under Siege
While irresponsible breeders, drug dealers and dog fighters neglect and torture these dogs, the public media has been having a heyday with the breed. Today the pit bull is under siege.

A few years ago a New York Post story told of a man who was attacked and severely bitten on the leg by another breed of dog. He called the local media, but they didn’t find it exciting enough to report. A few days later, out of curiosity, the same man falsely told the same story to the same media, but this time he said that the dog was a Pit Bull. Three television news stations and four newspapers sent reporters immediately. (1)

Even typical dog and dog owner mistakes that are normally tolerated by the public, if done by a dog even marginally resembling a Pit Bull, are often turned into the “breaking news” story of the day.

Yet the very sensationalism that is the media’s hallmark can sometimes be a positive thing, as seen by the largely publicized animal cruelty case against well-known football player Michael Vick.

For years, the Pit Bull was always seen to be the criminal, and due to the nature of its breed, was blamed for the atrocities forced upon it, rather than blaming the people behind the true crimes.

Thus it was that Pit Bull rescuers, advocates, breeders, and law enforcement officials who have known for decades about the injustices and cruelty leveled against this breed were pleasantly surprised by the nation’s sudden outcry over this case. In fact the uproar has been so fierce and unrelenting that critics have condemned the response as too high for the crime. Clearly, the root of the public’s fury over Michael Vick is the shocking brutality of the dog fighting world. A world that very few of the general public in America had previously had even ventured a peek into.

Surprisingly, there’s also a negative side to the public’s recent awareness, something that at first glance would not appear to be an obstacle that the breed now faces. This is the well meaning but misguided efforts of certain animal rescuers.

The Few Who Are Worthy
An evolving trend our society of plenty has encountered in recent years is the “death row” and “last chance” guilt type animal rescuers. Motivated by good intentions and a love for animals, many of these people have but a casual relationship with dogs. But, because their message of urgency plucks our heartstrings, people fork over huge amounts of money and time to support their well intended, but often misguided efforts.

While it’s easy to be led by emotions and feel susceptible amidst the daily barrage of appeals from irresponsible owners threatening to turn their dog into “the pound,” having these situations result in knee jerk reactions to “save them all” is one of the worst things that can happen to pit bulls.

The pit bull breed, more than any other breed at this time, does not have the luxury of surviving ill-informed, inexperienced rescuers, much less unsuspecting, well-meaning, but inexperienced adopters. Given the way many of these dogs are still bred — for money rather than for temperament, or worse yet, for aggressive temperament rather than stability — every Pit Bull entering rescue should be an exceptional model of correct Pit Bull temperament, and should be placed in only the very best and most knowledgeable dog owner homes.

The goal of SPDR’s American Pit Bull Terrier Breed Rep is not to rescue as many pit bulls as possible. It is to restore the image of the breed — to bring it back to its original purpose and intent — through careful selection, scrupulous adoption, and non-sensationalized education.

Fact Versus Fiction
Let’s start with the easiest misconception: the term “pit bull.” Is it really a breed, or a conglomeration of breeds, or is it just a shortened version of American Pit Bull Terrier?

The evolution of the term ‘pit bull’ no longer represents a breed of dog, but rather a generic term used to describe dogs that display similar traits and characteristics. These dogs typically have breeding comprised of either American Pit bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any mix of the three.

No matter what you call them, the pit bull Terrier suffers from false information probably more than any other breed. The image of this breed as a natural human aggressor is attention grabbing, but false. pit bulls were never bred to attack people.

The typical American Pit Bull Terrier, the true ambassador of this breed, is stable, reliable, and loves people, as supported by a yearly study of dog breeds by the American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS), where pit bulls achieved a passing rate of 83.9%. That’s better than Beagles at 78.2%, and right up there with Golden Retrievers at 83.2% — both of which are breeds typically viewed as wonderful family dogs.

This temperament score is in stark contrast to the “monster myths” that perpetuate the image of the breed for a large part of society today. Locking jaws, unstable personalities that are prone to “snap” resulting in attacks on their owners, biting power beyond any other breed of dog — the list of myths goes on.

But wasn’t this dog originally bred to fight other dogs? The answer is yes. And like other types of terriers, some pit bulls can be aggressive towards other dogs. This is where responsible breeding, rescue and ownership becomes key.

A common phrase you will here relayed by responsible pit bull owners is “Set your pit bull up for success.” Just as we strive to set our children up to succeed in today’s world, so too does a pit bull owner their dog. Socialization in a controlled manner early on, spaying/neutering at a young age, monitoring dog play, and clear but fair leadership are just some of the a responsible owners guidelines. Not breeding or rescuing the overtly dog aggressive dogs, but rather choosing them for the plethora of also typical great traits they should exude. Still, some amount of dog aggression is typical and can be expected. Pit bulls often do not seek the fight, but true to all terriers, they don’t back down from one either.

Yet animal aggression is very different from human aggression. If animal aggression translated into human aggression, many dog breeds would be at risk of the “monster” label — the beloved Snoopy, a Beagle, bred to track and rip apart fox; the gentle Irish Wolfhound, bred to kill wolves; and nearly all of the terriers, of which Miniature Schnauzers are grouped with, that were (and are) deadly rodent hunters.

So who it the “real” pit bull? A fun loving, spunky and affectionate dog that is also impressively loyal, bold, and courageous. They are natural “court jesters,” amazing athletes, and perfect family companions.

Bred for athleticism and adaptability for hundreds of years, they are easily one of the most versatile dog athletes of current times, participating in a variety of dog sports including Agility, Weight Pull, Obedience, Flyball, Frisbee and even Herding. With their tenacious work drive and strong desire to please their owners not just 100% but 200%, they are natural competitors and win impressive titles wherever they’re worked.

As the reality of the breed’s capabilities has begun to be acknowledged, so too has their use in public service. Currently, just in the state of Washington, there are six pit bulls working as very successful K9 officers for the State Patrol bomb and drug sniffing units. Two of the countries most successful and noted search and rescue dogs are pit bulls, Dakota and Tahoe, who were called upon to participate in the recovery of the crew member remains from the space shuttle Columbia explosion.

Meanwhile the soft side of the breed shows up in their overflowing affection for humans — a desirable trait that was very important to the original breeders of this animal, and remains so today. For this reason, many pit bulls work as Certified Therapy Dogs in hospitals and nursing homes. A pit bull named ‘RCA’ was Alaska’s first certified Hearing Dog.

However the favorite place of any well-loved Pit Bull is in the lap of their adoring human or close by their side. There are hundreds of family homes right here in the Puget Sound who know the breed and continue to seek them out as their dog of choice because of their amazing tolerance and love for families and children.

The Future
Many people deeply embedded in the pit bull world are at a heightened state of alarm for the future of this amazing breed. As public misconception continues, the plight of the breed as a whole is in jeopardy.

As the media continues to misreport and sensationalize pit bull incidents, as other breed of dogs continue to be mislabeled as pit bulls, and as irresponsible owners, backyard breeders, and criminals continue to neglect and abuse this breed, their plight seems to be in a unending downward spiral towards an all-out ban.

In just the last decade, Breed Specific Legislation — rules that govern whether or not you can own a specific breed of dog, of which pit bulls are only one on the list — has become rampant not only in the United States, and not only in our own state, but in numerous other countries around the world.

The best argument against breed bans is that they are costly and ineffective. Breed bans are often a knee-jerk reaction from politicians who want to say they are “doing something” in response to a highly publicized dog attack (of any breed). This is a useless exercise.

I would argue that it is also not a very intelligent choice. What message are we telling society about these abusive and irresponsible owners when legislation makes the dogs pay the price for their action? Criminals habitually break laws. If their dog is confiscated and killed, they will just get another one because Breed Specific Legislation punishes the dog, not the owner. Criminalizing a breed only makes them appeal more to the criminals.

To end this trend, the public as a whole needs to respond. Demand conscientious breeding. Recognize media hype for what it really is. Thoroughly research and hold rescue groups to stringent standards, recognizing that not every Pit Bull can, or should, be saved. Report cruelty and neglect, knowing that abuse victims can be become dangerous out of necessity. Request, demand, and insist on responsible ownership of the Pit Bull. Do not support the “get out of jail free” card of Breed Specific Legislation.

But most of all? Give one of the true ambassador dogs of this breed a chance to show you who they used to be, and who they can be again, if we take the responsibility to treat them humanely, intelligently, and with great responsibility. You’ll be rewarded 200%, and then some.

1.The Ultimate American Pit Bull Terrier, Jacqueline O’Neil

RSS icon Comments


All we need to know is where they are, and the most efficient (and effective) way to kill them. All.

Posted by Mr. Poe | March 26, 2008 2:00 PM

Finally. Thank you!

Posted by Carollani | March 26, 2008 2:02 PM

For the record, both Amy Kate and Carollani own Pit Bulls.

Posted by pencil riot | March 26, 2008 2:15 PM

Thanks for that very informative (and well-documented) piece. The knee-jerk "solution" that others advocate is really not helpful or productive at solving the underlying problems caused when naive or cruel humans own dogs. Also, it is disappointing when someone who otherwise has a critical-thinking brain becomes completely unnuanced on a certain topic (e.g. Dan on this one), so I welcome this level-headed contribution to the conversation.

Posted by Simac | March 26, 2008 2:19 PM

That was a pretty good article (looong, though), but, in my opinion, somewhat short on actual solutions. “Demand responsible ownership”. Responsible ownership is a great goal, but how do we as a society get there?

I’ve long said that pit bulls are “varsity” level dogs, requiring more care, knowledge and training than other dogs. The fact that there are so many irresponsible, asshole owners of them is why you see so many asshole dogs of this breed.

Posted by Julie | March 26, 2008 2:21 PM

Actually, I own an American bulldog. He looks like a giant, lanky pit bull. I am a bully breed fan, of course.

Posted by Amy Kate Horn | March 26, 2008 2:25 PM

While I think Amy Kate and Carollani are wonderful, I agree with Mr. Poe.

Look, it's like when I owned a Weimaraner, a breed that likes to get out and about, or a friend who had a high-strung Dalmation, or my brother's Saint Bernard - most people aren't really able to take care of them properly. And in the hands of most people, they can sometimes be a bit dangerous.

Pit bulls are more so.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 26, 2008 2:30 PM

woah, this pitbull post was longer than mine...

Posted by infrequent | March 26, 2008 2:30 PM

Will in Seattle agrees with me. I no longer support the demolition of teh breed.

Posted by Mr. Poe | March 26, 2008 2:36 PM

I was 100% with Dan on pit bulls, but now I'm not so sure. I guess I'm a swing pit-bull voter. Thanks for the article Amy Kate!

Posted by arduous | March 26, 2008 2:43 PM

Looong, but a good read. This makes more sense than the blanket mentality of "all pit bulls are evil and must die." I've always thought pit bull attacks were sensationalized and that's why we hear more about those type of dog attacks than any other. No, I do not have a pit bull, and I don't know anyone who does.

Posted by D | March 26, 2008 2:52 PM

The author doesn't seem to understand the word "infamous". Infamous is how I would describe the pit bulls we know today.

Posted by davidLBC | March 26, 2008 2:59 PM

Can you give us a link directly to the article?

Posted by Willis | March 26, 2008 3:00 PM

#11: Nooo, that's wrong. Read infrequent's post or any of the many scientific articles showing that pit bulls are by far the most dangerous dog breed.

While you're at it, read about how pit bull owners are 9x more likely to abuse children and pit bull ownership should be a factor in deciding whether kids should be taken away.

Posted by poppy | March 26, 2008 3:01 PM

Any Terrier is a "varsity" level dog. They have an inherent independent streak, active minds (which leads to bad behavior if you don't keep them occupied) and as the author notes, they don't back down from aggression.

Pit Bulls require more care as a owner because they're physically larger and more powerful than say a Cairn Terrier.

Pit Bull owners and breeders are much more the problem than the dogs as a breed. Owning a dog is like owning a baby--and we all know from "Every Child Deserves a Mother and Father..." that they're are a lot of fucked up parents in this world.

Posted by Curtains | March 26, 2008 3:07 PM

@13: This is the first place it's been published (arrived via e-mail).

Posted by Amy Kate Horn | March 26, 2008 3:09 PM

Hellen Keller wouldn't be blind or deaf if her pitbull hadn't eaten her eyes and ears!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 26, 2008 3:09 PM

FACT: The author of this piece doesn't understand the difference between "famous" and "infamous". Draw your own conclusions.

Posted by elenchos | March 26, 2008 3:13 PM

@14 EXACTLY, maybe if their owners weren't such assholes there wouldn't be so many asshole pit bulls.
I haven't read your statistics YET, but I can't imagine they are very accurate. I doubt many attacks are reported. I was attacked by 2 german shepards when I was 8, my parents did not report it. Should they have? Yes, I think so, but I'm sure it is common not to report attacks unless they put that person in the hospital. If someone is attacked say by a chihauau (sp?) they will be laughed at for reporting it. Just because a pit bull attack can do more damage than a small dog doesn't make the small dog any less viscious. Anyhoo, I'm not some big pit bull advocate, it's just my measley opinion.

Posted by D | March 26, 2008 3:17 PM

@9 - now I'm going to agree with Mr. Poe @9 and say we should let them run free, so our babies can have their fingers nibbled on. As @14 implicitly states "What does not kill our children, makes the survivors stronger!"

We. Are. SPARTA!

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 26, 2008 3:22 PM

i had pits as a kid, i own one now, along with 2 border collies. never a problem, never bit anyone, were never agressive. theyre much better behaved than any yappy little obnoxious dog that is preferred by some folk. great breed, unfortunately A LOT of assholes own them and a lot of douchebags know absolutely nothing about them.

Posted by SeMe | March 26, 2008 3:25 PM

The dog's name wasn't Phiz, it was Ayyyyyunnnnhhhhhh.

Posted by Wolf | March 26, 2008 3:37 PM

Will shortly be drinking toast to this post.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | March 26, 2008 3:42 PM

The only dogs that ever bit me (or the husband) were Jack Russells and toy poodles. Personally, I think they're the devil incarnate.

However, I've known well/lived with all of the previously trendy "danger dogs", and generally found them to be goofy, loving, devoted, and friendly. Punish the owner, punish the bad breeder, but don't punish the breed.

And American bulldogs? A-fucking-dorable.

Posted by Jessica | March 26, 2008 4:42 PM

I had two pit bulls growing up. They were extremely intelligent and not aggressive toward any people. We used to play dress up with the first one and she tolerated lots of crazy playing from us, seeming to consider herself one of the siblings. And she knew just how much force to use in playing--she'd barely use any with us kids, but she'd be rougher with my dad--and never hurt any of us.

If a pit bull is from a reliable breeder and is raised well, and with kindness, there is no danger.

Posted by leah | March 26, 2008 4:47 PM

I've known multiple pit bulls, and they really can be wonderful dogs. I have two rescued dogs of a breed that are sometimes targeted as "aggressive" in breed-specific legislation (shar peis), and they are both loving, sweet, loyal darlings. Yes, they require more control than, say, a labrador; one is dog aggressive, but we're responsible owners--trained him, never let him off-leash unless he's in a fenced in yard alone, keep him active and engaged in non-destructive activities, and he's wonderful.

By contrast, other members of my family have dogs who have bitten people. A collie in particular has bitten several people, and even the shiba inu took a chunk out of someone's finger. Our lab once bit my mother, and the schauzer we had when i was young bit me a few times.

Not all dogs that bite are pit bulls, and not all pit bulls bite. That there are more cases of pit bulls reported has to do with three things: irresponsible (and abusive) owners, as pointed out in the article; the sheer number of pit bulls compared to other breeds; and media sensationalism.

Posted by paulette | March 26, 2008 5:03 PM

it's really stupid to present the solution to this "problem" as kill them all. how do you implement that wonderful scheme? think about it for a second...yeah, that's retarded.
besides, any dog can be dangerous, it really has more to do with how they are socialized, not their supposed inherent traits. any dog attack should be blamed solely on the owner not the breed as a whole.

Posted by douglas | March 26, 2008 5:10 PM

Having vats of nitroglycerin around the house is absolutely safe if you just know how to deal with them.

Posted by Vasya | March 26, 2008 5:21 PM

Thank you David LBC for pointing out my incorrect use of the word infamous. I will change my article. And Julie I would say that I gave more than "responsible ownership" as a solution.

Posted by Lorrie | March 26, 2008 5:29 PM

@28- Yeah, I think I would agree with that statement on its face. Curious what point you're trying to make.

Posted by Ryan OTS | March 26, 2008 5:32 PM

You fucktards ruined my favorite Helen Keller joke.

"Have you seen a picture of Helen Keller's dog"

"No? Neither has she!"

Posted by Bob | March 26, 2008 5:39 PM

Many people don't realize that breed specific legislation is used by the extreme animal rights activists as a way to eliminate pet ownership entirely. Start with pit bulls, then it's easy to add any other breed until, voila - no more dog ownership. For those who think pit bulls should be banned/killed/whatever, why don't you do something positive and go volunteer at a local shelter? Get to know some of these dogs and find out what they're REALLY like. At the same time, you'll be making a difference in shelter animals' lives. Lorrie - you have a huge job and you have my support, respect and awe - hang in there - your breed is worth saving!

Posted by GrrSpartacus | March 26, 2008 5:59 PM

From the piece:

"the gentle Irish Wolfhound, bred to kill wolves..."

I just have to say, my female German Shepherd (12 yrs old) has only been attacked by two dogs, a Pit bull and an Irish Wolfhound. I can only imagine that the wolfhound saw her, thought "wolf!!", and went after her.

If my GSD sees a sheep, it is virtually impossible to stop her from herding them. She's never been trained how, she just does it. It's ingrained in her, and it's really amazing to watch.

Pit Bulls were bred to kill other dogs, just as my GSD was bred to herd sheep. I can only assume that Pit Bulls have the same ingrained, insatiable drive to kill other dogs as my dog has to herd sheep, and that wolfhounds have that same drive to hunt wolves (or dogs that look like wolves).

The article made me rethink my stance on Pit Bulls, but only slightly. I don't doubt they can be great companions, but I still don't trust them around other dogs.

Posted by kmonkey | March 26, 2008 6:00 PM

The most friendly, outgoing, gentle dog I ever had was a pit bull terrier. She could be aggressive with other dogs, but I believe she was incapable of aggression toward humans.

Posted by Pam | March 26, 2008 6:08 PM

Excellent and informative article. Thank you. I'm pleased to see someone present an intelligent evaluation of the wonderful pit bull breed. As has been typical throughout history, a few have always managed to screw everything up for the rest of us (and our dogs).

Posted by Leslie | March 26, 2008 6:35 PM

Very good article. I have read a lot of material on this subject matter, and the thing that never ceases to amaze me is that even when presented with the facts about pit bulls and the media's skewering, sensationalist handling of this subject (among MANY others), there is still a large group of people who CHOOSE TO REMAIN ignorant. Wtf is that???
The pit bull question aside, this is a trait in people I will never understand.

Posted by ee | March 26, 2008 7:42 PM

Very good article. I have read a lot of material on this subject matter, and the thing that never ceases to amaze me is that even when presented with the facts about pit bulls and the media's skewering, sensationalist handling of this subject (among MANY others), there is still a large group of people who CHOOSE TO REMAIN ignorant. Wtf is that???
The pit bull question aside, this is a trait in people I will never understand.

Posted by ee | March 26, 2008 7:42 PM

I also wanted to clarify that the article was originally published in the SPEAKS SPDR newsletter.

Posted by Lorrie | March 26, 2008 7:51 PM

When I lived in Washington as a kid I don't recall being afraid of the neighbor's pit bull, or any pit bull. It was just another dog. However I have since moved to a part of the country where owning a pit bull is having a pair of surrogate balls. Every gang banger and wannabe piece of trash has one and they are nothing like the former neighbor's dog. They are vicious, aggressive, and if not restrained, they will attack. They have been bred and trained for just that reason. The pit bull might have been a terrific breed at one time, but now it is not. Not the dog's fault, but it won't keep me from feeding one a poisoned hot dog if the new neighbors bring one home.

Posted by Y.F. | March 26, 2008 9:35 PM

a thousand killed a year
hungry homeless people
i'm just saying

Posted by nottoscale | March 26, 2008 9:44 PM

Responsible ownership= spay/neuter, socialization, training, knowing your dog and it's limits, and strong leadership is a must. This is not exclusive to "pitbulls".

I'm not afraid of any one breed but there are certainly individual dogs I would not approach, starting with the Chocolate Lab that lives behind me, or the two Yellow Labs that lunge and growl everytime I'm out on a walk with my CGC'd APBT's, who don't even blink an eye at the Labs.
By the way I also have a rescued Shih Tzu that lives happily with my pitbulls.

Posted by Gretchen | March 26, 2008 10:57 PM

I love how people put "kill them all" and actually believe that's a solution to all the "pit bull drama" that is presented in the media.

This "kill them all" crap is so dumb. So, are you telling me that because you've heard stories of pit bulls attacking people, or killing people, 100% of that breed should be killed? What about all those black people who attack and kill people? Huh? Should we kill all the black people too?

I love this breed, along with all other bully breeds. You people do realize that the Boxer is a bully breed too, right? As is the Boston Terrier? Yeah, BSL=BULL SHIT LEGISLATION!!!!!

Posted by LLHH | March 26, 2008 11:06 PM

Thanks, Amy. It's about time somebody over there stopped with the stupid.

Posted by Matthew | March 26, 2008 11:35 PM

I hate to rain on the Pit Bull Rescue Lady's parade, but that's a Boston Terrier, not a pit bull. Boston Terriers are cute little snorty dogs, that are more likely to slobber you to death than tear you to pieces.

Look it up--Phiz was a Boston Terrier:

Posted by sjr | March 27, 2008 12:33 AM

@34- "...but I believe she was incapable of aggression toward humans."

This is what makes so many pet owners a pain in the ass. They just can't believe that their pet can do anything wrong.

Posted by Mikeblanco | March 27, 2008 3:57 AM

@29. My feeling is that the solutions you suggested are not very actionable.

In your second to last paragraph you talk about not buying into the media hype and not supporting breed bans, both of which I agree with, but are not actual solutions to the problem.

And "demanding responsible breeding and ownership" is all well and good, but who am I going to demand this of? My friends and family, who are not part of the problem here? The asshole owners don't give a shit about responsible breeding and ownership. That's why they're assholes. So, what's your plan to get them to stop being assholes, except demanding that they do so?

Reporting abuse/neglect is probably the most actionable thing, but I don't exactly live in an area that has alot of dog abuse/neglect...

Anyways, I guess in such a long article I would have liked to have seen some more in depth discussion of what can actually be done to address the problem (stricter licensing regulations and enforcement? some type of action against breeders?), but maybe that wasn't the purpose of your piece.

Posted by Julie | March 27, 2008 8:17 AM

I thought that this article was very well written with an educated and balanced view of the breed. Kudos to you Lorrie!
What most people don't understand is that good, responsible Pit Bull rescuers will be the first one's to euthanize a dog that shows agression towards humans. They really do "support" the breed. Maybe we can find a way to levy large fines against owners of pits that are not spayed or neutered and are not "approved" breeders and attempt to reduce the population of "bad" pits.

Posted by Janet | March 27, 2008 9:18 AM

This is a great article Lorrie. Thank you for all the information. So many people are misinformed about the breed and I strive everyday to educate people about the true nature of the dog. My former foster dog Sandy is an American Pit Bull Terrier and everywhere I take take/took her (I still get to see her a lot) I get asked if she is a pit bull mix and I say no. People look at me confused and say, "but she's so sweet?!?". Sandy is a true ambassador of her breed.
I do a lot of training and volunteer work with all kinds of dogs. I have been hired to do temperament testing on some pits and I recommended that one be put down. The bleeding heart rescuer went against my judgment and adopted him out anyway. I just hope I never see him in the headlines. He may have seemed sweet to the average person but a trainer is taught to look for things "normal" people would look past.
Thank you for all that you do Lorrie. This is a wonderful article.

Posted by Kendra | March 27, 2008 1:48 PM

Very good article.

I've had a male non-nutered American Pit Bull Terrier and my brother has an adopted rescue pit as well.

I rescued Duke from a thug wannabe living in an apartment and gave him a loving home. He was a hardy, high energy, loveable dog that was always ready to play.

My brother's pit Nismo gets along famously with my 1 year old nephew as well as other dogs (mostly pits) during play dates.

I cringe when I see the wanabe thugs with multiple pits (usually a male and female) with spiked collars thinking they are all badass.

I 100% agree with the nurture over nature approach for terriers (or any breed for that matter) and that there are far too many owners who do not raise their dogs properly either on purpose or through ignorance.

Don't punish the breed and hold owners responsible for their bad training.

Props to Lorrie Kalmbach Ehlers - Keep up the good work!

Posted by Russell | March 27, 2008 4:57 PM

Here's a novel idea for those who fear dogs of any breed...push your city, county & state legislators to encourage enforcement of the laws we already have!

Leash laws save lives, people.

Let's enforce the licensing, nuisance, and leash laws we have and then, once they're all working as they should, then we can consider additional laws. Frankly, most of us rely on King County AC, and they're understaffed for the job.

Have any of you ever seen or heard of a leash law being strictly enforced? A license law being enforced? If I wasn't being attacked on all sides every day by someone's unleashed, unlicensed, unneutered adored little psychotic anklebiter, maybe I'd feel safe walking my pit bull in public.

Posted by JBean | March 27, 2008 6:06 PM

Reading some of these posts, I thought I'd stumbled on a Ku Klux Klan website. A certain kind of person has always enjoyed hating entire classes of people: Jews, blacks, gays, etc.

The same kind of person seems to get a kick out of hating the American Pit Bull Terrier which, until the last few decades, was the most beloved family dog in America.

The only thing wrong with pit bulls is their recent popularity with bad owners. This problem is aggravated by sensationalized reports of any incident involving a pit, while serious, even fatal attacks by other breeds are ignored by the media.

Irresponsible idiots who think it's "cool" to have a scary dog choose a pit bull BECAUSE of these scare stories. If the news outlets ONLY reported crimes committed by Canadians, say, they'd whip up a lot of undeserved anger against Canadians, too.

Folks, pit bulls rate higher in temperament tests than beagles and even Golden Retrievers. They're so friendly as to be useless as guard dogs, and famously good with children.

Of course, they're not for everyone. Owners who neglect or spoil their dog should stick to small breeds -- it doesn't matter so much if a toy poodle is aggressive or bites. With pits, as with any medium or large breed, owners need to properly train and control their dogs.

Breed bans don't work because the problem isn't the dogs, it's bad owners. Ban pit bulls and jerks will get even bigger, more aggressive animals: Akitas, Dobermans, etc.

I've owned two pit bulls and both were the sweetest dogs imaginable, playful and friendly with everyone they met, and gentle with babies and children. A well-socialized pit bull makes a superb family dog, as any knowledgeable dog trainer or veterinarian will confirm.

I've known a number of veterinarians and most of them, as it turned out, personally owned or had owned pit bulls themselves. Television's "dog whisperer", Cesar Millan, repeatedly states his admiration and affection for this breed.

On the cover of his best-selling dog training book, BE THE PACK LEADER, Mr. Millan poses smiling with four dogs: two of them are pit bulls!

But media-fed hysteria continues to fan the flames of bigotry against this wonderful breed. A few years ago an animal control officer stopped me, as I walked my pit bull in Santa Monica, California. Petting my friendly, tail-wagging pit, he said by law all pits had to be muzzled in the city limits. Why, I asked.

He shrugged and replied: "All that nonsense in the media. We don't have much trouble with pits. Akitas and Chows, that's another story ... but the law says pits, so we have to enforce it."

Ban pit bulls to reduce dog bites? Sure! And while we're at it, lets kill all gays, to reduce AIDS, and ban black people to reduce crime!

Posted by Steve O. | March 28, 2008 9:12 AM

steve o, that is ridiculous. you are not the first in this thread to suggest it, but treating animal breeds based on their size and temperament is a different world entirely than trying to treat people based on those same traits. it's mind boggling to think that anyone would see a parallel there. but even with such a comparison, if people were found training children in a comparable manner to how many pit bulls are trained, the children would be removed for the children's benefit. i'm loathe to indulge this analogy, though, as i find it repugnant that you seem to like comparing gays and jews to pit bulls.

and about pit bulls? check this article out, written by a long time animal welfare activist, and then read my interview with the author, who deals with both the idea of treating breeds differently, and with the mistaken identification of pit bulls.

Posted by infrequent | March 28, 2008 10:36 AM

Infrequent: you suggest "treating animal breeds based on their size and temperament." Well, the pit bull is a medium-sized dog and has one of the best temperament ratings of all breeds.

The identification problem IS an issue. In rougher neighborhoods, purebreds of any kind are uncommon, so any problem with a strong short-hair dog tends to be listed in statistics, and in the media, as caused by pit-bulls.

Telling the truth here requires getting very politically-incorrect, so fasten your seatbelts. The fact is pit bull attacks, numerous as they are, do NOT happen evenly across this or any city. How many people have been attacked by pit bulls lately in YOUR part of town?

They occur overwhelmingly in areas of low education and high crime. Where gang members deliberately encourage their dogs' aggression because they think it's "tough". Where immigrants stem from cultures where socializing, training, and even walking your dog are foreign concepts. Working as an inner city schoolteacher for 20 years in Los Angeles made me realize this.

As the risk of being called a racist or worse, let me describe for you a typical "problem dog", bearing in mind I don't mean to stereotype any ethnicity as "all the same", any more than all pit bulls are the same. What I mean to show is that "problem dogs" are created by environment, not genetics.


The Gomez family immigrated to the States some years ago. Their neighborhood, where they could afford to buy a house, has a lot of break-ins and gang activity. Even with bars on the windows, Mr. Gomez worries about his wife and children when he's gone all day at work.

His friends suggest getting a couple dogs to protect the house. Pit bulls, they say, are the scariest. A number of teenagers in the area abusively breed pits, selling the puppies to buyers like Mr. Gomez.

He gets the dogs. His wife doesn't want them in the house, so they're left outside on six foot chains. The Gomez children are told to give the dogs food and water, and usually they remember.

Walking the dogs? Training them? Socializing them? No one did these things in the Guatemalan farming community the Gomezes came from, so it doesn't occur to them to do it either.

When the dogs growl at strangers, when they lunge and snap at passersby outside the backyard fence, Mr. Gomez smiles -- knowing his family is well-protected when he's away.

Eduardo, Mr. Gomez's teenage son, has been hanging with gangbangers, though he's not officially a member. He wants to be more accepted by older boys, so he starts showing off "Killer", their biggest pit bull, on a rope.

When Killer growls and lunges, the neighbor boys are impressed. Feed him gunpowder, they say, which will make him even meaner. Eduardo does. The powder ulcerates the dog's stomach, causing constant pain, and Killer indeed becomes meaner and scarier. One day, Killer slips his collar and kills two stray cats down the block. Too bad, but hardly a big deal compared to the serious crime that goes on in the neighborhood.

Some gang members have set up an informal dog fighting pit in a basement. Eduardo is thrilled when Killer "beats" another dog in a bloody fight, and he goes home with forty bucks from the betting.

Killer's dangerous reputation is making Eduardo richer and more popular. He feeds gunpowder to the family's other dog, but it doesn't make her meaner. She just gets sick and dies. Eduardo tells his Mom some one must have poisoned him.

One day Killer, growling at some children on the other side of the fence, slips his collar again. He escapes from the yard and chases the screaming children. Having been encouraged for his whole life to be as aggressive as possible, he bites a little girl, sending her to the hospital with serious injuries.

The TV news reports: ANOTHER PIT BULL ATTACK! ISN'T IT TIME WE BANNED THESE DANGEROUS PREDATORS? Later, Mr. Gomez loses his house in the ensuing law suit. A tragedy all around.


Banning the breed will have no effect in the Gomez's neighborhood, where hardly anyone even licenses their dogs. Ban pits and owners like the Gomezes will be unaware of the law, ignore it, or simply get another large dog they will unwittingly turn into a menace to the community.

If you doubt what I write here, look into WHERE pit bull attacks occur and who the owners of the offending dogs are -- you'll see I'm right. The media, not wanting to sound racist or classist, deliberately omits this information from their dog attack stories.

Nowhere do you address the simple fact that pitbulls, properly socialized, are among the best family dogs. A century ago they were America's most popular family pet, which is why Buster Brown, the RCA Victor logo, the Our Gang kids, etc. were all pictured with lovable pit bulls.

The idea that taking sweet, well-behaved pit bulls away from responsible owners serves any useful purpose is absurd -- and cruel. Simply enforcing existing license, leash, and animal neglect laws is what's needed. Another idea I would support, implemented recently in Los Angeles, is banning unlicensed "backyard breeding", which addresses the problem at its source.

If you find my comparison of bigotry against pit bulls to bigotry against gays and blacks "repugnant", I might suggest looking for the source of that repugnance ... in the mirror.

Posted by Steve O. | March 28, 2008 1:31 PM

Astute readers will realize, from my "problem dog" scenario, where all those stray pit bulls are coming from -- the ones filling up shelters across the country.

They're neglected or abused runaways from irresponsible owners, like my fictional "Eduardo". Or they're abandoned by owners like "Mr. Gomez" who naively thought keeping an aggressive, unsocialized dog would protect his family. One day the dog snaps at his wife, and Mrs. Gomez insists the dog must go: so Mr. Gomez drives a couple miles away and leaves the dog in a vacant lot.

Or they're unsold puppies from gang-related "puppy mills" and backyard breeders, who breed their dogs literally to death, in some cases, producing litter after litter, getting the word out that their pits are bigger and meaner than anyone else's.

These are the idiots who advertise their puppies' "huge heads", large size, and aggression as selling points. Cracking down on these backyard breeders is probably the best way to address nuisance dogs.

I would advocate breed bans myself if they actually reduced dog attacks, but they don't. England banned pit bulls: no reduction in dog attacks resulted. Other communities have had the same experience.

Because the problem isn't the dogs! It's bad owners -- naive ones like "Mr. Gomez" and irresponsible ones like "Eduardo". No matter how many breeds you ban, these owners will still get their hands on large strong dogs and the problem continues.

Enforcing existing laws in communities where dog attacks are a problem is the answer -- the trouble is, these are neighborhoods animal control officers avoid, fearing for their own safety.

Banning pit bulls makes as much sense as incarcerating Barack Obama because some black guy robbed you at gunpoint. That kind of "logic" is truly "repugnant"!

Posted by Steve O. | March 28, 2008 2:56 PM

To Kmonkey,

German Shepherds were not bred to herd sheep - they were bred to patrol where the sheep were, to act as a living fence. But they have been trained to do many other things. Pit Bulls were not originally bred to kill dogs - they were bred for bull baiting, in which sport they harassed a "bull" in a "pit" . They have been changed in recent years to meet the sport of dog fighting. Needless to say, people interested in dog fighting are not the most savory people around. As for Y.F. who would feed a poisoned hot dog to a pit bull - I don't like kids, but I would never harm one, even though many of them deserve it far more than any innocent dog who is what he is made to be.

Posted by LDP | March 28, 2008 3:00 PM

To Kmonkey,

German Shepherds were not bred to herd sheep - they were bred to patrol where the sheep were, to act as a living fence. But they have been trained to do many other things. Pit Bulls were not originally bred to kill dogs - they were bred for bull baiting, in which sport they harassed a "bull" in a "pit" . They have been changed in recent years to meet the sport of dog fighting. Needless to say, people interested in dog fighting are not the most savory people around. As for Y.F. who would feed a poisoned hot dog to a pit bull - I don't like kids, but I would never harm one, even though many of them deserve it far more than any innocent dog who is what he is made to be.

Posted by LDP | March 28, 2008 3:00 PM

To Kmonkey,

German Shepherds were not bred to herd sheep - they were bred to patrol where the sheep were, to act as a living fence. But they have been trained to do many other things. Pit Bulls were not originally bred to kill dogs - they were bred for bull baiting, in which sport they harassed a "bull" in a "pit" . They have been changed in recent years to meet the sport of dog fighting. Needless to say, people interested in dog fighting are not the most savory people around. As for Y.F. who would feed a poisoned hot dog to a pit bull - I don't like kids, but I would never harm one, even though many of them deserve it far more than any innocent dog who is what he is made to be.

Posted by LDP | March 28, 2008 3:01 PM

A friend writes me that my "problem dog" scenario sounds racist. After living in majority-Hispanic Los Angeles for 20 years, I forgot that "Gomez" and "Eduardo" may not sound so generic to residents of majority-gringo Seattle.

So please, substitute "Mr. Smith" and "Johnny" for "Mr. Gomez" and "Eduardo" if it makes you more comfortable.

I abhor all forms of bigotry. Education level is relevant to this issue, but color and ethnicity are not.

Posted by Steve O. | March 28, 2008 4:20 PM

your story does sound completely racist. not only that, you say the laws won't work because people who immigrate here won't understand or follow them. this despite the fact that in your own hypothetical story the dogs were outside in plain view where anyone could see and report them. and while your represent your story as typical -- though i doubt it is -- it certainly demonstrates one occurrence of the exact problem that needs to be addressed. why else would you tell this story? why else would it seem true to you? finally, you once again compare pit bulls to a race, this time specifically obama. that is racist, illogical and unfounded. but even in your racist comparison of a pit bull to an african american, you insist one example shouldn't sway your opinion. yet your story is exactly that: one hypothetical example.

look at the evidence. there is a problem right now. it might be because of the breed, because of the owners, or likely because of other factors and those all mixed together. but there no dispute that there is a problem. even pit bull owners here say the breed requires the proper upbringing. and it must be solved. the proper upbringing (via a license), or no upbringing at all (via a ban) would be two possible solutions that are both significantly better than the status quo.

the links i provides provide an alternative to your viewpoint. one based on facts presented by a well-regarded animal welfare activist.

Posted by infrequent | March 28, 2008 7:40 PM

Infrequent-Did you read the article at all? How is it that the breed existed for so many years in responsible homes and was regarded as the best of family dogs? How is it that the pit bull breed scores higher on temperament tests than the "typical" family dog, the Golden Retriever, but you still think the breed is the problem?

Any dog, no matter the breed, needs proper upbringing. Socialization, obedience classes, veterinary care are all required in a proper upbringing of any breed of dog if you want them to be a canine good citizen, not just an idiot ill behaved dog.

As far as your activist, he fails to state the very basics of statistics that any statitician knows. Numbers can be easily manipulated to show any story you want. You just set the parameters accordingly. What your source fails to also state is that the pit bull breed is by far the number one breed in America and accordingly the bite statistics will be higher for that breed just by shear numbers alone. If you were to compare pit bull numbers to number of bites in comparison to other breed numbers and their bites I think it would tell a different story.

If you want to really enlighten yourself about dog bites I would recommend reading "Dogs Bite-But Balloons and Slippers are more Dangerous" or "The Pit bull Placebo:The Media, Myth and Politics of Canine Agression".

Also, if you think that it is so easy for animal control officers to i.d. a pit bull (and it's not-as I used to work in animal control, and still work with them all the time and they everyday mis-i.d. dogs as pit bulls) then I would suggest you take the test at Let me know how you do.

Posted by Lorrie | March 28, 2008 10:56 PM


that test is so stupid. of course *i* cannot identify a pit bull. but perhaps *you* can. if you can, so can other experts. otherwise, there would be no answer key to the test. the logic that suggests that if i can't identify something then experts cannot identify it

and is it necessary to ask if i really read your article? another non-logic attack on me, thanks. i could just as easily ask you if you read mine. you know, the part where it's pointed out that if even half the maimings and deaths were by misidentified breeds those by pit bulls would still be the vast majority.

i don't care if it's because there are more pit bulls than any other dog. i don't care if it's only because they require special upbringing that they are not getting. i care that, at present, they account for too many maimings and deaths linked to one breed. and i work from there. and honestly, if *all* those attacks, which make up the vast majority of such attacks, were from the few breeds that look like pit bulls, then i would single out all dogs that look like pit bulls.

then, you make a turn-about. suddenly, you acknowledge that we can do things to help. you do this because there is -- on some level -- a problem.

you give all sorts of advice for what "we" can do. we can "demand" conscientious breeding, for instance. and how do i do that? who do i do that to? do i personally find these -- as you call them -- irresponsible owners, backyard breeders, and criminals, and demand they change their ways? (i can see that going over well.)

the point it, no, *i* don't. *i* use the law to demand those things. and if the current laws are not cutting it, then we need to change the laws.

Posted by infrequent | March 29, 2008 4:09 PM

my first paragraph was truncated:

that test is so stupid. of course *i* cannot identify a pit bull. but perhaps *you* can. if you can, so can other experts. otherwise, there would be no answer key to the test. the logic that suggests that if i can't identify something then experts cannot identify it is ridiculous... apply that to a brain surgeon and a tumor, for instance. i hope brain surgeons can do their jobs well, and that i can do my job well. neither requires the ability to identify a pit bull.

Posted by infrequent | March 29, 2008 4:11 PM

Infrequent, I'm sorry my comparison to racial bigotry makes you uncomfortable. People usually ARE uncomfortable when confronted with their own irrational prejudices.

As for your "activist", do you mean the comedian and/or lunatic you linked who suggests pit bulls be murdered and fed to their owners? Yeah, that was a really rational interview.

To continue my analogy: in American cities today, 50% -- yes, fifty percent -- of street crime is committed by African American males, a group that comprises 6% of the general population. I ask you: does this justify deporting or killing Bill Cosby and Barack Obama? Of course not.

So even if unsocialized pits, neglected or abused by bad owners, account for a large percentage of dog bites and nuisance, does that justify taking away millions of peaceful, friendly, well-behaved pets from their responsible owners? How will that improve the situation?

Do you seriously believe bad owners like Michael Vick would pay the slightest attention to a breed ban? The ONLY people who would obey the ban would be law-abiding responsible owners with nice dogs that aren't causing any problems. If anything deserves your newly-coined adjective "non-logic", it's a breed ban.

In your posts you have addressed NONE of the arguments I raised -- e.g. the fact that breed bans have NOT reduced dog attacks where they've been tried, and that bad owners will either ignore them or get even bigger, more aggressive dogs, Rottweillers or Akitas or whatever.

Even in whitebread Seattle, pit bulls are the FOURTH MOST POPULAR BREED of dog. In cities with larger Asian, Hispanic, and African American demographics (i.e. pretty much any other metro area in the country) their popularity is even greater.

Re. your characterization of me as "racist", having more black and Hispanic friends (including my spouse) than white ones, "Gomez" is as generic a name to me as Smith or Jones is to someone like you, whose closest approach to people of color is probably reading about them in Mother Jones magazine.

If you're going to be a slavering, irrational bigot, just admit it. Own it. Wear a T-shirt: "Despite the fact the overwhelming majority of pit bulls are sweet family pets, I want them all DEAD or BANNED! Because now they don't let you hate Jews and gays any more, thank goodness it's still socially acceptable to hate the American Pit Bull Terrier!" :-)

Posted by Steve O. | March 29, 2008 6:24 PM

It should be noted that serious injuries and deaths from dog attacks are rare events. Many more people are maimed or killed slipping in their bathtubs than by dogs, every year. Do you propose banning bathtubs?

Every month automobiles kill more Americans than have died in all five years of the Iraq war. Do we ban automobiles?

The New Republic did a cover story some years ago on the American penchant for obsessing over infinitesimal risks -- poisoned Tylenol, killer bees, Legionnaire's Disease, etc. -- while paying much less attention to very real and major risks, like driving cars, becoming obese, and high blood pressure.

Getting hysterical over the "dangers" of pit bulls certainly falls in this category.

Posted by Steve O. | March 29, 2008 8:30 PM

steve. "my" activist said they should never be boiled alive and fed to their owners. just as you mis characterized that statement, so, too, the rest of your writing is wrong.

as far as whether you are racist or not, you should take that up with the friend of yours who emailed you suggesting you appeared to be so.

the rest of your arguments just re-state what you've said before without consideration of the evidence or arguments i presented, and i'm not willing to restate the exact same thing again just to be ignored or misquoted.

Posted by infrequent | March 29, 2008 10:13 PM

comparing pit bulls with bath tubs now? well, i think that's silly, too, but here you go:

1. far more people take baths than own pit bulls.

2. the ratio of properly used tubs to maiming and death causing tubs is far smaller than teh ratio of harmless pit bulls to pit bulls that have maimed or caused deaths.

3. if one manufacturer (or installer) caused over 70% of bath tub deaths and maimings, they would be held accountable.

4. baths offer a good that cannot be as easily replaced with another similar good as one dog can be replaced with another.

5. finding a large problem does invalidate a specific and preventable smaller problem.

Posted by infrequent | March 30, 2008 6:27 PM

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