Animal Writes
From 15 May 2005 Issue

Dog Attacks or Attacks On Dogs?
by [email protected]

News reports out of Denver, Colorado this week sent a shock wave through the community of dog lovers throughout the country. Rescue groups have their phones ringing off the hook by callers looking for a safe place for their dogs, but there is far more need than places available. Denver has decided that for the safety of the public, they are outlawing dogs commonly known as "pitbulls and pitbull mixes." Unlike some other cities that have enacted breed specific laws (BSL's), Denver has decided that they will confiscate these dogs from their guardians and destroy them rather than enact a "grandfather clause" that would require people to alter their dogs, make it illegal to bring new pitbulls into the area, and require current pitbull owners to keep their dogs confined, leashed, or muzzled. What has caused this uproar?

First, it's fear instilled in the public by media attention of attacks on people by dogs that are called pitbulls by those that are uneducated in identifying pitbulls. At the end of this article, there is a website showing various dog breeds, asking the viewer to identify the pitbull. Most people cannot. Even many animal control officers have identified the wrong breed as a pitbull. Some breeds, considered "mild-mannered," such as Labrador retrievers, have been targeted as being a pitbull simply because they have a wide head. Denver has decided to target pitbull mixes as well, so any wide-headed Labrador mix is in danger, no matter how friendly s/he is. There are several different breeds that are mislabeled as pitbulls, but when statistics are developed, the statistician lumps them altogether as "pitbull types," which stacks the deck against these dogs unfairly. That is never done with other dogs such as shepherds, for instance. The statisticians never group all bites or attacks under the label "shepherd type" dogs.

Second, it's completely being ignored that it's not the dogs that are the problem. When attacks do occur, the danger stems from the irresponsible breeders that produce dogs that are temperamentally unsound, breeders who then sell/give the dog to someone who doesn't know how to train the dog so it becomes safe around people and other animals. And make no mistake, if someone is producing puppies, whether intentionally or by failure to prevent puppies, they are a breeder. Poorly bred, temperamentally unsound, and poorly-socialized and badly-trained dogs can be seen in ANY breed. A few years ago, the news reported that a child was killed by Pomeranians, a breed that weighs under 15 pounds, often as small as 3 pounds. Most bites/attacks from any breed are perpetrated by male dogs that have not been neutered, and yet Denver apparently feels that death is preferable to neutering. More bites come from dogs that are typically chained outside, and not inside as part of the family. There are no requirements that people socialize and train their dogs, which would undoubtedly solve much of the problem - for all breeds.

Third, if Denver is going to try to save lives by preemptively destroying the potential dangers, why do they allow hunting, when far more hunters maim and kill people than do dogs? Why are they not confiscating and destroying cars that have been proven to have a high incidence of rollovers and mechanical faults? Why don't they confiscate guns that kill far more people than dogs? The reason why is that there are groups that would cause a furor. Hunters, the NRA, car manufacturers - all would fight to their last dime to protest such actions. As often happens, money talks.

It's up to us to speak out for the dogs. Let Denver know what you think of their new "kill em all" policy. Challenge them to even be able to identify a pitbull. Let them know that the vast majority of dogs, of ANY breed, have not hurt anyone. Let them know that targeting law-abiding dogs and their guardians, ripping beloved companion animals out of their homes, is completely unacceptable. Let them know that it would be far more effective to restrict breeding so that temperamentally unsound dogs will not be produced. Let them know that there should be stricter leash laws, requirements for socializing and training, and neutering. All of these actions will prevent far more incidents than targeting a specific breed/type of dog, destroying loving companions right along with those few who may or may not be dangerous.

And for those of our readers who are attorneys, please consider taking this on as a legal challenge--lawyers have historically been at the forefront of social change. Since most "pets" are considered property under the law, how is it that personal property can be summarily confiscated and destroyed? Have we established "eminent domain" over dogs now too? When? Where? I must have missed that vote.
Let's abolish BSL's and promote laws that would require passage and enforcement of responsible dog guardianship for all breeds and breed mixes.

Take the pitbull identification test yourself:
Pet PitBull - Legislation 

Sign the petition:
Repeal Breed Specific Legislation Law in Denver Petition 

Read more about this situation:
Eternal Recurrence: Stupid politician tricks 

POLITELY contact Denver officials:
Elected Officials - City Council Contact List

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