New York – Parents of a boy fatally mauled by a pit bull want lawmakers in Texas to make it a felony to own one of the dogs. Does the breed deserve its bad reputation?
I've met three pit bulls, one old sweetie I knew well and loved, one I met briefly that seemed calm and friendly, and the third one was BIG, and uncontrollably aggressive, protective and territorial, and its owner admitted that she couldn't hold him when he went after someone. And she was not by any means a tiny woman, and he went after most everyone. To the point where when I showed up just as she was taking him outside to pee, I had to wait in my car until he was locked in the bedroom again before I could come in the house. And it was the same owner who had the sweet, gentle pit bull that I loved, so it wasn't anything she did. But this big one was simply uncontrollable.
I got bitten once in Navy housing by a nondescript yellow mutt who ambushed me from hiding as soon as I got within his chain's radius, and the sullen owner had the nerve to say it was because it was a "Southern dog", lol (it got put down later for biting a kid). Idiot. And as a raised-by-collies dog lover, normally I'd say that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners. Or I'd like to be able to say that. But the pit bull reputation didn't come about just from rednecks not playing with them enough.
You can't ignore the high attack numbers. And you can't just ignore the facts that they were (and continue to be) intentionally bred to make them more aggressive, and that it would take many, many generations to re-breed them to get rid of that aggression, and that's only if every breeder cooperated. The history of the breeding of many of their blood lines leaves them with a default aggressive gene no matter how any particular puppy is raised now, and without a concerted effort to dilute those bloodlines and rehabilitate the breed, the bad breeders will always have a head start in breeding bad dogs. It takes a more educated and diligent owner to raise a pit bull safely than it does a golden, because goldens want to love everybody. It's HARD to make a mean golden. While pit bulls really are closer to pumas than they are golden retrievers in the care that must be taken, because they can live peacefully for years, having not yet encountered a trigger, and then go off on someone without warning because of some Pavlovian trigger planted in their genes 100 years ago, like some particular cowbell sound they traditionally used to start the fights or something, the equivalent of a red cape to a bull. They're not a dog that you can risk just teaching to sit and throwing tennis balls for them and consider that training. And regardless of how "unfair" or unfortunate or sympathy-inspiring it might be for the breed to be singled out, they are animals who if improperly raised are dangerous, not oppressed humans with legal "rights". They were already unfairly singled out when people started raising them to tear each other to bits, and they need reprogramming, like the rogue killers in those super-soldier, you-made-me-this-way-with-your-experiments movies. They are unable to change their own instinctual behavior, so it's entirely up to their owners to protect the rest of us from their potential for violence, and not just apologize after an attack. And it's up to the breeders to start reversing the aggressive breeding. I'm not saying destroying them or prohibiting their purchase is the answer, I don't know what the answer is, but you can't ignore that they are fundamentally different from other breeds, made that way on purpose, and that must be taken into account both in deciding whether to buy one and in any legislation proposed.