By Bill Buchanan
In light of recent dog attacks, specifically by pit bulls, we have heard the talk of whether or not pit bulls should be banned. The Ojai Valley News online survey question last Friday was “should owning a pit bull be illegal?” Fifty-eight percent of those responding said “no.”
I have to side with the “no’s.” Maybe I would change my opinion if one took a sizeable chunk out of my leg. But I would hope not.
Yes, pit bulls are an aggressive breed. One of my dogs, Sam, is part pit bull. While he is so sweet we often call him “Sam the Lamb”, I have seen the aggressive side of him when someone he doesn’t know comes to the front door. For some reason, uniforms seem to set him off. The UPS deliveryman and our postal carrier (who is the nicest guy in the world and loves dogs) really bring something out in him. I don’t know if it is the uniform, or if it is just the fact that they use the front door, but he has really gotten upset a couple of times, showing a side I had not seen before. He doesn’t get when someone comes to the side door, which is where all our friends enter. But the UPS guy and the postal carrier are his enemies for some reason. So, while he is very sweet, we keep our eye on Sam when he is around new people.
Pit bulls, like Rottweilers and Dobermans can be aggressive dogs. They belong in the hands of informed and responsible owners. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Too often, people choose dogs for the wrong reasons. They do not research their breeds, and end up with something entirely different than what they imagined.
This is true not just of pit bulls, but many other dogs as well. For instance, the movie “101 Dalmatians” is probably one of the worst things to ever happen to humane societies and animal shelters. Many people saw that movie, went out and bought cute adorable puppies for their small children, only to find out that Dalmatians are usually not suitable dogs for small children. There was a similar instance with some former neighbors of ours who bought a Schipperke for their small children. Schipperkes are as cute a dog as you will ever see. They are very small, have alert pointed ears, usually no tail and a face that is a heartbreaker. They are also active, demanding, and if not properly trained, will take over a household. If these dogs weighed 150 pounds instead of 12-18, they would rule the world.
Our neighbors’ Schipperke, Lily, was not a good choice for their small kids at all. Consequently, she got banished to the back yard, received no attention and got very lonely. She constantly escaped and came to our house, where she wanted to be with our dogs and my and me for companionship. We eventually wound up with Lily, and gave her to a friend. She is a great little dog. She just wasn’t right for that situation.
Another case of a wrong-headed choice came from some good friends of ours who thought they would get a cute little Border Collie for their children – again, a great dog, but a terrible choice. Border Collies are working dogs. They need lots of space, lots of exercise. They are at their happiest when herding cattle or sheep. The suburbs of Birmingham are not exactly a working farm or ranch. And our friends did not have cattle, they had two little girls. So their mom would often look out the window to see the dog nipping at the girls’ heels as he herded them into a corner of the yard and kept them there until she came out and rescued them. They eventually had to get rid of the dog.
So many bad endings could be avoided if people would simply research their breeds before they get a dog. It is very easy to do on-line, and the Humane Society of Ventura here in Ojai has just such information on their website (http://www.humanesocietyvc.org/home/). You can easily access it under the “adoption” heading, where you will find “dog breed information” listed.
I believe that just as with the breeds I have mentioned above, most pit bull problems are with the owners rather than the dogs. People get the dogs without proper research, nor proper training and handling, and the problems escalate from there – especially as the dogs get larger.
There are exceptions to this, of course. Some people acquire pit bulls solely for illegal purposes such as fighting, or for guarding things that are illegal. These sick people take an aggressive breed; train it to become even more aggressive. It is very sad and almost inconceivable that someone would abuse an animal so. Unfortunately, it happens way too much. Those people should be horsewhipped.
So let’s not ban a good breed of dog because of a relatively few improper owners. As it is with most things, education is the key, and little will change without it.