Sunday, June 5, 2011

A few words about Breed Specific Legislation and the forgotten history of the Pit Bull.

This blog is about my Rottweilers but apart from my love and interest in this breed I am concerned that my best friends share a misdirected connection to a list of what some people claim are "dangerous dogs". Most people only know what they read about in the newspapers or see on TV. Surprisingly, many lawmakers fall into the same category. Take Pit Bulls, for example. They are banned in Cincinnati and in many cities in Northern Kentucky because "everyone" knows they are vicious and dangerous. Really! Have you ever heard of the term Nanny Dogs? You will be very surprised to read some 100-year old history on Pit Bulls in America and see the photos contained in the stories below. The first is a story on Yahoo News but the second contains more info and a lot more photos. 
Try to quickly summon an image of good-with-small-children dog, and chances are you'll picture something adorably Benji-shaggy. Or maybe a sweetie-pie golden retriever, or a loveball of a lab. It's not likely, at least not in today's perception of the breed, that an American pit bull terrier leaps to mind.
But not so long ago, pit bulls were brought in as "nanny dogs," the trusted caretaker pups to watch over kids.
Vintage photographs recently posted on a personal blog show off the breed as babysitter.

It's striking--and quite sad--to see such documentation of how beloved the now-maligned dog once was. The very same American pit bull is now more often associated with Michael Vick's dogfights, and stories of household pets gone bad, sometimes tragically involving kids.
In the case of Vick, who was convicted of running a dogfighting ring, 47 of the pit bulls from his kennel were taken to animal sanctuaries or adopted. One rehabilitated dog named Mel, who moved to Dallas with a new owner, even received an edible key to the city.
But back to the breed's history as a family dog: Helen Keller had a pit bull. Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote "Little House on the Prairie," owned one, too. And Petey, the mascot pup with the black eye patch in "The Little Rascals?" Pit bull.
Over time, the breed, which was also bred to battle bulls and fight other dogs, picked up a reputation for a nasty nature. Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer" who is around the breed every day, says it's people who should be blamed, not the breed. He writes on his website, "Pit bulls get a bad rap because of irresponsible owners."
Responsible owners include Jon Stewart, Alicia Silverstone, Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, and Jessica Alba.

Astoundingly, for most of our history America’s nickname for Pit Bulls was “The Nanny Dog”. For generations if you had children and wanted to keep them safe you wanted a pit bull, the dog that was the most reliable of any breed with children or adults. 
The Nanny Dog is now vilified by a media that always wants a demon dog breed to frighten people and LHASA-APSO BITES MAN just doesn’t sell papers. Before pit bulls it was Rottweilers, before Rottweilers it was Dobermans, and before them German Shepherds. Each breed in it’s order were deemed too vicious and unpredictable to be around people. Each time people wanted laws to ban them. It is breathtakingly ironic that the spotlight has turned on the breed once the symbol of our country and our national babysitter. 
In temperance tests (the equivalent of how many times your kid can poke your dog in the eye before he bites him) of all breeds the most tolerant was the Golden Retriever. The second most tolerant was the pit bull.
Read the rest of this interesting story and see the great pictures.
The American Temperament Test Society has conducted over 30,000 temperament tests on over 175 breeds of dogs since 1977. The latest test statistics are posted on the link to their web site. The web site explains the way the tests are conducted. Pit Bulls and Rottweilers are closely matched in their range of temperament with 83.7% of Rottweilers passed and 86.4% of the Pit Bulls tested passed. Consider some of these other test results of common breeds.
Breed Name # Tested # Passed # Failed % Passed
American Pit Bull Terrier 804 695 109 86.4%
American Staffordshire Terrier 627 528 99 84.2%
Beagle 72 58 14 80.6%
Bloodhound 32 23 9 71.9%
Chihuahua 38 27 11 71.1%
Cocker Spaniel 227 186 41 81.9%
Golden Retriever 764 649 115 84.9%
Jack Russell Terrier 63 53 10 84.1%
Labrador Retriever 773 714 59 92.4%
Rottweiler 5,446 4,558 888 83.7%
Staffordshire Bull Terrier 117 105 12 89.7%
Standard Poodle 249 215 34 86.3%
Many lawmakers have opposed Breed Specific Legislation after reading the true facts in these temperament tests. Unfortunately, too many lawmakers have either not seen these facts or had some other agenda in passing the breed bans.
If you are against Breed Specific Legislation please send these links to your local lawmakers. Common sense says the only fair measurement is to "Punish the Deed, not the Breed".

I also remember the case about Michael Vick, the NFL quarterback who went to jail for running a dog fighting ring with his Pit Bulls. While the story got a lot of publicity because it focused on the ferocity of the Pit Bulls and the notoriety of who was involved, what didn't get a lot of press was the story about what happened to the 49 Pit Bulls that were taken from Vick and turned over to a dog rehab facility. Read about them here. Those abused Pit Bulls were given a lot of love and kindness and in less than a year were all adopted out to families, many with children.

State governments, like Kentucky, have insurance regulations that are written to protect the interests and profits of the insurance companies.  Insurance companies are in the business of selling risk but when they can eliminate coverage for a risk they can maximize their profits. Those big political contributors representing the insurance companies have persuaded our legislature to allow insurance companies the right to refuse to issue homeowner's insurance policies to people who own any breed of dog that is supposed to be vicious. Not by the actions of the particular dog but by some preconceived image such as what you get from some sensationalized news story. Likewise, many jurisdictions have no laws that hold the owner of a dog responsible for the actions of the dog even though it has been shown that any dog who is abused or neglected or denied love will become mean. Interestingly enough, human children react the same way.

Please pass this on.


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