A "Canine Innocence Project"?

This article from the animal rights section of the Change.org ring of websites has been making the rounds on dog-related blogs and Twitter feeds. Arguing that many dogs are mistaken for pit bulls in jurisdictions that have banned the much-maligned "breed," the author calls for state officials to DNA test dogs before euthanizing them.

The argument is that city officials shouldn't be able to euthanize a dog simply because it "looks like a pit bull," whatever that means. But the real aim is to undermine breed-specific legislation altogether by imposing what would sound to most like a common-sense requirement that most cities can't afford to follow.

It's a cute idea, and I support the ultimate goal, but the scheme requires too much concession to the misguided thinking behind put bull prohibitions. I've written about breed-specific bans before, so I'll save some time with a cut-and-paste:

Bad owners create bad dogs, regardless of the dog's lineage. Bans on pit bulls don't prevent dog fighting, nor do they prevent people from raising vicious dogs. They just ensure that dogs fitting the pit bull description will be vicious, because the well-bred lines will be discontinued and good owners will stop raising them. Meanwhile, people who raise dogs for fighting will simply move on to another breed.

Moreover, the term pit bull isn't really a breed at all. It's a generic term that can and has been applied to just about any dog with bulldog and/or terrier traits (take the pit bull test here). The American Kennel Club-recognized breed that's generally associated with the term is the American Staffordshire Terrier. And the vast, vast majority of staffies are harmless (they're actually considered a child-friendly breed).

In fact, most fighting dogs commonly called pit bulls aren't bloodlined staffies. Fighting dogs are bred for attributes conducive to fighting, not for pedigree.

Better to impose strict liability on dog owners for any damage their pets do to others or their property.

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  • ArkhamOutpatient||

    Thank you for this. I own and rescue pits and absolutely the answer is owner liability, not breed bans. Pits were used historically as "nanny dogs" and while not for everyone, are overall a wonderful dog. Banning pits will just redirect the fuckers who abuse them to another breed - unless we also want to ban shepherds, rotts, dobies, presas, cane corsos, and on and on until we're all forced to own shih tzus. And no one wants that.

  • ||

    Ditto.

  • ||

    Yes. I have know pists that were sweeter than kittens.

  • Jason||

    Could you train a shih tzu to fight?

  • ||

    Aren't they just giant rodents? I used behavioral conditioning to train a rat for a psychology course I took. It was quite amazing what you could get that rat to do--jump, lift weights, run on a course, etc. All with a bell, some Cheerios, and a little patient repetition.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    I think Brian McNamee already proved that.

  • skr||

    I've seen a minpin perform schutzhund.

  • ||

    Why are people still allowed to enslave our canine brothers? STOP THE OPPRESSION!

    Hang on, i have to go let my dog out.

  • SWATzi||

    Bad owners create bad dogs

    Amen, brother. That's why we shoot any dog of any suspect perp whose house we enter - cause if we think they did something, they must be guilty, and if they're guilty, they're clearly bad people, and if they're bad people, they're bad dog owners...so their dogs are bad and must be shot euthenized.

    See you in your nightmares, Citizens! And your little dogs, too!

  • ||

    Bucket of water perched over your door: the ultimate SWAT protection.

  • ||

    Has anyone ever tracked the breeds of dogs shot by cops? Is there any sort of pattern or breed-bias indicated from the data?

  • Cliché Bandit||

    5 bucks says corgies and pomerainians are at the top!!!

    Just sayin'

  • The Press||

    Moreover, the term pit bull isn't really a breed at all.

    We regret the errors.

  • hurly buehrle||

    Amen. In my experience, pits are about as docile as an animal can be.

  • ||

    Some people just don't know how to handle pets. I have a pet Nazi, and he's perfectly tame. Just so long as I keep him away from certain people and the Internet.

  • ||

    You have 'slap! the enlightened' as a pet?

    I think he has gotten into your Charles Linbergh biography collection, fucker probably pisses all over the place too.

  • ¢||

    It's a cute idea, and I support the ultimate goal, but the scheme requires too much concession to the misguided thinking behind put bull prohibitions.

    That's where I started with "medical marijuana," when that cuteness first got floated. Now I'm glad when potheads go to jail, because their "ultimate goal" is only to get a wink from the Man while he ass-fucks the rest of us.
    Prediction: You'll open a Daugschwitz franchise in five years.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Here is another canine innocence project.

    Woof Woof!

  • Fluffy||

    The problem is that you can't appeal to reason to combat these types of laws.

    The people who want these laws are frightened when they see these dogs. The actual behavior of the dog isn't relevant to them. The actual breed of the dog isn't relevant, either.

    Assigning strict liability to owners for attacks doesn't accomplish the actual goal of the policy, which is to fix it so that people who are afraid of these types of dogs don't have to see them and feel the resulting fear.

    In many ways, it's a lot like the War on Drugs. We keep trying to use statistics to convince people that there is no rational basis for the WoD, because drug use never significantly declines, drug prices never significantly rise, etc. The public doesn't care about any of that. All they know is that when they see young black and hispanic males or working-class white males in public they're frightened, so any policy that consigns millions of those people to incarceration and banishes millions more into the darker corners of public life post-incarceration is a net gain to those people, statistics be damned.

  • ||

    There is some of that. It also has to do with people being unwilling to face powerlessness and uncertainty. Look dog bites happen. As long as we have dogs one is going to occasionally bite someone.

    Normal people like you and I can accept that fact. And we can rationally balance the benefits of having dogs with the cost of the occasional bite. Most people can't do that. So they want something, anything, done. Anything that will allow themselves the false belief that the problem has been solved and we don't have to make any hard choices.

    The same is true with drugs. If you have drugs, some people are going to get hooked and use it as an excuse to be a reprobate. People don't want to accept that. So instead, they push for laws that create the myth that we are preventing that. Admitting that those laws don't do any good would require them facing reality. And no amount of statistics is going to make them do that.

  • Skid Marx||

    My thirteen-year-old super-sweet German shepherd Heather just bit me Tuesday evening while I was addressing some of her healthcare needs. Still a lot of fight left in the old girl. I like that. I'd pay $10,000 to make her two again.

  • ||

    I grew up with German Shepherds. Greatest dogs on earth. I would love to have another one. But right now we are a one dog family and we happened to come into a Chesapeake Bay retriever. She is a good dog. But she is no German Shepherd. Some day I will have another one. The are the most noble breed of dogs.

  • Skid Marx||

    The Vets at the University of Minnesota say she could last another 2 years. That means I'll only have to wash her vagina 1,460 more times.

  • ||

    Doggie douche??? Twice a day??? Dare I ask what health condition necessitates that? (Or would I rather not know?)

  • Skid Marx||

    Perivulvar dermatitis.

    http://avmajournals.avma.org/d.....Code=javma

    Never, ever spay a female dog.

  • ||

    I grew up with German Shepherds. Greatest dogs on earth.

    Hear Hear!

  • Skid Marx||

    Here Here!

    (Heather on Grand Isle, LA pre-spill)

    http://www.dogster.com/dogs/142533

  • ||

    Greatest dog . . . no, greatest animal . . . no, greatest lifeform on Earth: Dachshund.

    End of discussion.

  • skr||

    "I grew up with German Shepherds. Greatest dogs on earth. "

    That is until the AKC show breeders screwed up their bone structure and gait for that stupid roach back.

  • Ivan||

    I agree.

  • ||

    I'd pay $10,000 to make her two again.

    Thanks Skid, now I'm crying. Make every minute count, though I'm sure you already do.

  • SWATzi||

    Can't appeal to reason

    ...because what's wrong with scare tactics if they result in bigger budgets for police departments safer cities for our citizens?

    It's all for teh childrenz.

  • ||

    In my neighborhood, the on-going debate is: Which is better? Gator pits or grizzly pits?

  • ||

    Why not both?

  • Skid Marx||

    Because we need to project our inherent need for self-segregation onto dogs?

  • Ragin Cajun||

    'Cause grizzlies don't get along with gators. Only with pterodactyls.

  • ||

    That's simply not so.

  • The Gobbler||

    That's great!

  • ||

    Bad owners create bad dogs, regardless of the dog's lineage.

    No kidding.

    But that would require some acceptance of responsibility. It's easier to blame the dog's "evil gene".

  • Skid Marx||

    Same thing with spading (the root cause of my dog's heath issues). I say, if a dog gets pregnant, just get it an abortion. If it's good enough for a 12-year-old black girl in the ghetto thein it's good enough for a dog. Right?

    Puppy abortions could be a gold mine.

  • ||

    Actually, I don't think either side has it right. It's not the breed (or appearance) and it's not necessarily just a bad owner. It's the individual animal. Just as people vary in their personalities, so do dogs and other animals. Just like you have asshole humans, you have asshole dogs.

    I have had a variety of dogs, including an Alsatian and my current dog, a "pit bull" mix, both of whom were/are wonderful animals and not a threat to anyone. On the other hand, there was a breeder of Shepherds in my town growing up and all of the dogs she bred were aggressive and dangerous, having attacked several people on occasion, myself included.

    Certainly there are bad owners who want and teach their dogs to be aggressive, but if it isn't in the dog and he doesn't perform as desired he is typically killed. On the other hand, if you have a naturally aggressive dog, you may be able to condition it to behave, but that doesn't change its nature and the risk of aggression is always there. This applies to all breeds, mongrels included. Part of the hysteria comes the relentless compulsion to "do something", even if it's the wrong thing.

  • ||

    "Keep your scary guns dogs out of my sight!"

  • SWATzi||

    We're here to help with that, Citizen. To protect and serve.

  • ||

    While running in rural BC, some pit bulls guarding a grow house took a nice chunk out of my hip. I'm not sure about elsewhere, but they are the security system of choice for grow-ops in BC.

    But a ban makes no sense. If you don't think the grow-ops will find another mean dog to guard their investment, you're retarded.

  • ||

    That is awful. You are lucky they didn't kill you. More reasons you should never be in the country without a firearm of some sort.

  • ||

    Yeah, it was pretty scary. I had my parents' dumb mutt with me, but she got scared and took off. I did an ok job of fending them off (kicked one in the jaw just as it was going in for seconds!) until a neighbor finally came out to help.

    You're totally right that I should have had a gun- too bad Canada makes that almost impossible.

  • ||

    Yup. In the US the dumb ass Congress banned guns in national parks. It is really stupid to be out by yourself in a wild area with no weapon. Without a weapon, you are not the top of the food chain. But banning guns in national parks made people who never go out in the woods feel so much safer.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Especially when shitheads feed bears, etc. Black bears are non-confrontational with humans, unless they've been taught by idiots that they should expect food from them. A 12-gauge blast into the ground would probably be sufficient to re-train them that humans are no longer below them on the food chain. And if not, you can at least defend yourself.

  • ||

    And it is probably a good thing the mutt ran off. They would have killed it.

  • ||

    Hey, that mutt ain't dumb :)

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yes, and actually a better law to protect people against vicious animals is open or concealed carry, no permit, no registration. Lets face it, you know when you're in a neighborhood where these aholes live that abuse their dogs that way. It's usually the same neighborhoods you should be armed in anyway. You could also legalize drugs, prostitution, and gambling too since the number one argument against those "vices" is crime. No need to run, carry a gun.

  • skr||

    pepper spray would work better. It's better for bears too.

  • Ivan||

    What is the range of pepper spray?

  • skr||

    depends on the can but I think it is typically 12 feet. I believe the bear ones are 30 feet but I would have to check my cans.

  • skr||

    bear spray is 20% and shoots 15-20 feet

  • ||

    Pepper spray does not work. Trust me.

  • skr||

    really? I've had to use it and it worked like a charm.

  • ||

    Better to impose strict liability on dog owners for any damage their pets do to others or their property.

    No. That would mean if my dog latches on to somebody breaking into my house, I have to pay damages to the burglar.

    Or if somebody provokes my dog, or steals him, and gets bit, I have to pay damages. Me, not the wrongdoer.

    Or if somebody lets my dog out of his yard, and he gets into a fight or causes an accident, I have to pay damages. Me, not the wrongdoer.

    A negligence standard is just fine, thanks. Strict liability is for things that are inherently dangerous (like explosives), which is kind of the exact opposite of what you are saying.

  • kinnath||

    I learn so much from you guys some days.

  • British MP||

    That would mean if my dog latches on to somebody breaking into my house, I have to pay damages to the burglar...

    What a brilliant idea!

  • ex-burglar||

    In the USA you would not usually have to pay damages to the burglar: certainly not for that, which amounts to self-defence. Same if the dog gets stolen: it would be like stealing your car and suing you for crashing it.

    Provocation is tricky: though it might convince owners to use a chain when walking (usually not a bad idea), it does protect assholes intent on provoking a dog. Moreover, it is hard to prove either way, which is the worst case possible.

    Now somebody please tell me that there is even a hint of precedent for all this from a snake-handler community. Now those are dangerous pets, of a kind you don't want to provoke, steal, or burglarize a house with.

  • Joe||

    In the USA you would not usually have to pay damages to the burglar: certainly not for that, which amounts to self-defence. Same if the dog gets stolen: it would be like stealing your car and suing you for crashing it.

    Believe it or not that has happened.

  • ||

    And the vast, vast majority of staffies are harmless (they're actually considered a child-friendly breed).

    Petie from Our Gang? Pit bull.

    The RCA dog? Pit bull.

  • Tman||

    Pit Bulls can be great dogs, I've lived with several who were total pushovers in the house. But they have a pack mentality. The reason the pit bulls I was around were docile was because there were three Akita's in the same pack. The main male and female Akita's ran the show and they DO NOT take shit from other dogs.

    I would be FAR more scared of a one year old Akita with discipline problems than a full grown fighting bred pitbull.

  • skr||

    It's not the Akita that is the problem either but the discipline problem that is the problem, as you mentioned. The owner has to run the show, period. This is more important with willful breeds like an Akita. Most people are not prepared to exert the level of authority associated with breeds like an Akita and that in turn gives the breed a bad reputation.

  • ChrisO||

    Every American Staffordshire I've ever met has been a harmless goofball. They're awfully good at rolling their eyes in a particularly sad-looking manner.

    And yes, they have extremely strong jaws that can be destructive. But attack dogs are made, not born.

  • ||

    They're awfully good at rolling their eyes in a particularly sad-looking manner.

    I'm gettin some of those sad eyes right now.

    "Why you keep playing with that keyboard thingy instead of me?!"

  • ||

    You can have my pit bull when you pry it from my cold, dead ... wait a minute.

  • ||

    You can have my pit bull when you pry it off your bleeding leg. Oh, and get the fuck outta my house.

  • skr||

    I nailed the test on the first try. Yea me.

  • ||

    Who cares about passing it? They're all adorable, so taking the test is all that matters. Taking it Nice and Slow, with lots of "Awwwww!".

  • ||

    I always thought breed-specific laws were Wrong, but now I also have a pit someone found running loose in a municipal park nearby. Guy was there with his two young sons, and the dog attached itself to them; they named him Bye-bye because they'd tell him that and then go somewhere else, but the dog followed them.

    The father found a park ranger who said the dog had been there all day, and he was taking it to the pound on his way home---a sure death sentence in his case. The dog went home with the family, but they couldn't keep him in their apartment and asked folks on a mailing list if they wanted him. My Dal had just died a few weeks earlier, so....

    We figure that he was the victim of idiots and breed-specific laws because a couple of local towns had passed ordinances, plus he was just over a year old, and prone to tricks that were cute---when he was a puppy. It only took a few weeks with us to have a very nicely behaved pet whose only major flaw was he knew how to jump the four-foot fences we're limited to in our town (grrrrr), so we have to put him out on a strong cable in his own back yard.

    But he's a sweetheart, and I'm almost---almost---glad someone didn't have the balls to do right by him, because he's mine now. I did have a kid on a bike ask me if I wanted to sell him one day. I was polite, but I wanted to deck the twerp; I'm betting he didn't want to have a nice doggy to play with.

    Fortunately, my mother taught me to be kind to children, even the slightly creepy ones. They don't know better than their parents teach them. I probably should have followed him home and beat up his parents, though. That might have been satisfying. Also self-defeating---I an old woman, and I doubt they would have been as damaged as I was by the attempt. Oh well.

  • ||

    he knew how to jump the four-foot fences

    Yeah, gotta have at least 6foot fencing. My lil Kaya would regularly jump our 3foot fence at the last house.

    "What? I came when you called, I was just checking out the forest. Damn, you're really mad, whoops."

    "Inside, Now."

  • skr||

    we have coyotes that will climb over an 8 foot chain link fence

  • zoltan||

    I heard a story about this pit bull in Houston that would latch onto a rope hanging from a tree that was a few feet off the ground and hang from the rope with its jaws for an hour.

  • ||

    Ahhhh, nothing more enjoyable than watching a dog cling to a rope. He's havin a great time, and I can't stop laughing. Win/Win.

  • ||

    This is just my opinion, but here goes. The real problem is not Pit Bulls, per se, but it is LARGE dogs in general. Large dogs can inflict large damage, especially on a kid. That is why I object to "Pit Bulls" in the neighborhood.

    A month or two ago I was out in the desert near a property that I own. I noticed one of those "For Sale by Owner" mailbox looking things that had the info on a parcel that adjoins mine, so I stopped to take a copy of the specs. I was out of my vehicle and had retrieved the spec sheet when I saw three dogs charging at me, two little yappers and a Rottweiler. I was unarmed and too far from my vehicle to escape, so I just stood my ground and tried to look menacing. Fortunately, that worked because the dogs stopped their charge about three feet from me. It is amazing the adrenaline rush you get when you experience something like that.

    If I had been armed I would have shot that Rottweiler dead. I suppose the actual outcome is better than my being armed outcome. I am sure it would have been a difficult thing explaining to the neighbor why I had killed his dog, not to mention the possibility of a violent confrontation with the neighbor.

  • skr||

    Small dogs are responsible for the majority of dog bites.

    The problem is not the dogs but the owners. A properly trained dog should never attack without a command from the owner or pack leader. We run into problems when the dog thinks it is the pack leader which is responsible for defending the pack.

    Many large breeds are completely docile as they were bred to be flock guardians. They don't bite they just knock you down and sit on you awaiting the master to put a cap in your ass.

    Again, pepper spray is a very appropriate and non-lethal response to an aggressive dog. Since dogs have very sensitive sense of smell it works really well.

  • Atanarjuat||

    That happened to me just yesterday in my neighborhood, but the dog was a pit bull. The only problem was I was taking my 4-year-old for a tricycle ride. The dog was running full speed, but stopped when I stood my ground.

  • hmm||

    I've been charged by dogs including pits and german shepards and never felt the need to shoot one. To be frank, you're a pussy and someone I'm glad isn't carrying a gun. (which is another story all together)

    However, if you shot my dog you'd best drive off and never come back.

    You might have a career as cop given your willingness to shoot dogs.

  • ||

    This.

  • ||

    My new neighbors have what looks like a Saint Bernard. He gets all uppity when i walk by their yard. You just talk to him like he's your dog, and he's cool.

  • ||

    "Small dogs are responsible for the majority of dog bites."

    That might be true, but small dogs make for small bites, large dogs can be lethal. In any case, I prefer small dogs and I even own one, they offer all of the advantages of dog-ownership with most of the disadvantages removed.

    I have never tried pepper spray, but your advice seems sound, I would expect pepper spray to work well on a dog.

  • skr||

    You might still want to be packing for the owner response. Dog owners don't take kindly to having their pooch pepper sprayed even if it is better than the alternative.

  • ||

    Pepper spray does not work. On the dog. It should work fine on its human though.

  • hmm||

    Great article. My wife works with a rescue that takes dogs from a county that kills them for any number of reasons. Strays that are considered pits are automatically put down.

  • ||

    I adopted my pit from my brother. She can NOT get along with other dogs, and he was tired of breaking up the fights.

    But she's a total Dear to humans. Falls all over herself to get some belly scratchin'.

    Just can't let her get near any other dogs without a muzzle on.

  • ||

    I mentioned above that I have a "pit bull" mix - whom I adopted from a neighbor and who was badly neglected and abused for the first year of its life, having been owned by the neighbor's dickhead, criminal son.

    He had some separation anxiety issues at first, but got over that quickly and is a wonderful dog with a sweet heart and not an aggressive bone in his body. I have had a lot of dogs and have never seen a sweeter, more good hearted one.

    My neighbors, on the other hand, have 2 collie/sheep dog kind of mixes that they let run and these dogs are hideous, aggressive animals. They growl and bite and come and shit on my lawn. They have bitten both me and my son as well as a number of others.

    Now, these two dogs look like they should be nice dogs - all pretty and Lassie looking - and my dog is dark brindle, with a wide pitty kind of head and all scary looking and with deep dark sounding bark. I would trust my dog with any 2 year old and the neighbors dogs - if they were mine, I would have them put down without a second thought. They are a menace. I would never own a dog that was a threat to anyone. It just goes to show that appearances mean nothing with respect to dogs.

  • ||

    People absolutely adore my giant schnauzer. They don't seem to realize that he could eat a pit bull for lunch, then chew off the person's face and shit the half-digested pit bull down their bloody neck. Nope. It's all cuddles and baby talk: "who's my wooby wooby? You are! Yes you are!" Put a giant in the hands of the wrong owner and you might have a problem.

  • skr||

    Have you seen the video of the Giant Schnauzer pulling the dog sulky? Damn those things can pull. The Giant holds the world record for the fastest animal powered travel.

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