Samantha Ellis, Global Animal
With the recent attack on a corgi by one of Jesse James’ pit bulls, the debate over the proposed pit bull bill to ban this breed in Texas heats up. The currently unidentified dog escaped from Jesse James’ bike shop, and attacked a passing corgi. The corgi survived and is recovering well. Many people, including leading anti-pit bull advocate Douglas Wolfe, are calling for the death of the pit bull, and the ban of all pit bull type dogs in the state of Texas. Those in favor of this ban, and those like it in other states, claim that pit bulls are innately “vicious” and “dangerous” dogs. However, the bias against pit bulls appears to have more to do with the media’s influence, rather than any innate cruelty in the breed.
According to the ASPCA, not only are pit bull attacks over reported, but the attacks may or may not have actually been committed by a pit bull. Any dog that resembles a pit bull is quickly given that label, whether or not the dog actually is. Corrections by the media may be made after the initial report, but the damage has been done. The ASPCA conducted a study over several days in 2007, recording how often a report on dog attacks were reprinted. No attack was reported more than twice if the dog was not a pit bull. The one attack by a pit bull was reprinted 230 times, with the story even being picked up by large media corporations like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX.
Any dog is capable of violence, but pit bulls are saddled with an unfair reputation of being genetically vicious. But genetics has very little to do with the temperament of an animal. According to Dog trainer Michele Crouse, the animal’s agression is determined not by the breed, but by the dog’s caretaker. “It’s all upon the responsibility of the owner and not what dog they have,” she told NBC. “It doesn’t matter if they have a 2-pound Chihuahua or a 200-pound mastiff.”
Supporters of anti-pit bull bans cite statistics that state a majority of dog bites are from pit bull type dogs. However, these sorts of statistics are notoriously unreliable. According to National Canine Research Council many dogs are incorrectly identified as a particular breed based on appearance. Thus an attack might be reported as being done by a pit bull, when the dog in question may not have any pit bull DNA at all. Basing legislation on inaccurate statistics like these will not solve anything. In fact, banning pit bulls would cause the slaughter of pets all across Texas, whether or not the dog has violent tendencies.
Instead of killing hundreds of innocent dogs, and punishing their caretakers, perhaps law makers should focus on preventing guardians from mistreating pets. Taking good care of a pet and providing proper training is a much more sensible and effective way to prevent dog attacks than banning a breed.