Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Crossing the Human-Canine Divide With Love and Trust

"If you take a dog with the weight of a pit bull and particularly when you cross it with something like a Rottweiler, you have a very powerful animal."
"People who cross breeds like that probably have no idea what they are bringing into the world."
Barbara Watt, president, Victoria City (B.C.) Kennel Club

"[Fat Boy, who attacked and killed owner Edward Cahill was] extremely aggressive and unpredictable [particularly when he had a bone to defend]."
"I don’t want people to think bad of pit bulls. They were playful dogs. One slept with the girls and the other slept with me and my husband. It was just a freak accident. He loved his dogs. That’s all I can say, and I think it’s something that just went wrong. He was a great man."
Blanca Rodriguez, Indiana

"Pit bulls get a bad rep. I think this incident has nothing to do with the dog’s breed. I’ve worked with some pit bulls that are therapy dogs and they’re great. An aggressive dog can be any breed. I’ve seen just as many good pit bulls as bad pit bulls."
Toni Bianchi, professional dog trainer
Most kennel clubs have refused to recognize pit bulls as an established breed. Amateur breeders have selected and promoted the animals for their fighting prowess.
Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg    Most kennel clubs have refused to recognize pit bulls as an established breed. Amateur breeders have selected and promoted the animals for their fighting prowess.

Yes, of course there are 'good' pit bulls. But how many 'bad' pit bulls can a society afford in terms of the potential harm they are capable of wreaking on the vulnerable and the unaware? These are muscular animals governed by an inbred instinct to be aggressive, and if something seemingly innocuous triggers their fighting spirit they don't differentiate and hesitate, but go into attack mode, but it against their owner, a stranger or a child. Their attacks are terrifying and often terminal.

Pit bulls and rottweilers and Staffordshire bull terriers are the types of dog, like bulldogs, whose muscular grip is difficult to dislodge. These are powerful animals, and like any such animals, can be unpredictable. Some people love their dogs, irrespective of their breed, because they are familiar with them, communicate with them, value their company, and feel their presence enriches their lives. Some people acquire dogs whose breed is known to be aggressive as a prestige item, one that helps them project a certain type of image.

And this last type most certainly does know what results when two such dogs are interbred; they hope that the characteristics that attract them to the breed are enhanced, the outcome being an even more fearsomely aggressive animal. One that they alone can control, is loyal to themselves alone, and will follow their direction, providing both assurance of 'respect' in the community in which they move, and a threat within that same community, a threat that they can keep in check, or not.

Although all dogs, regardless of breed, may have their breed-specific instincts kept in check with loving nurturance and direction, they can, given the right/wrong set of circumstances, surrender to the kind of instinctual reaction that will result in massively harmful aggression. Those people who treasure pit bulls for whatever they represent to them, and feel them to be harmless, enough so to entrust the safety of very young children to their presence, delude themselves.

Should nothing untoward happen with close proximity between dog and child, all to the good. But to rely on nothing happening, ever, that would endanger the child is to deliberately overlook the potential that it could. While even very small dogs are capable of biting and inflicting some measure of injury, some breeds simply go on the attack more frequently, inflicting immeasurably more harm than others. To leave a child unattended with such an animal, actually any animal without taking measures to ensure that no close encounter can take place, is to dally with danger.

In the same day that a family elderly pit bull mauled that family's newborn in the Vancouver Island community of Saanich, an elderly man was attacked by two pit bulls in Langley, British Columbia. Less than three weeks old, the tiny girl had been attacked by the family's 17-year-old pit bull-Rottweiler cross. While the infant is recovering, the future will hold reconstructive plastic surgery for her. The child's parents likely raised their pet and lived with it for all those years, trusted it and loved it.

A 17-year-old dog, like an elderly human, can become very miserable-tempered when its physical and mental faculties have disintegrated into the fog of advanced age and impaired health. The combination of youth and age, health and declining health do not make for a felicitous introduction. The parents of the baby may face a charge of criminal negligence, a hard lesson to learn, but one that simple common sense should have avoided. Their neglect harmed their child and the animal they loved. It could have been much worse.

Moreover, when dogs have lived within a comfortable household for many years, the object of their owners' attention for all those years, lavishing care and love on it, to introduce another creature into the household can be guaranteed result in some level of resentment perhaps leading to an effort to harm the interloper, on the part of an animal suddenly realizing that someone else is getting all the attention that used to be directed toward it. Not to be aware of such tensions arising, on the part of parents, is mind-boggling in its naivete.

According to the Canadian Veterinary Journal, a study of dog attacks that turned fatal  between 1990 and 2007 found that 85% of victims were children, the youngest one month of age. It is no surprise to veterinarians that such events occur, and more often than they should. Most veterinarians take an active interest in the puppies whose owners bring them in for initial health examinations, annual shots and other care. They talk to people, explaining what can go wrong, and how to avoid such complications.

Half of non-fatal dog attacks in the United States involved pit bull breeds or Rottweilers, followed by German shepherds and huskies; big dogs all of them, and conditioned by nature to be aggressive, a conditioning that is all too often enhanced by dog owners wanting to encourage that trait in their dogs, but not necessarily by all owner. How many have to indulge these childish whims for society to be badly impacted? With or without encouragement, the breeds do own those characteristics; with owners' encouragement they simply become more obviously overt.

The experience in Canada is that pit bulls are involved more frequently in non-fatal attacks than any other breed. Resulting in many jurisdictions banning the breed, to the anguish of those who defend pit bulls, insisting it is people, not dogs, at fault. To an extent that may be true, but we cannot control people whereas we can dogs. People trust the dogs they love and have lived with for many years.

As did 40-year-old Edward Cahill of Indiana. He and his wife had two pit bulls living with them and their four children, as beloved and trusted family pets. Mr. Cahill was found dead on Christmas Day. He had been home alone and eight-year-old Fat Boy, one of the two family pit bulls, attacked Mr. Cahill, who bled to death on the floor of his living room from multiple bites on his face and arms. There he was discovered by his wife.

Who, though admitting the short temper and aggressiveness she was aware of, permitted the dogs to sleep with their children and with her and her husband. Is this not the attention oblivion of blind love and arrogant dismissal of reality?

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