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

Monday, July 11, 2016

Assessing the Liability of Breed Tendencies

"It certainly is a problem that is manifesting in many different ways."
"These dogs are from Log Angeles [and are] brought over unassessed, they're put into families that don't know what they're getting themselves into and they're not provided with any support."
Kathy Powelson, Paws for Hope Animal Foundation

"Every freaking day there's another story: 'My child's leg was bitten off, it might have to be amputated'."
"My cat was pulled in half."
"These stories are so horrific and so soul-destroying."
Mia Johnson, National Pit Bull Victim Awareness, Vancouver

"It's life and death for them [rescued pit bulls]."
"It's unfortunate that they have that sort of stigma. You're more likely to get bitten by a chihuahua than a pit bull."
Cindy Smith, Wings of Rescue, Woodland Hills, California
A file photo of a rescued pit bull.
SPCAA file photo of a rescued pit bull.

Needless to say the argument of a chihuahua bite over a pit bull bite is absurd. Consider the relative size, the breeds' temperament, the jaws that lock and those that don't, and the potential danger inherent in a bite from one over the other. Chihuahuas like many small breeds tend to be yappy pests. With the wrong trainer and the wrong exposure, pit bills are formidable fighting machines easily capable of maiming and killing other animals and human beings.

That, apart from each having the capacity to form strong bonds with humans, and some specimens among each -- fewer presumably pit bulls than chihuahua -- responsive to calming methods of training and forging healthy relationships with other animals and with human companions. That said, they are animals not bred specifically to be docile and alert to commands. And like any animal, including man, they are capable of surprise attacks and perpetrating great harm.

International teams of well-meaning animal-welfare volunteers meet at the border between Canada and the United States where dogs that have been abandoned are handed over from a California source to Calgarians eager to give those dogs new homes and a future in Canada. This exchange is no one-time situation of a dog here, a dog there, but a well organized, repeat event with as many as 30 pit bulls at a time taken into Canada from the U.S.

The situation has given pause to many animal rescue groups for its frequency and the reality that what has become common practise is fraught with problems. For one thing, Canada has enough of its own pit bull rescues where new homes are sought for them. If priority is given to dogs rescued from the U.S., then there is less opportunity for Canada-sourced pit bulls to find homes, particularly in provinces or cities that frown at their presence and tend to ban them to begin with.

At the same time reports are growing in volume of pit bull attacks. And there is a growing movement to crack down on entries of pit bulls over the border; disfiguring and even worse-outcome attacks will do that to a concerned population. Needless to say, there is denial on the part of rescue groups who claim the dogs are unfairly maligned and require rescue from certain death in the U.S.

The American group Wings of Rescue flies some 40 dogs from shelters in Los Angeles into Alberta every 90 days, with 75 percent of those dogs being pit bulls or pit bull mixes. The Canadian rescue group, BARC is said to visit California shelters, selecting dogs with "stellar" personalities, according to Cindy Smith. These dogs are also entering British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

According to Kim Faulkes a former rescue-society administrator, at least 600 pit bulls arrived in Canada last year alone. In the background are hideous events such as the recent death of a 55-year-old woman in Montreal, mauled by a neighbour's pit bull. Before that, an elderly Kamloops, B.C. woman was killed by a pit bull owned by her grandson.

Rife in the news has been reports of "disfiguring injuries" suffered by 13 Canadians this year; whereas there were 54 such attacks between 2004 and 2015.

The breed has its defenders who insist pit bulls are not aggressive but their irresponsible owners have made them so, and the media coverage that accompanies the issue simply heats up public distrust of the breed. At the opposite end, critics of the breed refer to studies in peer-reviewed medical journals concluding that the breed is responsible for serious dog-attack injuries requiring hospitalization.

"You save a dog from the United States, and kill a dog in Canada", added Kim Faulkes with the Canadian Rescue Standards Group out of Ottawa. It's a completely polarizing situation.

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