May 25, 2007

An irrational prejudice against pit bulls

I dearly love human beings, but black people should be outlawed. They should not be allowed in society because they are far too dangerous.

The above statement makes about as much logical sense as the letter to the editor by Rex Rice in the May 22 Indianapolis Star. After Jayne Palkowitz wrote a letter to the editor explaining why pit bulls are no more dangerous than any other breed, and provided statistics from a temperament study to back up her point, Rice simply responded with ignorance.

I guess Rice simply missed the part where Palkowitz stated that 84.1% of 542 pit bulls passed the temperament test, while 83.8% of 687 Golden Retrievers did. Obviously, racism is a far worse social evil than a bias against certain dog breeds, but they are both examples of an irrational prejudice. Yes, a dog has natural instincts. However, if a dog is properly socialized, well trained and treated well, it will generally not be aggressive.

The problem with pit bulls is that because they have a reputation for toughness, unsavory characters seek after them for fighting dogs or "guard" dogs. The dogs are often abused and neglected. The problem is not the dog itself, but the dog owner and the prevailing view of the breed that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Yes, some dog breeds naturally have less desirable temperaments than others. It is interesting, though, that small yippy dogs do not get the kind of negative attention that pit bulls do, despite a less desirable temperament. In addition, Chow Chows are generally regarded as having a poor temperament but also do not get the negative attention that pit bulls do. On some level, this can be explained by the fact that pit bulls are so much stronger than dogs of similar size and can do a more damage, but physical strength and temperament do not go hand in hand.

Banning pit bulls as a breed will solve nothing because human debris will simply find another "tough" breed to exploit and abuse. So what is the solution? The answer is simple: enforce stiff penalties for those who abuse or neglect their dogs, and make it much easier to take the animals away from such people. If an abused or neglected animal kills or seriously injures a person, then hold the owner as responsible as if he committed the crime himself. Like I and many, many others have said in the past, the problem is not dogs. It is irresponsible and immoral dog owners.

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