Saturday, April 03, 2010

Spay and Neuter Your Neighbors

The Stranger just ran a tongue-in-cheek article advising Seattleites how to avoid being mauled to death by pit bulls. Of course, it's fired up the usual rabble on the blogosphere.

Weirdly, this tiresome debate is made up of both extremes of the political spectrum. First there's the wigger/gangsta wannabes out in the slummier 'burbs who think it's their god-given right to own uncontrollable animals (see: gun fetishists). And on the other side of the kennel, there's the weepy PETA vegans who think ALL dogs on earth must be saved from horrible humans (including horrible 3-yr-old humans) who are "accidentally" mauled by this "misunderstood" breed.

I covered this topic over 10 years ago when I was a newspaper reporter. My article was about the importance of basic obedience training and socialization for all breeds. Socialization means regularly walking your dog, getting him used to meeting strangers and making him feel relaxed in new environments -- a concept that escapes the mental grasp of 90% of dog owners.

Being white trash, I grew up around pit bulls. Thanks to pit bulls, I had to bury two pet cats before I was 13. They were used in rural Nevada, primarily by ranchers, to hunt and kill coyotes. Unfortunately most of the pit bulls couldn't tell the difference between coyotes and house cats. Pit bulls were also hazy about differentiating between potential burglars and frolicking pre-schoolers. I've lived with pit bull mixes and had boyfriends, roommates, etc. who kept pit bulls. I've known some sweet pit bull mixes, but the pure breds are not my cup of tea. Fighting breeds -- including Chows, akitas and mastiffs -- were bred with the idea that the best defense is a good offense.

Pitbulls have a strong stalking instinct and in the offense department, the pit bull is king. Think about it. The name alone is appalling. They're not called pointers or lurchers. They're pit bulls. You put the dog in a pit. Then you put something (a badger, a lynx, a lion, another dog or even an actual bull) in the pit with the dog. Then you place bets on which animal will survive. Pit bull terriers are the genetic descendants of dogs that survived hundreds of years of this systematic brutality in England, Spain and most of Europe.

Perfect for your five year old!

The thing that chills me is a comment by an animal behaviorist and director of the ASPCA on

According to expert Randall Lockwood, pit bulls are also liars. In a 2004 law enforcement training video, taped when Lockwood was vice president for research and educational outreach for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), he shares the following story:

"Fighting dogs lie all the time. I experienced it first hand when I was investigating three pit bulls that killed a little boy in Georgia. When I went up to do an initial evaluation of the dog's behavior, the dog came up to the front of the fence, gave me a nice little tail wag and a "play bow" -- a little solicitation, a little greeting. As I got closer, he lunged for my face."

Fighting breeds like pit bulls can lie? That is chilling. Shades of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake where in a dystopian future corporations use "puppies" as military weapons.

But then this debate is not new. A 1999 essay from a New York freelance writer, brings the problem home.


Lindsay said...

Yeah...I agree...and I am not totally comfortable with this. People need to get perspective. If you are breeding homicidal dogs than you BELONG in prison and you are a DOUCHEBAG. I am an animal lover and a pet OWNER.BUT..I am not an over the top weepy pet lover who buys snuggies for my dog and blames ALL the world's ill on people... Pets are animals, and people need yo get a grip on their emotionally wrought animal attachments. My solution: put the douchbaggy drug dog owner people in the pits, and let the dogs have at'em.

Jan said...

all I can say is "EXACTLY"