I just finished reading a terrible story about a 14 year old girl in England who was attacked and killed by 4 dogs in her own home. All that is known at this point is that the girl left school, picked up a meat pie for her lunch, and headed home to eat it. Her body was found at about 2pm in the home. A police sharpshooter had to kill two bull mastiffs and two staffordshire bull terriers. A young girl, and four animals are dead, is anyone to blame?
There are many opinions when it comes to assigning the name “dangerous breed” to different dog breeds. Many cities and countries try to create breed specific legislation to stop dog attacks from happening, but is that really the answer? Where I live, in Ontario, Canada, we have a ban on pit bulls and pit bull mixes. Despite being banned in over 600 cities in the U.S. the following chart depicts the breed division of the dog fatalities for 2012.
It would seem fairly straight forward to assume that the pit bull ban is the best way to get these attacks under control, but is that really the case?
I am the proud owner of a german shepherd. I know her strengths and I know her weaknesses and I control her behaviour accordingly. She is not allowed off-leash in public places, when we are out for walks, and another dog is coming our way, I usually cross the street, as she can be a little snippy, when people come into our home, she is introduced properly, and when we have a larger get together she is confined to a bedroom. I understand that she is never going to be like my golden retriever. She is never going to be that easygoing dog that just is happy to hang out. It is in her blood to be protective, alert and aloof with those she does not know. Although she was recently attacked by a much smaller little white dog, (I call those the “cream filled ones”) It was the other dog who did the attacking. Due to the sheer difference in size, it was also the other dog who got injured. And as the owner of the shepherd, I was the one who got stuck paying half the vet bill. So is it the dog breed, or the owner’s fault?
Years ago, when my father was out walking his sweet golden retriever, a young man with a pit bull took one look at my dad and said “my dog could kill your dog!” What my dad explained to me after that encounter was that some people’s insecurities were bolstered by their dogs. The tougher the dog, the more the dog builds up the owners self esteem. Somewhat like gang members hiding behind their violence and guns, these dog owners cowered behind their tough dog breeds and their reputations. It goes back to that old adage that says There are no bad dogs, just bad dog owners. So who is to blame? Where these dogs vicious or were they never socialized? Were they rewarded for their bad behaviour or were they punished for it? Did anyone ever train these dogs to be good members of the canine community? Perhaps it would be more fitting if we banned bad dog owners. If mandatory dog training was in order with every dog purchased. Is it so wrong to look at ourselves and realize that perhaps it is not the dogs, and perhaps it is the people who own the dogs?
This is Cupcake. He is an english bull mastiff, the same breed as two of the dogs killed in todays attack in England. Cupcake is a registered therapy dog for the veterans wing in a Toronto hospital. He is owned by a very responsible person who has spent time and effort training him to be a good canine citizen. So again I will ask, is it the breed or the owner? In the end, I do believe it is the owner’s responsibility to control their dog.