October 31, 2007

An illogical leap

Craig McInnes of the Vancouver Sun wrote this article in September which initially appeared to lament the dangers of loose dogs to children.

The basic premise of the first third of his story, and certainly the gist of the headline, is that a child, when walking or playing in a place where the child is supposed to be and allowed to be, should not have to worry about being bitten by a dog.

Owners of dogs (of any breed) should not risk children's safety by assuming that their dogs won't bite and thus leaving their dogs loose and unsupervised.

AMEN! I couldn't agree with you more, Craig.

The story begins with McInnes being threatened by two dogs (a black Labrador retriever and a younger dog of similar size) who were in the back of a pickup truck and not restrained in any way.

He then moves to two examples of dogs that simply should have been left alone because, unmolested, they would not have bitten anyone.

Again, perfect examples of situations that should not have happened.

The last example McInnes uses is of a pit bull shot by a police officer while attending a call about a dog biting its owner. The dog was shot on its own property, apparently as it threatened the police officer.

Although I believe that there is a tendency among police officers to shoot "pit bull" types more quickly than others, there appears to be some justification for these actions. I don't know the whole story, so I won't comment further. The particular details are actually not the point here.

The point is that, in the last third of his article, Craig makes a leap from this story (of a dog biting its owner inside its own house and then being shot by police) to how parents of children should not have to be worried about the trustworthiness of an approaching pit bull.

It doesn't appear to matter that he just finished talking about a Labrador Retriever threatening him!

It doesn't appear to matter that he just finished talking about a boy whose skull was ripped to shreds by a team of sled dogs!

It doesn't appear to matter that that he just finished talking about the owner of a Cocker Spaniel who bugged his sleeping dog and almost lost his nose as a result!

All of these incidents have faded into the background because McInnes translates a single case of a dog biting inside its house into public concern about dangerous, unpredictable, overly strong, loose running pit bulls!

It doesn't seem to matter to him that a "pit bull" type dog has never killed a child in Canada. Ever.

McInnes started off great and, if he had stayed in that vein, he might have actually accomplished something in terms of helping prevent dog bites.

Instead, he's simply become another source for "pit bull ban" protaganists who want to justify their tunnel vision approach to dog bite prevention.

Stop loose running dogs.

Good idea.
Don't allow protective, territorial dogs to reach the general public.
Makes sense.
Prevent children from reaching tethered or backyard dogs.
Another good idea.
Teach children (and others) not to bother dogs that aren't bugging anyone.
Tell everyone that "pit bulls" are really the dogs that everyone should be worried about if they're loose.
Comments like those at the end of McInnes' story lead directly to comments like this from Kory Nelson, city attorney for Denver, Colorado:
"Anybody who shoots a pit bull running loose is justified," said Nelson, the Denver city attorney. "The only difference between a pit bull and a gun is that a gun won't chase you down the street."
And comments like that lead inexorably to breed bans and the deaths of thousands of dogs, simply because people like Craig McInnes decide to conveniently ignore the fact that it was not a pit bull that threatened him from the back of that pickup truck.

Instead of focusing on the issues, the lack of control and training, the irresponsibility of particular, individual owners, McInnes felt it necessary to turn the whole thing around and make it about "pit bulls".

Instead of using his newspaper space to do something good, the only McInnes has managed to accomplish is to increase the likelihood of vigilantism and legislation aimed at pit bull owners.

In the end, he has done nothing to help reduce dog bites.

-- END --


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