November 08, 2007

A good article with a few missteps

Here is a reasonably intelligent commentary on "pit bulls", albeit from an author who is admittedly biased toward this particular type of dog. Like myself, however, he wasn't always that way.

You can read his story at:

In general, this is a well-articulated discussion of the plight of these dogs on this continent. There are, however, a few comments with which I take issue.

This is not meant to be a criticism of the author. From what I have read, I think he's a wonderful owner with a big heart and a good understanding of dogs.

Unfortunately, that does not turn everything he says into the gospel truth.

Perhaps Canada is different, but I do not feel that there is an overpopulation of "pit bulls".

I believe that there is an overpopulation of the wrong type of owner combined with a media-inspired fear of the dogs that results in many dogs ending up in wrong hands or in shelters. With the right education, more effective legislation, and a different public attitude, those dogs could just as easily have ended up living great lives with responsible owners in good homes.

The population of the dogs is not the issue. Popular breeds, by the very nature of being popular, have more bad breeders and bad owners than rare dogs.

There are backyard and puppy-mill breeding issues.

There are breeders who are breeding for the wrong reasons, including for fighting, size, and aggression.

There are owners who shouldn't own this type of dog, or any type of dog, period.

But if the right education and the right laws were in place, these types of owners wouldn't be able to get dogs at all and the good owners would not be prevented from rescuing and saving dogs, regardless of the size of their heads.

I also have some issues with the blanket statements made by the veterinarian, by the author, and by Dr. Andrew Luescher, who I'll talk about separately.

The veterinarian says that people with children should pick a dog that, "if a child walks across its tail or jumps on them or whatever, nothing’s ever going to happen.”

Not only is this a statement unsubstantiated by any factual data whatsoever, it is the exact opposite of the reality that occurs every day in North America.

There are many dogs of ALL breeds that are highly intolerant of children jumping on them or stepping on their tail. There are many dogs of ALL breeds that will, and have, reacted negatively and violently to such accidental incidents.

The "pit bull" type of dog, however, is renowned for its willingness to endure such assaults. In fact, it has been my experience that this particular type of dog not only tolerates physical onslaughts by little humans, but, in many cases, enjoys them and seeks them out.

On the other hand, one of the breeds that the veterinarian so highly recommends is actually, by far, the number one biter of children in my city and is very high on the list across the country. Assuming that we can even pretend to track breed biting accurately, that breed's numbers are much higher than those of so-called "pit bulls".

The statements about "freakish strength" and the bite that the author has "never seen anything like", although perhaps accurate from the author's point of view, do nothing to help the dogs being targeted by breed-specific legislation. Writers must start to recognize that any public statement by them, even if it is supporting the dogs, will get twisted and used by politicians and other media personnel to support their reasoning for eliminating that type of dog.

This happened in Ontario where dog owners, happy to talk about how fast or strong or determined their particular dogs were, suddenly found their statements being quoted by politicians as proof that this type of dog is "qualitatively different" from other breeds.

I've never seen the "freakish strength" or unbelievable bite from either of my dogs. Without a doubt, my dogs are strong dogs and they choose to bite hard (on tug toys), but they do not appear to be abnormally different from dogs of other breeds.

Perhaps these attributes might exist in a particular dog that is bred from particular lines and trained to bite hard, that has been trained to hold that bite and that has been physically trained for strength.

I've seen Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds that are just as strong as my dogs. I've seen small terriers that have dislocated their owners' shoulders. I've seen a French bulldog that broke its owner's arm trying to get to another dog.

As for the bite beyond belief, my older dog owned a Kong, one single medium black Kong, for four years. It was destroyed in five minutes by a visiting Jack Russell Terrier.

My dogs' favourite toys are the rubber spheres that have two little rubber feet on the bottom. When my girls are given a new one of these, those feet are gone within minutes. But, that happens with my close friend's Dobermans and her Shepherd/Collie mix as well. The body of that toy lasts forever in my house.

Now to Dr. Andrew Luescher.

He is the director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Purdue University.

This "clinic" (as it's called) is famous in the dog world for being the home of Dr. Alan Beck, the only animal behaviour "scientist" in North America who agrees with breed banning and who spouts statement after statement about the differences between "pit bulls" and other dogs, yet has no practical real-world experience at all with "pit bull" type dogs.

As a researcher and one who tries to look at every fact and statement with an objective eye, I would personally be wary of using any statement from any person associated with Purdue's Animal Behavior Clinic. There appears to a suspect agenda at that particular facility and I would take anything coming from there with a huge grain of salt.

Virtually every dog that the average pet owner has in their home today does not do today the particular activity for which it was originally bred. Many house pets are physically incapable of performing those functions. Most house pets are not particularly interested in performing those functions. No (or extremely few) house pets have been trained to perfect those functions.

It may be true that you can find these extreme attributes and behaviours in a dog that was bred specifically for its function, that was raised in that environment, that was trained (encouraged) to act in a certain manner, that was physically conditioned to be an extreme athlete, and that has been successful at it (many aren't).

But that situation has no bearing whatsoever on your average house pet, many of whom interact happily with dogs, cats, rabbits, and people on a daily basis.

The fat, happy yellow Lab next door, who goes to the park twice a day and doesn't even want to chase a ball, bears no similarity whatsoever to the highly conditioned and meticulously bred and trained competition field dog that is out swimming through swamps and crashing through brush to retrieve the next bird.

The laid-back, lazy mastiff who greets all visitors with a wagging tail and an investigative sniff, or even a welcoming pair of paws on the visitor's shoulders, is not the same dog that fought alongside Roman soldiers or protected the estates of English noblemen.

Just remember when you're reading articles, even the positive ones, that ALL generalizations are dangerous, even this one.

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November 07, 2007

Summary of Ontario committee presenters

Caveat's earlier article quoting from the Bill 132 clause-by-clause committee meeting encouraged me to go back and look at some of the data I collected during that time.

Here's a summary of what types of people presented at the four days of hearings and whether they were for or against the Bill.

102 deputants (presenters) testified in front of the committee over a four day period.

45 were individuals.
57 were organizations.

22 individuals were for the Bill.
22 individuals were against the Bill.
1 was undecided.

6 organizations were for the Bill.
50 organizations were against the Bill.
1 was undecided.

Of the individuals for the Bill:

  • All 22 were ordinary citizens without any apparent affiliation with an organization or organized dog activity. These included average dog owners.
Of the individuals against the Bill:
  • 17 were ordinary citizens without any apparent affiliation with an organization or organized dog activity. These included average dog owners.
  • 1 was a breeder of dogs not targeted by the legislation.
  • 2 were researchers, but were representing themselves as individuals.
  • 1 was a dog trainer.
  • 1 was a veterinarian.
The neutral individual was an average citizen not associated with any organization.

Of the organizations for the Bill:
  • 1 was a politician representing a city that has breed-specific legislation.
  • 1 was an individual who had been the victim of an alleged pit bull incident and was presenting under the name of a city that has breed-specific legislation.
  • 1 was a bylaw enforcement officer representing a city that has breed-specific legislation.
  • 2 were police organizations.
  • 1 was a dog trainer who had also been the victim of an alleged pit bull incident.
Of the organizations against the Bill:
  • 1 was a dog activity club.
  • 1 was an organization representing breed judges.
  • 5 were bylaw enforcment organizations.
  • 2 were multi-breed registries
  • 1 was a breed club for a non-targeted breed.
  • 4 were breed clubs for targeted breeds.
  • 10 were rescue organizations.
  • 9 were scientific and statistical research organizations.
  • 10 were dog training organizations.
  • 7 were veterinarians
The neutral organization was a township.

I will be expanding on this in the very near future.

The full text of all committee hearings can be found here:

Committee Hearings - January 24 2006

Committee Hearings - January 27 2006

Committee Hearings - February 2 2006

Committee Hearings - February 3 2006

Committee Votes - February 10 2006

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Their minds were made up!

If you want proof that the mind of the Ontario government was made up BEFORE the Bill 132 committee hearings, you need look no further than these comments by Conservative MPP Joe Tascona and NDP MPP Peter Kormos, in opposition to the Bill.

Any rational, logical person could not listen to what these two men had to say and still believe that targeting a certain canine appearance could possibly reduce dog bites.

Keep in mind that that these statements came AFTER four days of committee hearings, in which 80% of the presenters and EVERY credible canine expert rejected the Bill 132 solution. The government had already been told what the problems would be with their approach and what solutions were already working.

Tascona and Kormos simply compressed those four days into a few thoughtful and logical sentences.

Thanks to Caveat.

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November 05, 2007

Pick and choose your hatred

The Government of Ontario issued a press release on November 2 stating that the focus of this year's "Crime Prevention Week" (November 4 to 10) will be eliminating racism, hate crimes, hate propaganda and violence to make Ontario safe.

When I read the entire release, looking at it from an Ontario "pit bull" owner's point of view, the rhetoric struck me as entirely hypocritical. This government has been the direct cause of countless incidents of vigilantism and hatred against an identifiable group of citizens. This government has clearly promoted hatred and a canine version of racism, based on no valid data and based entirely on physical appearance.

Here are a few excerpts from the press release. Look at these statements as viewed by a dog owner in Ontario, targeted by discriminatory and hate-filled laws.

  • Fighting racism, intolerance and hate is one of the building blocks of strong and safe communities
  • Ontario will not tolerate expressions of hate and racism and will reach out to protect those who suffer from discrimination
  • Police services, school boards and community groups across Ontario will be better equipped to fight hatred and intolerance in all its forms, through greater awareness of what motivates a hate crime,
  • and through information on how to recognize subtle but hateful propaganda and activities
  • Since 2003, the government has provided specialized training in hate crimes legislation for a team of Crown attorneys
I am adamantly opposed to any type of hatred. Normally, I would look at statements like these and offer my full support.

Unfortunately, being now a victim of hatred and discrimination, not only supported by this government, but initiated by it, I find it difficult to take their stated objectives seriously.

These words may, indeed, be just that: words. Words designed to appease a frightened, media-manipulated public. Words to make us feel safe.

"Making Ontario safer"

"Keeping Ontario safer"

Michael Bryant, FORMER Attorney General of Ontario, has used those phrases ad nauseum to justify numerous human rights abuses and violations of citizens' civil rights.

For another member of Dalton McGuinty's party to now come out and promote this government as our "protector" is simply a bad joke.

Here's the full press release:

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