If pit bulls are lesbian lap dogs, Gavin Newsom has a problem!
"If we can't change people's behavior and make them think what's in their best interest, then that's when government comes along and becomes a bit paternalistic."

So says San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who's considering legislation which would ban pit bulls.

I want to address Newsom's apparent contention that people who own pit bulls don't "think what's in their best interests." I've had these dogs since the mid 1970s, and while I've perhaps not written enough posts about this issue, it's because it makes me so sick that the government would try to take my dogs away because someone doesn't approve of them that I fear I'd be overly redundant and emotional.

Joe Gandelman has a thoughtful post on the subject, but I'm really disappointed to see the ignorance displayed by some of the comments.

The thinking seems to be that because a pit bull killed a child, all pit bulls should be banned. It would be one thing if these attacks were common -- or typified the breed.

According to the statistics, neither contention is remotely true:

Approximating 20 deaths per year in a dog population of 53 million yields an infinitesimal percent of the dog population (.0000004%) involved in a human fatality.

THE BREED FACTOR
Many communities and cities believe that the solution to prevent severe and fatal dog attacks is to label, restrict or ban certain breeds of dogs as potentially dangerous. If the breed of dog was the primary or sole determining factor in a fatal dog attack, it would necessarily stand to reason that since there are literally millions of Rottweilers, Pit Bulls and German Shepherd Dogs in the United States, there would have to be countless more than an approximate 20 human fatalities per year.

Since only an infinitesimal number of any breed is implicated in a human fatality, it is not only unreasonable to characterize this as a specific breed behavior by which judge an entire population of dogs, it also does little to prevent fatal or severe dog attacks as the real causes and events that contribute to a fatal attack are masked by the issue of breed and not seriously addressed.

Dogs kill 20 people per year? In a nation of 300 million people, I would have expected a higher number.

Frankly, it horrifies me to see the types of thugs who often buy pit bulls, and I'm amazed that there aren't more attacks on innocent people, because the dogs are powerful as hell, and loyal as hell to their owners. Which means that if the owner is bad.... It's a little like a bad guy with a gun or a knife. Yet I can't tell you the number of times I've stopped to pet a pit bull being walked by young toughs, only to be told "GET BACK, MAN! HE'LL BITE YOU!!" And they actually seemed angry at their pit bulls for wagging their tails at me. Personally, I don't think that type of person should be allowed to own a pit bull. Or any dog. Because if they couldn't get pit bulls and were forced to have a dog which turned out to be a "wimp," they'd abuse that dog.

I knew an animal control worker in Berkeley who told me a sickening story about a family which adopted a pit bull the shelter had considered gentle. The problem was that their child was not gentle, and he proceeded to beat the dog with a baseball bat. Eventually, the pit bull defended himself and severely injured the boy. Guess what? The family sued the city, and Berkeley was forced to stop adopting out pit bulls. Every time I read one of these stories, I wonder what's not being reported.

There are always going to be powerful dogs, and bad people. A few years ago, CNN reported that the Rottweiler had "passed pit bulls as America's deadliest dog breed":

The large dogs were involved in 33 fatal attacks on humans between 1991 and 1998, the American Veterinary Medical Association said.

Pit bulls, which had been responsible for more deaths than any other breed, were involved in 21 fatal attacks over the same period.

Now, despite the fact that Americans are almost five times more likely to be fatally struck by lightning than killed by Rottweliers or pit bulls, I think it's worth asking what accounted for the statistical shift. Might the crackdown on pit bulls have had anything to do with it? Or were the thugs discovering that the pit bulls were too friendly to be of much use? I don't know, but I am tired of the hysteria.

There's no end to it. And as I've said before, the best way to stop this legislation is to glamorize the breed, and make it hip to own them.

There's nothing I like more than visiting San Francisco and seeing a hip young lesbian walking a pit bull. It makes me feel that Puff and Coco are safer, and I am absolutely serious.

(After all, not everyone gets to see pictures like these, showing graphically what pit bulls can do to children.)

Or to cats:

PuffKitty.jpg

UPDATE: DO NOT MISS SayUncle's post on this issue. Not only is he less worried about being emotional than I am, he's posted a much better picture of the savage maulings these dogs inflict on children!

Pointing out the folly of breed specific legislation, he also links to this game of "Find The Pit Bull."

And I'm very pleased to see bloggers on the left as well as the right in agreement on this issue.

Wonderful! (And thanks for the link!)

UPDATE (06/08/05): My thanks to my old blogfriend Craig Ceely at Anger of Compassion for linking this post, and supplying a marvelous World War I era poster, which I'd love to reproduce here, but I'd rather have you go see it at Anger of Compassion. So go take a look!

posted by Eric on 06.06.05 at 11:08 AM







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Comments

What Gavin Newsom said is as totalitarian as what Santorum said. Banning guns, now banning dogs. (What does Santorum say about that?) He has forfeited all the respect I initially had for him.

Once again, the styles of the titles of your posts! Myself, I always associate Lesbians with cats. Meow!

OK, but... there are clearly breeds that were not bred to be house dogs or children's pets, not to mention teeny-tiny-studio-apartment dogs. I'm not just talking about the big dogs - some breeds of terrier just go crazy in a small house with kids.

It's an affectation - and sometimes borders on cruelty to the dog - to put them in a cramped urban situation.

You've sorta backhandedly admitted that some dogs can be used as weapons - well, this kind of common-sense judgement by owners parallels the responsibility that comes with, say, gun ownership.

Ben-David   ·  June 6, 2005 1:28 PM

Why are you fond of this breed in particular?

John   ·  June 6, 2005 4:45 PM

What people like Newsom don't seem to understand is that the problem with dangerous dogs has more to do with their owners than it does with the dogs. There is a certain type of individual that gets off on having mean and dangerous dogs. These people get the "in" dog to show the world how bad
they are and mistreat their animals to make them
dangerous.
I can remember when breed that had everyone up
in arms was the doberman, followed by the German
Shepherd, the rottweiller and now the pit bull.

Mike   ·  June 6, 2005 6:58 PM

According to the MAD spectrum, Right Wing Militants own dobermans.

About a year ago I adopted a "Dalmatian mix" puppy (half starved, full of worms, covered with fleas) who, as he grew up, indeed has Dalmatian coloring, but the build and (from my reading) personality of a pit bull.

He is the friendliest, most people-oriented dog I've ever had (and the strongest!). I love Samson very dearly, and I'd get very upset if anyone tried to make me get rid of him because of his breed!

By the way, he is now free of worms and fleas, and has three good meals a day. We live on a farm, so he gets plenty of exercise, too.

Ann Wilson   ·  June 7, 2005 7:26 AM

John --

Nostalgia more than anything else. Back in the mid-70s, hardly anyone knew what these dogs were. Yet I kept seeing old pictures of them. When she was a little girl my mom was photographed with the famous "Pete" of the "Our Gang" series on Atlantic City's Steel Pier (for ten cents). They also looked cool to me, the wide set eyes, the philosophical, Sphinx-like appearance, and they struck me as resembling mammal-like-reptiles. On top of this was their ridiculously friendly, clownish disposition.

It wasn't long after I developed an interest in these dogs that the media decided to go after them. This didn't endear me to the MSM. But that was decades ago, and instead of blogging, I wrote letters to the editor defending pit bulls.

Most of the letters weren't published, and I didn't do as I was told.

I like this breed.

Eric Scheie   ·  June 7, 2005 9:32 AM

I have had it with the media.

I'm about as kneejerk-liberal as they come (and own 2 APBTs), so I applaud your comments and your observation: "And I'm very pleased to see bloggers on the left as well as the right in agreement on this issue."

I'm sure there are those on your side, like those on mine, who think pit bull ownership has something to do with political persuasion. So of course it's those moronic [pick it] rightwing/leftwing politicians who propose banning breeds as a "solution" to irresponsible ownership.

2 more cases in point:

ultra-liberal Gavin Newsome advocating bans.

Bill OReilly will be interviewing Linda Blair tonite... based on his past performances, he'll be on the attack against pit bulls.

This truly is something pet owners of all political persuasions can ban together about.

pitbullEmily   ·  June 7, 2005 5:11 PM

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