Thursday, July 28, 2005

Debate on BSL in Madison

My latest post from the debate over at

It took hours or searching to find the information contained within...... to me, it bears repeating.


“It turns out that Pit Bulls are, in fact, absolutely the same as all dogs,” argues Dr. Karen Overall, a veterinary behaviorist and researcher in the psychiatry department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine–Philadelphia, who bases her view on research she and others have conducted. What’s more, last summer, the Supreme Court of Alabama ruled there is no genetic evidence identifying Pit Bulls as inherently more dangerous than other dogs.

The truth is that Pit Bulls were indeed bred (using mostly various Bull Terrier breeds) to fight other dogs. “It’s true that some Pit Bulls are genetically hardwired to be dog-aggressive, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with being aggressive to people,”


The pit bull attacks in Orange County on February 24, 2004 were tragic, but could have been prevented by enforcement of leash laws and the teaching of responsible pet ownership.

There are laws in every state and community related to pets, their care, and management. One of the more important is the leash law--a law that dictates that a dog be managed by the owner while it is out in public. Unfortunately, there are irresponsible pet owners who let their animals roam unattended on a regular basis.

Pit bull and other dog attacks frequently occur here around the nation because people let their animals run "free." It is a big problem that requires neighborhoods and local communities to push for enforcement.




Mercury news

Animal People News

PitBull Press

Dr. Patrice A. Whittington, aveterinarian who works with the shelter and practices in Yorktown and Armonk, said pit bulls are ''ideal patients,'' noteworthy for ''the way they never complain during procedures.'' Sara Etkin, an animal behaviorist, described them as highly intelligent and easy to train. The tragedy, Ms. Etkin and Dr. Whittington explained, is that their inherent traits have been used against them by the wrong people: their willingness to follow commands, for example, makes them subservient to cruel owners who force them to fight.

NewYork Tails

With the testimony of an animal behaviorist, Peter Borschelt, Ph. D., the judge was convinced that the statute was unconstitutionally vague, and that due to the fact that many of the "pit bull type" breeds are actually recently created breeds made by mixing of various other breeds. As such, most individual dogs could not be definitely identified as being of one breed or another, unless the dog's parents were known.

National Geographic News

Zawistowski, a certified applied animal behaviorist, says if given the choice of six breeds, he could create a dog in ten years that would make drug dealers "pee in their pants."

But he adds it's more than just genetics that determine how a dog behaves. Training and environment also play a part.

"A pit bull that has been properly socialized and trained—and kept in a home, walked on a leash, and kept in a yard with a fence—isn't necessarily dangerous," Zawistowski explained.

"Nobody has been killed by a pit bull since [the ordinance took effect] in Denver," she said.

Still, it hasn't stopped residents from owning the dogs. City officials estimate 4,500 pit bulls are being kept illegally.

Bui, vice president of the American Canine Foundation, said breed-specific legislation doesn't protect the public or stop illegal activity involving dogs and it wastes thousands of dollars of taxpayer money, which could be better spent on enforcement of animal control laws.

The San Francisco SPCA Behavior and Training Department says:

Although Pit Bull attacks on humans are headline-makers, it is difficult to tease out how much these incidents are due to the genetics of the dogs concerned and how much to the rearing practices of the irresponsible owners that are often drawn to "tough breed of the month" dogs such as Pit Bulls. And, tomake matters more complicated, the same irresponsible owners may have selectively bred strains of PitBulls that are more aggressive to people. That said, it is probably safe to say that randomly bred orfighting line Pit Bulls that are properly raised arenot at elevated risk for aggression to humans. It is also safe to say that Pit Bulls, on the whole, are at elevated risk of aggression directed at other dogs. This isnot to say that every Pit Bull will become dog aggressive. Far from it: they are simply at greater risk compared to most other breeds of dog. Scores of Pit Bulls and Pit Bull crosses are ridiculously dog-friendly or have dog-dog issues that are within the normal range seen by trainers, and are modifiable.


Trish King, a Marin Humane Society animal behaviorist and trainer, says that aggression in dogs can be a result of poor breeding or of lax training.

The Sake of the Argument

Personal experiences and media reports are focused on individual dogs, not the breed as a whole. If you want to ban/restrict the entire breed, you need to consider the entire breed. As a canine behaviorist and researcher with a focus on pit bulls, I know quite a few facts on the breed as a whole.

Fact: 83.9% of American Pit Bull Terriers tested by the American Temperament Testing Society ( have passed. This is a higher passing rate than the Dalmatian, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, and Weimaraner, to name a few. If you have never been to a Temperament Test, I highly recommend it. Your jaw will drop.

Fact: Dogs of "breed unknown" account for 56% of deadly dog bites over 17 years of CDC data (1979-1996, I haven't been able to find anything more recent). Purebred "pit bull"-type dogs are at the top of the KNOWN breeds (17% of deadly bites). But these statistics vary widely from year to year. For instance, in 1995-1996, there were 3 deaths from purebred pit bulls (6%), no deaths from pit mixes, and 10 from Rottweilers. Twenty-two deaths in those two years were caused by "breed unknown". It should be noted that these numbers alone are meaningless with regards to breed temperament and aggressiveness. Take a statistics refresher course or type "dog bite statistics" into your web browser.

Fact: American Pit Bull Terriers are THE breed used for dog fighting. They are bred, trained, and abused for this purpose. No other breed is subjected to this torture. Dog fighting is ILLEGAL, but it happens anyway. In fact, it is on the rise across the nation. Children are often present.

(Question: Knowing the above fact to be true, why aren't there MORE pit bull attacks on people?)

Fact: With the exception of experienced dog handlers, canine behaviorists, and knowledgeable dog owners, the majority of the populace does not understand, and misinterprets, dog body language (i.e. aggression). Note: Dogs DO NOT just "snap"; there is always a reason.

Fact: The OWNER is ALWAYS responsible for what their dog does. A good owner does his/her homework, understands body language, socializes and trains, maintains control at all times. A good owner recognizes when there's a behavior problem and seeks professional help immediately.

Fact: Individual dogs and individual owners are at fault for the attacks we hear so much about. Therefore, it would be logical to punish individuals for their actions, not entire groups.


The bottom-line is that BSL is not a community’s answer to dog bite prevention. In addition to the reasons mentioned before, the AKC has this to say about BSL:

Breed-specific laws are not the best way to protect communities. An owner intent on using his or her dogs for malicious purposes will simply be able to switch to another type of dog and continue to jeopardize public safety. The list of regulated breeds or types could grow every year without ever addressing responsible dog ownership. Deeds, not breeds, should be addressed.

For additional information regarding this unfair epidemic you may visit the following websites:

Center for Disease Control

Humane Society of the United States

The American Veterinary Medical Association


American Kennel Club

Missouri Pit Bull Rescue

Pit Bull Rescue Central

American Temperament Test Society, Inc.

Valley Pet News


I think the MOST important thing to remember here is THIS......

Still, it hasn't stopped residents from owning the dogs. [Denver] City officials estimate 4,500 pit bulls are being kept illegally.

If that is the case.... then WHAT HAVE THEY REALLY ACCOMPLISHED???? Aside from the destruction of family pets!


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