Opinion: The Pit Bull Conundrum, It’s A Good Law

| August 16, 2012
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Well, Maryland legislatures set their priorities to reward the gaming industry in the most recent special session and let stand a controversial court ruling that declared Pit Bull dogs inherently dangerous opening their owners (and their landlords) to some serious liability.  It is unlikely that there will be another special session to address this, so for now the law stands.  But what about the law? Is it a good one? Are Pit Bulls inherently dangerous? More prone to attack and cause catastrophic injury?

Recent Pit Bull Attack In Harford County

Just yesterday, a seemingly friendly Pit Bull who did not show any aggressive tendencies (in the opinion of a sheriff deputy) turned and bit a young boy. When the sheriff went to his car, the seemingly non-aggressive Pit Bull charged the deputy who shot and killed the animal.

I have been critical of Pit Bulls in the past and do believe that while they may not be “inherently” dangerous, that their demeanor, breeding, and care do make them more prone to attack and harm.

Personal Experience

Yesterday, I witnessed a Pit Bull puppy walking his owner. The puppy was friendly enough, but the full grown woman was having a difficult time controlling the dog due to the sheer strength of the animal. This puppy was 4 months old. What would happen when it is full grown and decided to run away from the handler?  What would happen if it decided to attack? Would this woman who cannot handle a 4-month old puppy be able to control a dog in attack mode? How big does a handler need to be to effectively control a full grown dog (Pit Bull or any breed) if something goes wrong?

I have also been approached (and threatened) by two free-running Pit Bulls. They were aggressive and began to circle me and snarl as I tried to walk my leashed dog. I picked up my dog and used my foot to fend off the Pit Bulls who eventually lost interest. They did not bite, nor did they attack, but they were intimidating.  If a man walks up to a convenience store clerk and puts a gun in his face and then walks away without stealing or causing any harm–it is an impression that will last!

Pro-Pit Bull Comments

Of course the expected response from Pit Bull owners is that it is the owner and not the breed which is causing the problem. And to a degree, I feel they are correct. Any neglected dog is going to misbehave. Any dog that is taught to be aggressive (or not taught to be passive) will be aggressive. But pound for pound, Pit Bulls have the advantage over Chihuahuas. A grown woman can pull back a herd of yapping chihuahuas, but as I witnessed yesterday, will have difficulty controlling a single Pit Bull puppy.

Pit Bulls are bred into blood sport. Chihuahuas are not. From a pro-Pit Bull website, Pit Bulls On The Web:

THE GOLDEN RULE OF PIT BULL OWNERSHIP- NEVER TRUST YOUR PIT BULL NOT TO FIGHT!!!!! This breed is descended from pit dogs one way or another, and, given the right circumstances, most Pit Bulls will fight and against any other breed, they will win (you really don’t want to see that!). Scared yet? You should be.

The site continues to explain some history of the breed:

It is common knowledge however, that the Pit Bull breed was developed for blood sports: Bull baiting, bear baiting, and later, dogfighting.

Yes, it also says that in times gone by, the owners were there with some sort of control being exerted over the dog, but in modern times it appears that many owners are not controlling their dogs.   How else can you explain it?

Another argument that Pit Bull owners make is that there are many related breeds that are giving Pit Bulls a bad name. Yes there are several related breeds, but they all have the same roots. If Ted Bundy and Aileen Wuornos were to marry and had a son–would you be concerned before letting your daughter head out on a date? The point is that you cannot discount your relatives and your breeding.

Anne Arundel County Recent History

How many pit bull “events” have been here right in Anne Arundel County? Several attacked and killed livestock on the Broadneck peninsula. In Gambrills a group of them attacked their owner’s grandmother. One attacked a Severna Park pee-wee lacrosse player in Shady Side. Another attacked a child in PasadenaA dog baiting case of a pit bull.    Pit Bulls attack a jogger in Davidsonville.   A Severna Park man shoots an aggressive Pit Bull. A police officer trying to control a fight was forced to shoot an attacking Pit Bull.  There are more, just here in our little section of the world—just do a search on Eye On Annapolis.

While there are plenty of other dog bites happening in the area, few are as severe as a Pit Bull. Just look at the statistics provided by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Pit Bulls are responsible for nearly twice the amount of deaths than any other breed.

A Shelter Issue

Since the legislature failed to act, a State Court of Appeals will listen to arguments from the pro-Pit Bull lobby next Thursday to see if the law can be overturned. However, if not, animal shelters across Maryland are expecting an influx of Pit Bulls from people unable to keep them. Since the controversial ruling extends liability to the owner’s landlord, advocates estimate that there could be hundreds of thousands of Pit Bulls turned into already overcrowded shelters.

A Possible Solution At Hand

With the evidence and hard facts, it does demonstrate that Pit Bulls and “like” breeds  are inherently more aggressive and more prone to attack. When a pro-Pit Bull site comes out with a “Golden Rule” that says “never trust your dog to not fight,” that speaks volumes.  I believe that the recent court ruling is a reasonable one. I also believe that poor owners have been a part of the problem. While there are no census figures to support breed ownership, with advocates claiming that “hundreds of thousands” of Pit Bulls will be turned in (presumably from renters since the breed is not to blame) and a population of 5.8 million, Maryland looks to have about one Pit Bull for every 29 residents.

I do not want to discount the views and opinions of responsible owners. I believe we all have the right to own pets. Perhaps the solution is to allow the law to stand and take a look at it in a few years. Let the current Pit Bull population shrink and allow the responsible owners population to grow. Maybe by that that time, we will have less Pit Bulls running loose, attacking children, charging police officers, and involved in dog fighting.

What are your thoughts? Are you pro-Pit Bull? Are you anti-Pit Bull? Please leave a comment–you can remain anonymous so please feel to speak your mind. All comments will be published, but please no attacks on people and keep the language clean!

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Category: COLUMNS, OPINION

About the Author ()

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news--and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009. John's background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.
  • http://www.facebook.com/lgebbia Lisa Kenefick Gebbia

    In almost every instance that you’ve mentioned above, the dogs were running loose – no owner in sight. That’s irresponsible ownership – not irresponsible landlords. In addition, the stats on biting you cite above are from 1979 – 1998 – That’s fairly old as statistics go. I’m not saying you don’t make your case, but you don’t make it well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001707841108 Stacey Brown

    obviously the person/persons have never owned a pitbull…when raised in a loving family environment with responsible owners, they are no more likely to attack/bite someone as does a bichon frise or german shepard,or poodle or ANY animal that has teeth has the potential to bite someone! Now I’m not saying that there aren’t any “dangerous” dog’s out there, all I’m saying is don’t judge the dog because of what breed it is..judge the dog by the way it behaves and interacts with other’s..I have seen WAY more aggressive “lap-dogs” than i have rottweilers or pit bulls!! WE NEED TO STOP DISCRIMINATING AGAINST CERTAIN BREEDS AND START PUNISHING THE OWNERS!! JUST SAYING :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashley.grant.169 Ashley Grant

    I am a pitbull owner. As much as the law scares me it also will kill many, many dogs. I love my dog, like any dog owner and i think the proPit Bull site states the obvious and is trying to make people more mindful of their pets strength. I would think those who are scared of dogs would appreciate that there is a site trying to encourage owners to be more mindful as opposed to using it as a threat.
    I also think the comparison used between Chihuahuas and Pit bulls is rediculous. Comparing a golden retriever puppy to a pit bull would prove to be more effective. I bet the woman wouldnt be able to control a happy go lucky golden retriever too.
    To reiderate the comment prior to mine, the charts you shared are from 1979-1998. Im sure leash laws were also different during that time frame.
    Fact is, it’s a living animal that is scary due to ignorance. These Dogs were breed for sport, but when the sport is deemed as animal cruelty, we dont try to save the animals, we insist on killing them or getting rid of them. It is very much like humans to kill those things which we feel threatened by or do not understand. It is very unfortunate that our ignorance can impact the deaths of many dogs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rebecca-Furr/1163512838 Rebecca Furr

    I totally agree with your opinion. All the evidence clearly shows that pit bulls are more aggressive and are way more savage when they attack. They should be banned or regulated in the interest of public safety.

  • caj5029@gmail.com

    I think the Golden Rule of Pit Bull ownership should be changed to the Golden Rule of Dog Ownership. Any properly trained and housed dog will fight or attack under a variety of circumstances. If your dog loves you, he/she will fight to protect you from anything they see as a threat. This law is no different than saying if Ted Bundy and Aileen Wuornos had a child you would immediately be justified in imprisoning that child (or in this case putting that child into an orphanage that puts surplus population to death). I know it’s an extreme example, but it’s a very telling one. I sympathize with people who have been intimidated by pit bulls, but breed discrimination is not the solution.

  • Boop.

    I have a pit bull terrier mix. I’m pretty sure he’s not smart enough to know how to fight. He’s the sweetest dog in the world, all he does is vigorously lick your face and climb all over you.

  • http://www.eyeonannapolis.net/ John Frenaye

    I live near there as well and may have been approached by that dog a few years ago. Came charging across toward me and my little foo foo dog. Was growling and ultimately, I put my foot up to sort of keep him at bay and he retreated.

    Yes, they have an aggressive instinct–I agree.

  • Jason Fraser

    Most pit bulls and other dogs that attack ARE “family pets.” This is particularly true in the case of infants and toddlers. The overwhelming majority of dog attacks on infants and toddlers occur inside the house and could be prevented if people would just exercise a little common sense and keep dogs OUTSIDE, where dogs belong!

  • Jason Fraser

    The so-called “National Canine Research Council” was founded by a confirmed pit nutter and is nothing more than a pit bull advocate organization.

  • LH

    My cat was killed by two pit bulls who escaped from their yard. My next door neighbor and I could not get them to stop attacking. We tried kicking the dogs with all our might and it had absolutely no effect -they were like machines! Ferocious impenetrable killing machines. I watched the life go out of my dear pet’s eyes. Finally, spraying a hose on them got them startled enough that I could grab my dead cat and the neighbor could use his phone to scan on of the dog’s head for a microchip. It was there and he called the owners. They came right over. They were a sweet little lesbian couple who were freaked out and mortified. They cried with me and apologized profusely. But when one of them insisted that this “wasn’t at all like them,” I wanted to spit in her face. People who say it’s the owners, not the breed might as we’ll be talking about tigers – who can also be trained to behave as though they are not ferocious.