Thursday, April 26, 2012

Breed Specific Legislation-What Price Breeding?

Breed Specific Legislation – What Price Breeding?

Years ago I had a very good vet when I lived in Sturgis, MI.  He handled large animals as well as dogs and cats and bred and raced Standardbred horses.  Besides being a good vet and a cracker-jack surgeon he knew animals and how they behave.

One day he and I were talking and the subject somehow got to Pit Bulls.  He said he had ten in his practice and nine of them were fine, but the tenth one scared him to death every time it came into the office.  He said that lots of dogs had threatened him in the office or on farm visits but most would stop if you faced them and talked them down, but a Pit Bull that comes for you keeps coming.

Some of us have encountered the same trait in other creatures.  I’ve had roosters that were so territorial that you could have beaten them to death before they stopped being on the attack.  They taste delicious, by the way.  Ganders (male geese) can be the same way, particularly when guarding a nest or young.  This quality in chickens is called “gameness” and the Standard Old English Game Chicken exhibits it to an extraordinary degree.  The ugly sport of cock fighting depends on this characteristic.

My vet also mentioned the fact that Pit Bulls had the equipment to do great damage due to their traits of having very powerful jaw muscles.  Neither he nor I were suggesting that they be banned, but were saying that you needed to understand what you were dealing with and that while most might be ok, some are not.

Now we’ll fast-forward a few years to another problem that came up in Michigan when some people decided to breed wolf-dog hybrids.  They were readily available and I even saw them offered at swap meets.  They became a macho symbol and though some may have walked around on lead and seemed calm, they were anything but trustworthy.  Over time there were a number of attacks on people particularly children and some deaths.  Children are particularly prone to attack by some canine species, because of how they behave.  They squeal, they step on toes, they pull ears, they run and they fall.  All these traits can trigger a problem with some canines, wolf-dogs or otherwise.  Finally the public in general as well as many dog breeders had enough.  Legislation was passed to make owning a wolf-dog hybrid virtually impossible and breeding them against the law. The rights of a few people who wanted to profit thru these creatures were outweighed by the public’s wishes.

When I was breeding Collies it was a standard joke that my dogs (which I loved and loved me) would leave me to greet a child they’d never seen.  This is what we expect of most Collies because it’s what they do.  My dogs were used to visitors to the kennel and seeing many people at dog shows and they just loved kids.  Years later I bought a male puppy who was raised without much exposure to strangers or children.  He was a vocal watchdog and while he never threatened a child, he would avoid my grandchildren I suspect because he didn’t know where they fit into his world. He was by the way, a great dog for his owners, but watchful of all others.

So let’s get back to the Pit Bull question.  The AKC and many dog breeders say breed specific legislation is bad because it’s not the dogs, but the owners who cause the problem.  They further say that people have the right to breed whatever kind of dog they choose.  Such freedoms would seem to be very basic in this “land of the free.”

There are a couple of points that bother me greatly in this matter.  In spite of all the friendly Pit Bulls that may be out there, what to do about the ones that kill people, particularly children.  It’s a fact beyond dispute that this breed is the new macho breed and often falls into bad hands.  They are used for dog fighting just as Old English Game Chickens are used for cockfighting, because they have the tools needed to inflict serious injury on an opponent.

We know that dogs of this breed (and several others, too) can with bad handling become a ticking time bomb just waiting for a reason to explode.  Breeding and handling for gameness and aggression can produce a fearsome four legged killing machine.  How do we stop this from being a danger to the public in general and children in particular?  The public in general is not in tune to AKC and dog breeders on the right to breed dangerous dogs.  If it’s just one in ten or twenty, or one hundred and a child is injured or killed, then the cry goes up to bar them just as the wolf-dog hybrids. 

When I was actively breeding the dogs were well cared for and loved by the whole family.  My boys often went to dog shows with me and they loved it as did the dogs.  At the same time I told people that that kennel of dogs was not on a par with what the boys meant.  Some folks want to treat animals like people and perhaps put them on the same level as their children.  Most people do not I assure you.

Meanwhile, though I hate the idea of legislating away people’s rights as breeders, I know the general public who far outweigh dog people at the polls are getting fed up with the issue. They are getting sick of hearing don’t take away our rights to breed, but we haven’t offered an answer on how to control the problem.

There are a lot of breeds out there as the AKC goes on its merry way recognizing new ones to boost the sagging registrations.  Some are good, but some need “intense socialization” according to dog show announcers.  They’re not for everyone.  With some one hundred and fifty breeds available how do we defend the scary ones and what’s our solution to keep them out of the wrong hands?

When is the last time you heard a child’s death blamed on a Collie, a Setter, a King Charles Spaniel or so many other breeds.  How do you weigh a child’s life against out right to breed what we want when so many other breeds exist?  I’m still waiting to hear an answer that makes any sense.  I know what my answer would be if one of my children or grandchildren was attacked and I’ve been a dog person virtually all my life.

Wolf-hybrids needed to be outlawed and so, in my opinion does the keeping of any creature, wild or domestic that poses a danger to humans.  Most start off as cute babies, but end up as dangerous adults that owners dump to get rid of because no one wants them.  Our land of the free has to have some limits and when your pet, canine or otherwise, is a threat to others, it shouldn’t be allowed to exist because you want it.

Think About It!

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