02-04-10 - Pit Bulls

A couple more recent pit bill attacks ( man killed on Jan 18 and girl mauled on Feb 2 ) should remind us all that it's fucking absurd that people have these dogs.

I'm not convinced that they should necessarily be illegal to own (or controlled, like owning a tiger is). But certainly the owners should be prosecuted for assault with a deadly weapon or negligent homicide or some shit like that.

The arguments that are made by the pro-pitbull lobby are so absurd. Like "they're really sweet dogs if you raise them right", "my dog is my companion how dare you outlaw it", blah blah - you know what? a Schnauzer is also a really sweet dog if you raise it right, and it could be your companion, and it won't bite off your baby's face. There's just absolutely no justification for why you would have that dog instead of a safer one.

This is also another one of those cases where I wish social scorn would step up. We shouldn't really need the government to intervene here. When someone says "hey wanna meet my pit bull?" you should respond with "keep that dangerous thing away from me, you deranged psychopath".


Jon Olick said...

This lies on the same argument of should people be allowed to own firearms? While agree with you, I don't think it will likely be outlawed.

cbloom said...

I assume that all reasonable people take for granted that owning firearms is ludicrous. (I don't even want to go into this because it's so obvious, but of course you could allow two shot 22's for hunting, and you could allow any gun to be kept in a locker at a firing range blah blah nana nana booboo)

But yes I agree realistically no significant law will ever be passed on any of these issues.

Aaron said...

I'd always read that there are other breeds (like German Shepherds) that are more vicious than pit bulls. But maybe that's not be the case when you get down to fatalities.

From dogbitelaw.com:

"According to the Clifton study, pit bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios and their mixes are responsible for 74% of attacks that were included in the study, 68% of the attacks upon children, 82% of the attacks upon adults, 65% of the deaths, and 68% of the maimings. In more than two-thirds of the cases included in the study, the life-threatening or fatal attack was apparently the first known dangerous behavior by the animal in question. Clifton states:

If almost any other dog has a bad moment, someone may get bitten, but will not be maimed for life or killed, and the actuarial risk is accordingly reasonable. If a pit bull terrier or a Rottweiler has a bad moment, often someone is maimed or killed--and that has now created off-the-chart actuarial risk, for which the dogs as well as their victims are paying the price."

I have zero tolerance for other people's dogs, pit bull or otherwise. If you're in the city keep that fucker on a leash. If your in the country, it better stay inside it's fence, or it's getting a nice fat rock to the skull if it comes near me. I've been chased around the Oregon back country as a kid (and along the side of the highway even!) by my share of crazy idiot's loose frickin dogs, but fortunately have never been bit.

cbloom said...

Yeah I've had some scary moments biking on country roads where the country folk just let their dogs run free, and they see a city boy in spandex as an irresistible snack.

The thing about German Shephards that's commonly noted is that they have a bite force that's comparable or greater to Pit Bulls. But while the bite forces are scary and all they're sort of irrelevant, it's really an issue of the mental character of these dogs.

organic said...

The problem is that people are actively breeding the dogs to fight. After a few generations, the excessive tendency towards violence goes away.

James said...

I've been in u-lock fights with some kind of bull and it seems like aggression and stupidity go hand in hand.
I've noticed alot more starving/vicious strays than I used to and it makes me wistful for dog-catching vans full of guys in caps with huge butterfly nets cleaning up the streets.

cbloom said...

Well, we are headed for 3rd world country-hood , so I expect packs of feral dogs to be roaming the streets soon.

Nino Mojo said...

The thing is you don't even need to raise a pit bull "right" for it to be sweet. They're naturally sweet. If they're pure breed or carefully bred. Which they unfortunately not, most of the time.

The problem is this is a "thug" dog. Meaning, thug idiots have a crush on these dogs and a couple other breeds because basically those guys want to show off with a powerful creature and if they could have a lion instead they would.

The demand for pit bulls was very high (and still is), which led to lots of idiots/scammers/fake breeders breeding them in enormous quantities, with enormous consanguinity. Unreasonnable amounts of consanguinity creates mentally unstable dogs. (remember a pure breed dog is expensive, because the bottom line is that you cannot breed dogs properly and make a living out of it, you can't "mass produce" them. If you do, you'll get very weak or mentally unstable dogs, pit bulls or chihuahuas or what have you)

The thing with pitbull could happen (and happens) with pretty much any breed that is too successful for some time. Everyone wants one, so there's money in breeding them fast and cheap. Simple as that. Unfortunately in their case, they're physically killing machines.

So yeah, in actuality most pit bulls are probably from those evil/fake breeders and so yes, they're probably dangerous to some extent. But the argument that this is a sweet breed is not as ludicrous as that, if referring to the actual standard.

I agree with you that there's no reason one should want *that* breed and not another. My feeling is that there should be a test+license for owning breeds that are potentially dangerous, but also any kind of dog actually (or pet). Most owners don't know how a dog thinks and just fuck them up or spoil them.

Sorry for my unperfect english.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

Pokey (my dog) is a Shepherd/Pitbull mix. My take on the dangerous dogs issue is similar to Nino's -- the characteristics of the breed are not the main factor; the bad behaviors are mostly due to people who intentionally raise aggressive and intimidating dogs. Often this takes the form of downright abuse. I'm sure we'd see deadly Golden Retrievers if there were demand for them. (In fact a couple of times at the dog run I've seen goldens get scarily aggressive.)

Anyway, to eliminate dog aggression you'd pretty much have to eliminate dogs.

cbloom said...

"Anyway, to eliminate dog aggression you'd pretty much have to eliminate dogs."

Well that's an absurd argument. You can't eliminate gun related deaths without completely banning guns, or auto accidents without banning cars, but you certainly can and should do things to reduce them.

I imagine the fucking dog whisperer is doing more to improve dog behavior than anything else you could do, though.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

In terms of protecting yourself, there are a bunch of things I've learned from being around dogs. These tips are for your garden variety pet dog, not crazy abused animals. Use at your own risk!

* a lot of dog "aggression" is a bit of a misnomer -- it's really self-defense-oriented, based on the dog fearing a potential threat to itself or its people or territory. If you can defuse the threat, the aggression dissipates.

* E.g. if you're walking past a house with an aggressive dog, try crossing to the opposite side of the street. The dog will often chill out. If the dog's owner is around, avoid walking between the dog and its owner -- best option is with the owner between you and the dog, with a comfortable distance between you and the owner. Second best option is with the dog in the middle, but with a large distance between you and dog, or you following a radius around the owner, instead of following a straight line that will take you increasingly closer. Dogs are sensitive to changes in distance.

* Similarly, a dog will tend to be more aggressive if it doesn't have a means of escape -- e.g. if it's cornered or tied up.

* dogs are uncannily sensitive to body language. For example if you stand up straight, a dog will generally give you a lot more respect. If you act threateningly, that can make the dog more nervous and hence more aggressive. If you act submissive, that can make the dog more confident and sometimes more aggressive. Best option is a neutral confident posture.

* if you're on a bike and you see a dog getting excited, it might be due to the pedaling motion. If you can coast past instead of pedaling, that may chill the dog out. It definitely works for Pokey.

* Pokey is also driven insane by the sound of skateboard or rollerblade wheels. It's not a universal dog trait but some dogs really have it. If you're rollerblading or skateboarding and a dog is going nuts, you may want to just stop, ideally before you're in the dog's personal space. Wait for the dog to pass by, or try proceeding really slowly so you don't make the wheel noise.

* likewise with jogging -- if you slow down to a walk, the dog may chill out. I know it's counterintuitive when you feel like running away, but it's what I usually do. Just slow down to a walk, and calmly walk past.

* most dogs have a pretty strong chase reflex -- i.e. if they see something running away, they really want to chase it. If I'm jogging and a dog is barking at me, I walk at a slow pace until it's no longer interested in me, before I start jogging again.

* if a dog really wants to block me from walking or jogging or biking somewhere, I don't push it. I slow down, and go around if possible. I'll come to a complete stop if necessary, and just wait for the dog to calm down and decide I'm not a threat.

I don't know if written tips like these are of any practical use, because some of the techniques are pretty subtle and to be useful you probably have to build experience with actual dogs.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

""Anyway, to eliminate dog aggression you'd pretty much have to eliminate dogs."

Well that's an absurd argument. You can't eliminate gun related deaths without completely banning guns, or auto accidents without banning cars, but you certainly can and should do things to reduce them."

I didn't expand on this thought but my point is that dogs are basically friendly adolescent wolves. I.e. aggressive behaviors are baked into their DNA very deeply, for every kind of dog. That's not to say we can't reduce or even eliminate fatal dog attacks, it's just an admission that eliminating "aggression" or "aggressive breeds" per se is a dead end.

Aaron said...

I had a German Shepherd growing up. Loved that dog, although I really couldn't go for a nice hike around the house anywhere without her blasting all over the place. There was no escape from that creature. I lived in fear some would shoot it for getting out and eating their sheep (country dog). The scary part for me with the 'dangerous breeds' is the "In more than two-thirds of the cases included in the study, the life-threatening or fatal attack was apparently the first known dangerous behavior by the animal in question". Sure those people could lying to the interviewer, and of course there's pretty good motivation to do so. And I guess it's probably as Nino sez with the fancy breeder-talk, that it could take a couple generations to get the 'bad' out or be something where the breed has to be 'pure' to be safe (if I understood that right). Still seems risky in a world where you can't really trust any of those things to have happened, even if someone said they did.

I'm actually more fine with a totally evil monstrous scary dog, like the other German Shepherd of my childhood, belonging to my friend, that would try to eat your cars tires as you drove up their driveway. At least you know it's coming. The mean dog that scares me is the one that seems totally normal, then you turn your back on it and it takes a piece out of your leg.

cbloom said...

I guess I failed to disclose my bias in the original posting.

When I was growing up, a pit bull ate a baby a few houses down from me. It was the family dog; I guess they had their relatives plus new baby over as house guests. The dog had never seriously attacked anyone before. They were white trash (cars parked in the front lawn) and drunks, I guess they left the dog and the baby in the house unattended for a while, and when they came back the baby was dead.

This whole issue is such a rare minor event that it's not worth spending time on. I suspect "riced out" cars kill more people, and is a similar kind of thing where it's not actually the modified exhaust and shocks that kill people, it's the type of drivers that choose to do those things, and the racing behavior they engage in related to those things.

Still, there is lots of evidence that outlawing the non-causal correlation is still effective.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

I looked up some fatality stats in the United States; these are a mixture of sources and years but I'm trying for averages around Y2K.

Annual deaths:

- shark attack: 1.2
- dog attack: 20.8
- skydiving: 33
- lightning: 52
- bee/wasp sting: 53.3
- peanut allergy: 100
- bicycle-related: 750
- accidental gunshot: 776
- drowning: 3842
- pedestrian: 4900
- food poisoning: 5000
- AIDS: 14500
- motor vehicle: 26000

So, yes death by dog is grisly and awful, and certainly non-fatal dog bites are no picnic either, but considering the ubiquity of dogs and their proximity to humans, they are remarkably safe.

Nino Mojo said...

" the bad behaviors are mostly due to people who intentionally raise aggressive and intimidating dogs."

That is not exactly what I said. While I'm sure they are some idiots doing exactly that, the problem I was referring to is consanguinity. Pure-breed is not the question really. Sorry for repeating the same thing, but I feel I need to clarify my point: when a breed is succesful, obviously there's some money in selling it. And if you're a sick person it's much easier to have a couple of bitches pop out babies and then to have the offsprings reproduce with each other over and over, so you get a nice (by which I mean horrific) puppy (money) factory. This leads to not enough variety in the gene pool and makes dogs with all kinds of various problem, often behavioral.

By definition, dog breeds are man made so they're genetically weaker than mongrels. So breeding healthy, mentally stable pure-breds requires actually quite some careful work that takes years to learn. I don't know about how it is in the US so forgive me if what I say is inaccurate, but here's how it is in Europe: "Real" pro dog breeders are usually wealthy people who are crazy passionate about the breed(s) they breed. They will carefully chose the mates, try to register their dogs into official books of the breed and shit. And most importantly they will rarely produce more than 3 or 4 litters a year at most. In other words, you cannot do it well and make a living out of it. (ie; never buy a dog at a pet store).

For what it's worth: I can confirm that retrievers are charted I think #1 at domestic bitings here in France. Actually I don't know if you guys heard of the Campbell test, and I don't know if you take it seriously (lots of people don't, I don't have an opinion on this), but basically it's a set of a handful of behavioral tests performed on puppies to get a sense of the dog's personality/dominance/docility/submissiveness. Can't remember where I read that but retrivers score an average of 80/100 while pit bulls have something insane like 97/100. But maybe I just heard it from a pit bull owner. :)

cbloom said...

"- food poisoning: 5000"

wow! I wonder what this is.

Aaron said...

"wow! I wonder what this is."

Almost certainly food poisoning killing old people and little kids and people with already-compromised immune systems, etc.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

Re food poisoning, here's where I got that statistic: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol5no5/mead.htm

I paraphrased a bit, it's actually "foodborne diseases". Mostly bacterial, some parasitic and viral.

Re Campbell test, dog breeders, etc, I think Nino's characterizations also apply to the USA.

But aside from problems due to inbreeding and "puppy mills", I have heard stories about people who deliberately do sadistic things to dogs to make them mean, and it would make sense that these people would prefer breeds with a reputation for aggressiveness, whether or not it has any truth.

Aaron said...

Sadly, the food that doesn't make you sick is more dangerous than the food that does: http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/wow-watch-this.html

old rants