Monday, October 14, 2013

Pit Bull Awareness Month

We're already halfway through it, but October is Pit Bull Awareness month. This post is really just a bit of a grab bag of meandering thoughts about dogs. Just because we like them.

There's not many real live, actual pitbulls in New Zealand. Most of what gets passed off as a pitbull are various terrier/boxer/bullmastiff mixes. Our new boy Junior would probably get described as a pitbull by the New Zealand Herald but since he was found in a carpark as a puppy, he probably isn't. In New Zealand one way we have dealt with the moral panics around dog bites is through breed-specific legislation: it is illegal to import an American Pit Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Brazilian Fila, or Japanese Tosa. It's nonsense, of course. There's no such thing as a dangerous breed, there's just dickheads on the other end of the leash. We know this because what constitutes a 'dangerous breed' changes over time. My grandmother would never own a German Shepherd. Her last dog was a corgi, and a nastier, bitier little dog I have never met.

In his book The Genius of Dogs Brian Hare suggests what matters for doggie relationships with people and other dogs is being friendly. And it's true - dogs pick up your cues in their responses to people, and often it is aggressive people who own aggressive dogs and fearful people who own fearful dogs. (Naturally, our dogs are good-looking and charming.) Read those dog-bite stories the Herald loves and you'll often find that the dog in question was tied up for long periods of time and didn't get out much to socialise. Often when these dogs do finally escape the yard they are a menace to people and other dogs.

The problem with the dog stories that seem designed to whip up a frenzy is that it signals that it's OK to mistreat dogs because they're a danger to decent people. So we then get stories of dogs being mistreated and abused because some dipshit thinks that's OK. It's not, and the chances are someone who abuses a dog is also mistreating their spouses/children or bullying their peers. The absolute worst sort of abuse is dogfighting and the abuse it engenders. The economics of dogfighting means it's not going to go away in a hurry but that doesn't mean it's not appalling.

Our abuse of man's best friend also runs to puppy mills. A German Shepherd was recently handed over to the Southern Animal Shelter for being "too old". It transpires the dog, a 4 year old bitch, was also very underweight and had been used to breed by a puppy mill in South Auckland. When she was literally worn out they handed her over. (I'm happy to report she found a new home with some people who adore her.) Please - if you want a puppy, adopt.

But back to the pitbulls: here's a lengthy article outlining the Crimes Against Pitbulls by mainstream media outlets (some of this will be familiar to Herald readers). The article notes pitbulls used to have a reputation for being good with kids. And they an be good with other animals, as demonstrated by Pitbull Sharkey, one of our favourite internet dogs. And then there's rescued former fighting pitbull, Bulletproof Sam. Sam rocks and is a wonderful ambassador for maligned pitbulls everywhere. And then there's this (it's also on the Paw Justice FB page). Because every abused pitbull - or other dog - deserves a second chance. 

It can be saddening and enraging seeing what people do to animals, but wishing physical harm on them is not helpful. Two wrongs don't make a right. Education and fair reporting are far more effective. The point is to stop this shit, not escalate the war. In the meantime, enjoy what remains of Pitbull Awareness Month.