Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Actual Problem with Pit Bulls

I've seen numerous articles lately, extolling the virtues of Pit Bulls. Here is a prime example:

Pit Bulls: What's Hype, What's Not
Do pit bulls get a bad rap? Experts weigh in.
Doberman pinschers, rottweilers, and German shepherds topped lists of dogs some considered dangerous in the not-too-distant past.

These days, pit bulls often make headlines and it’s rarely good news. If it isn’t about an attack on a child or a shooting by police, it’s a tale of neglect or abuse. The heat of such reports has forged a frightening image of the pit bull as having a hair-trigger temper and a lock-jawed bite.

But pit bull advocates and some experts say the dogs get a bad rap. They say the dogs are not inherently aggressive, but in many cases suffer at the hands of irresponsible owners drawn to the dog's macho image who encourage aggression for fighting and protection.

Indeed, the ASPCA web site gives the breed an endorsement that could fit a golden retriever. It says, “A well-socialized and well-trained pit bull is one of the most delightful, intelligent, and gentle dogs imaginable.”

In general, pit bulls aren’t aggressive with people but are “less tolerant” of other dogs than many other breeds, says Pamela Reid, PhD, vice president of the ASPCA’s Animal Behavior Center in New York. They also have “great tenacity. They put their mind to something, and they do it. That’s what makes them great dogs for sports like weight pulling. They are very strong, athletic animals," Reid says.

Owning a pit bull should not be taken lightly. Some cities and towns have banned the breed. You also may face rising insurance rates or cancellation of your policy, difficulty renting, and the watchful eye of neighbors and passersby. [...]

The article goes on to give a detailed, realistic, balanced and fair assessment of the pros and cons of owning a pit bull. I don't disagree with it. I was a foster parent to a pit bull for a while, so I know what they are saying is true. They can be wonderful, wonderful dogs.

BUT. I've yet to see one of these articles mention an important fact.

People who have gotten out of prison and are on parole, are forbidden to own weapons like guns or knives. But they are allowed to have pets. So frequently, they get a pit bull, and train it to be aggressive and use it like a weapon, or at the very least, to intimidate people.

I make this observation as a landlord. It's not the dogs I object to, it's the owners. Yet as a landlord, I'm not supposed to discriminate, i.e., treat some tenants differently than others. I'm not allowed to say to one, "You are a responsible and kind person, so you may keep a pit bull." and then say to another, "You are an irresponsible and cruel person, so you may NOT keep a pit bull."

I have to treat them both the same, so as not to "discriminate". So the answer has to be to not allow either tenant to have them. Not because of the dogs, but because of some of the people. And the law (and my Insurance!).

Here is a pit bull story with a happy ending:

Daisy the dog recovering after Gresham rock quarry rescue, tired but happy owner says
Daisy's home.

On Wednesday morning, hours after the dramatic rescue of the 3-year-old pitbull mix from a deep Gresham rock quarry, she was still asleep in Tammie Johnson's Gresham home. Johnson let a giant yawn escape as she talked on the phone.

"I hardly slept," Johnson said. "I kept getting up during the night and just petting Daisy. It's so good to have her back."

On the Internet and national cable news, the world watched as Gresham firefighter Bob Chamberlin rappelled down onto a ledge in the Knife River Quarry at 1339 N.W. Eastwood Ave., and retrieved Daisy shortly after 9:30 p.m.

Johnson believes Daisy, missing for a week, became stuck on the ledge days ago. "She was so thirsty and hungry," the dog's owner said.

Daisy has a mischievous streak. For instance, the brown and white dog likes to walk a quarter of the way down Johnson's long driveway just to tease Johnson's other dog, a Rottweiler named Angel that gets excited at the sight.

"But she had never left the driveway," Johnson, 49, said.

Well, not until June 27 anyway. That was the night Johnson returned home from her job at Oregon Health & Science University's customer-service department to find Daisy missing.

Worried that the dog had been stolen, Johnson spent countless hours searching the eastern suburb, calling Daisy's name and hanging up fliers.

Gresham police, neighbors and the local animal shelter joined in, calling Johnson whenever they had a tip. At one point, Johnson said, the police took a pitbull mix from a homeless couple that they suspected was Daisy.

"It wasn't her," Johnson said.

Last Friday, Johnson was supposed to head to the ocean to spend time with family members. She told her husband to go without her. She wanted to be home if Daisy came walking up the driveway.

It was actually Johnson's daughter, Jennifer, who bought Daisy as a puppy. Johnson didn't know what to think of her daughter's new pet.

"We said, 'What are you doing? It's a pit bull,'" Johnson recalled. "We had watched the news. We weren't thrilled that it was a pitbull."

A few months later, Johnson's daughter, a mechanic with the Oregon National Guard, found out she was being sent to Iraq for a tour of duty in the waning war. She asked her mom if she would look after Daisy while she was gone.

"She was shipped off to Iraq," Johnson said, "and Daisy was shipped to my house."

The two bonded. When Johnson's daughter returned from the war, she saw that Daisy had settled in. Taking her away would be unfair. Jennifer Johnson told her mom to keep the dog.

After a week of unsuccessfully searching for Daisy, Johnson was "feeling devastated" on Tuesday. Then she received a phone call about 3:30 p.m. from a Multnomah County Animal Services worker saying Daisy had been located.

Johnson asked, Is she alive?

Yes, the caller reportedly told Johnson, "but she's in a bit of a pickle." [...]

The poor little snookie. But it's a good story, with a happy ending.

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