Yes, I know full well that calling something racism is an extreme thing to do, but hear me out. Looking at things from a biological standpoint, humans are all humans. Race is an arbitrary construct designed to separate people. In reality there is no such thing as we are all members of the human race. However, I digress. I’m not talking about human racism. I’m talking about dogs. Lets try something. Look at the dogs below and tell me which one is dangerous.
If you picked one, then you need to recheck your prejudices because surprise you can’t tell if a dog is bad just by looking at him. When is it ever okay to do that though? Don’t we have any number of silly expressions to teach us about outward appearances.
- all that glitters isn’t gold
- don’t judge a book by its cover
- the proof of the pudding is in the eating
If I had put up a series of photos of human beings with varied skin tones and dominant facial features and asked the same question, I’d have to close the comment section for all the (would-be rightfully deserved) vitriol. These are dogs though, why is it okay for me to ask if a dog is going to be bad based solely on it’s appearance. Hence:
What is my point though. Well, I’m a dog person and “Breed Specific Legislation” is my point, most predominately BSL targeted as the phantom ‘breed’ of pit bulls. Please make special note of my ironic quotation marks, because there is, in reality, no such breed called pit bull. The various legislation I have seen are all purposely written in a vague way listing out multiple recognized breeds and then a massively broad designation that permits someone to call almost any dog they want a pit bull.
Take a look at the ordinance in my local town. Section 200.210.B “Pit bull dog” is defined to mean:
- The bull terrier breed of dog;
- Staffordshire bull terrier breed of dog;
- The American pit bull terrier breed of dog;
- The American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog;
- Dogs of mixed breed or of other breeds than above listed which breed or mixed breed is known as pit bulls, pit bull dogs or pit bull terriers;
- Any dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull, American Staffordshire terrier; any other breed commonly known as pit bulls, pit bull dogs or pit bull terriers; or a combination of any of these breeds.
To call both 5 and 6 broadly written would be an understatement. It is also knowingly and willfully classifying an animal as good/bad or desirable/undesirable based solely on appearance. “But wait!” You may say, “what about dog bite statistics. Pit bulls bite way more people than any other breed.”
To that I would say yes, but hold on to your indignation for a second. Rewind the tape. Pit bull is not a specific breed. Labrador is a specific breed. Chow is a specific breed. German shepherd is a specific breed. Pit bull is just a name people like to apply to a whole swath of dogs. By some accountings, as many as 40 different legitimate breeds of dog can be classified as being a pit bull. Even as such it doesn’t automatically make them dangerous. Bad dogs come from bad owners no matter what the breed.
For example this woefully biased article on cuteness.com, which I have unfortunately commented on: How to Tell if It’s a Pitbull Breed. For the moment I’ll ignore the much propogated malicious lie about bite force in the opening paragraph. Now, as laughable as the title is, the article outlines about 6 different hallmarks. But what does science say about this.
Oh look, a research study in the Veterinary Journal. Inconsistent identification of pit bull-type dogs by shelter staff. Turns out it is laughably unreliable to identify pitbulls by looking at them. Even more so considering how generous the study was with success criteria. Not only do the 16 trained professionals not agree on breed assessments, but they misidentified 1/3 of dogs with no genetic heritage to staffordshires as being pit bulls. (Barkpost has a good reading of the study here, if you want to dive in more, but read the actual study first.) By the way N=120
So let’s review what we have.
- Abysmal human identification of pit bulls is: 1/5 false negatives; 1/3 false positives
- A study of preventable factors in 10 years of dog-bite related fatalities found no clinical significance in the identified breed of dog (AVMA Dec 15, 2013)
- 20+ recognized breeds that could be misclassified as pit bulls
And yet in spite of all that we continue to have ignorant lawmakers fed by ignorant journalists, powered by ignorant bloggers. What is the result? A whole crop of canine racists. Thankfully dogs don’t understand all that nonsense. My Bug is a good girl and still loves my family even if some idiot wants to call her a pit bull.