Free Essay

Labeling Dogs

In: English and Literature

Submitted By denisem942
Words 3355
Pages 14
Denise McLemore
Dr. Chemishanova
English 1060
13 June 2013

Labeling dogs as vicious, based solely on their breed, is an unfair label because the actions of one dog is unjustly generalized to an entire breed; the media uses isolated instances for sensationalism and ratings; and these both combine to provoke reactionary legislation that imposes regulations selectively on these dogs and their owners. May 2nd, 2012 Christine Spain, the mother of Boston police officer David Lanteigne, was unconscious on train tracks in Shirley, MA. The engineer saw a dog, a pit bull named Lilly, trying to pull a woman off the tracks. After the train finally stopped and authorities arrived to find Lilly standing over her owner Christine. Lilly was taken and rushed to Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. Lilly suffered from some injuries and some trauma to her leg, which eventually had to be amputated. She was rescued 3 years ago prior by her son and given to her to help with her struggle in alcoholism. Her son said, “We saved her life, and she saved my mom’s life” (Phillips). When these dogs become stereotyped as viscous there are so many testaments to show that they are misunderstood and they love their family just like any other breed.

There are so many people that are not sure which way is the best way to address this situation. The problem is not the dogs; it is the owners of the dogs. Breed discrimination is not going to fix the problem. Can anyone say that one breed of dog will be aggressive when in all eyes any dog can be that way when they are provoked. All some dog’s need is to be trained and socialized with other dogs. A dog is like a person; how you treat a person is how that person is going to treat others. “The focus of public and government concern has not always been pit bulls; in the 1970s the concern was over German Shepherds, and in the 1980s, Doberman Pinschers” (The Humane Society of the United States). Up until 2001, the Presa Canario breed was relatively unknown. Then, in January of that year, a California woman, Diane Whipple was fatally attacked. Today it is on many legislative lists. In 2008, the National Canine Research Council reports on the media coverage of dog attacks during August 2007. During these four days, the media wrote one article about a hospitalized elderly man attacked by a Labrador mix; two stories on a fatally injured child resulting from a mixed-breed dog attack; one story on a different mixed-breed attack of a child; but, on day four, two chained pit bulls broke their chains and attacked a woman and her small dog. The woman was hospitalized but her dog was uninjured. More than 230 articles appeared in national and international newspapers and news networks. (Campbell) Exactly how much influence the media has with legislation can’t be quantified but other such parallels are abundant. With the added attention the media draws to these outlawed breeds, the demand from individuals who are often deemed “irresponsible” dog owner’s use this classification for their own self-image. “The rise of Pit Bull ownership among gang members in the late 1980’s coincided with the first round of breed-specific legislation” (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). All across the world there are laws and regulations that are singling out certain breeds of dogs for being viscous in the hopes of reducing dog attacks. Breed specific legislation (BSL) has forced that these dogs should have mandatory spay and neutering, ownership bans, and other mandatory requirements to owners of these breeds. “Breeds frequently included in this legislation are Rottweilers, Chow Chows, Mastiffs, and Presa Canarios” (Campbell). None of these regulations or bans has helped in any way and the costs to enforce these laws aren’t worth the questionable results they have provided. Any dog can be a great companion, but when taking into consideration that most of these breeds worked with livestock and are larger and stronger dogs, they need to have the right owners. These breeds seem to be targeted by the deviants in our society because the loyalty of these animals for their owners is unmatched. The media exploits these breeds to sell more stories and forgets the rest of dog attacks. These laws are passed based on erroneous, media driven information and offer nothing to protect the communities they claim to address. Some counties spent over 250,000 per year to round up and euthanize banned dogs. Any dog can be a great companion, but when taking into consideration that most of these breeds worked with livestock and are larger and stronger dogs, they need to have the right owners. These breeds seem to be targeted by the deviants in our society because the loyalty of these animals for their owners is unmatched. The media exploits these breeds to sell more stories and forgets the rest of dog attacks. These laws are passed based on erroneous, media driven information and offer nothing to protect the communities they claim to address. An examination of the intended results of breed specific legislation shows that these laws don’t solve the problems they tried to address. Fatalities from dog bites have led the emotional call for the legislation but an investigation indicates that the breed doesn’t predict the bite. “A September 2000 study published in the "Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association" (VetMed Today: Special Report) further illustrates this point. The report details dog bite related fatalities in the United States from 1979 through 1998 and reveals that over the 19 years examined in the study at least 25 different breeds or crossbreeds of dogs were involved in fatally wounding human beings. Breeds that are cited range from oft-maligned pit bull types and Rottweiler’s to the legendary "forever loyal" breed of St. Bernard’s” (The Humane Society of the United States, 2012). In 1995, a similar study in Washington State and Missouri identified three hospitals reporting severe dog bit injuries in 40 children. 36 of the 40 bites were identified as “other than pit bull dogs” (Brogan). These legislations first identified that these certain breeds are a danger to communities when, in actuality, many of the “facts” used didn’t accurately represent the situation. Simply using a raw number of dog bites in a community and not considering other breeds or the total population of that breed is misleading. That leads directly to the next consideration when legislating against specific breeds … the determination of a dog’s breed makes enforcing this legislation difficult, if not impossible. In order to accurately define a dog’s breed, DNA testing is required. These tests are available over-the-counter and range in price from $40 to over $100. Is taxpayer funding of these DNA tests the best use of tax money? In 2007 a dog in Kansas City, Kansas was taken from his family because his owners where violating a ban against having pit bulls. It took eight months of fighting and a DNA test to prove that the owner’s paperwork was legit. The owners had been saying the whole time that the dog was a Boxer mix. While Niko was in captivity he suffered weight loss and fur, he wound up picking up kennel cough. It’s hard to compare a dog to a prisoner, but there needs to be more use of the DNA testing to help make this process run faster (Campbell). Niko’s case is only one of the examples of how DNA could change things. How many times does an animal control officer make the wrong judgment on guessing what the breed of a animal is just by looking at the dog. Could you imagine how many dogs that have been put down because they where assumed to be a bully breed, when in fact they where not. We really need to take the time to learn what kind of breed a dog is, before we convict them to death because of the way they look. What if someone looked at you and said you look like you where Hispanic and Native American when really you are German with a really good tan. We need to start thinking that this animals do have feelings and need to be treated the same as we do. On the other hand, responsible dog owners and their “labeled” dogs are punished just because of what they are classified, not by what they dogs temperament may be. Any dog can have a bad temperament based sole on how the dog was trained and what his home life is. Sounds familiar to me, kids are the same way. Being based solely on a dog classified as a targeted breed and having no individual record of endangering the public, a dog owner must comply with these regulations. This often results in added cost to the owner or even euthanizing family pets. Stephan Otto, director of legislative affairs for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said “If the goal is dog–bite prevention, then dogs should be treated as individuals under effective dangerous dog laws and not as part of a breed painted with certain traits that may not be applicable to each dog” (Campbell). By doing this, the owners that took the time to train their dogs will not be punished by the law. And the owners of dangerous dogs from all breeds will have to prove that their dog is not dangerous. You can easily take some of the dogs that have been seized from people that are using them for fighting or to protect drugs and rehabilitate them to become great family dogs. A great example of this is, in 2007 Michael Vick was caught training dogs for dogfighting. There where 50 of the former pro football player’s fighting dogs that were seized. The dogs where going to be euthanized because they had been trained to fight. The dogs where considered to be dangerous to humans and other animals. The court came to the decision that with the filing of briefs by animal welfare groups the court would appoint Rebecca Huss to see what the temperament of the dogs was like. This resulted in only one dog being put down and the others sent off to rescue groups. Time will tell whether this unexpected outcome successfully turns on its head the argument that fighting dogs or certain breeds of dogs are inherently dangerous, not trainable, and considered hopeless (Campbell). Landlords are being affected by the BSL; they have found that it is a liability for them to rent to people that has a dog that falls under the law. So some of the landlords are now not allowing renters that own a dog that has list under the BSL. I know when my daughter went to sign her lease agreement on her apartment she had to show prof that her dog was not on the list of bully breeds. Some of the renters insurance companies will not insure owners of a bully breed dog. So this affects us in more then just one way. While a community may think they are now safer, the results of Breed-Specific laws have not been successful. Laws that cannot and are not enforced do not protect anyone. Limited community resources are used to attempt to enforce the media-hyped frenzy. An attempt to increase the fiscal resources to support the new laws often results in increased fees on dog ownership. The responsible dog owners pay these fees. The outlawed breed owners create an “underground” world where these dogs can’t get appropriate veterinary care or proper exercise for fear of being caught. Has anything changed as intended? These fees only generated around 30,000, which didn’t even come close to the cost to enforce the law. According to a study that Mathew and Lattal had done in 1994, there were approximately one million dog bites that occurred in the United States every year. The research showed that a percentage of the incidents involved a child. For some reason boys seemed to have been bitten more than the girls. Mathew and Lattel had looked over forty different cases (Thomas). In order for us to get this under control the owners have to take responsibility for the actions of their dogs. The owners need to make sure that they take the dogs to training classes and to make sure they get lots of exercise. These things are not a solution to the problem but will help to reduce the accidents from happening. We have to start somewhere. The United Stated Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has considered Breed Specific Laws and, based on inaccurate data, an inability to identify dog breeds, and the knowledge that banning certain breeds only prompts those who exploit dogs to seek out unregulated breeds, has decided not to support such laws. Instead, rationale citizens promote consideration of factors other than breed. Primary in these factors are socialization and training of all dogs. Unspayed/unneutered dogs have a statically proven influence as aggressive dog in attacks. Why not just spay and neuter all dogs? 78% of the dogs in the CDC study were chained or used for fighting, guarding or breeding instead of as pets. Why not manage that as a consideration for all dogs? The same study showed that reckless owners maintained 84% of the dogs in consideration. Why not reallocate the funds currently used to attempt to enforce Breed Specific Laws into authentic animal control resources? On December 5, 2011, Cumberland County, North Carolina officials made the appropriate decision to put a stop to the consideration of enacting Breed Specific Laws. If enacted, the laws considered would have caused an immediate death sentence for any dogs identified as the specific breeds when turned into the Cumberland County Animal Control Shelter. If animal control officers brought in those specific breeds, the dog would be given a 72-hour reprisal awaiting the owner’s arrival to claim them but they would not be eligible for adoption. 72 hours later, they would receive the same death sentence. Luckily, the Cumberland County officials educated themselves rather than reacting to media-hype and erroneous facts. Dr. John Lauby, Cumberland County Animal Control Director said, "I have never said I wanted to ban a breed or any specific breed, and the reason is I know from statistics that banning breeds doesn't work,"(Pitts). Dr. Lauby said “that as long as the dogs are happy and friendly they will always have a space there”. The Cumberland County Animal Control is working with other groups to help find homes for the Bully breeds. "I think it's the craziest thing I've ever heard," Shelby Townsend, director of advocacy group Unchain Cumberland County, said of the proposed ban. "It's not going to happen. People aren't going to stand for that. It's not the bully breeds that are the problem; it's the people who own them." The Breed Specific Laws unfairly target dogs that, when they are socialized and trained properly, can become part of any family. There are alternatives to this law that can help even more. Educating the young children will help and making sure they have adult supervision while they are playing key roles in prevention. Children that have an understanding of how they should act around dogs and how to play with dogs are much less likely to be bitten. Another is that the community can help reduce the number of dog bites by helping to enforce the animal control laws and state can help by providing better resources for enforcing existing laws. Some examples are start enforcing the leash laws, and licensing laws, and make it mandatory for shelters to have the dogs there spayed or neutered The state can increase and enforcing penalties for violations. Don’t put your dog on a chain this just increases the chance that they may bit someone. When it comes to spay and neutering this can cost too much for some people to afford. There needs to be help for people that want to get their animals fixed. In most cases 70% of the dogs that attack someone have not been spayed or neutered. I think this is a win lose situation. Help people with the problem of being able to afford to get their dog fixed verses having to take a family friend and putting them down. Let us all help save a life; we need to find a solution to this problem. What happened to the leash laws and prohibiting chaining or tethering for excessive periods of time? The state could get more help for the animal control; it takes to long for them to get to a house with a vicious dog running lose. And usually by the time they get there the dog has run off somewhere. There are so many things that can be done to change this problem without labeling a dog. Labeling of any kind can cause problems but applying a label as a generalization to a larger group is dangerous. Labeling dogs as vicious, just because of their presumed breed, supports making generalizations. The use of a label also can misdirect actions when emotionally volatile terms, like vicious, are used. Generalizing labels, whether to dogs or handicapped individuals or any other group is unfair … treat every individual, dog or human, as an individual. The dog's behavior should dictate whether or not it is labeled a "dangerous dog," not its appearance. The truth is, that labeling dogs is not going to make anything better. We live in a world of where thousands of misunderstood dogs are put down everyday. We can need to stop being a part of the problem and be a part of the solution and have our dogs spayed or neutered. Breeding more dogs in a world we live in doesn’t make any since. The sooner people open their eyes and see we are the problem and the solution then we can fix the wrongs we have made. So are you for the BSL or against it. So you feel it is right to label any living thing?

Works Cited
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Breed Specific Legislation. n.d. website. 5 June 2013. <http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/dog-fighting/breed-specific-legislation.aspx>.
Brogan, Thomas, V., Susan L. Bratton, M. Denise Dowd, and Mary A. Hegenbarth. "Severe Dog Bites in Children." Pediatrics. 96.5 (1995): 947-950. Print.
Campbell, Dana M. "Pit Bull Bans: The State of Breed-Specific Legilsation." GP-Solo (American Bar Association) 30 July 2009: 5. Journal. 5 June 2013. <http://www.americanbar.org/content/newsletter/publications/gp_solo_magazine_home/gp_solo_magazine_index/pitbull.html>.
Davis, Stacy. Cumberland animal shelter considers 'bully breed' adoption ban. Ed. Matthew Burns. 5 December 2011. Website. 5 June 2013. <http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/10465877/>.
Johnson, Morieka. "A pit bull perception problem: What's a dog owner to do?." Mother Nature Network. http://www.glickinteractive.com/, 8 May 2012. Web. 2 Jun. 2013. <http://www.mnn.com/family/pets/stories/a-pit-bull-perception-problem-whats-a-dog- owner-to-do>.
Phillips, Tazi. Brave Pit Bull Saves Woman From Train. 12 May 2012. website. 1 June 2013. <http://www.globalanimal.org/2012/05/10/brave-pit-bull-saves-woman-from-train-video/73865/>.
Pitts, Myron. “Pitts: Animal Control plan to limit “bully breeds” adoptions troubling.” Fayetteville Observer [Fayetteville] 04 Dec. 2011, Weekend B1. Print.
Richardson, John. "Pit bull panic.." Journal of Popular Culture. (2002): 34-37. Print.
Semencic , Carl. Pit Bulls & Tenacious Guard Dogs. Neptune City: T.F.H. Publications, 1991. 1- 320. Print.
The Humane Society of the United States. Breed Specific Legislation. 1 August 2012. Website. 1 1 June 2012. <http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/facts/statement_breed_specific_legislation.html>.
Thomas V. Brogan, Susan L Bratton, M. Denise Dowd, and Mary A. Hegenbarth. "Sever Dog Bites in Children." Pediatrics 96.5 (1995): 947 - 950. Journal.
Wisch , Rebecca F. "Breed Specific Laws." Animal Legal & Historical Center. (2008): 45-49. Print.

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