A doctor's defense of pit bulls
I have followed with dismay the uninformed and reactionary response to the awful events in Pacifica in which a pregnant woman was mauled to death by a pit bull. To compound the tragedy, certain politicians have decided to capitalize on the event to further their own publicity. One such example is Joanne Sanders, who has decided that "pit bulls are a great place to start," with breed bans in Sonoma.
It must be noted no one knows exactly what happened on that awful day that led to the death of Ms. Napora (in Pacifica). What we do know is that her husband, grieving the deaths of his wife and unborn child, will bury them with the remains of Gunner, because he does not blame the dog for what happened.
I am, and always will be, a pit bull owner. I am also a physician. I used to be among the ignorant and uninformed, believing what the media fed me. However, when I adopted a pit bull mix in 2002, my preconceived notions eroded and I became an informed guardian for her. What I learned and experienced made me an avid advocate for the breed. I bring my dogs to work on a regular basis and will stake my personal and professional reputation on the fact they are not only safe, but therapeutic for patients.
All dogs are predators. Infants have been killed by Pomeranians, Yorkshire terriers, dachshunds and virtually every other breed, but you're unlikely to see that reported in the media. Rarely was it reported that the woman who had the first-ever face transplant was attacked by her Labrador.
Numerous groups have come out against breed-specific legislation (BSL), including the CDC, Humane Society, Best Friends and the ASPCA, because it has been proven to be more expensive and far less effective than targeting the actual problem - irresponsible humans.
Even when subjected to the most horrific environment, pit bulls are typically exceptionally resilient and forgiving. Those of us familiar with the former Michael Vick dogs can attest to this. Pit bulls score higher than golden retrievers, beagles, bichon frises, chihuahuas, cocker spaniels and most other breeds in the demanding evaluations of the American Temperament Testing Society.
A pit bull remains the most highly decorated dog in American military history (Sgt. Stubby, World War I), and a monument exists of the pit bull Sallie for her heroism in Gettysburg, the only dog saluted by a sitting U.S. president (Lincoln).
Helen Keller, Laura Ingalls-Wilder, George Patton, Buster Brown, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt and the Little Rascals all had pit bulls. Take a look at Cesar, "The Dog Whisperer," Millan's sidekicks - pit bulls Daddy and Junior, examples of the ideal canine (as are his many pit bulls and rottweilers).
Anyone interested should read the excellent (and free) on-line book, "The Pit Bull Placebo," by Karen Delise.
Which brings me back to the ultimate message I have for the politicians: if you believe I am not able to make a responsible decision regarding the dogs I choose to own, then I should not practice medicine in your town. I should not be allowed to decide who is brain dead, how to treat a brain tumor, how to manage potentially dangerous medications or anything else that has to do with someone's health and well-being. If this is a place where a politician is going to decide what kind of dogs I can own, then I will not live here or practice here. I will leave this town if you choose to ban my dogs, you have my promise on that.
• • •
Aimee C. Chagnon, M.D., is a neurologist practicing and living in Sonoma.