Pit bulls part 2
Pit bull passions continue to reverberate around us, witness the Valley Forum opinion below.
Some of the comments we've received have been thoughtful - like those of Jenny Germaine - some considerably less so. Most have been flavored with an impassioned defense for the breed - whatever that breed actually is.
And while we believe much of the rhetoric is moot because breed bans would violate state law, some have suggested that the public's irrational fear of pit bulls could someday turn into a law against the dogs.
We concede the possibility exists, it has already occurred elsewhere, but we seriously doubt a breed-specific ban will be adopted in California, partly because the term "pit bull" is actually an umbrella covering numerous breeds and breed mixes.
What we don't doubt is that irrational reactions on both sides will persist, because pit bull passions seem to be guided more by emotion than by reason.
We think it's safe to say that most people who favor a pit bull ban haven't owned one and therefore can't speak to the dogs' traits from personal experience. Those who do own some variation of the pit bull find it hard to imagine their dogs could ever become killers. They're not even close to the top of the so-called "dog bite list," numerous pit bull websites show them cuddled lovingly by young children, and hey, didn't the Little Rascals have a pet pit bull?
All of which leads to the first question on anyone's pit bull agenda: Exactly what kind of dog are we talking about? Pit bulls are generally regarded as belonging to the molosser breed group, which includes bulldogs, boxers, rottweilers, presa canarios, great Danes and mastiffs, among others. Various permutations of those breeds have resulted in dogs we now call pit bulls. So the first thing we have to acknowledge is that we're not talking about a breed, we're talking about a set of canine characteristics that, combined, add up to pit bull. And how do you ban characteristics?
The second question to consider is just how dangerous pit bulls really are? Their supporters say a lot of dogs bite a lot more people than pit bulls. Critics say no dog kills more people than pit bulls. Turns out the available evidence, which supporters contest, says both claims are right.
The Centers for Disease Control conducted a 20-year survey on dog bite-related fatalities which revealed that 238 people had been killed by at least 25 different dog breeds between 1979 and 1998. Pit bull "types" were blamed for 76 deaths, rottweilers for 44, German shepherds for 27, husky "types" for 21 and malamutes for 15. Wolf-dog hybrids killed 14 people, "mixed-breed" dogs killed 12, chow chows killed 11 and dobermans killed 10. All other breeds were in single digits. Bite-happy Chihuahuas, according to the CDC, killed no one.
And in 2010, according to DogsBite.org, there were 33 fatal dog attacks and 22 - 67 percent - were caused by pit bulls which, the organization says, constitute about 5 percent of the U.S. dog population.
Do with them what you will, but those statistics suggest a problem.