Why Pick on the Pit Bull?

It’s because the dog doesn’t measure up.

The Pit Bull isn’t a breed anyway. A DNA test won’t prove ‘Pit Bull’. It’s a type based purely on physical measurements.

Why pick on the Pit Bull?

There are other breeds whose physique allows them to do as much or even more damage. If we use physique and strength as the rationale to ban a dog, then why not ban all dogs that could be capable, due to size, of causing serious injury or death!

If it’s breed not deed we are talking about, why not simply ban ALL LARGE DOGS to be on the safe side.

So far as aggression is concerned, a German Shepherd is much more likely to bite a human than a Pit Bull and can do more damage. Shall we make illegal the owning of German Shepherds (and all Mastiffs, Mastiff mixes, Labrador Staffie mixes, Great Danes, Newfies….)?

Many Pit Bull types are mostly Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Off the top of my head, of the thousands of dogs I have worked with, I can’t remember feeling threatened by one Staffie.

Hank

Hank – saved

Why pick on the Pit Bull?

What is a Pit Bull anyway?

It’s any dog at all that happens to fit, like a piece of jigsaw puzzle, into a predefined size and shape.

Here is some of it: Its height to weight ratio should be in proportion. Its coat should be short and bristled, (single coated). Its head should appear to be wedge shaped when viewed from the side and top but rounded when viewed from the front. The head should be around 2/3 width of shoulders and 25 per cent wider at cheeks than at the base of the skull (this is due to the cheek muscles). The distance from the back of the head to between the eyes should be about equal to the distance from between the eyes to the tip of its nose….and on it goes.

Back in 1993 the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court determined the legal definition of the word ‘type’. .. stated: “That a dog of the type known as a Pit Bull Terrier is an animal approximately amounting to, near to, having a substantial number of characteristics of the Pit Bull Terrier”.

If the dog is designated to be ‘of type’ it is effectively deemed to be dangerous and doomed to die, regardless of behaviour or deed. The burden of proof is on the owner to prove the dog is not ‘of type’.” How fair is that?

Imagine your female Bull Terrier of the Staffordshire variety mates with another dog – any other dog. The eight puppies are beautiful. But just one, when it grows bigger, fits the hole in that jigsaw.

Condemned.

Why pick on the Pit Bull?

Based on the UKs bite stats, German shepherds do more damage than any other breed when they bite. Mastiffs and Rotties have a harder bite than a pit bull (higher bite pressure and bigger jaws).

The three breeds most likely to bite are Daschunds, Chihuahuas and Jack Russells. Quite obviously the potential for damage is a lot less but in fact they are a lot more ‘aggressive’ by nature than many of the larger dogs – especially Pit Bull types whose ancestors may have been bred to bait bulls. More recently they have been bred for dog fighting which is revolting, but the argument for BSL concerns aggression to people. In order to be useful Pit Bulls have to be particularly good with humans.

Why pick on the Pit Bull?

The law to ban Pit Bulls (and three more breeds) was rushed through in just one day twenty-five years ago in 1991 after a young girl was horribly injured by a Pit Bull.

Why then, since this law, has the number of Pit Bull types in mainland Britain escalated dramatically?

The aim of BSL was to reduce injury and death to humans caused by dogs.

Why then, since this law, are hospital admissions for injuries caused by dogs increasing yearly – up by 76% in the first ten years.

Why pick on the Pit Bull?

Human nature being what it is, banning something glamorises it and sets up an illegal production. For this reason alone a disproportionate percentage of Pit Bulls (types) are likely to owned by the less responsible dog owners.

Of the 30 dogs that have killed someone in this country since 1991, only 9 were killed by a banned breed. If the same people who specifically chose a Pit Bull were the same as might choose, say, a Labrador or Spaniel, would this number even be nine?

Lennox in his cell

Lennox in his cell

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) “Any dog can become dangerous if it is brought up in the wrong environment …..”

Battersea conducted a survey of 215 professional canine behaviourists and trainers – I was one of them.  The Battersea report concluded that BSL cannot be justified – ‘the vast majority of behaviourists (74%) agree that breed is not the  determining factor in dog attacks.

86% said that the way it is brought up by its owner, and 73% said its upbringing by the breeder before it is sold, are the most important reasons why some dogs are more aggressive towards people.’

Why pick on the Pit Bull?

Humans breed the dogs in this country (there are few street dogs over here). Humans are responsible for that dog entering the world.  Humans then ‘care for’ the puppy in the early weeks of its life. It should be the breeder’s responsibility to breed from stable stock and to nurture, and I mean nurture, the puppy until at least eight weeks old.

IBL: Irresponsible Breeder Legislation! Ban breeders who are not licenced and registered. We can dream.

Next in the chain will be the human who buys the puppy. They may deliberately choose a Pit Bull. Why? Then what? What do they know about rearing a puppy and providing for a dog’s needs? Do they even understand that their own behaviour towards the dog can cause it to be aggressive?

IOL: Irresponsible Owner Legislation!

I personally would like dog owners licenced or registered as well – maybe a crazy idea. A driver has to show he’s fit to drive a car irrespective of how many vehicles he or she owns. A dog owner should also prove he or she is fit to own dogs.  A fee could help fund educating of the public and dog welfare in general. In consequence, fewer people will be rushed to hospital because an irresponsible human has deprived their dog of the life it deserves in one way or another.

Why pick on the Pit Bull?

BSL brings suffering to thousands of dogs, pulled around, measured and tested which, for a shy dog, could almost amount to being goaded into aggression.

Humans suffer too.

It can be devastating for a responsible owner who happens to have a dog that is seized just for how it looks. It may have never put a foot wrong. If it fails these tests the only way it can get a reprieve is for the owner to go through expensive and lengthy court procedure. Many people just can’t afford it.

Pit Bull Frances

Frances – condemned

Until last year the dogs awaiting trial were incarcerated for months in kennels while the process ground on – visits by owners not permitted. (I believe since the changes to the dog law last year that in certain cases they can now go home ‘on bail’ until the hearing).

If the dog is deemed fit to live, there are strict rules. It must be muzzled and on lead at all times when in public, insured against injuring people plus either regular checks.

If the dog, a Pit Bull type, is a stray it’s exterminated. It’s simple as that.

To stay alive the dog needs an owner.

Why pick on Pit Bulls?

Pity, too, those poor people who have to implement the death sentence on these Pit Bulls, without an owner to claim them, who pass the temperament tests with flying colours.  91 had to be euthanised by Battersea last year.  65 of those would have made great household pets. Each time their hearts will break a little. They have no choice. It’s the law.

 

New Battersea research provides damning verdict on the Dangerous Dogs Act, 25 years on

Dangerous Dogs Act Watch is a useful resource.

Trevor Cooper, specialist in dog law

 

 

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About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist (INTODogs-ABTC - AAB) and trainer covering Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks, a 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site: www.dogidog.co.uk
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