Posted by: inforodeo | May 29, 2009

Pit Bulls and Rottweilers vs. Assault Rifles and Handguns

I have some friends who are avid Pitbull/Big Dog fans, and i posted a link to the following story yesterday to ‘start a conversation”:

Basically, in a nice, clean, middle-class neighborhood, a six-year-old girl went over to her next-door neighbor’s house to help her bring in groceries.  As the six-year old burst into the house, the neighbor’s pitbull lunged and bit onto her face, and began biting down hard. The owner came into the house and saw the dog, and she (the dog) looked up, knowing she was in trouble. The owner was eventually able to get the dog to let go, and the girl was rushed to the hospital.  Fortunately, aside from a tooth that was ripped out and the fact that her eyelid and nose were torn off, after some surgery she should be ok. 
On the outside, that is … i can’t imagine how frightened she will be for the rest of her life of opening doors or seeing dogs. 
The owner quickly had the dog “euthanized”, and is now giving away her puppies and another young pitbull.

I really can’t say i know what to think about this.  The news has me “pretty certain” that all pitbulls are unpredictable killers, and that anyone who has a pitbull (or other handful of dogs) in proximity of children should be burned at the stakes, along with those who breed them.  I know when i see a loose pitbull running through the neighborhood, i always keep my kids indoors. 

But I also have to think … isn’t this a lot like gun bans?  The media keeps us “pretty certain” that all guns – especially a handful of them – are dangerous menaces to society, and that people who own, assemble, or repair them should be burned at the stake for promoting such obvious killers among the innocent.

So I looked at the conversation. Some of the comments were:

“Well, we don’t know for sure what the owner did or didn’t do. We also don’t know if the story happened exactly has it happened. I still am not convinced that certain breeds are more dangerous than others.”

dogs don’t just attack and kill for no reason. i don’t care if they are pits or poodles. it’s common sense, anyone who grew up with animals has a pretty good idea what any individual dog is capable of.”

“i am ashamed of you! making claims without research…. some dogs ARE more dangerous than others..and i will give it too you that pits are strong dogs, and can do more damage, but their bite rate is LESS than most dogs, and they score higher on the AKC temperament tests than most “family” dogs. statistically they are NOT as dangerous as the golden retriever, it’s just that gang bangers and ignorant people irresponsible people don’t tend to say “hey lets get a black lab!”

It’s interesting to see people who are anti-gun use strikingly similar “pro-” arguments in defense of their big dogs. In just these three quotes, we see:
1) “the media is out to get us by not accurately portraying the full story”,
2) “singling out specific ___ is stupid, because they are all equally safe/dangerous”,
3) “accidents happen because people are careless”, and
4) “the criminals are the problem, not the _____.”

I decided to respond:

“Maybe pitbull (and other “large dogs who could hurt people”) owners should have some kind of licensing to prove they know what they’re doing, like you do! (I’m kinda serious about this, because i do know you’re good at re-training them).

Maybe we should keep criminals from owning big dogs, and prevent them from being sold at shelters and street corners without adequate background checks? And make laws to hold dog breeders and dog owners accountable anytime one of their dogs hurts or kills a child?

Maybe if those laws are too restrictive, we could just hike up the price of dog food, and create a government agency to bust people who are making their own dog food – or using table scraps – “illegally”?

Oh! And keep a list of dog owners on file with the federal government, and make that list public so neighbors who worry about dangerous dogs in their neighborhoods could “be in the know” for their own safety!

And we could ban certain dogs … dogs with wrinkles … dogs with pointy, upright ears … because those are the dogs that look the scariest.”

My wife and i discussed it later, and I brought up the point i’d made about “some dogs being more tepermental”, and how most people bring up the whole “poodles are more likely to viciously attack” bit. She stopped me, shocked , and said “yeah, but poodles don’t go for your face and clamp down with muscular jaws and refuse to let go!” 


So I added:

“Lots of dogs ARE more snippy … like a poodle, for instance … but a poodle lacks the jaws and bulk to take you down and rip your face off.

and true, we don’t know if the owner was secretly beating her dogs and training them to maul little girls who were helping bring in the groceries …
and NO, i don’t support banning the dogs


if you’re gonna have kids around, you HAVE to be prepared for the possibility of something going wrong. That’s why i have gun-locks on my guns, that’s why knives, rope, scissors and poisons are stored away on high shelves in our house. that’s why we don’t leave matches or lighters out. that’s why our wall outlets are covered with safety plugs.

if i read the story right, the dog owner did not have children.

if i didn’t have children, would it be ok for me to leave loaded guns around the house, unlocked? or out on my porch?”

I guess I’m happy the dog-angle exists. i’ve been trying for years to help them understand why I’m so “anti-anti-gun”, and trying to liken gun bans to organic vegetable bans just wasn’t working …

There are obviously a lot of similarities between guns and giant dogs.  As one friend pointed out, people like big dogs because it’s a power thing.  “Gang-bangers” aren’t going to strut down the street with a Pomeranian, for example. 
For some owners, trying to distance themselves from the “power trip” thing, the draw to the animals is their design … their muscle, the shape of their head, etc.  An admiration of how they are put together, and awe of what they could do, and an appreciation of how well they behave when the proper safety and care is taken of them.
The rarely-mentioned but consistent truth underneath all of this is that these dogs/guns make their owners feel safe.
The dog doesn’t have to attack, nor the gun fire a shot to ward off potential attackers or thieves.

In this lies one of the fallacies of statistics, and the strength of the media.  The accidents are reported. The deaths are reported.  The successes, however, are not. 
It’s not really the media’s fault, either.  Joe Bob who pulled out his shotgun to chase kids off his property probably doesn’t want the school board over where he is a teacher to hear about him chasing kids with a gun.  Jenny Sue who wasn’t even home when the intruder opened the back door and saw a growling mess of teeth and drool staring him in the eye probably isn’t even aware she was a ‘victim’. 

Looking at the two, I can see both have potential for accidents, and both have the potential for security.

Guns, however, don’t protect you when you’re gone …
and dogs are never completely predicatable.


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