It’s an all-dog problem.
Or, I should say, it’s a problem for all dogs.
Because what the “pit bull problem” really is, is a complete and utter misunderstanding of what dogs are and how they behave. (And how they should be treated, but that’s part of the what dogs are question, too.)
Did you guys see this?
Honestly, this is what pit bull advocates have been shouting from the rooftops for forever, right?
Breed-specific legislation will never be the answer. Never ever.
Here’s the thing: We are a dog-driven, dog-heavy, dog-saturated society. Even if you’re not a dog person, if you live here among the rest of us, you probably can’t go a day without seeing at least one dog. In your neighbor’s yard, walking past your office building, jogging in the park, on television, in advertisements, in statues and on greeting cards and on and on.
Dogs are everywhere.
That’s wonderful, of course, because they sure make life great.
But it’s also damaging (to dogs) because it’s all-too-easy for us to forget: Just because they’re part of human life around every twist and turn, they are a whole other species with a whole other set of needs, behaviors, and quirks.
Right? We can all agree to that, right? Dogs aren’t people.
So, here’s where the dog problem comes in: By forgetting that they’re a separate species, we (I’m using “we” generically, here, so please don’t take offense… I’m sure you’re a lovely dog person) treat them unfairly. We (again, generically) turn them into shelters because they bark too much or jump on our granny or–gasp–bite our children.
Our expectations–dogs are part and parcel of human life, so obviously they’ll know the rules we want them to know because obviously they’re dogs, duh–do not align with the reality of inviting another species into our homes.
Dogs languish in shelters, dogs lose their lives, dogs get sentenced to a life chained in the backyard because our expectations do not align with the reality of having another species woven into the fabric of our lives.
And that isn’t breed-specific.
I will not disagree with those of you who cry out that there are some dogs who do not belong with families, who are unsafe to be in our homes. Yes, there are some. They are oh-so-few, though, and many labeled as such (Lucas.) can be incredible family pets if treated, trained, fed, exercised, etc. correctly.
And that isn’t a breed-specific distinction, either.
Let’s set aside the emotion of breed-specific legislation for a sec, that intense, gut-wrenching pain of family dogs being taken from their homes or never even given a chance to have a home because of how they look.
Set that aside for just a sec.
Looking at it from a purely logical standpoint: Wouldn’t it make far more sense to focus on teaching people how to understand and how to train dogs? Wouldn’t it make far more sense to focus on behavior–of both dog and human–than outward appearance? Heck, we humans learn from the youngest age never to judge a book by a cover or a person by their skin, so how can we not apply that same logic to dogs?
It makes no rational sense.
I get that this is an oversimplification. I do. I get that it entails all sorts of things like how to actually deliver that education and how to overcome our culture of violence and how to (finally) link domestic abuse and animal abuse and, taking that even further, how to focus on rehabilitation not just a punitive approach (again, dogs and humans) and on and on.
I get it. It’s complicated.
But I also think we’ve so over-complicated some of the most basic issues with “the pit bull problem” that we’ve ignored the fundamental problem: a lack of understanding of dogs. Just dogs. Any breed.
Because, at the end of the day, we can all acknowledge that BSL doesn’t work. (And, by “we” I’m still generalizing because there’s a small subset of the population that refuses to acknowledge data and science over fear and emotion.)
So, let’s stop talking about breed, eh? (<— Canadian reference as a nod to the Toronto data!)
Let’s use our heads and start talking about the things that really matter, the things that will keep dogs happy and healthy in homes, the things that will decrease dog bites.
Because it sure isn’t a breed ban.