Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Animal Rescue: Thoughts on Breed Discrimination

I was walking a large black pit bull mix through the vacant space next to the Humane Society. I looked down at his large head, wide jaws, and his muscular shoulders. His shiny black coat looked almost like an oil slick as it reflected the afternoon sun. I was wearing black ballet flats, maroon tights, and a dress that Eric said looked as though it came from the closet of a 60s country singer. We probably made a fairly odd pair.

Walking this dog I thought about the article I had just read involving pit bulls who had mauled a woman to death. The dogs had belonged to a drug dealer who had abused them. I looked again at this strong dog and thought, yep he could certainly do some damage if he wanted. In my head I heard two voices. One voice telling me that breed discrimination is dangerous and cruel; this particular dog was clearly not inclined towards aggression. Honestly I have known many chihuahuas who are far more aggressive than all of the pit bulls I have encountered. The other voice reminded me that nobody has ever been mauled to death by chihuahuas.

We paused in our walk. This boy looked up at me with chocolate brown eyes full of soul.  I sat on my heels next to him and he took a step back, just a bit nervous (like me). Except I am pretty sure this boy has a real reason to fear humans. I have no idea what his life experience was before he landed at the shelter, but I suspect he has far more reason to fear people than I have to fear him. He took a moment to look at me. I stayed back, not making myself anything of a threat: eyes down, body sideways, hand low and down for him to sniff. He took a moment to sniff me and take it all in and then he shoved his wet nose into my palm. We took a moment while I gave him a long pet and he just reveled in the love and attention he was receiving. We finished our walk and I put him back in his kennel with a final pet and a doggy hug...then I grabbed the milky white female pit bull to take on the walk.

Later I was thinking about how I feel on the issue of breed discrimination. Yes, pit bulls (and several other breeds) are very strong and they could potentially harm humans. I think it is foolish for people to say things like, "My pit bull is incapable of hurting a person!" That is not true of any animal, humans most of all. Even the most gentle animal is capable of causing harm. A pit bull, a poodle, a basset hound will all lash out if they need to protect themselves. For instance you leave your baby with your dog and it innocently pokes the dogs eye or bites a tail...what's the animal supposed to do? Often animals will first try to avoid the confrontation, but there could come a time that any creature could cause harm to another. Though obviously we are by far the most dangerous animal.

I guess my final thought on the matter is that we are all simultaneously vulnerable and dangerous. I hate the idea of animals being killed, banned, discarded because they were traumatized by bad owners. Those are the animals that are most dangerous to humans, the ones who have been taught that humans are so very dangerous. I think animal lovers also need to be smart and adopt the animal that is the right for for their family and put neither the animal nor themselves into a situation that could potentially be dangerous. We have claimed a place of responsibility over animals and it is our duty to be responsible. If you are able to adopt and in a position to give a larger breed of dog a good home I do hope you will not rule out any particular breed; instead educate yourself about your dog and the breed or breeds that are part of your animal companion's make-up. Then you can train yourself on the way to be the best animal companion possible.

1 comment:

Sarah Purdy said...

I think you have a point - for the right person, these dogs are great. However, it seems like these dogs always end up in the hands of the wrong type of people - folks looking for an intimidating pet who aren't willing to put in the training necessary to even own a pet to begin with. Just sad. I completely believe that these dogs have a good heart and have been more harmed by us than anything else. However, I would never be comfortable allowing my children around them. The same goes for many breeds, but like you said, a chihuahua's never mauled a face off.

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