Thursday, February 09, 2006

The careless dad, not the dogs, is to blame

In this year's leglislative session, Oklahoma Representative Paul Wesselhoft (R-Moore) will be proposing a bill effectually banning the pit bull from the entire state. The reason why Wesselhoft wants to ban pit bulls is what happen to 3-year-old Cody Yelton. Cody lost an arm as a result of pit bulls trying to protect their back yard against a perceived enemy (Cody). The proposed ban is modeled after a municipal ordinance in Denver. The tyrannical Oklahoma bill would require a pit bull owner to:

  1. Be 21 or older and have a $100,000 liability insurance policy for every pit bull.
  2. House the animal in a structure that is solid and impenetrable by a child.
  3. Keep the dogs behind an eight-foot-high fence that also extends at least one foot into the ground, in order to prevent the dogs from digging out.
  4. Post a sign that reads "pit-bull dogs" on their property.
  5. Spray or neuter the dogs, and have regular rabies shots.
  6. Tattoo the pit bulls.
  7. Not sell or transfer the dogs to other individual(s) in Oklahoma.
  8. And not bring a new pit bull from out of the state.

In other words, you would have to be a millionaire to afford the costs, or give up your dog(s).

As a pit bull owner (see photo above [my dog]), I believe it is not right. It is the owner who shapes the dog's personally; not the dog itself. It is the owner who makes the dog passive, aggressive, happy, board, playful, mean, scared, agitated, or whatever. Now, the dog has traits that it has internally which makes it what kind of dog it is. But, it is the owner who shapes the dog's temperament. For example, my sister and I (a while back) both got male rottweilers from the same litter. I wanted my dog to be a guard dog. My sister wanted her dog to be a family dog. And both trained our dogs accordingly. Guess what? Both are rottweilers, and both have the traits as such, but my dog was aggressive (but not mean), and my sister's dog was laid back.

Also, in owning pit bulls (or rottweilers, or any dogs, or any pets), you have to be responsible for it. Like I said in the original post, individual liberty and responsibility are opposite sides of the same coin. If you want to have liberty, you have to be responsible, and if you are responsible for the situation at hand, you have to be free to make mistakes. And there are different levels of responsibility in owning something. In owning a rock or a brick, there is virtually no responsibility to take care of it. In owning fish, the responsibility is higher than a brick, but the degree of responsibility is low. Owning small dogs, like Chihuahuas or Dashounds, requires more responsibility than a fish. Owning large, aggressive dogs, like rottweilers or pit bulls, requires more responsibility than a small dog. Parenting small children requires the most responsibility of all.

In speaking about parenting, I feel sad when hearing about Cody losing an arm in an attack. However, I have to call a spade a spade. It was Cody's father who didn't take responsibility for the boy. It was Chris Yelton who was careless and let Cody stand with the dogs, in their back yard. I don't know whether Cody was standing outside of the fence and put his arm inside, or was inside of the fence (I suspect the former), but both cases, the dogs felt protective of their back yard, and thus, they do what dogs do when they feel threatened. Chris Yelton should have been more careful and watch Cody when Cody was playing around pit bulls. I am a dad, as well as harboring "dangerous monsters". If it was me, when my daughter was three (she's 16 now), I would tell her it is NOT okay for you to play around those dogs. I already told her no if the situation was unsafe, regardless. In owning rottweilers and pit bulls, like being a parent, I take responsibility for my actions. I keep the dogs in a fence when I'm away. When taking the dogs out into the public (like to PetSmart or to the vet), I carry a muzzle for the dogs to wear, and I carry a leash. I will know when either my daughter or my dogs are unsafe. I am not like Chris Yelton.

But, Rep. Wesselhoft sees things differently. But whose to blame? He is a politician! The only thing he has on his mind is to get more votes. "If I blame it on the parents, some people will get offended, especially those who are lazy with the responsibility of their own children (and it's growing as the years go by), like the Yeltons. Besides, Cody lost an arm, and his parents must be devastated. Blaming it on them now throws fuel on a raging fire, and I will lose votes on account of this. But, if I blame it on the pit bulls, I will be a hero!! Every knows pit bulls are 'mean' and 'dangerous'. I don't care about the fact that the dogs are in and protecting their own yard. I don't care if Cody's dad was not watching his son, like a responsible parent should. If I blame it on the dogs, I will get a lot of votes next election. My mind is made up: I will blame it on the 'evil' pit bulls, and wait until election day."

That's just hogwash. The facts are these:

  1. Available data indicates that a dog of ANY breed can bite. The American Temperament Test Society has available results of dogs tested by them. The Shetland Sheepdog and Collie had a higher rate of bites than the pit bulls.
  2. In fact, the term "pit bull" is not a breed nor is it recognized by reputable breed organizations or kennel clubs. Pit bulls describe a variety of mixes, and it is very difficult or impossible to tell these breeds apart and, as a result, it is impossible to fairly enforce the proposed ordinances.
  3. Cities that have tried their dangerous dog problem by restricting or banning breeds have discovered that such laws do not work.
  4. There is no reliable method by which to scientifically determine the breed of a dog.
  5. The vast majority of the owners of targeted breeds (like me) are responsible, law-abiding citizens. It is the isolated, lazy owners who are at fault, not the dogs.
  6. It takes a large amount of funding for these ordinance provisions requiring the training, testing, and property examination. Passing laws that cannot be enforced increases citizen cynicism regarding effective government (again, like me).

You already know what a politician's mindset (like Wesselhoft) is. Now, take the mindset of common sense. Don't blame it on a dumb animal. An animal will do what the owner will train it to do, and the owner took the appropriate steps to prevent the eventual tragedy. Blame it on the rightful source. Blame it on the dad, not the dogs.

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