Friday, November 5, 2010

What is a pit bull?

Putative pitbull?
Pit from web, compliments of jp who sent me lots of cute dog pix today
I had already posted this but somehow, the entire post disappeared into cyberspace.

Recently a local township  enacted an ordinance requiring all pit owners to sterilize their animals. This was spurred by the local HS, which is not even in that particular township, who reports that most of their intake consists of pit bulls who are rarely adopted. The HS will sterilize the township's pitbulls for free. This is assuming that this township is responsible for all the  excess pitbulls.

I have several questions. First of all: enforcement? Will there be funds to have someone go door-to-door to ensure that there are no unsterilized pit bulls inside? Will they just wait for people to complain that they suspect a pit bull is in their neighborhood? What is a pit bull anyway?

I have had some experience with mistaken identity. I had taken my little black pug pup, Zoe pictured above, to Naomi's daycare. Immediately a worker chastised me for having 'that sort of dog' when I had a young child. I specifically had selected a pug because of their friendliness but she didn't have the fawn coloring associated with pugs such as Spud  (black is a dominant trait: her mother was a fawn but daddy must have been black) so people often did not know what breed she was. The worker thought she was a pit.

About 8 years ago, a police officer knocked on my door wondering whether I could tell him who was the owner of a pit bull he had in his car picked up near my house?

Um..that's not a pitbull. That is a boxer.

So why would he knock on my door? Well I had complained of vicious pits living next door (that awful rental!) who escaped regularly and had torn apart a bloodhound that was walked on a leash recently. And it turned out that they weren't pits but instead American bulldogs who are also bred for fighting but are even larger. He had responded when people had called the attack in. It took five bystanders to pull off the dogs. But for some reason, the bloodhound owner did not press charges. The bulldog owners had to make changes to ensure the dogs would not escape (but the dogs did escape). People complained, but since the dogs never attacked a person, they were allowed to exist. Meanwhile walking Spud became a challenge as I needed to see where those dogs were before taking him out.Other people walked their dogs carrying large sticks to beat off the dogs if they appeared. Fortunately, a few months later the owners and dogs disappeared leaving all the dog paraphernalia behind.

So with so much public confusion on what a pit bull is, who will decide if a given dog is a pit bull? What percentage does a dog have to be to be considered one? Turns out that a HS official would make a decision (lots of power they seem to have). But an owner could get a DNA test to prove his dog's innocence. This is where the owner would win.

Recently a WSJ reporter whose rescue dog looked very much like the 2nd picture above though without the leaves, for a story had his dog's DNA tested. According to the results, the dog was a mix of several breeds but pit bull was not one of them. How could this be? Just look at his face! Turns out that pit bull DNA was not in this particular lab's database.

My granddog Sunny who I frequently dogsit, is clearly not a pit bull but is mistaken often for a 'vicious dog'. People will cross the street when I walk her sometimes and I overhear such comments. She is a very friendly German Shepherd. Yep there are some very unfriendly German Shepherds as shown in the media (not including Rin Tin Tin).

There is this attitude that ones virility is tied to the virility of ones dog. Although I like to think of that as a 'redneck' way of thinking, I am surprised to find it among 'educated' people. For the record, all the animals I ever had have been neutered or spayed. Animals in heat aren't pleasant and walking an unneutered male insisting on marking every vertical object is not fun either. And yes there are too many dogs that end up put to sleep though locally, many of the dogs up for adoption seem to be imported from other parts of the country. There are too many irresponsible people who don't consider the consequences of their inactions.

I am curious to see how this all works out. It seems to give a certain organization too much power which I have first hand knowledge that they abuse.

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