Joshua Holland defends the breed: According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, “controlled studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous.” The American Temperance Testing Society (ATTS) puts thousands of dogs – purebreds and spayed and neutered mixed-breeds – through their paces each year. The dogs are tested for skittishness, aggression and their ability … Continue reading Why Single Out Pit Bulls?
A reader writes:
I have been following this discussion thread with interest and the comparison to guns by this reader leads me to wonder if anyone has brought up the role that gangs/criminals play in the perpetuation of the "pit bull myth". Gang members, felons and parolees will often use pit bulls as replacements for actual weapons. Many have police records, obviously, and if they are caught with a gun or knife they'll have to do time. So instead, they get themselves a pit bull. For them, it's an ideal replacement. Walking around with a pit goes a long way to intimidate folks – and it's legal.
Your reader says that the debate about pit bulls mirrors that about guns, which may be true, but he also says:
Yes, people opposed to them may show a certain irrational fear about them. But that's only because when something goes wrong, it goes catastrophically wrong, and people end up dead, severely injured, or disfigured.
I doubt he or she is aware exactly how irrational that fear of pitbulls is. There are few statistics on the number of non-fatal dog bites attributed to specific breeds, but there was a CDC report published in 2000 which showed that 238 people were killed by dogs in the United States from 1979 to 1998.
A reader writes:
It has often occurred to me that the debate over pit bulls neatly parallels the debate over guns in American society.
One reason for the bad rap is that many people do not know what a Pit Bull looks like, and they are often misidentified. It is really sad, since they seem like really great companions. The only way to help is to educate the public (and the press).
The reader then points to this page of 25 photos of various dog breeds, only one of which is the American Pit Bull Terrier. See if you can find it. (Many of the choices are excerpted above.) Another reader:
My wife has two gentle giants. Cane Corso is the breed. Everyone who visits does a double take and stammers "are those Pit Bulls?" I've seen Presa Canario, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, Catahoulas, Bull Terriers, Bandogge Mastiffs, Alano Espanols, Ca De Bou, Boxers(!), Dogo Argentinos, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and various mutts described fearfully as "Pit Bulls".
Readers rush to defend the breed from these readers:
Part of the reason pit bulls were so popular among dog fighters is that while they fought to the death with each other, they traditionally did not turn on their handler. Pit bulls, like many dogs, are intensely loyal to their pack, and packs in Western culture often include their human owners and masters. There was a reason the Little Rascals' dog was a pit bull; it was once an all-American member of the family. However, when you take a dog with certain characteristics and add either intentionally destructing or simply inept handling and breeding, those characteristics can lead to much worse results than you’d get with another breed with a much more mellow natural disposition.
There are numerous pit bull rescue organizations that specialize in rescuing and rehabbing pit bulls from dog fighting operations. There is a lot of debate about what should be done with rescued pit bulls because sometimes a dog can appear to be rehabilitated only to have a particular sight, sound, or memory trigger their old life – at which point they do turn aggressive. But the idea that, because of breeding, pit bulls are now genetically predisposed to aggression is malarkey. These dogs are aggressive because they have suffered. So the solution here is to seriously crack down on dog fighting – not to ban breeds.
In the name of science and statistics and plain duty, please don’t let those anecdotal stories be the last thing you say on the topic of pit bulls and dog aggression.
Several readers counter the innocent portrayal put forth by Bronwen Dickey:
I work at a large trauma hospital in an inner city, in pediatrics. I can't tell you how many awful pit bull bites I've seen. The problem is that they have really strong jaws, and they bite down and don't let go. Many times it's been the family dog that's done the biting, out of the blue. I had no preconceived prejudice against these dogs, but I've just seen too many shredded kids.
Another shares a similar perspective:
My wife is a surgeon in a major metropolitan area who regularly repairs facial trauma suffered by victims of attacks by dogs.
Bronwen Dickey pursues the answer: Chain up any kind of dog, subject it to the jeers and taunts of passing strangers, and deny it food, shelter, and meaningful human company, and you may very well end up with a dangerous, unstable animal. With pit bulls, the media-stoked firestorm about their "viciousness" has created a tragic … Continue reading Why Do Pit Bulls Get A Bad Rap?
Although Michael Jackson’s new posthumous album is topping the charts in 50 countries, Andrew Romano is disappointed with Xscape, which reworks Michael’s unreleased material into tracks like the “duet” with Justin Timberlake above: Xscape is the second Jackson disc assembled by Sony since the artist’s death in 2009; the first was 2010’s Michael. But unlike MJ’s previous posthumous release—10 songs that Jackson wrote, recorded, … Continue reading Capitalism Resurrects The King Of Pop
In an excerpt from his new book, Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking, Daniel Dennett offers guidelines for sound thinking, which includes a wariness of what he calls “deepities”: A deepity (a term coined by the daughter of my late friend, computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum) is a proposition that seems both important and true … Continue reading Stepping In Contemplative Bullshit
Today on the Dish, Romney experienced significant downturns in the four states that will vote next month, he fended off the mainstream media, and the GOP electorate exchanged anti-intellectualism for faux intellectualism. Newt is not a general election candidate, Pelosi hinted at even more Gingrich baggage, and Romney's campaign embraced a postmodern approach to truth. Gingrich's candidacy preyed on cultural nostalgia, his record on civil liberties is atrocious, but he did stand up for online indecency in 1996. More in the conservative media pivoted to Huntsman, Friedersdorf pleaded with the Republican base, and Douthat speculated wildly about a Palin endorsement. Ginger White described boring sex with Cain, Rove scoffed at the Trump debate (as did Huntsman), Fox News defied the GOP, and liberals stuck with Obama. In our AAA video, Andrew addressed his history with women.
The war against Iran got less covert, the US gave Israel some tough love, and the peace process came to a well-orchestrated halt. We reflected on the deadliest month yet in Syria's possible civil war, Libya pushed for a massive bioengineering project in the Sahara, and Russia rebuked Putin. Merkozy called for a new EU Treaty, Ezra Klein issued a dispatch from Germany, and Belgium's soon-to-be prime minister is gay.
We checked in on racial and ethnic integration, tracked the artificial ripening of bananas, and debated density and space. Jason Brennan blamed corporatism on the left, American plutocrats are ultimately invested in the US, and history contradicted the Laffer Curve. Jaswinder Bolina discussed race and poetic voice, female readers weighed in on the locker-room nudity question, and the DEA employed terror tactics. Brooklyn epitomized the "hourglass economy," the laff box may help, and dogs are East Asian. Pit bulls suffer from a tragic feedback loop, and teen promiscuity may make sex safer.