Those who champion social equality, yet defend the continued existence of pit bull terriers, need to step back and consider the way these dogs are used as property guards. The way they menace working people who can’t opt to avoid urban, suburban and rural properties where tough-looking dogs are now common home-protection devices.
I back animal rights; I also support a generous reading of human rights. And the existence of guard dogs has never done much for either platform. Not that any dog should be condemned to death for the sins of the breeders and buyers. But it’s time for activists to stop repeating Ban the deed not the breed, and start demanding that the breeding ends.
Some might object that an animal-rights proponent who decries the purpose-breeding of dogs ought to challenge the breeding of all dogs at once. I do.
But I also know that dog breeds have been introduced into the stream of commerce one by one. Each year, Madison Square Garden hosts the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show — a showroom floor for breeds, including new models. (This year, the two “newly recognized” breeds are the Coton de Tulears and the Wirehaired Vizslas.) And if dog breeds have come into existence one by one, then breed-specific legislation to phase them out isn’t an outrageous concept. If we would stop the breeding, wouldn’t the starting point involve animals subject to physical extremes or unremitting abuse, including pit bulls, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios, wolf hybrids and other dogs often selected because of their rough reputations?
What is outrageous? Likening breed-specific policies to racial profiling, or to a “violation of our rights as stated in the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Several million people are bitten by dogs each year, most of them older people, kids in the home, and workers whose jobs bring them in contact with the guarded properties. The Postal Service regularly reports more than five thousand mail carriers a year sustaining dog bites, with some of the animals breaking through screen or glass doors to get at the workers.
Remember Charla Nash, who underwent facial reconstruction after being mauled by a Connecticut homeowner’s chimpanzee? That was followed by a sensible outcry to prohibit private ownership of apes. Nonhuman primates are dangerous to humans, chiefly because of the unnatural, frustrating reality of captivity. The animal-rights position calls us to end such frustration. When a Connecticut mail carrier is mauled by pit bulls, we should say the same thing. Stop the breeding of these dogs, the using them as guards or fighters; at the same time, stop the danger they present to people. Why are Connecticut enterprises like MGXL Pits still in business? Perhaps because even the White House defends the breeding.
Industry groups such as the American Pit Bull Foundation are out to vaunt the public image of these dogs, and “promote responsible breed ownership through providing owner and public education.” Why should animal advocates buttress their exploitive, deadly position?
And make no mistake; it is deadly. Including to the dogs themselves. Members of the “bully breeds” make up the clear majority of dogs killed at pounds.
Of course, a dog’s tendency to bite depends not only on selective breeding but also factors such as the dogs’ training and environment. Yet it’s sound policy to start reducing the influx of dogs with the least control over the damage they can do, and the worst history of being condemned to detention and death for doing it. A policy that would also reduce the risks and stress factors in the lives of postal workers.
Lee Hall is an author of On Their Own Terms: Bringing Animal-Rights Philosophy Down to Earth and several other books and articles on animal rights, a contingent professor of environmental, immigration, and animal law, and a contingent employee of the U.S. Postal Service. Follow Lee on Twitter: @Animal_Law