A string of recent dog attacks in Las Cruces, New Mexico, including one that resulted in a two-year-old's death, have received a lot of media attention and gained plenty of reaction from the public. Understandably, people are upset and afraid. They do not feel safe taking walks or letting children play outside for fear of becoming the next dog attack victim. Fair enough. What concerns me is that the attention these stories receive in the media further stigmatize what are known as "bully breeds", which include pit bulls, rottweilers, and other so called "aggressive" types.
The initial reaction and solution is to ban these "hostile" breeds and euthanize them in an effort to prevent such vicious and tragic attacks from happening. But there's a lot more to these dogs than the headlines they've been making in the newspaper about the latest victim of an attack. I have been volunteering with the Humane Society of El Paso for over two years now and I can tell you first hand that I've come in contact with all of these breeds. Some of these dogs will lick you to death before they'd ever maul you and wouldn't hurt a fly. I realize that this isn't the case with all dogs and there have been horrific attacks on defenseless children. But there are a few things to consider before we start sentencing these loyal creatures to their deaths. Dogs will bite when they feel threatened or unsure of their environment. It's a defense mechanism. There are canine body language signals such as showing teeth, growling, or cowering that serve to warn us that a dog is about to snap.
Of course there are dogs that will attack for no reason. It is not in their nature to be violent so it begs the question, where did they learn this aggressive behavior? The same way people ask "where were the parents?", we should be asking "where were the owners and were they taking the time to teach their dog good behavior or the opposite?" Who are the true culprits of these dog attacks?
Although the dogs are the ones who commit the crime, it is the owners of these dogs that should do the time. Too many people make these impulse purchases of a "cute, little puppy" they saw at a supermarket parking lot or on an internet ad without truly considering the kind of responsibilities that come with owning a pet. This can be truly frustrating when people bring pets into the shelter to surrender them and their excuses sound something like this:
"I didn't know it was going to grow this big."
"It's just way too hyper."
"It's chewing up the furniture."
"It's peeing everywhere."
Lame. Do people take crying, pooping babies back to the hospital and say, "You know what, I didn't realize it was gonna be this much trouble. I'd like to return this baby."? Of course not! Why should it be any different with animals?
And then there are those who purposely breed pit bulls and train them to be aggressive so that they can use them for dog fighting and make a profit off of them. Who's the true bully? The animal or the people?
A dog that has never been around others will no doubt be nervous and feel threatened and resort to defending itself because they are unsure of their surroundings. The dog trainer in the following video works with these so called "bully breeds" and also contends that pet owners are responsible for dog attacks because they are the ones that should be teaching the dog good behavior and supervising them when children are around:
For me, it's simple. If you can't commit to the time and effort it takes to care for a pet, don't get one. Whether you are a pet owner or not, avoid being bitten or attacked by a dog by educating yourself and your loved ones (especially if you have little brothers and sisters or baby cousins) on how to protect yourself. I've included a couple of great websites to visit so you can get started:
I close this blog with a sweet little prayer from a pitbull that brought a tear to my eye: