Earlier this month at the her sitter’s house, my 4 year old surprised the family dog by sneaking up on it and hugging it from behind. It bit her face on her cheek area, leaving punctured skin, bleeding, and an oval of redness.
Thankfully, my daughter is fine; she had stopped crying within two minutes of the bite. We’ve talked with her several times before the bite and many times since about how we should never surprise an animal. We knew both the family and the dog well, and point no fingers. When you surprise an animal, chances are it will defend itself with its jaws: its foremost weapon. We never want our daughter hurt, but we are so thankful that the bite she got was from a small dog.
This is why my daughter’s dog bite did not make the news:
1) the dog involved was a small dog: a dachshund,
2) the bite was not severe and did not require a hospital trip,
3) the dog was not a Pit bull, Shepard, Doberman, or Rottweiler.
Imagine the number of small dog bites that are never reported, like my daughter’s. If we had those numbers, would we then begin demonizing the Dachsund, the Chihuahua, the Terrier? And yet there are broadcasted news reports, like this one out of Seattle in August 2014, that claim that Pit bulls are 8 times more likely to bite a human than another breed. Can the current database of dog bite reports in any city truly support a statistical claim on which breeds bite most? Well, do you believe all dog bites are reported?
The news report bases its argument on the amount of pit bulls and lab retrievers that live in King County. Mind you, the article claims pits are 8x more likely to bite than another breed, though labs are the only other breed discussed. How were these numbers gathered? Was there a door to door census? Were only purebreds counted or mixed breeds, as well? What qualifies as a Pit, or a Lab, for that matter? Regardless of the stinking holes in the report, a large portion of the public readily nod their heads, convinced yet again that pits are “evil.”
To clarify, I am not disputing that pits have have injured or killed. Fact: the bigger the dog, the bigger the bite. I recognize that pits have been responsible for fatal attacks and cannot imagine the pain the victim and family of any dog attack experiences. However, to demonize a whole breed, to pursue BSL (Breed Specific Legislation), to maintain one’s prejudice without questioning otherwise, to be a pit owner and continue neglecting and exploiting a breed that needs consistent, firm, kind owners: these things I loathe. For every offending pit who appears in the news, there are countless others with good, loving dispositions who struggle under a media-fueled hate campaign against the breed itself.
My own pit prejudice was passed to me by my father who never attempted to question his own fears. He was bitten as a boy and carried a fear of pits ever after. Growing up, I heard him repeatedly speak ill of the entire breed, so that as a young adult, I would have never wanted to be in proximity to a pit bull. As an adult, my prejudice was challenged by friends who owned wonderful pit bulls, and by tv’s Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, who clearly demonstrates that a dog’s issues often stem from poor or nonexistent leadership, not because any one breed is inherently [fill in the blank].
There will be another pit bull story in the news, possibly in your city. Responsible pit owners will cringe. Anti-pit-activists will take to forums to condemn the breed. The offending pit will be euthanized. Meanwhile, another ignorant backyard breeder will post a craigslist ad, hoping to capitalize on a new litter of puppies. Shelters will remain full of abandoned pit bulls, most of whom will not find the stable homes they need. A new batch of people will become owners of pit puppies. Some will not have the commitment, nor the skills, to responsibly raise a powerful breed dog. Others will keep their pits outside solely as deterrent to property: entirely insecure, unstable, volatile. The worst of the owners will encourage their pits’ aggression for malicious or illegal purposes.
In the batch of pit owners, some will lead firmly, consciously, and consistently. Thank God for you, who quietly support the breed by providing discipline, leadership, and love. I hope that you will bring your dogs responsibly into public spheres to help dispel stereotypes. I hope for swifter and harsher punishment for owners of all dogs who seriously injure or kill, including jail time and mandatory dog ownership courses or lifetime restriction on housing or owning another dog. Mandatory time working in an animal shelter would be excellent, though not likely. If a person chooses to own a powerful, guardian breed, that person must understand the large responsibility and time commitment necessary to train and work with that dog.
My daughter received her first dog bite. As we are dog people who will continue fostering dogs in our home, there is a chance it will not be her last bite. We will continue to help her to understand boundaries and to practice responsible dog ownership. If she develops a prejudice or fear, it will not be because of our unaddressed ignorance.
How do you work to address prejudice? Share your ideas.