dogs and monsters
February 2, 2006 2:19 PM   Subscribe

of pit bulls, terrorists and generalization "...the Ontario ban prohibits not only these three breeds but any 'dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar' to theirs; the term of art is 'pit bull-type' dogs. But what does that mean? Is a cross between an American pit bull terrier and a golden retriever a pit bull-type dog or a golden retriever-type dog?" (from the New Yorker)
posted by punkbitch (71 comments total)
also, be sure to look out for the word "flibbertigibbet."
posted by punkbitch at 2:23 PM on February 2, 2006

Words cannot express how thoroughly disappointed I was in the article. Though considering that it was penned by the collosally over-rated Malcolm Gladwell, I suppose I should have guessed. These issues are so far beyond settled among experts in the field that its almost absurd to think they still warrant discussion; read this or this if you want to hear what people who actually know what they're talking about think. That is, when they were thinking the same thing years ago.

Malcolm Gladwell offers a dumbed-down, critical analysis-free version of just about everything he writes about, and I'm just amazed that people still give his work the time of day.
posted by ChasFile at 2:28 PM on February 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

Yeah, that was a good article; when I read it, I immediately thought of an old AskMe question.
posted by COBRA! at 2:28 PM on February 2, 2006

ChasFile, those links were kind of weird . . .
posted by punkbitch at 2:39 PM on February 2, 2006

Sharks only attack humans when they've been raised badly.
posted by HTuttle at 2:40 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Blame the deed, not the breed. I almost had my nose bitten off by a Pug once. A FRICKIN' PUG. The scar makes for a nice conversation piece.
posted by weirdoactor at 2:42 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Chasfile, who is this collo Sally person?
posted by pmbuko at 2:45 PM on February 2, 2006

ChasFile... did we read the same article? Gladwell's was good, I thought, and didn't really have a lot to do with the two books you link to. Gladwell's article is specifically about profiling, not security in a broader sense.
posted by maxreax at 2:46 PM on February 2, 2006

ChasFile; that first link is pertinent because...vicious dogs might try to attack your server?
posted by weirdoactor at 2:47 PM on February 2, 2006

As the proud 'parent' of a pit-rador bull-iever, I must say mixing breeds can get you the best of both worlds.
posted by pmbuko at 2:50 PM on February 2, 2006

Excellent article. Thanks!
posted by Manhasset at 2:54 PM on February 2, 2006

Good article. Reminds me of an old generalization: "There are no bad dogs, only bad owners". Regarding profiling (and other exercises in categorization and generalization), Gladwell has isolated two keys to making it work: (1) generalize about the generalizations; (2) change the generalization in response to new data.

I disagree that it's "always easier just to ban the breed", though - that's too fatalistic a viewpoint. It isn't inherent in humankind, any more than "after the fact therefore because of the fact" is. That kind of thinking is a "false easiness", an attempt at an intellectual shortcut that will lead to worse errors in the medium and long term. Since it's demonstrably false, and that demonstration will work on children, the answer seems to be: teach children logical thinking, so that, as adults, they are immunized against this kind of obvious error of thought.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:57 PM on February 2, 2006

Blame the deed, not the breed.

Guns don't kill people...
posted by soiled cowboy at 3:01 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

i could swear this is a double, but i can't find it... i even debated whether to read the article or not, since i'm a print subscriber and i didn't want to "spoil" it by reading it early.
posted by Hat Maui at 3:03 PM on February 2, 2006

goggledog is an American pit bull terrier
posted by punkbitch at 3:08 PM on February 2, 2006

Some of the sweetest dogs I know are pits. Those in power wanting to ban the breed from areas ought to read (but not today, I guess, because it seems to be down).
posted by Meredith at 3:17 PM on February 2, 2006

The only animal attack stories I personally have heard have been with pitbulls. Those in power wanting to ban the breed have my blessing. Sorry to snark..
posted by cavalier at 3:22 PM on February 2, 2006

Dogs don't kill people. Asshole owners kill people. Take the pit bulls away and the assholes will just start breeding/abusing some other poor breed to serve as their penis avatars.
posted by slatternus at 3:22 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Pit bull terrier types are banned from breeding or importation in my state (Victoria, Aus), along with Japanese tosas, Argentinean fighting dogs and Brazilian fighting dogs.

I fully agree with the ban. I accept that pit bull terriers are not necessarily individually dangerous, I'm sure there are lots of lovely ones around, but so many of the attacks have been entirely unprovoked and shocking in their savagery, that there's bad juju going on in a lot of those dogs heads.

More importantly however, it's the type of people who generally like to keep pitties - they're very often people who get off on having a 'dangerous breed' because it makes them seem more 'hardcore' or whatever. I feel sympathy for those with a succeful relationship with tehir dog that's never attacked anyone, but they're not being put down, just restricted from breeding, and I'm not going to cry a river about their 'rights' being infringed, not compared to the 3 year old that requires years and years of plastic surgery.
posted by wilful at 3:27 PM on February 2, 2006

destroy the owners.
posted by Frasermoo at 3:30 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

I quite liked much of this article. There definitely ARE bad dogs out there, and in my opinion, those who claim there aren't are as much a part of the problem as those who think that breeds should be banned. Just as there are serial killers, child molesters and mentally ill people, there are dogs who have screws loose. No amount of proper management will make a dog who's wired wrong into a dog who's wired right (but proper management most certainly can mean the difference between a wired-wrong dog who's a threat to people and other animals, and a wired-wrong dog who isn't). That said, as the article mentions, we most definitely see some commonalities among dogs who bite people, and the most common factors are things which also often tend to go along with irresponsible ownership practices: chaining dogs outside (chaining dogs makes them aggressive, and leaving them outside can often mean the dog gets very little human interaction), lack of training or harsh training, lack of understanding of basic dog psychology, allowing dogs and children to interact unsupervised (and I think that "supervised" means that there is an adult who is paying attention within a couple of feet, and that there are rules about appropriate behaviour around dogs) etc. In other words, it's less the dogs than it is the owners.

People seem to think that a dog is a dog. This is only true on a superficial level, and the differences between breeds can be enormous. Regardless of what some people say, some dogs are more aggressive than others, because they have been selectively bred to be that way. This doesn't make them "bad dogs", but it does mean that they need to be owned and managed with attention to their specific temperaments - you don't take a breed which has a tendency toward dog aggression (like a pit bull, or most other terriers, for that matter) to a dog park, you don't take a dog which has a tendency toward human aggression (like a Cane Corso) to a busy playground. It's just common sense, but it also involves learning about your dog, and managing it accordingly. Pit bulls are different from other dogs in general in some ways, but they can be responsibly owned, and when responsibly bred and managed can be wonderful dogs. There is no breed which suits everyone, and some breeds suit fewer people than others.

One of the biggest problems with bans like the Ontario one is that the people who'll be determining what a "pit bull" is are often woefully unable to do so with any degree of accuracy. Especially given the vast numbers of indiscriminate crossbreeds out there, anything from a Boxer to a Lab mix can be called a "pit bull". The other big problem is also one raised in the linked article, which is that a "real" pit bull, with a correct pit bull temperament should NEVER be human-aggressive - these dogs were intended to allow themselves to be handled by any person while in the heat of full-on fighting adrenaline-fueled rage. Sadly, unethical, indiscriminate breeding has led to the kind of pit bull you read about in the paper, which is aggressive to everyone and everything, is very unpredictable, and because of its size, power and high pain threshold, is extremely dangerous. But these are by no means representative of the breed or group of breeds as a whole. Breed bans (or breed-specific legislation), exist because they make people feel like something is being done about the problem (similar to airport security measures post-9-11), but it's false security - the fact is that people who want big, aggressive dogs will just find another breed that fits the bill (and there is no shortage of those). I think the only answer is to make the owners directly responsible: your dog kills someone - YOU killed that person, your dog harms someone - YOU assaulted them.

However, as the article also correctly points out, if breed bans were based on bite frequencies, rather than damage, dogs like Labs, Beagles and Goldens would be banned, rather than pit bulls. ANY dog can bite, ANY dog can do damage, EVERY dog has a bite threshold which can be crossed given the right set of circumstances, it's just that some dogs can do a lot more damage than others. When I see the way some people manage their dogs, when I read and hear the things some people think about dogs, I'm sometimes amazed that there aren't more dog attacks than there are. Do your damned homework, it's a living creature you've decided to take on the responsibility for, and it's not just you that might have to deal with the fallout if you do a bad job of it, be a good owner or just don't get a dog. Period. /rant
posted by biscotti at 3:33 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm a cat person.
posted by Balisong at 3:33 PM on February 2, 2006

Nonsense cavalier.

But I suppose that nothing will have an effect on people unwilling to explore the notion that their perception might possibly be wrong.
posted by punkbitch at 3:34 PM on February 2, 2006

Shouldn't "dangerous dogs" be registered just like firearms, (all large pets). (that might also mean, none at all/ sign a dog certificate with the county.)

My best friend has a Malmute that has completely swallowed whole rabbits (and a cat.) in 10 seconds.
I say it's a killer, and once it's tasted prey or kills like that, it can't be taught otherwise.

If a dog has been bread to attack and be mean (IE: have a tire rim that he has to drag around to build up his muscles) I am not sure if it could be taught otherwise.
posted by Balisong at 3:43 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

I love dogs in general. I had a collie growing up. One of the guys I used to teach with had a rotweiler (sp?). One of the sweetest dogs I knew.

A pit/rot mix attacked my little cousin at a little league baseball game. Long story short I tore it’s tongue out. I believe it eventually died.
Yet if I did the same to the owner (who is the one who deserved it) I would have gone to jail. (We both spent some time talking to the police, a little pigtailed girl crying on your side does wonders in talking to the cops tho’)

I agree with slatternus it’s always the owner abusing the dog that is responsible. The owner was a real dick. Always had a beer can with him. Liked shooting his pellet gun at birds. That kind of guy. Kids from the neighborhood discovered that their parents really didn’t like him. He moved a bit after that. I mean buying new windows and cleaning TP off your trees every week gets tedious.

I don’t know that a blanket law like this will work - but how do you define “mean dog” legally?
That seems to be the problem.

I like the idea of owners forfeiting their right to have a dog if their dog attacks a kid.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:44 PM on February 2, 2006

/I should say - how do you a priori define 'mean dog'? Before an attack or anything.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:45 PM on February 2, 2006

Guns don't kill people...

...actually, the impact force and following shockwave of the fired projectile, as well as projectile's fragmentation within the target (causing massive organ trauma and blood loss) kills people. More rarely; good marksmanship kills people. The gun definitely plays a part, albeit the same part played by a car when a pedestrian is turned into jelly.

I think some of the blame for this problem goes back to the human penchant for humanizing animals. Dogs are animals. They have smaller brains than we do. They aren't people. They don't commit bad acts out of malice. Mischief? Maybe. Boredom? Possibly. Even a well-trained dog can be spooked by a variety of behaviors.

Every breed of dog now existing is due to 500 years of human tinkering, and we mustn't forget that dogs are descended from wolves; and not that long ago as genetics is measured, even for a species with an average life span of ten years or less. Considering all this; I’m surprised dog attacks don’t happen more often.
posted by weirdoactor at 3:47 PM on February 2, 2006

Are dogs considered fellow officers/weapons in the police and armed forces? Yes.
Dogs can and have always been weapons when needed. Do you have a dog in case an intruder comes in your house? It's at least a very usefull tool (barking), if not a real weapon (fending). My cats would show a burgaler where I keep the 'secret' treasures. They are always plotting.
posted by Balisong at 3:55 PM on February 2, 2006

This is required viewing.
posted by strawberryviagra at 3:57 PM on February 2, 2006

This is required viewing.

Fake. People don't talk about their vagina that way.
posted by Balisong at 4:02 PM on February 2, 2006

"he bites me in my vagina!"
posted by Balisong at 4:03 PM on February 2, 2006

Oh, and this is mentioned in passing in the FPP linked article; but the dog who ripped the face off of the woman who recently had the face transplant? A Labrador Retriever. Yup. The most popular pet dog in the US. A playful, not-terribly aggressive, lovable lab. I Google’d; and could not find any laws banning the ownership of that breed.

Balisong: growing up, we had a huge black cat named Scooter, who as it turns out, was quite a "guard cat". A burglar broke into our house when we were away on a trip; but upon inspection, nothing turned out to be missing. The "burglar" turned out to be a friend of my brother, seeking his stash of weed. He was arrested, after which the police told us that he had numerous injuries on his legs and ankles that looked like that had been inflicted by a cat. My brother's friend later confirmed that he had been attacked by a large cat, and that was the reason he had left without taking anything. Good kitty!
posted by weirdoactor at 4:04 PM on February 2, 2006

*rolls over for belly rub from biscotti* Damn straight, b.
posted by cairnish at 4:05 PM on February 2, 2006

It's a very small dog, Balisong.
He also tried to bite the man inside his penis.
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:07 PM on February 2, 2006

Nothing the Dog Whisperer cant fix!

I loathe dogs personally, but I have seen well trained dogs that were a pleasure to have around, and very poorly behaved animals that were an outright menace. And the difference was the discipline of the owner, which is apparently what the guy linked above addresses in his training. I've never seen the show so I cant comment about his skills, but from what I've seen, I wholeheartedly place the blame of a dogs misbehavior solely on its owner.

In my opinion, any dog that injures a human gets put down .. period ... and their owner gets treated as if they commited the crime.
posted by elendil71 at 4:10 PM on February 2, 2006

Malcolm Gladwell offers a dumbed-down, critical analysis-free version of just about everything he writes about, and I'm just amazed that people still give his work the time of day.

I couldn't agree more.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:10 PM on February 2, 2006

Yeah...I dunno. Pit bulls are just so strong. My friend has a really sweet pit bull named Angel. She really is an angel, but she's dumber than a box of rocks. And when she jumps up on the couch to wrestle, I get nervous. I love dogs. I have a dog. A mutt. But wrestling with Angel I get kind of scared, because I really feel like she could totally kill me.

Yes, other dogs can attack you and hurt you. But pit bulls are crazy tough.

It almost hurts my brain to say this, but HTuttle hit the nail on the head, "Sharks only attack humans when they've been raised badly."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:13 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

More importantly however, it's the type of people who generally like to keep pitties - they're very often people who get off on having a 'dangerous breed' because it makes them seem more 'hardcore' or whatever.

That's just it. Why on earth would anyone think that this sort of person will give up on having a "dangerous" or bad-ass dog just because pits and Staffies are banned? If I were that kind of jackass in a pit-ban area, I'd just go get a Cane Corso or a Presa Canario or Caucasian Ovtcharka or any of the other mastiff-derived dogs that are bred to eat people.

The fun part of all this is that pits and Staffies are at least relatively small, controllable dogs, and the bans will drive people to 150+pound beasts bred specifically for human-aggression.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:27 PM on February 2, 2006

I was raised badly - are you saying that I'm more likely to be attacked by a shark?

It's not my day.
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:29 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Banning a particular species doesn't work - there will always be an alternative.

What would you prefer to be mauled by?
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:34 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Meh... ban all dogs.

Especially those bloody noisy ones in my street. Start with them.
posted by pompomtom at 4:51 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Personally, I would rather there only be bigger dogs... From Terrier size on up.
No pugs! No barky toy anything dogs!
And we need to breed bigger cats.
posted by Balisong at 4:56 PM on February 2, 2006

I used to have a Boston Terrier/Boxer mix that looked exactly like a pit bull. She was the most affectionate & gentle dog ever, but people used to cross the street when they saw her.
posted by mike3k at 5:02 PM on February 2, 2006

i believe the article mentioned three dogs. that pushes pack boundaries for me. it's about controlling the animal, or animals. seems like the owners bit off more than they could chew.
posted by Frasermoo at 5:06 PM on February 2, 2006

I just want to second everything biscotti said, especially "be a good owner or just don't get a dog. Period."

My best friends have a pit (seen here on his 3rd birthday), and through careful training and proper care, he's about as vicious as a lamb. It's their boston terrier you have to watch out for. She's pierced my ear twice.
posted by Meredith at 5:16 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

A general ban on pit bull like dogs would have deprived me of meeting one of the best dogs I've ever known in my life. She was a schoolmarm trapped in a boxer-terrier mix. She was an absolute sweetheart who would intervene if you were arguing (or even started raising your tone), she would insist on no chewing gum, she had a keen eye for suspicious behavior, and she would let you know if any other critter in her sphere of acquaintances were sick. She had a huge vocabulary and could run like the wind, too. She didn't really frighten anyone, though. (Dammit, I've got to stop talking about her in the past tense. Fucking cancer.)

My dog is another story. He is just as loving and lovable but he's a 70 pound all black chow mix. I've seen very large men jump off the sidewalk and children run away screaming in fear at the sight of him. He looks like Satan's little buddy and if you ever get to hear him bark you won't ever forget it. But he's a teddy bear who is a perfect example of courtesy and respect to both humans and other dogs, and cats, too, though he does get fed up occasionally with my cat.
posted by effwerd at 5:36 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, I should also mention that both of these dogs were street dogs (about two yrs old at the time) who had run away from neglectful homes (the local pound knew them).
posted by effwerd at 5:48 PM on February 2, 2006

If they want to reduce the number of 'dangerous' dogs, they need to attack it at the source. Legislation like this hits owners who want to keep their dogs as well as they can, and the people who cause the problem.. they just ignore it.

There are people who breed and fight "pit fighting" dogs, usually Pit Bulls mixed with other "scary" breeds such as Rottweilers, Bullmastiffs, etc. Such dogs are given no positive interaction, and the most vicious ones are kept as breeding animals. The ones who don't meet such bloodthirsty standards are used as bait dogs, killed brutally, or sometimes just left on the street to fend for themselves. This happens a LOT -- there have been two recent busts of dog-fighting kennels; one in Louisiana and one in Lakeland, FL.

If bred and raised correctly, however, Pits/APBTs/AmStaffs can be wonderful dogs. They're not "beginner" dogs, as they are very strong, very independent (read: hard to train), need to be kept busy, and tend to be dog-aggressive. (Dog aggression and people aggression are two entirely different things.) The dog from Our Gang was APBT. So were some of Helen Keller's dogs.

The meanest little dog I've ever met was an unneutered 5lb Chihuahua named Gizmo who would growl and snap his jaws while he humped my arm. The only thing I've ever feared from a Pit Bull is that they'll bruise my legs from excessive tail wagging.

(Biscotti? WORD.)
posted by cmyk at 5:56 PM on February 2, 2006

Count me in with the rest of you who can't stand Malcolm Gladwell's articles. Every article seems to proceed by the same paint-by-numbers template that leads, invariably, to some shockingly counterintuitive conclusion. Paradoxically, Gladwell's insatiable quest for the interesting has made his articles quite boring. (Hey, that sounds like a topic for a Malcolm Gladwell article!)
posted by jayder at 6:05 PM on February 2, 2006

So, Wait! I let my weakness for kittens/cats show on international internet?!?>!
Gah!! I feel so used!!
Don't send me any kittens, please!
posted by Balisong at 6:38 PM on February 2, 2006

Don't worry, we know you like to stroke your guns just as much as you do your cat.
posted by The Monkey at 8:36 PM on February 2, 2006

Ah, amazing how all of the pit bull owners come out in force to defend their precious 'pets' when some of us who have actually been attacked by a 'sweet' and 'loving' pit bull would not shed a single tear if every single one was rounded up and slaughtered.
Fuck pit bulls. I don't believe for one single second that "it's the owner, not the dog." The one that went for my throat was supposedly trained very well by owners that thought it would do no harm. The damn animal simply went nuts one day.
Ban them. I won't miss the damn dogs one bit.
posted by drstein at 9:33 PM on February 2, 2006

Discussion of the same article at MetaChat.
posted by Mitheral at 9:40 PM on February 2, 2006

Ah, amazing how all of the pit bull owners come out in force to defend their precious 'pets' when some of us who have actually been attacked by a 'sweet' and 'loving' pit bull would not shed a single tear if every single one was rounded up and slaughtered.

I'm sure the same is true of people who've been attacked by Labradors, or sheppies, or dobies, or goldens, and the logic is equally wrong in all of those cases.

It's a shame that a dog attacked you, but that gives you scars, not expertise.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:10 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Could folks please stop contrasting the temperaments of Pit Bulls against Chihuahuas and Terriers?
Yeah, those little bastards can be just as mean, but it'sa hell of a lot easier to smash a feral terrier against a wall by its tail than a raging Pit.

The Dogs as Guns analogy is weak, unless there's a pistol that is capable of going off even after being unloaded, trigger locked, and placed in a safe.

They're creatures whose thought processes are incredibly simple compared to ours, yet their responses to stimuli that humans can't even sense aren't completely understood, and probably never will be. It's funny how people who defend dangerous breeds can go from anthropomorphizing them to objectifying them in one breath, depending on what argument they're trying refute.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:35 PM on February 2, 2006

Before Pit Bulls, everyone was afraid of Rottweilers. Before those, there were Dobermans. Before that, German Shepherds. It really has nothing to do with the specific breed of dog. Breeding mentally unstable attack dogs is something people do, and have done, for a very long time.

If ownership of Pit Bulls is widely banned, the dog-fighters and status-owners will dump or kill their dogs and find a new breed. My guess is they'll move onto the more unusual guard/flock dogs: Dogo Argentino, Fila Braseria, Caucasian Ovtcharka, American Bulldog, etc.

The only way to stop it is to attack the problem from the human angle. I wouldn't mind seeing a required registration and spay/neuter for every Pit not used for purposes of conformation showing. A few dog generations of that might weed out the vicious tendencies.

(No, I don't own a Pit. I have a Boxer, who I own because I adore the breed and had wanted one all my life. The only killer thing about her is the flatulence. Good lord. And the licking. And the slobber.)
posted by cmyk at 10:40 PM on February 2, 2006

God dammit, I am sick of seeing this breed misaligned. Yes, there are problem dogs, and yes their size and strengh can make them dangerous. But that is true of any large, high drive dog. There are so many misconceptions about the breed. And to make things worse, the majority of people don't know diddly and squat about dog breeds, and anything big and scary is a pit bull. If it attacked a child, it must have had pit in it. One of the forums I read has his big boned lab regularly accused of being a pit. A LAB!

Petey from the little rascals was a pit bull. You can't get anymore apple pie than that. Pit bulls are loyal, friendly dogs. People who hate them tend to be uneducated about the breed and dogs in general. Guess what? Their jaws don't lock. An urban myth. Guess what? They don't have fractured skulls that make them go crazy. And a billion other things people commonly say about them.

If any of you who are afraid of pit bulls would actually take the time to research the breed, you'd know that. And I agree, they shouldn't be owned by everyone, as they do require someone with a knowledge of working dogs. But you can say that about a majority of large breed dogs.

(and pit bulls ARE terriers, for the record. Owning a non-bully terrier, its easy to see the similarities).
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:59 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think the only answer is to make the owners directly responsible: your dog kills someone - YOU killed that person, your dog harms someone - YOU assaulted them.

I like that. If you're walking a weapon-like dog, you have to remember that you are walking around with a weapon and you have to behave accordingly. If your dog (regardless of breed) bites someone, you should be locked up for as long as you would be locked up had you bitten that person or taken a knife to that person. The courts should be expected to consider the amount of damage the dog does -- a tiny nip in the ankle that draws no blood is not the same as scarring someone's face. (I would extend it to noise, too. If your dog bothers people by barking all night, you should be treated as if you had caused that much noise. If you want a burglar alarm, buy one.)

Put that law into place and the rest of this crap would sort itself out naturally. Do you want to own a dog that could get you thrown into jail for years? Do you want to risk walking it without proper training and a muzzle?
posted by pracowity at 2:37 AM on February 3, 2006

Many years ago, I lived in a suburb of Sydney renowned for its tasteless wealth.

Many of the residents of that suburb afforded the luxury of large over bred and largely ridiculous breeds of canine, that they'd keep tethered within the confines of their spacious terrace houses (ie no back or front yard).

The evenings, after work, they'd walk their backed up monstrosities to allow them to perform their disproportionate anal adventures - exercising their enormous arseholes and little else.

One morning as I strolled to work, I came across a splendid forensic scene - on the steep footpath, leading down the hill from where I lived, a dog shit - smeared a metre in length from the weight of a slipping shoe, thick to begin with and feathered towards its end, denoting a fall, punctuated with a perfect hand print right in its centre.

The end.
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:25 AM on February 3, 2006

I have a Boxer, who I own because I adore the breed and had wanted one all my life. The only killer thing about her is the flatulence. Good lord. And the licking. And the slobber.) --posted by cmyk

Me too, cmyk. (The gas is noxious!) Our other dog is a Siberian Husky. Both are big babies. The scariest dog I've known is my parents' Jack Russell terrier. He is actually quite protective and I've seen him snap at my mom before. I don't like being around the dog, or having my 6yro daughter around him, and I'm a dog person.

I agree with other posters that people who want a "scary" dog will just find another breed to ruin. Any breed can be "bad." I think the owners should be held accountable.
posted by cass at 7:05 AM on February 3, 2006

Does this work?

Ah, amazing how all of the pit bull owners mail recipients come out in force to defend their precious 'pets' postal workers when some of us who have actually been attacked by a 'sweet' and 'loving' pit bull postal worker would not shed a single tear if every single one was rounded up and slaughtered.
Fuck pit bulls postal workers. I don't believe for one single second that "it's the owner environment, not the dog temperament." The one that went for my throat shot me was supposedly trained paid very well by owners employers that thought it she would do no harm. The damn animal postal worker simply went nuts one day.
Ban them. I won't miss the damn dogs mail one bit.

How about if we changed it to some racial epithet?
posted by effwerd at 8:01 AM on February 3, 2006

The Dogs as Guns analogy is weak, unless there's a pistol that is capable of going off even after being unloaded, trigger locked, and placed in a safe.

Um. I really doubt there are many dogs that can harm anyone when they're tranked, muzzled, and placed in a crate, which would be roughly analogous.

The analogy is still bad, though. Dogs are dogs. I won't worry until the dimwits and jackasses who want dangerous dogs start breeding D-wolves.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:17 AM on February 3, 2006

When the dogs are tranked, muzzled, and placed in a crate, that is. I imagine that even a feeble old Chinese Crested with no teeth could put a serious hurting on me if I were tranked, muzzled, and locked in a crate.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:19 AM on February 3, 2006

There are a lot of young thugs in my town who acquire, breed and parade pit bulls. When dog ownership is inconvenient, the dogs end up with a friend or at the shelter. These poor dogs are often not well trained or cared for. Bless the doglovers who adopt them. At the dog park, we've met a sweet pitbull. The gothpunk owners named him Chaos, and kept him intact. Maybe it will end well, but I don't like the odds.

I don't think banning breeds is effective, but I'd like to see insurance required. At 12, my son was attacked by a German shepherd. The dog leapt out of a truck. My son didn't see him until the dog was attacking, i.e., it was certainly not provoked. The family had young children, no $ to pay for my son's medical care, and kept the dog. Recipe for (another) disaster. Fortunately, The Boy still loves dogs, and the scars on his butt and thigh have faded.
posted by theora55 at 8:34 AM on February 3, 2006

Thump, thump.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:35 AM on February 3, 2006

ROU_X: Yeah, that was sloppy of me. I was referring to dogs who, despite training/good home/no history of violence, go nuts: "Well, Smackers never did that kind of thing before!"
Like you said, dogs are dogs - to seriously compare them to machines or ascribe human characteristics shows a complete disrespect for the animal.

Disclosure: To paraphrase Swift, while I have loved Suzy, Dodge, Laddie, and Chubby with all my heart, I really, really don't like dogs.

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:53 AM on February 3, 2006

I was referring to dogs who, despite training/good home/no history of violence, go nuts: "Well, Smackers never did that kind of thing before!"

This sort of thing almost never actually happens. It's almost never the case that a dog just "goes nuts" out of the blue, there are ALWAYS warning signs (except in a very few cases where there are certain medical problems), people just don't know or care what they might be. One of the best descriptions I've ever seen came from a book and I can't for the life of me remember which one (it's either Jean Donaldson, Pat Miller or Ian Dunbar), regardless, this description of bite threshold was perfect. Every dog has stressors which move them closer to their own personal bite threshold, even if each stressor individually would not provoke a bite, if you combine enough of those stressors, the threshold is crossed. If you learn to read even basic dog body language (which so few people do), you can recognize signs of stress, and then you can also learn to recognize the specific stressors to your dog and thus manage his environment appropriately. If your dog shows even mild signs of stress when, say, children run and scream, when someone comes near his food and when the Bill O'Reilly is on TV, even if each of these things taken individually are nowhere near enough to provoke a reaction, if you combine all three, the dog may well bite. There are easy ways to prevent such bites, but people seem to think that dogs are somehow so far beneath us that they don't even deserve those basic considerations, even if such consideration could prevent harm to another person. Or people think that they have their poor dog so terrified of them by doing stupid shit like "alpha rolls" or harsh punishments without actual training, that the dog would never DARE bite (there is also the worrying number of puppies taken away from their mothers far too early, when vitally important things like bite inhibition and pack dynamics are learned from mother and siblings during that 6-10 week old period). Wrong again. Many dogs who "go nuts" are dogs who've given PLENTY of warning signs that all is not well with them, the fact that their owners don't bother to learn how to recognize these signs doesn't reflect badly on the dog, it reflects badly on the owners. There are certainly many dogs which, for whatever reason, cannot live well or safely with people and as such should be put down, but most dog bites are a direct result of human ignorance or idiocy.

Many of the worst dog bites come from dogs who "never did that before", simply because people assume that a big happy silly friendly dog could never bite, even though it could have been clear that the dog found things x, y and z stressful, and that all of these things were present when the bite occurred.

We also inadvertently contribute to the danger in many ways. We punish dogs for growling, for example, rather than finding out the cause of the stress and working on modifying the dog's reactions to it - this takes away one of the most easily-human-recognizable warnings that a dog has. The problem isn't the growl, the problem is what makes the dog feel like it needs to warn you off. We allow children to interact with dogs in ways which place the child at risk for being bitten (tormenting the dog, running and screaming, playing with the dog's food, hugging and kissing the dog, being away from adult supervision, etc.). Irresponsible owners allow their dogs to roam freely or be in situations out of the owner's control (like dogs loose in pickup truck beds or cars with the windows open).

Dogs are a different species, with different motivations and a different language. I honestly think that if people don't want to learn at least the basics, then they just shouldn't own a dog. It's almost never the case that a responsibly managed dog owned by dog-educated people harms someone, it's nearly always dogs owned by ignorant, irresponsible or uncaring people that do the damage - and EVERYONE ends up paying for it. I myself will cross the street to avoid pit bulls sometimes, depending on what the dog-owner dynamic looks like to me, and always if I have my dog with me - but this is not a reflection on the pit bull as it is a reflection on the sorts of people who've ruined them over the last few years.

And incidentally, I say it's a killer, and once it's tasted prey or kills like that, it can't be taught otherwise. this is bollocks. There's no truth to the idea that dogs which hunt or eat raw prey are somehow "vicious" or "have a taste for blood", dogs are predators, hunting and eating their prey is normal, they are also pack animals, living peacefully in a group is also normal. So performing one natural behaviour (hunting) has no bearing whatsoever on the other natural behaviour (how they interact with people).
posted by biscotti at 9:42 AM on February 3, 2006

theora55, the problem with that suggestion -- make owners of large breeds like German shepherds take out extra insurance -- is that dogs within the breed vary greatly.

For example, my family raised German shepherds to be Seeing Eye dogs, which have to be exceptional in all ways, but particularly in calmness and friendliness. They can be large (although the foundation tries to breed 'em small enough to fit under desks), and they have to be out and about to be socialized.

These German shepherds are amazingly intelligent, kind, calm, and friendly -- they have to be; it's their job. But on paper, the insurance company is going to see "German shepherd, large/vicious breed, must pay lots extra." This wouldn't be a problem just for puppy trainers, but also for the blind people who are the recipients.
posted by booksandlibretti at 10:38 AM on February 3, 2006

B&L, it was a German Shepherd that attacked my son. It's better than requiring a muzzle, or banning some dogs. Dog owners should be responsible for the consequences of their dog's behavior. Actuaries are really good at assessing risk. If you had to buy insurance proportionate to the likelihood that your dog might hurt somebody, you might think twice.

I've met several German shepherds that I like, I have a dog, and I really like dogs, but many dog owners are irresponsible, and it's crummy.
posted by theora55 at 8:20 PM on February 3, 2006

Yes, I saw that it was a German shepherd that attacked your son -- that fact is actually what made me speak up, since they're the breed I have the most experience with.

But I think the problem with your suggestion is that the discrepancy is so wide even within breeds. You met up with a vicious German shepherd, maybe one indirectly bred to be a junkyard or attack dog; my family trained friendly, kind German shepherds carefully bred for generations to be intelligent and calm. On paper they belong to the same breed. But the difference is so large that failing to distinguish between the dogs seems to make the suggestion a bit pointless.

I think a better solution is to try to prevent, or legislate (whether by banning or by increasing insurance or whatever) against, specific vicious dogs -- or even better, against irresponsible owners -- and not against certain entire breeds. And until we work out a solution for that, I'm all in favor of leash laws.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:37 PM on February 3, 2006

this law is exactly what it should be. It identifies a problem, and allows enforcement enough leeway that people can't get around the rule with sophistry.

There will be little controversy about this law in Canada I would expect, because Canadians in general have a pretty straightforward idea about the balance of individual rights and societal rights:

1) You should generally have the freedom to do things that don't harm other people, even if other people don't like those things.

2) You should generally not have the freedom to do things that have a high potential to harm other people, even if you really like those things and have apparently convinced yourself that you yourself aren't intending to harm other people.

No one cares that the law is not exactly specific because we all know what the purpose of the law is.
posted by lastobelus at 10:52 AM on February 4, 2006

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