By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT
I'm taking opportunity of the Pitbull Awareness Month's last week to address the public, dog professionals, but more specifically politicians and legislators. I'm going to use the term pitbull in this article only because people have convinced themselves there's such a breed. Should you feel the need to revisit what is, or should I say isn't, a pitbull, you can click here and here.
False Sense of Safety
I want to address the fact that out of the thousands of dog bites each year in Canada, only a small percentage of them make the news, and out of the hundreds of headlines only a handful of breeds, other than pitbull, are actually mentioned in the report.
This breed bias has brainwashed a population into believing only one breed of dog is dangerous. Has it not yet come to your attentions that there's something wrong with that belief? Don't you find it strange that law makers blame only one breed of dog as responsible for all dog bites? In all honesty, do you really feel safer because one breed of dog has been labelled for extermination?
In a world without pitbulls, will news reporters still cover dog bites? Surely there's nothing wrong with a Labrador, Border Collie, or Jack Russel bite. What about doodle and those mug crosses, that can only be categorised as funny or cute, right? There's nothing to say about a 20lbs or less dog bite because there's no damage, no blood, no drama.
That being sarcastically said, I do see a problem. A two year old child doesn't need to experience a pitbull bite to fear dogs for the rest of his or her life; the family Shit Tzu can do the job just fine. There's no breed specific legislation in the human psyche. Fear is fear and to undermine a human's emotions based on size or breed of dog is simply heartless, ignorant, and apathetic.
Fear or Be Feared
I contacted our borough last year to ask how many people actually complained about pitbulls bites towards people or other animals in order to give a municipality enough data to create such a law. Do you want to know the answer? Three! Three people presented themselves at a municipal hearing and complained about pitbulls. Of these three people, none had actually been bitten by a dog, let alone dogs. Legislation is about responding to people's fear. You would think legislators consulted with canine professionals before they passed laws; nothing could be further from the truth.
I'm calling out all levels of government to please consult dog professionals before you decide to pass a law under the false pretence that it will keep people safe. BSL does not reduce the number of dog bites, education does. Instead of implementing changes that will destroy human and animal lives, why not make education mandatory.
We can educate people about their responsibilities as pet owners, we can offer mandatory first level training, police can enforce leash laws, dogs can be neutered to make sure backyard breeders cease to generate poor canine specimens. An educational approach would create an entirely new sector of employment in which dog trainers and veterinarians would be solicited for both physical and mental health.
My vision is one of understanding and empathy, not of fear and aggression from people who don't know, or should I say refuse to realise that a dog, is a dog, is a dog, regardless of its breed. I wish I had one hour with one political leader to demonstrate the knowledge we possess about dog behaviour, cognition, and training. We can educate people, and together we can implement a new management approach strategically aimed at preventing dog bites. Anybody up for the challenge?