Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pit Bull From Hell

For Carter, it could have been worse. Others are not so lucky.
The monster burst through the wooden fence like it was made of paper, grabbed my dog by the neck and would not let go for what seemed like forever. I beat it over its thick skull with a hunk of wood, to no avail, while my terrified children screamed and scattered in panic. In the end, one neighbor ran over and attacked it with a rake until it finally relinquished its hold on my limp, unconscious pooch and fled loose into the neighborhood.

Other neighbors gave me a lift to my home a few blocks away and I drove back, scooped Carter into the back seat and got him to a 24-hour pet hospital, where he lies recovering at this hour.

Over the past five years, a pit bull has killed a human every three weeks. Last year there were 33 fatal dog attacks on humans, and pit bulls were responsible for two-thirds of them. Or rather, their owners were responsible. To own a dog that is bred to be a lethal weapon is no casual matter, though plenty of people treat it as such. As the Dog Bite Law Center puts it:
...the owners use them as tools of intimidation, or wield totally inadequate or no control over them, leading to bites, maulings and deaths in areas with enough social ills. Additionally a large subculture (recently exposured when NFL star quarterback Michael Vick was indicted for promoting dog fighting operations) has grown up around these dogs that enjoys the spectacle of dogs ripping each other apart. Fighting skill, power, cool, hipness of "Pits" are concepts that have engaged the popular imagination and led to the proliferation of Pit Bulls as pets in otherwise sane and healthy America.
Breeder Ed Frawley describes the responsibilities inherent in ownership of these breeds:
When properly raised, when pack structure has been established, when they have been obedience trained and socialized they are great family pets. Unfortunately there are many people in our society who ignore these very important responsibilities and the results are often catastrophic. 
Unfortunately many other [pit bulls] become rank dangerous animals mostly because their owners have never established pack structure with their dogs. 
This is a breed of dog that requires a solid foundation in pack structure. When irresponsible owners ignore pack behavior, rank drive issues and obedience training their dogs often become dangerous animals.
I have had countless neighbors over the years who treat their dogs like pieces of furniture, never giving them walks, training or proper care, leaving them in the yard to bark forlornly day and night. When you combine that with the desire to own one of these trendy breeds, for whatever motivation, the result is the kind of nightmare my family experienced last night.

We were among the lucky ones. Carter is going to recover, and none of us were attacked. Others are not so fortunate. Of last year's victims of fatal dog attacks, 60% were children - and three-quarters of those were under the age of four.

My kids will recover, too, and we spent a sweet half hour visiting Carter in the hospital this morning. But they have forever lost the illusion of living in a safe and benevolent world. Of course, we all lose that illusion – some gradually, and some more abruptly. But we all have the responsibility to keep our world from being any more dangerous and malevolent than it needs to be.

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