Hugh Wirth, a vet who I think has often been extreme on animal welfare matters, used to want American bull terriers banned and said they were " "lethal" and "time bombs waiting for the right circumstances". Now he's decided breeding bans don't work, but what's more incredible is this:
Mr Wirth says his change of heart was brought about by the latest veterinary and dog behaviour research.
"What I believed years ago, when I made those statements... was the common approach that even the veterinary profession was using," he said.I find this very hard to believe.
"Now that this research has been done and it's quite widespread we've discovered that our understanding of dogs and their behaviour was completely wrong."
Here's what my common sense tells me: some breeds are recognised by the public for good reason to be particularly dangerous, either in temperament generally, or as to the particular severity with which they will attack when they do attack. Give people a choice as to enter a yard with a King Charles Spaniel or an American Pit Bull, and tell me which yard they think would be safer to enter. Would you trust the person who says "well, contrary to popular belief, I consider the risk of harm equal."?
There are ways to spin statistics, and I would bet money that a credible case can readily be made out from statistics in various countries that certain breeds deserve banning due to their higher representation in severe bit incidents. Even if this results in the dogs being bred underground, the illegality of the activity is likely to make the owner much more careful about the exposure of the dog to the public in any event, and in that sense it is still partially effective.
Professional bodies can go off the rails and against good sense, and I reckon this is what has happened here. As someone else says in the article:
Graeme Smith of Victoria's Lost Dogs Home says the AVA's recommendations are a backward step.
"The old system of 'deed not breed' is a system that allows dogs one free bite," Mr Smith said.The people who want to breed such dogs always remind me of American gun nuts: full of excuses that aren't in the interests of the general public. In fact, they are even worse: it's not as if there aren't hundreds of other breeds they can get into.
"In the case of American Pit Bull terriers one free bite can often be a fatal bite.
"Ten years ago I wouldn't have been a breed specific person myself but I've seen what American Pit Bull terriers do and people are fearful of them and we need to protect the community from these dogs."
Update: speaking of Americans, I see that in Florida there is a vote happening to un-ban pit bulls, and with the support of the American Veterinary body too:
Other experts concur. In a recent report on dog-bite prevention, published in April, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the nation’s leading veterinary organization, concluded: “Owners of pit bull-type dogs deal with a strong breed stigma. However, controlled studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous.”
The report points out that pit bulls are not more prone to biting than breeds such as German shepherds, Rottweilers, Jack Russell terriers and even collies and St. Bernards, but some are made dangerous by owners who abuse them or use them for fighting. A pit bull's size and strength can make its attacks more lethal, but that also applies to other large dogs, the report said.
The AVMA concluded that because of the lack of solid data, "it is difficult to support the targeting of this breed as a basis for dog bite prevention."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees, offering this statement: “There is currently no accurate way to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.”Seems to me we are in "does marijuana cause schizophrenia" land here - where common sense in the public was ahead of the scientists who took a couple of decades to confirm that use of cannabis is indeed an issue for mental health, especially for teenagers.