In Ohio, a seven-month-old boy was mauled to death by a pit bull Sunday afternoon while in the care of his grandmother. In Florida, a four-year-old boy was killed by two pit bulls Saturday evening, when he wandered into the backyard where they were crated. Pit bull owners and lovers will still insist that the dogs are not innately dangerous. They will insist that these deaths are purely the responsibility of the owners of the dogs and the parents of the children. My question to these people is – how do we remedy this situation? How do we stop this from happening time and time again?
There have been few details released surrounding the death of the seven-month-old. We know he was in the care of his grandmother, and we know that she frantically brought the bloodied baby to a neighbor’s house for help. The man told 911 operators, “She just knocked on my door, banging on my door. She had a baby in her hands. The baby’s not breathing. You need to get here now.” The four-year-old was left alone in the living room with a bowl of ice cream Saturday evening while his mother visited with relatives in a back room. He wandered outside and must have unlatched the crates on his own:
The adults heard the screams, as did two Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies who had a car pulled over 100 yards away.
By the time everyone converged, there was little anyone could do. The boy’s uncle, Billy Frederick Sr., surrendered the dogs to authorities after returning them to their crates.
When these stories surface, there is a general angst by pit bull advocates directed at the media for covering these crimes and naming the breed. Pit bull advocates insist that it is impossible to accurately identify a pit bull by appearance and that many of these stories are trumped up for hype. At the same time, they are comfortable insisting that over a million pit bulls will be killed every year in shelters – in part due to media coverage and the bad rap the breed gets. So it’s impossible to identify the breed for the purpose of reporting a mauling, but not for the purpose of drumming up concern that the dog is being unfairly targeted and killed.
Pit bulls are responsible for over 62% of dog bite fatalities but comprise roughly five percent of the dog population. These are statistics that are always argued pit bull advocates, and we always find ourselves back at the argument that it’s not pit bulls but their owners who are the problem. The problem is, pit bull advocates are also against breed specific legislation which may help curb these violent attacks because they feel the dogs will be unfairly stereotyped and more responsible owners will shy away from adopting them. Their argument that it is not effective has in fact shown to be true in the few counties where it was enforced. So what do we do?
The ASPCA notes:
- More than 70 percent of all dog bite cases involve unneutered male dogs.
- An unneutered male dog is 2.6 times more likely to bite than is a neutered dog.
- A chained or tethered dog is 2.8 times more likely to bite than a dog who is not chained or tethered.
- 97 percent of dogs involved in fatal dog attacks in 2006 were not spayed/neutered:
- 78 percent were maintained not as pets, but rather for guarding, image enhancement, fighting or breeding.
- 84 percent were maintained by reckless owners””these dogs were abused or neglected, not humanely controlled or contained, or allowed to interact with children unsupervised.
If reckless owners and unneutered dogs really are the problem – there has to be a way to enforce neutering. Pasadena is trying it now, with an ordinance that requires all pit bulls over four months old to be spayed or neutered unless the dog qualifies for an exemption: “The first violation would be an infraction. Any subsequent violations would be a misdemeanor.” There has to be some common ground where we can admit that pit bulls are disproportionately dangerous breeds when cared for by the wrong people. I don’t want pit bulls to have a bad rap anymore than anyone else does; I don’t hate animals. I do want children to stop dying.
It may leave a bad taste in the mouth of a pit bull advocate when the media covers these attacks they feel drum up negative hype around the breed. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when people seem to care more about keeping a breed of dog safe than keeping a child safe. There has to be some middle ground here.