News reports these past few weeks have been hard for dog lovers in our area. The media have placed pit bulls on center stage once again in regard to the tragic and preventable death of a woman in Kansas City. Even in our own backyards, it seems, no one is safe from vicious dog attacks.
All good citizens wish this these attacks could be avoided, and all of us wish we had at our disposal a means of stopping this problem.
But at the risk of disturbing those Kansans who are working to institute a ban against pit bulls, the Lawrence Humane Society would again like to state our position in regard to these situations: We stand opposed to breed bans based on the abundance of statistics that show these bans are simply not effective.
We choose to stand behind such legislation as vicious dog laws and anti-tethering ordinances that have better proven success when it comes to protecting our county's citizens.
It comes down to the simple fact that the problem with vicious dogs lies with the owners, not with the breeds themselves.
Think about what is perhaps the most endearing trait of the domesticated dog: his willingness to please. Dogs learn what the alpha member of their pack considers acceptable or desirable behavior by such cues as receiving verbal praise, affection or food. If, from puppyhood, an animal raised with little food or water is rewarded with basic sustenance for his extremely aggressive behavior, isn't it logical that this animal will continue to act this way to receive what he needs to survive? He is doing what obviously pleases his master.
Accelerate this situation by using this training method on a breed that is strong-jawed and powerfully built, and it's basically the same as handing a terrorist bomb builder his own private stash of plutonium.
Who is really the offender in these situations? It's not the dog, who is what he is biologically. It's the owner who has raised him in unthinkable conditions, who works to strengthen his muscle mass and jaw power, who teaches him to attack anything that moves.
These ignorant, lowbrow abusers are creating weapons that can detonate at any moment, provoked or not. These idiots can do it to pit bulls or German shepherds, rottweilers or chows, or - guess what - other breeds, like golden retrievers, miniature poodles or Pomeranians.
It simply doesn't matter what breed is being abused. ANY breed will respond to abusive training methods by becoming vicious and attacking at will. It's entirely up to the owner to determine how the dog will turn out. It's up to the owner to raise a well-adjusted animal who can be kept under control.
So if a city bans pit bulls today, will it ban another breed tomorrow? One town in Kansas is trying it. They've already banned four breeds and are standing ready, ordinance in hand, to ban the next breed that bites someone.
Based on that logic, let's see: I know a dachshund who nipped me on the ankle last year, and that's the same breed that tried to bite me once when I was a little kid. Sounds like a pattern to me. Ban them?
No. Banning is simply not the answer. And we're seeing this from statistics. Since Lawrence and Douglas County put dangerous dog, vicious dog and anti-tethering ordinances on the books, Animal Control and the Lawrence Humane Society have recorded a notable reduction in the numbers of reported bite cases, the numbers of cruelty and neglect cases, and the numbers of calls regarding vicious or aggressive dogs.
Our legislation has put the responsibility where it belongs: on the owners.
Kansas City has the ban, but their animal control officers report knowledge of hundreds of pit bulls and mixes living in their jurisdiction. No one has that much time to go after every dog who fits the description. Topeka tried the pit bull ban and ultimately had to rescind the ordinance because they simply could not afford the man-hours needed to chase down every animal.
Think about it logically: If you worked for the city and received reports of both vicious dogs threatening people and sightings of pit bulls sitting in their own backyards, how would you prioritize the calls? Certainly the most immediate need would be the active threats. Backed by a vicious dog ordinance, you as a servant of the city could do the most immediate good by taking the vicious dogs and arresting and fining their owners, not by removing an animal who may in fact have been lovingly raised and is a perfectly fine family pet.
Is every town that institutes a pit bull ban confident that it can remove every single pit bull in its jurisdiction? Are these towns confident that in this litigious culture, they can do their job with 100 percent efficiency so they will remain free of lawsuits should they miss that one dog who bites or attacks? Can any town afford even one such lawsuit? Should any town even be promising that it can by instituting such a ban?
We at the Lawrence Humane Society stand by our belief that owners bear the responsibility for their animals. If an animal has been raised to respond so viciously that the owner cannot assure us that he or she can without question control that animal, then we have a problem. That owner needs to be held accountable, and that animal needs to be taken away.
We again ask you to help the Lawrence Humane Society keep Douglas County safe. We will investigate all calls made to us regarding mistreated or vicious animals. If you know of any such situation, call us at 843-6835. All reports will be confidential.