When is a Pit Bull not a Pit Bull?
Right after it bites someone.
An example can be found just up the street from where I work, and it's as current as this morning's newspaper.
It seems two dogs attacked each other in the middle of a street fair.
The larger dog in question was thrown down a stairwell by local law enforcement and then shot. The owner of this dog told The Washington Post his dog was a Sharpei mix.
A Sharpei mix?
In fact, the dog is still listed on PetFinder as a Pit Bull-American Staffordshire Terrier mix.
And the owner clearly knew that.
Do I think this dog needed to be shot by the local police?
No! Not at all.
Of course not.
In my opinion, this officer should be fired for his actions, which includes drawing his service revolver in a crowded urban setting when no human life was actually at risk.
But do I think this dog deserved to be placed in better hands?
And do I think Pit Bull adoption should involve more owner education (and more screening) than seems to be going on at the Lucky Dog Rescue?
Which is not to say the Pit Bulls are evil.
It is to say, as Katherine Houpt, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell has noted:
"Different breeds have genetic predispositions to certain kinds of behavior, though that can be influenced by how they are raised. The pit bull is an innately aggressive breed, often owned by someone who wants an aggressive dog, so they're going to encourage it."
Pit Bulls are not evil. But they are also not "just like every other dog."
And, like it or not, they are way over-subscribed when it comes to serious canine violence in this country and around much of the world.
Breed-blind Pit Bull enthusiasts routinely claim that newspapers label any dog that bites a human or another dog a Pit Bull, and I have no doubt that a certain amount of this actually happens. But I also suspect that a lot less of this happens than some folks would have the world believe.
So once again, I issue a standing challenge: Here's the list of fatal dog attacks in the U.S. for the last five years, by year and alleged breed or type.
I challenge anyone go through the data, year by year, for any two-year period and prove (with pictures or veterinary records) that Pit Bulls are actually mis-identified to the point that the bottom-line conclusion changes.
A final note about Rottweilers. You will see they show up a lot too.
In my opinion, this is the "exception that proves the rule." You see, Rottweilers are simply another type of butcher's dog, and their history is very similar to the true history of Pit Bulls, Boxers and other molosser breeds.
There is a code inside these types of dogs, as Katherine Houpt suggests, and though it is not an unmanageable code (most Pit Bulls end up as terrific pets), we are ill-advised to deny or ignore it.