Thursday, May 24, 2007

Virginia's Ban on Breed Bans

Virginia is pretty backward in some areas, pretty progressive in others, and dead on the money at least some of the time.

For evidence of this last fact, take a peak at Virginia's dangerous dog law.

Virginia Statute 3.1-796.93 says that any county, city or town can enact an ordinance regulating dangerous and vicious dogs, BUT:

"No canine or canine crossbreed shall be found to be a dangerous dog or vicious dog solely because it is a particular breed, nor is the ownership of a particular breed of canine or canine crossbreed prohibited . . ."

Bingo. Virginia has banned all breed-specific canine bans. Yes, yes -- go ahead and diagram that sentence.

Virginia law demands that every dog be judged on its individual character rather than on knee-jerk prejudices or water-cooler stories.

You would think this law is just common sense, but common sense is not that common when it comes to debates about "dangerous" breeds.

On the one hand you have some people who think every pit bull, rottweiler or doberman should be put to sleep upon identification.

On the other hand you have a few radicalized pit bull, rottweiler and doberman owners who think every badly broken dog should be given an "opportunity" to be loved back to mental health.

Both sides are equally ideological and equally reactionary.

Virginia's position is that every dog should be judged as an individual. That means that while no dog should be doomed to death simply because of the way it looks, a very tough hand is necessary in cases where a dog has attacked a human or (except under specified special circumstances) another dog.

Virginia holds that while all dog owners have rights, they also have responsibilities. Common sense says this is particularly true for owners of large breed dogs historically used for protection or catch-dog purposes.

All breeds, but herding and molosser breeds in particular, contain powerful bits of genetic code within them. That genetic code means that a responsible owner needs to have a large yard with a high fence, or a secure kennel, and the time to give his or her dog excercise and consistent training on a daily basis.

Sadly, there are not enough owners that fit these requirements, and too many large dominant dogs of all types continue to be bred.

The result of this numerical imbalance is that large numbers of hard-to-place molosser breeds (mostly young pit bulls) are ending up in shelters where they are often quickly euthenized.

Pit bull lovers are often outraged when this occurs, yet these same pit bull lovers are often of guilty of glamorizing and romanticizing their dogs as "valiant gladiators" and "loyal guardians" with storied pasts and intricate and important pedigrees.

In fact, most of what is said in these potted histories is complete and utter nonsense.

Yet it is deadly nonsense for the dogs, as it attracts all sort of knuckle-draggers and wanna-be tough guys who too often end up as poor guardians of powerful dogs that can live a dozen years or more.

Bottom line: The pit bull is not a dog that needs a breed ban; it is a dog that needs to be unsold by the people that love it.

You want to help pit bulls? Here's a suggestion: Ask people to take down all the potted romantic histories that litter the internet, and instead replace that nonsense with detailed information about how long these dogs live, how much time an owner will spend picking up huge dog turds in the back yard, how much furniture a single bored dog can chew up, how hard it is to find a landlord that will let you rent a house or apartment with one, how much veterinary care and food for such a dog will cost over its life, and how they attract police attention worse that a Grateful Dead sticker on the back of a purple VW microbus.

Make these dogs uncool, and paint them as being a lot of trouble.

You will not be lying, and you will almost certainly be saving the life of a dog or two.

Other posts along this line from this blog:

Isabelle Dinoire of France had the world's first face transplant
after a dog ripped off her nose, lips and chin. The dog?
Her very own Labrador Retriever.


Peggy Merrill said...

Here's hoping i have figured out how to post a comment to your blog at last, computer-illiterate old fogey that i am. If it does not seem to work i will send you the comment by email, as i have done before.
This column touches on a matter close to my own heart, in that the dog snoring on my couch at this very moment is a 6 month old backyard bred pitbull bitch fresh from her spaying operation. Grace is the 3rd of her kind that i have owned, and the first 2 lived in Arlington, Virginia. There was then no such enlightened law as you describe. I am delighted to hear of it and i fervently hope it takes hold in more places, including my home state of Maine, where Grace and myself now reside.
You are also right on about the types that infest the "pitbull scene", if you will, at the present time. And about the gross distortions imposed on this breed by the showdog breeders. Grace is not, so far as i can determine, related to any showdog lines. I have met both her parents and while they totally lack any vestige of pedigree papers, they are both cheerful, outgoing housedogs, rather boisterous of course, but with normal friendly pitbull personalities. They both resemble the catchdog model rather than the squatty bullfrog looking type, and Grace seems likely to resemble them.
How i wish there would be a public relations program like the one you describe for Jack Russels. You are entirely correct about the drawbacks of owning the bully breeds, and pitbulls in particular. The only thing i could add is that owning one of these dogs has some resemblance to owning a shotgun. A person without the knowhow and the willingness to train these dogs to be citizens rather than yahoos ought not to have them.
Peggy Merrill

LabRat said...

I've put TONS of work into socializing and training my Akita.

Typical response "He's magnificent! And so well-behaved! I want one!"

I'm still trying to find the right balance of frankness and politeness in replying "Oh NO YOU DON'T..."

Not that I regret getting him, or my choice in breed- he IS awesome for our family. Our calm, assertive, knowledgeable-about-Nordics, knowledgeable-about-guarding-breeds family.

My nightmare is that there'll be one in a major feature film. (Aside from Rent, and in that movie it was cool to KILL one.)

kabbage said...

Labrat, I feel your pain. I have an Australian shepherd and a Belgian Malinois, and I strongly recommend to people that they do NOT get either of these breeds unless they have a lot of time (like 3-4 hours per day for the first several years) and energy and can handle moving as a group around the house, even into the bathroom. I love both dogs dearly, but they are a lifestyle, not a family accessory.

LabRat said...

Oooh, I feel for you too, especially with the Aussies- I've seen them touted as "perfect family dogs" so many times and have known enough to know that's just NOT true.

Tons of trainers and performance people I know have them (Aussies and Mals both)... what really amuses me is that we (them as a group and I) are in total agreement that each other's chosen breed(s) are challenges way over our respective heads.