Punish the deed, not the breed
I recently read Brian Buck’s response to Andrea Cordle’s recent article on pit bull type dogs in the Southeast Messenger and I am compelled to comment.
I am a veterinarian, a 2004 graduate of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, currently practicing small animal medicine in Columbus. Three of my four years of practice were spent in the Bronx, N.Y. and Long Island, N.Y. working in private practice and in local area animal shelters. I have worn many hats working in the veterinary field in New York City for approximately 16 years. My time in New York makes me uniquely qualified to respond to Mr. Buck’s letter since much of my practice involved treating pit bull type dogs for everything from routine vaccinations to wound repair incurred during dog fighting events. I have seen first hand the complete, unnecessary devastation of life and limb that irresponsible dog owners are capable of. I have seen these dogs torn apart, stabbed, burned, starved and even shot by their owners for not having "performed" well in the dog fight ring.
I have also seen how these same dogs respond to a loving hand that reaches out to help them. How even though they have been beaten within an inch of their lives by a human, they still have the trust to allow another human try to help them in their time of need.
I have also had many dog owners tell me that their Jack Russell Terrier, Chihuahua, German Shepherd, Chow Chow, mixed breed dog has bitten them, their friend, husband, delivery man, brother, child, etc., without any provocation. My point being that any dog can bite and cause damage or death.
Mr. Buck, I am sorry that you were dismayed by a pit bull type dog moving in next door to you, and I applaud you on your research on the breed. I personally would have been more concerned about the responsibility of the owners and whether or not their dogs had been vaccinated for rabies. However, let me correct a few of your comments regarding this matter. Dogs are pack animals. Any group of dogs are prone to pack instinct. Mixed breed dogs exhibit pack behavior, Chihuahuas exhibit pack behavior, you choose a breed and that breed, when put together with any other dogs in a pack situation will exhibit the same type of behavior. Also, the most famous last words of any dog owner whose dogs have been responsible for unprovoked attacks are almost always the same – "He/She has always been a good dog, I never thought he/she would hurt anyone." It makes no difference what breed the dog is.
I also applaud Mr. Buck for taking an active part in your community. However, by passing a containment law that pertains to one specific breed of dog, you are doing a disservice to your community. What about the other dogs in the area? Are they not just as capable of biting, maiming and causing harm? There are many studies available that show that the jaws of pit bull type dogs have no mechanical advantage over the jaws of other dog breeds. They do not lock their jaws. Dog jaws are not designed to lock into place after a bite. So any dog could cause just as much physical damage.
Would you not be as concerned if a Rottweiler, Chow or German Shepherd moved in next door…I know I would. The worst bite I have ever received was from a Yorkshire Terrier, and the worst bite I have ever seen was from a Golden Retriever.
I want address the data Mr. Buck refers to compiled by Merritt Clifton the editor of "Animal People." Mr. Cliftons data is, in my opinion, not complete. He is missing many breeds from his list of dogs including American Staffordshire Terrier and Bull Terrier, leading me to believe that his listing of pit bull terrier likely lumps many breeds into one category causing the number of bites to be artificially high. It also seems that Mr. Cliftons article reads more like an editorial letter than a research report. He invokes many of his opinions regarding many breeds instead of basing his findings on actual research. Also, much of his information regarding pit bulls is just simply false. He does however, state that breed specific legislation is problematic and difficult to enforce mostly because of the problems that exist in defining pit bull type dogs. He also goes on to say that publicizing the potentially hazardous nature (of certain dog breeds) tends to increase their popularity. He is absolutely right in this regard. These are two very important reasons why BSL does not work.
Mr. Buck is correct in saying that it is not enough for pit bull owners to say their dogs are nice or that they are good with children, and although Petey on the "Little Rascals" was an exceptional actor he was in fact a dog. But this should apply to every dog owner. Every dog owner thinks their dog is the cream of the crop. And we (yes I’m a dog owner also) all would like to think that our dog would never do anything to hurt anyone, but if we act irresponsibly the fact is that the possibility is there that it can and will happen.
Also, there is no way to determine if and when any dog will attack. As a veterinarian, my experience can tell me many things by analyzing a dog or cat’s body language. Little things like the tenseness in their limbs or the way their eyes move, how they look around or shift their feet can tell me how that animal is going to act and what their next move may be. But I can never let my guard down because I just never know which dog or cat will bite and when, or how severe that action will be.
You are correct in one of your comments Mr. Buck, most pit bulls do not attack humans. Just ask any of the pit bull rescue organizations out there…there are many. Or, browse the American Temperament Test Society 2007 Breed Statistics which show that 83.4 percent of American Staffordshire Terriers and 84.3 percent of American Pit Bull Terriers earned a passing grade in temperament testing. By the way, American Staffs scored a higher percentage than Golden Retrievers (84.2 percent) and higher than the dog du jour ala Westminster the Beagle (80.3 percent). Evidence is overwhelming that every dog can bite and cause harm. The media is focusing on pit bulls now, but in the 1970s the focus was German Shepherds, in the 1980s it was Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers. Focusing on one breed is not the answer.
Owning a pet is a privilege not a right. Dangerousness is a function of environment, upbringing and training, all of which is in the hands of the dog owner. What we see in the media is a product of fear due to lack of relevant knowledge on the part of the general public. If we all would put more of our energy into educating the public on responsible dog ownership, and cracking down on all owners that irresponsibly manage any dangerous dog, regardless of breed, we would have much less of a problem with dog bites, attacks and fatalities. Let’s all get involved to solve the real problems at hand.
As a veterinarian my focus is not just on healing my furry patients, but also educating owners on what they need to do to live a happy and healthy life with their pets. I would be remiss in thinking that singling out a specific breed as a scapegoat to all of our problems is the solution. Education and targeting the correct end of the leash will help us reach a solution. Punish the deed not the breed.
Mandi L. Maimone, DVM
A suggestion for CW schools
As a retired resident of the village of Canal Winchester, I wish to offer a few of my thoughts on future Canal Winchester school levies.
Retired residents represent a certain portion of the population that vote on school levies. I would suspect that the margin of failure for the past levies were due to these retired resident homeowners. We cannot afford the increase in property taxes. My 3 percent annual cost of living increase would not cover the amount the new millage would create.
I offer this thought for Canal Winchester school officials to consider – change the school district income tax to exclude retirement income.
The school district has the power to put to a vote on what the income tax is collected. Couple this with a new property tax levy that will only go into effect if retirement income is excluded from the income tax. That way, there will less of an effect on retired residents. It just may be enough votes to approve a property tax.
I commend Superintendent Kimberly Miller-Smith on the new cuts that will be forthcoming. Government, school districts and individuals have to watch spending in these uncertain times. I also agree with increased fees for pay-to-play. I do not have children. Those that use the system should pay more.
One thing I saw in a newspaper several months ago that irked me. When Hannah Montana came to Columbus, parents were spending all kinds of money to make a night for their children. There was one resident of Canal Winchester who reportedly spent over $400 for one night of entertainment. This included tickets, makeovers, dinner, etc. If there is that kind of money being spent, they can contribute for their child to play sports or go on an educational field trip.
Another thing has bothered me. There was an article in the newspaper before the November election. In the article, district officials were explaining how the school district lost over $800,000 since the State of Ohio is phasing out the personal property tax. What was not mentioned in the article was that the Ohio General Assembly made school districts whole of that loss by enacting the Commercial Activity Tax. I feel this was a deceptive ploy to encourage voters to pass the November levy. I would appreciate hearing all the facts concerning the situation of the school district.
And lastly, and I am sure school officials would agree with me on this one, is the lack of action by the Ohio General Assembly to fix the school funding issue. I am especially appalled by our representative, Larry Flowers, who just wants to sit back and watch what Governor Strickland has in mind. Obviously our lawmakers do not take seriously the four orders from the Ohio Supreme Court to resolve this issue. It is time to vote them all out.
Timothy J. Sachs
Madison Twp. police appreciated
So much of the time the wonderful service that is given to us by the Madison Township Police Department goes unrecognized, which is really a shame.
We want to thank the two officers and dispatcher from the Madison Township Police Department who recently answered our call for help in dealing with an intruder. The dispatcher kept me on the phone advising me what to do and not to do. She also kept us informed of the location of the police officers coming to answer our call.
Of course the situation terrified us, but the dispatcher was wonderful and I felt safe until the officers quickly arrived. The officers came to the door, identified themselves, and said what they were going to do. They quickly apprehended the suspect. The officers’ response was great.
The next day one of the officers stopped in to see us and check on how we were doing. He also brought us up to date on the incident. We cannot say enough about the wonderful job the officers do to protect us 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
We have lived in Madison Township most of our lives and we have always been satisfied and proud of the response and service the Madison Township police has always shown us, no matter what the problem, the response was wonderful, professional, and caring.
Warren and Polly Wheeler