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Barbara Kay: If you can only love a pit bull, you don’t really love dogs
Barbara Kay April 28, 2014
On Sunday, “Cali,”an Ottawa toddler, was rushed to hospital after being mauled by a dog. The Ottawa Paramedic Service described the wounds as “multiple, severe lacerations to the face,” with reports suggesting the dog bit her nose off and savaged other parts of her face down to the bone.
A 14-month-old girl is recovering in hospital after a pit bull terrier attacked her inside an Ottawa home and had to be pried from her face.
Cali Leclair was rushed to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in serious but stable condition Sunday morning after being freed from the dog’s grip.
Neighbours said the toddler’s father, Tanner Longworth, had to wedge the animal’s jaws open with his hands.
The girl’s desperate mother, Christine Leclair, had been unable to free her daughter, who was attacked after moving to pet the black pit bull named Boss.
The dog had just joined the family.
The culprit was a pit bull. Of course.. Such drastic damage to a child is rarely associated with any other single breed. Indeed, apart from the Rottweiler, another breed genetically inclined to impulsive aggression, the pit bull is overwhelmingly implicated in human maulings, maimings, dismemberments and dogbite-related fatalities.
The attack, launched without provocation on the dog’s second day in Cali’s home, was unexpected, as pit bull attacks generally are. But not entirely unpredictable, since according to a neighbor, the dog had previously bitten another baby on the face. Apparently the dog’s owner didn’t want the dog put down, so Cali’s mother, an experienced dog owner, offered to keep the dog to rehabilitate it.
That was a mistake. Once pit bulls have bitten, they are at especially high risk for re-offending. The problem doesn’t lie in the dog’s lack of socialization, but in its genes. Other breeds must be near-feral – like some northern huskies – to present anything like the domesticated pit bull’s risk for random violence.
So what triggered the assault on Cali we will never know. It was fortunate Cali’s father was able to pry open the dog’s jaws, or the attack could have been fatal.
Most people are unaware of how inherently dangerous pit bulls are, because they tend to ravage or kill other animals far more frequently than humans. In 2013 North American pit bulls killed 43,000 companion and domestic animals, including cows and horses, which gives you an idea of their fearlessness and brute power. That their human victims “only” number in the hundreds should not give them a pass. Before the dramatic escalation in pit bull numbers in recent decades, any dogbite-related human fatality was virtually unheard-of.
The pit bull is noteworthy in that it attacks adults almost as frequently as it does children, an extremely rare phenomenon in other breeds. Being small, children are particularly vulnerable to gruesome facial attacks like the one on Cali.
Statistics don’t lie. Pit bulls, which are now, alarmingly, the second most popular breed (Labrador retrievers remain first), comprising 9% of the breed population, account for:
• 81% of attacks that induce bodily harm
• 76% of attacks to children
• 87% of attack to adults
• 72% of attacks resulting in fatalities
• 81% that result in maiming
According to the annual report on dog maulings, maimings, dismemberments and fatalities by breed, continually updated by American investigative journalist Merritt Clifton, as well as from statistics compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of the victims killed by pit bulls are household members. Someone is killed in the U.S. by a pit bull every 14 days. One body part is severed and lost in a pit bull attack every 5.4 days.
As the numbers of pit bulls increase, so does the bloodletting, thanks to aggressive marketing by pit bull-inundated, but “canine-correct” humane shelters, which deplore “discrimination” against any single breed. More than 16% of dogs adopted from animal shelters are pit bulls, even though they represent only 3.3% of dogs advertised, which means shelters are “pushing” pit bulls at five times the rate of pit bulls chosen when there is no influence exerted. Shame on them.
A 2005 Ontario ban on the ownership, importation and breeding of pit bulls and their genetic clones (American Staffordshires are pit bulls with a benign 1979 name change) is observed more in the breach than the observance. I’ve seen many online ads for Ontario-bred pit bull puppies, for example, and I see pit bulls even in middle-class Toronto neighbourhoods. Nobody seems to be monitoring the situation. Perhaps this toddler’s horrific experience will be a wake-up call to apply the law with rigour. We must hope so.
Pit bulls are a consumer product and therefore a public health issue. We should indeed “discriminate” against them. For pit bulls are not like other dogs. They were artificially created in coarser times for the infliction of suffering and for no other reason. Any animal that instinctively attacks with such single-minded and random ferocity can, and quite properly should, be bred out.
There are 400 dog breeds to choose from. If you can only love a pit bull, you don’t really love dogs. Or people.