I'm going to appologize in advance on this one. This post may be a little hard for some to read -- but I feel like it's a topic that needs to be covered. If you don't deal with stories about animal cruelty well, you may not want to read this post.
Yesterday, a story came out in the Dallas Morning News about two 'pit bull' type dogs that were literally set ablaze by two teenage boys and ended up running out in traffic while on fire. The dogs (one is pictured left) were burned so badly they had to be euthanized.
It's a horrific story. But one that is sadly, not all that uncommon.
Stories about animal cruelty are quite common.
This morning,WBIR (Knoxville) had a story about a 'pit bull' that is recovering after being drug behind a truck. The dog was tied to the bumper of the truck, the owner forgot about him, and drug him for over a mile down the road.
You get the idea. For as much press as dogs attacking people get in the headlines, people continue to be significantly more dangerous to dogs than vice versa.
The crazy thing is that 'pit bulls are SO overly represented in these cases -- or at least, so it seems.
So I went over to Pet-Abuse.com, to see what I could find out. The site, has a database of nearly 15,000 animal cruelty cases that they have found over the past several years. In their database, they have 7,274 cases that involve "non-pit bull type" dogs, and 1,717 cases involving 'pit bulls'. So of the 8,991 dog abuse cases in their database, 20% of the cases involve 'pit bulls'.
But no one should be terribly surprised by this. It appears that there are certain segments of the population that don't share the compassion for animals that the majority in society share. There are unfortunately a lot of people, often in poor neighborhoods, that are lucky to be able to fend for themselves, let alone for a dog. They also don't seem to have the same respect for "life", that I, and many of the readers here, share.
It doesn't necessarily make them bad people (although some are) -- that's just what they know.
It then should be a surprise, that two dogs that were found on fire two days ago, were found that way in a poorer area of Dallas, in a zip code where the average household income is 28% less than the average household income in the state of Texas -- in spite of the the average household having 30% more people living in them. 26% of the people live below the poverty level -- 10% of them live more than 50% below the poverty level.
These lower-income, lower-educated neighborhoods, tend to be the places where a lot of the major abuse cases happen. They also tend to be the places where a large number of the major dog bites happen.
It probably isn't a coincidence.
For years, those who know canine behavior have been preaching that we have to make the focus of canine laws on how dogs are raised, and not on breeds. I mean, really, if someone's teenage children think so little of an animal that they would set it on fire, do we really think they would treat the animal in a way that it wouldn't act aggressively if pushed? Do we think it matters what breed of dog it is?
Until we start focusing on educating people on how dogs are cared for and socialized, we are going to continue to have a, albeit relatively small, problem with dog bites and attacks. Because a certain type of dog tends to be popular in certain neighborhoods (if for no other reason than because they are plentiful and inexpensive to get), does not change what the root causes of attacks are.
The root causes remain the same: poorly cared for and unsocialized dogs, dogs used as guard dogs, and dogs that are left alone with young children.
Breed is not.
Can we start having real conversations about this yet? Let's start addressing the canine ownership issues that exist in our society. It will be infinitely better for the dogs....and it will make things safer for people too.