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« KCMO Hearing on Shelter Privatization | Main | UK Dangerous Dogs Act = Fail »

February 10, 2009



Brent said, 'We must bring proper education in canine behavior and ownership back into the equation. In the end, it will be better for the dogs, better for the owners, and better for the children'.

Brent, I totally agree w/ almost every point you have made and I believe they are all significant.

HOWEVER, regarding the first case -- the severe neglect and abuse -- I cannot agree. This person needs a helluva lot more than education. This person was a lot more than negligent -- over and over and OVER.

I can understand (almost) not caring about dogs. BUT WHY would a person like this continue to aquire dogs when they CLEARLY don't give half a hoot about them??

I believe this is a serious criminal in the making. Well, I take that back, he already IS a criminal. But what I mean is that he just hasn't had the guts to carry out his abuse on humans yet. He's so gutless, he carries it out on poor, defenseless dogs.

He is not merely stupid. He is a bad, mean and cruel person.



I don't disagree with you that the first case is different from the other three. My problem with the situation is that just taking the man's dog away from him was clearly not adequate -- it just caused him to get another dog, abuse it, and so forth. Just taking a dog from someone like that is not punishment -- except for the dogs, and the future dogs.


I agree w/ you there, Brent. 100%!

btw, I honestly wasn't picking an argument w/ you regarding this guy -- I knew you weren't defending him. Mainly, I just wanted to comment on him.


Bravo! This is a very important point - trying to punish people into changing their behavior tends to just make them conceal the behavior. This is why increasingly onerous pet laws (whether pet limits, BSL, MSN, whatever) generally seem to have the effect of reducing licensing and possibly reducing vaccination too.


Excellent piece, Brent. I'd like to see this in a mainstream paper because it's a message that should be heard.


Good points, yet this is a far greater socio-cultural issue...and dogs are one symptom. People are now in too big a rush, no time, they want instant results, they want a risk free life.....and they want the government to make certain they have no risk.
And too many people are clueless about dog behavior. This recent article in JAVMA discusses how little even dog owners know about safety of dogs around children. Few people seem to understand. They believe if perfectly safe for the "family dog" to be around young children without supervision.

J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2008 Nov 1;233(9):1412-9.Click here to read Links
Effects of gender and parental status on knowledge and attitudes of dog owners regarding dog aggression toward children.
Reisner IR, Shofer FS.

Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the effects of gender and parental status of dog owners on knowledge of and attitudes toward factors associated with dog aggression directed toward children. DESIGN: Prevalence survey. POPULATION: 804 dog owners. PROCEDURES: A questionnaire was distributed to owners of all dogs examined at a university veterinary hospital between January and April 2007. Respondents were asked to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with 37 statements regarding dog behavior and safety practices for dog-child interactions. Responses were compared between women and men and between parents and nonparents. RESULTS: Of 804 questionnaires that were completed, 421 (52%) were completed by parents and 598 (74%) were completed by women. There was a general lack of knowledge regarding dog behavior and safety practices for dog-child interactions. Women were more knowledgeable than men, regardless of parental status. Mothers were more knowledgeable than fathers and female nonparents regarding interactions with young children and had greater awareness than female nonparents and males (regardless of parental status) regarding interactions with infants and toddlers. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Results suggested that dog owners frequently had only limited knowledge of dog behavior and often were unaware of factors that increased the risk of dog bites to children. The veterinary examination presents an important opportunity for education of dog owners regarding dog behavior, including body language, social signals, resource-guarding, and self-defense, and the risks of dog bites to infants and young children.

In addition....few people take the time to train their dogs. Only a small percentage of dog owners go through any formal training. Again, the refrain is too much effort and time. What studies there are show some efficacy with education programs targeted at young children AND the participation of their parents. All of this is a long term process. It is NOT something that is going to change overnight, in a few years, in 6 is going to take at least a generation of education to become effective. And certainly in the mean time, animal control laws that are effective and equitable are going to be required, not BSL.



Spot on, Brent. That's a really great post on something that's not brought up nearly enough. Good laws (not BSL) need to be backed up with good education. People need to know how to treat their dogs properly before they can be penalized for treating them improperly. Not to do so is unfair and unproductive. It would be like yelling "sit" at a dog that doesn't understand sit and then getting mad at it for not listening (yes I am comparing people to dogs). Education and the law need to reinforce each other. Neither on its own is enough.


Great post. One note, though: we need to take "discipline" out of the equation entirely when educating people about responsible dog ownership. Part of what needs to be addressed in educating dog owners is that "punishing" your dog is not an acceptable way to manage or control behavior, and (as we saw in Omaha) can have very unfortunate consequences for us humans, as well.


Excellent post!!!


Good post. I often hear people say things like, "we can't blame the dogs, we have to blame the owners." Well, that's true, but that isn't a solution.

Educating people is the beginning of a solution.


Check out this latest article about Nebraska lawmakers looking to toughen the dangerous dog laws statewide.
I especially like the quote from Sen. Steve Lathrop.

...Sen. Steve Lathrop said he worries that the bill may be too broad.
"We're trying to get to the guy who has the pit bull that tears an arm off or their scalp," Lathrop said. "(This bill) is so broad it can actually get the little yippy dog that tries to bite somebody." ...

For good measure, here is his contact information in case anyone would like to educate the senator.

Sen. Steve Lathrop
District 12
Room 2000
P.O. Box 94604
State Capitol
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2623


The only growth industry these days seems to be the manufacturing of bulls**t.

How do we get in on some of that action?


Selma - watching television I think perhaps we could start a bank, or perhaps a wall street firm. They seem to have a firm grasp on the concept of BS. But I digress...

To Brent's post - "At some point, we have to educate owners"

A study of Bill Bruce from Calgary, Alberta Animal Services is certainly worth the effort. You can look for information on him with a search on this blog as well as on Google. It is the key - you need someone in a position of power who has a vision of what could be, and understands which end of the leash the control is on.

"Bruce targets owners, rather than pets, saying "any animal that ends up in a shelter is there because the human end of the relationship failed."

The other posts here address important points. We know from training our dogs that punishement, while it _may_ work to get the behavior we want, also has many unintended effects, and there are far more effective and efficient ways to get it done. The same works for humans. We have to keep the animal safe, certainly, but we have to at least try. And the system we have - we pick up strays, keep them in a place that is far away, with hours so short that the average person cannot possibly get there every day to check. We then kill the dog. The person gets another from a neighbors unwanted litter, and it starts again. And, this may surprise you, nothing changes.

So the priority may be to educate municipalities and Animal Control.

It may not be easy. I just finished my first reading of a book "Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me" by a couple of top-ranked social psychologists. Their theory is that when the subject is made aware of a mistake it creates cognitive dissonance, and the brain's response is to create reasons to justify the wrong behavior, reinforcing itself because it feels GOOD. Lots of interesting research gives weight to this theory. You may want to change the way Animal Control works, but it is less painful, and perhaps self-reinforcing, for them to continue than to change. So if you want to effect change you may only have a couple of options - gain enough political power to replace them, or find some way to make it more reinforcing for them to continue their current action. (Hint - just proving that there is a far more effective process that will save money, be more humane, make the community safer, and have better results is probably going to be ineffective).

The book seeks to make you more aware of this tendency in yourself so as not to be so prone to fall victim to the trap, but is really short on addressing how to work against the tendency in other people.


Thank you for writing this. Animal lovers need to take back the narrative of these problems from the AR folks, who have tried their hardest to make it all about punishing 'evil owners' and talking about things like mandatory S/N as if all problems with pets in this country would be solved if all our pets were unable to reproduce. Such simplistic, pet-hostile beliefs do nothing to actually solve any of the problems pets face today.

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