Don’t Let It Go…Unheard #17

Should certain dangerous breeds of dogs be banned from densely populated areas? Why did U.S. Solicitor General Katyal mention Ayn Rand during his defense of Obamacare before the Eleventh Circuit? And more.

If you were unable to attend live and would like to hear this week’s webcast/podcast, click here, or you can access it via iTunes (link on the right-hand side of this web page >>>>>> ).

Thanks to all who participated live in this week’s webcast. Use the comments portion of this post to leave comments, and to suggest topics for next week. In particular, I’d love to hear listeners’ thoughts on the issue of breed-specific legislation banning or regulating the ownership of Pit Bulls. If you are enjoying the podcasts, don’t forget to “Like” the show’s page on Facebook (link on the right-hand side of this web page >>>>>), plus leave ratings and reviews in iTunes. Thanks!

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10 responses to “Don’t Let It Go…Unheard #17

  1. Re your statement “at the very least” muzzles should be required – – – at the very most is more appropriate – too much emotion expressed, Amy’s understandable, Daniel’s??? Since when did the size of a dog present a threat? I’m all for muzzling dogs. A muzzled dog is no more than a battering ram. Comparing dogs to types of weapons is also not valid – a machine gun may be subject to concern as it can be used to kill multiple people – a dog maybe one or two. . and what difference does population make? A dangerous dog is dangerous to one, maybe two people whether in NYC or a backwater.

    I fully agree, of course, that property owners have the right to dictate, but was surprised to hear that onerous regulations restricting movement/location of dogs would be raised here.

  2. Hi Jack, thanks for the feedback. Of course the problem here, as with so many issues, is the context. Today most of the land where these encounters take place is publicly owned. In a proper society, it would be the owners of shopping malls, streets, subdivisions, etc., who would determine what animals can be brought where and under what conditions. And I suspect many would choose to ban Pit Bulls, or have strict rules restricting their activity.

    I also think that the culture that would finally achieve a proper form of government would be one in which people made better decisions, on average, about what breeds of dog to adopt as pets, and about what training methods to use. So perhaps in such a society Pit Bulls would be owned only by those who took the steps necessary to prevent the dogs from acting aggressively.

    The difficult question, then, is figuring out what legislation to support today. And, while you’re right that a dog doesn’t pose a danger to as many people as does an automatic weapon, a dog poses a danger to those one or two people more frequently when there is less room to walk between you and the next person, as is the case in a densely populated city like New York.

    I look forward to hearing any further thoughts you (or others) have on this.

  3. My point is that a 20 pound 2 foot dog cannot, in any stretch of the imagination, do bodily harm to anyone. It is impossible – there is no threat. If the dog is150 pounds and 4 feet tall, even if it is a normally a peaceful breed, it is physically capable of hurting someone. Just because a dog is traditionally peaceful doesn’t mean it won’t attack people. It is an animal and has a will of its own. Therefore, since it is possible, it is a legitimate threat.

    So size and weight are relevant criteria. How does it make any sense to muzzle a bull-dog just because they are “meaner” when a Chao or Rotweiller can also harm someone?

    Going with my statements earlier, it is proven certain dogs poses a legtimate threat. The burden then rests on the citizen to prove he can mitigate this threat.

    To prove this, the threat has to be identified. In this case, it is a dog biting someone in public, since dogs don’t have claws. There is no other way it can hurt someone. The individual then must present a solution which makes it so the dog cannot bite someone. Muzzles completely remove the ability of a dog to bite. That, to me, is sufficient because it removes the threat, entirely.

    To make a case as to why a specific breed is more dangerous would require an expert scientific study – reviewed, tested, and proven – which none of us can engage in. A muzzle law would be far simpler and easier to enforce.

    And also extending my principal to the issue of population density, I agree this is irrelevant. The question is not how many people in the area, but can the owner present a propsoal which mitigates whatever threat his actions and property may pose. The burden of proof rests on him to present a means, and we can only evaluate his idea once he has proposed it.

    • Your idea that a 20 lb 2 ft dog is not a threat is incorrect Daniel. There was a news story a while back about a cocker spaniel who killed a toddler strapped into a car seat while the mother was driving down the road. While perhaps a tea cup yorkie or a chihuahua may not have the genetic chutzpa to cause too serious damage, there is a much wider continuum of potentially dangerous dog then I think you are recognizing.

      Also, I’m not sure how an owner can prove that he would be able to mitigate the potential threat of his dog. Even individual dogs who are properly trained and who have a long history of being nice, friendly pets have at times snapped and turned into vicious, dangerous animals.

  4. Amy, re the regulations, in the current environment I’m not opposed, just making the point that muzzles should be the maximum extent of these. Daniel, it looks like I might have misinterpreted what you said during the webcast – I concluded that you were for restricting movement of dogs of a certain size while you comment indicates it was rather that all large dogs should be restricted with muzzles. Size is not necessarily the issue – 2 cases – i was attacked once by pint sized dog that may not have had the ability for serious bodily harm, but its agility made it impossible for me to twist around and kick fast enough to avoid its very sharp teeth (a young child would have been more seriously injured than I was) and in the second case it was my own pint sized dog that attacked – in a completely unexpected incident, since she had shown no such propensity before, she attacked a 3 year old who was running after my 5 year old in my garden – a simple game that the dog interpreted as a signal to protect family. The attack was from behind and the child was thrown forward (battering ram!!) as she sunk her teeth into her backside.. So where’s the cutoff, if there is one, since a dog the size of, say a Shetland Sheepdog, can easily kill a toddler? Maybe there is none?.

  5. Amy, I was pleased that in the discussion you stressed the importance of properly training one’s dogs and understanding some of the common underlying causes of their behavior. However, I think it’s also to recognize the fact that not all pet owners are responsible pet owners, and that a certain level of caution around other people’s pets is prudent.

    My father owns a small veterinarian practice in eastern Montana. As children, my sister and I were expected to follow certain rules around unfamiliar dogs and were taught what to do when confronted with aggressive dogs. Basically, there were three rules: 1) Don’t try to pet or play with unfamiliar dogs (even if they are on a leash). 2) If a dog is behaving aggressive, cross your arms around your chest and back away slowly. 3) Don’t interfere with dog fights. Those were all I needed to avoid getting hurt and I’ve never been bitten.

    Even though I am no longer as vulnerable as I was as a child, I continue to follow these rules today. Occasionally, because I never interact with dogs I don’t know, people ask me if I’m afraid of dogs, if I have a bad history with dogs, etc.. These kinds of questions at first astonished me. But I’ve come to realized that people don’t have the same level of caution I was required to have as a child. I have often seen the good-natured father lifting his child up to pet the dog laying in the back of a stranger’s pickup in the grocery store’s parking lot. Or children pressing their arms over or through a fence to pet what looks like to be a nice dog. Or young children who run up to a dog on a leash, assuming they are friendly. My father has had to put down numerous dogs who have injured children in these kinds of circumstances.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that when a dog bites another or seriously injures another the owner must be held accountable (and that may require killing the dog). Responsible dog owners must do as much as possible (through training or through avoiding taking their dogs out in public or muzzling, putting down aggressive pets etc.) to mitigate potential threats. But a lot of these injuries could perhaps be avoided if people were a bit more cautious when it comes to unfamiliar dogs.

    In sum: A general level of awareness and caution among the populace may be, in the long run, more effective than any kind of legal or commercial restrictions.

    • You may be right, given the difficulty of developing objective criteria of which dogs pose a danger and under what circumstances (big city vs. rural, etc.). One addendum to the above: if there’s a dog fight that you have reason to want to break up (e.g., one between your dogs), and you have someone to help you do it, I heard the best way is to have each person lift up the two rear legs of one of the dogs. This is supposed to make the dogs feel off balance enough so they will let go of the other dog temporarily — long enough to get the dogs away from each other.

  6. A friend of mine just brought this article to my attention. A man was apparently killed by his own pet pit bull, in his home. The article says that his other pit bull was “chained” in some other part of the house, so you can only imagine how he treated his dogs.

    While I was there on Yahoo reading that story, Yahoo suggested this photo of a tiny infant next to a pit bull, obviously taken decades ago. The caption says the breed was thought of as a safe “nanny dog” due to its gentle disposition. So it really makes you wonder how much of this is nature, and how much nurture.

  7. A house cat and a lion are not in the same species: a Pit Bull and a Labrador are. If we are to use genetically determined behavioral characterizes *within the same species of animal* and intact laws based upon information, I have to question where this is going.

    If it is statically provable that a dog with a particular genetic characteristic should be banned as a threat, then why not apply this to humans. According FBI crime data, it is statistically provable that blacks are presupposed to a type of behavior. Now what?

    Pit Bulls have the highest rate of attack, because more of them exist than ever before. People want them. We should legally hold the dog as an agent of the owner. Prosecute the owner as if he were the actor of the crime, and destroy the dog.

    • I think you’re right, Jonathan. And I’ve spoken with a couple of dog behavior experts in the last couple of weeks who say it really is about the breeding (fighting lines) and training/management of the dogs. So the responsibility really lies with the owner. In a proper society, much more property would be privately owned (almost all of it, except government/military buildings), so the private property owners could make whatever restrictions they deem appropriate. Until then, the goal would be to have bans or regulations that are fair, and that provide clear notice of what is permitted and what is prohibited. I don’t see that the BSLs can really do this.

      Lessons learned: if you want to get a pit bull, be very careful, because the breeding can make all the difference. And everyone should be wary of them.

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