This post was originally going to be a review of a netflix documentary I happened upon last night called “Death Row Dogs”. I figured it would be a good opportunity to discuss bully breed specific legislation, some misconceptions the general public holds about these breeds, and how the media has shaped these opinions with inflammatory reporting. I made it exactly 22 seconds into the film before I felt my adrenaline spike sending a rage pulsing through my veins, boiling each of my blood cells.
The film references the tragic death of a young boy in the UK and a woman’s voice comes in–I assume the boy’s mother– the video says “We weren’t aware what the dog was capable of…and I learned that your basically sharing you life with a wolf”.
So let me get this straight. You took in a dog you had no idea how to take care of, and then you have the audacity to lay the blame on the dog? I didn’t need to hear any more of this hogwash. I googled the child’s story and it turns out dogs were being illegally bred in the home, which only leads to the conclusion that whatever the purpose of such a breeder, it is safe to assume that the intentions were nefarious at best.
But how does the media and these documentarians frame the story to the public? By allowing a person to blame the dog for the problems that they, themselves, have created. Dog’s are in no way, shape, or form, the equivalent of sharing your life with a wolf. That’s like saying sharing the roof over my head with a European exchange student is like sharing it with an orangutan. So now tens of millions of people have access to this documentary and are none the wiser as to the lies that it is peddling.
This is beyond irritating for me. The problem with the media and the people that made this documentary is that they get in the way of proper education and the solution to the actual problem. When people are allowed to blame the dogs for their lack of training, impulse control, and aggression –all of which are in the control of the owner of the dog– it lets these people off the hook, demonizes the true victim in the situation, and leads to frivolous legislation that serves no real purpose other than to remove loving, gentle, dogs from their families. It is akin to making a documentary about the holocaust and blaming those of Jewish background for being persecuted by the Nazi party, simply for being of Jewish descent.
Any dog bred to hunt and fight boar, bulls, or other dogs has the physical strength and natural inclination to do that for which it is bred. But no dog, ever, winds up in the news after attacking someone based solely on these predispositions. These situations require a lack of management, training, and care on the part of the dog’s owner. It is also an irrelevant argument to use “breed disposition” as an argument for why dogs that look bullyish have these predispositions. Dogs that were bred for these purposes have bloodlines that are strictly controlled by the breeders to ensure that no unwanted variation enters into the gene pool. The reason for this is that, even a small amount, of genetic variation can have major implications on the propensity of a dog to be aggressive, have high prey drive, etc. The overwhelming majority of bully breeds in the US, and I assume other parts of the world, have an extremely high mixing rate of their gene pools. This is due to backyard breeders, chance encounters between strays, forced matings between non-related dogs, etc. Because of this intermingling of gene pools, it is not accurate to portray these dogs as having any predispositions due to breed at all.
And now we arrive at my point. Any dog will end up aggressive, confrontational, reactive, and downright mean, in a situation of abuse or neglect. When these people were illegally breeding dogs in a home with a 4 year old child. Not caring for the dogs or training them, how can the dog be blamed for attacking? I’m really curious as to how this line of thought makes sense to people. Because to me it is completely illogical.
To drive the point home, there was a infographic that came across my twitter feed recently. It provides a good perspective of what we are discussing here: