The police shooting of a pit bull in SE Portland yesterday prompted some discussion of whether it's the dogs themselves, or their owners, or both, or neither, that causes these dogs to be widely regarded as a menace to society. Step in Malcolm Gladwell, author of Tipping Point, who had an interesting article in the New Yorker, back in 2006, about Randall Lockwood, one of the country's leading experts on dogbites. The article focuses on the banning of pit bulls in Ottawa, Canada, following one particularly gruesome incident, pushing a reader to ask whether blanket bans such as these, or even, blanket perceptions of a certain breed of dog, are ever really helpful, in the end:
"I haven't seen a fatality involving a Doberman for decades, whereas in the nineteen-seventies they were quite common. If you wanted a mean dog, back then, you got a Doberman," says Lockwood. "I don't think I even saw my first pit-bull case until the middle to late nineteen-eighties, and I didn't start seeing Rottweilers until I'd already looked at a few hundred fatal dog attacks. Now those dogs make up the preponderance of fatalities. The point is that it changes over time. It's a reflection of what the dog of choice is among people who want to own an aggressive dog."
Gladwell writes: "The dogs that bite people are, in many cases, socially isolated because their owners are socially isolated, and they are vicious because they have owners who want a vicious dog. The junk-yard German shepherd-which looks as if it would rip your throat out-and the German-shepherd guide dog are the same breed. But they are not the same dog, because they have owners with different intentions."
Just a little food for thought. I, personally, am terrified of Staffordshire Bull Terriers, having once dated a woman whose dog bit the leg off a cow. But that's another story.
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