Pitbulls are not the Problem

It’s time to stop treating the breed unfairly in Richmond

A good boy (flickr)

Let me set some context for why I am writing this. My partner and I have recently adopted a dog, though he shall remain nameless for his own protection. From a veterinarians’ point of view, he is labelled a “Labrador retriever mix,” but to be perfectly honest I am not sure what he is. He looks to have some pitbull features, a few of the rolls from a Shar-Pei, and the golden colour of a Labrador retriever.

Still, the only traits that people seem to see and comment on are from the pitbull part of him. The perception of pitbulls as cruel and dangerous creatures remains prevalent in Canada, particularly in Richmond.

According to the City of Richmond Bylaw number 7138, “a pitbull terrier, American pitbull Terrier, pitbull, Staffordshire bull terrier, or any dog of mixed breeding which includes any of these breeds” is considered a “dangerous breed.” It also states that any dog which possesses the predominant characteristics of these breeds should be considered dangerous.

Now, I have a lot of problems with this. According to the CDC, there are 4.5 million dog bites per year, with most of them coming from Chihuahuas. This falls in line with my personal experience. I have met many dogs in my life—some small, some large, some pitbull—and have found that it’s the smaller dogs who bite most often.

I would also question how these claims against pitbulls as a “dangerous breed” are substantiated. Is there real research involved in labelling them this way, or is it simply reinforced by fear and word of mouth? According to Canine Journal, a majority of the reports on pitbulls are not well-backed enough to support this. This leads to an inflated number of attacks being attributed to dogs who may have never inflicted harm in their lives.

While I can’t deny that pitbulls are on the list of dogs who bite, the fact of the matter is that any dog of any breed can and will bite under certain circumstances. That’s just a risk that dog owners and the people around them take when they’re interacting with animals.

One question that comes to mind about this bylaw is: why does the city need it in the first place? There must have been some inciting incident to warrant creating this legislation, but even so, it’s surely time to move on and focus our criticism on the dog owners rather than the dogs themselves.

Dogs are like children. They need guidance and they need to be taught right from wrong. If a dog of any breed is showing aggressive behaviour, they need to be corrected to prevent injuries and fights from happening. The owner is responsible for teaching the dog how to act. We can not be reliant on the dog to be responsible if it isn’t trained correctly.

The City of Vancouver used to have the same legislation as Richmond in place, but removed it in 2005 and has not reinstated it since. So if a neighboring city can have success without it, why can’t we?

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