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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Dangerous Dogs

American Bully Male - Rhino

Photo from Flickr under Creative Commons License.

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Here's a little blog about the dangerous dog.

Actually it's going to be quite a big blog...

(a) Are dogs dangerous?

(b) The legislation

(c) Breed not Deed! ..oops other way around!! Deed not Breed.


I am an absolutely massive dog lover, always have been and I daresay always will be. I like all breeds, big ones small ones.... Silly ones, sensible ones. However, they can be dangerous. Personally I have been bitten loads of times (no, not by my own!!). I don't know why I get bitten so often? May be I just smell good ( a dog). May be its because i am irritating? Fortunately for me, I mostly get bitten by little dogs, so I have yet to be maimed, but be in no doubt that any dog has the capacity to do a human major harm if it chose to.

Most characteristics of dogs are mirrored in people though. People can be deadly too of course (Dale Cregan)? But we have a value system that says humans are worth much more than people... and that is the essential difference. To me though, a dog is not just an object. So I don't think they should be punished for things they haven't done.

The 1991 breed legislation was, in my opinion abject. To me, the idea that you could take a nice, friendly dog that has never put a paw out of line and kill it because it was of an illegal breed was barbaric. It is the kind of attitude that moves us further away from the kind of beautiful utopia I picture for the distant future. However, the law was introduced in the imitate aftermath of a couple of horrifying killings of children by dogs. ...and they were absolutely horrifying. But when the legislation came out in the 90s I was horrified by that too. I couldn't find another soul, at the time, that agreed with me :-(

"Yes but what's the life of a dog compared with a child?"

It's sort of impossible to argue with that isn't it. And it could be extended by some many things you could also ban. For example, 3000 people are killed on the roads (mostly children) every year and you could stop that at a swoop if you banned cars. ..but people like cars, and they are considerd more valuable to society.

..but by some miracle, the UK population swung away from the idea that all dogs of a particular breed should be killed and started to modify with control orders etc.

Now the idea is that we should second guess which dogs are dangerous and which are not by their behaviour prior to an attack. To me this is better... But not enough. I don't believe your really can tell which dogs are dangerous from their behaviour. The law will criminalise badly behaved dogs in their own homes? Well I have seen so many houses and yards, where dogs are going berserk the other side of a gate or fence... Or behind their own front door.... And most of these dogs are absolutely fine!!

Ultimately, the only way you can tell a dog is a biter for sure is once it has bitten someone. ....but then it's too late? ...but that is life isn't it?

I suspect not. Before a human kills another human I think there are nearly always violent incidences. Mostly when you hear about a murder, after the trial there will be catalog of tails of how they beat up their girlfriend or beat someone up on the street. This is never taken seriously though! How many times does someone have to beat up their girlfriend before it is blatantly obvious they are unfit for society?!! Once I'd of said. So I am saying, I bet if you look into the past of those dogs which killed children, most cases will follow attacks on people which did not result in death or serious injury. So these are the crimes which should lead to the prosecution of dogs/owner, not barking behind their own front door.

Microchipping? People are saying... How does a microchip stop a brutal attack?

Well it will. So there. It will because many thugs with their dog-weapons deny that the dog is their's when caught. Also, if a dog bites someone, there is no way to register that on a national system, so the dog could bite all sorts of people and never be clocked as a serial offender. But the main thing is that if you take your dog around as a weapon... That weapon will always be traceable with microchips and it sort of limits the value if the weapon as a result. Hopefully less people will use dogs as weapons as a result. Yes, you could probably incinerate the dog and chip.. But that is too much effort for most thugs.

Licenses? I am neutral on licenses. I think they are a good idea, but clumsy use of licensing legislation could result in dogs being thrown out upon renewal. I would suggest a license to breed, sell or buy one. Not an annual renewal license.

So all breeds are the same when it comes to danger? I suspect not. This view is extremely controversial in doggy circles, but you can breed traits into dogs (and any animal) in theory. It has been shown by experiment you can selectively breed dogs to be nervous, passive etc. Why not aggressive?

Well there is a general reasons why selective breeding of aggression doesn't really happen in dogs. The argument starts with the fact that most dogs are bred for family homes. These dogs are bred to NOT be aggressive. If they are aggressive, they tend not to be bred from. Some dogs are bred for the police or army, but they don't want wild dangerous dogs. They are experts and there is no problem there.

So this leaves thugs. OK so you want a dangerous dog: You need (a) to cross your rotten dog with another rotten dog (genes) and (b) you need to keep it from the normal socialization which defuses most potentially dangerous dogs (environment).

(a) These are not easy to find, really... Dogs are so nice and bad dogs are difficult to come by. To find a genuinely rotten dog to breed with is nearly impossible. Not only that, but you have no way of knowing outside of a laboratory type breeding experiment whether the dog is genetically bad or bad due to its environment. So this is all a bit of a non-starter!

(b) To adapt a dog to bring out its dangerous side, you basically have to deprive it of a normal environment. Don't allow it to meet people, don't allow it to meet other dogs. ...but the sort of moron who would attempt this will mostly likely bring his friends around to see. They will be active chaotic homes where people come and go all the time. People will bring their own dogs around... The whole-plan backfires and you are likely to end up with a beautiful friendly dog. I know this happens a lot. I have seen many staffy like dogs abandoned... Not, we think, because they are bad... But because they were to soft or in most peoples eyes... Lovely. They were bought as weapons, but they were no good as weapons so these horrid horrid people throw them out :-(((

That said... I set about calculating the rate of fatal dog attacks between breeds. It is not easy and requires a lot of assumptions. Also, I had to use figures from the USA since I couldn't get them all for the UK. I actually did this as part of a lecture on the brain pathways underlying stress and aggression, but ...well that's another story!

Anyway, the data is there to see (table I). Some breeds are far more commonly involved with attacks than others. I think a huge factor is.... The purpose for which people buy their dog. If you want a weapon you don't buy a Westie (that tip comes free).

I am pretty uncomfortable about this data, as I feel that people will mis-interpret it: but I feel that to not upload it would be. Sort of censorship! An interesting fact... I think (can't remember the figure) about 70% of the owners of the dogs that had killed, had themselves been previously convicted of a violent offence.

Table I Here it is below, please note the caveats, it is just a crude estimate. Also note that in the USA, from where I collected these stats, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, English Bull Terriers and Pit Bulls were all lumped together in a way you would probably never see in the UK.

Further notes on this table (I compiled it in 2006): Dog Attack statistics….Best Figures were from the USA.Of people attacked and killed (238) 76 people killed by “pit-bull types”: of these, 66 of the dogs were registered. I have therefore estimated that 20% of dogs are unregistered in the USA. In the USA at the time registration numbers of Bull Terriers were about 5k (i.e., AST 1.5k, SBT 1K, BT 1.8k). Therefore, Those three pit bulls constitute about 5,000+20% (add the 20% to account for the unreg’d): = 6,000/900,000 dogs in USA (registered in 2006).=about 1% of dogs, but accounted for 76/238 attacks.=32% of attacks.Assuming registered and non-registered equally dangerous:5x worse than next worse… Rotweillers.A word in favour of Pit Bulls…Additional notes: Criminal Records (discussed in Houpt) 90% male and 70% of owners criminal record for violence!



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