I’ve written about some of the questions around bullying, and whether individuals need to grow thicker skins or be treated gentler, and about boundaries and people’s different abilities to accept criticism. In all of these there are questions of what is normal acceptable behavior, what to do when different people’s behaviors cross those lines (is someone being firm or being a bully), and how people deal with criticism (are others being too judgemental or is the person being oversensitive).
Now similar questions come to my attention in an article about pit bulls:
“Pit bull owners live in a dream palace, where all dogs are good, and when they are bad, it can be attributed only to bad ownership or the dogs being “provoked” by the animals or people they ravage. Never to genetics, never to the fact that pit bulls were bred for impulsive aggression of exactly this type.”
In some ways this quote reminds me of the idea that “guns don’t kill people.” Guns are made to do violence. The author of that article is saying pit-bulls were too. I’m not sure. I don’t know enough about pit bulls. What interests me more is the questions of responsibility.
I’ve heard different arguments about banning breeds. I’ve heard people say:
1) Punish the deed, not the breed. The assumption is pit bulls should be innocent until after they’ve committed a crime and then punished. This probably isn’t much comfort to people whose children have been hurt by pit bulls. Yet if we extend the same concepts of rights and individuality to dogs that we talk about for humans, then it makes sense to do this. We can’t punish a person because they might hurt someone, why punish a dog? (Because dogs aren’t people!)
2) There aren’t bad dogs there are only bad owners. Perhaps, but then what do you do when the owner maintains that their dog was provoked and that it was not unacceptable behavior on their animals parts, but acceptable normal dog behavior? I guess society then has to decide collectively what the rules for dogs are, and bad owners are defined as those who don’t follow them. In that case, it appears the teenagers in Calgary whose dogs got mauled by some pit bulls were the bad owners, because their dogs weren’t on a leash while the pit bulls were.
How do we get owners to recognize when they are bad owners or not? The author of that article is criticising pit bull owners with being insensitive to criticism. They tend to reflect responsibility. That’s a broad generalization. I don’t think she’s surveyed all pit bull owners, but perhaps a person’s willingness to own a dangerous dog is saying something about the person’s unwillingness to believe that they could fail. I’m sure all pit bull owners believe his or her dog won’t do anything wrong. Others perhaps, but not his or hers, because he or she is doing the right thing in caring for it. I think a person nervous, unsure of oneself and thus willing to take criticism to heart more, would probably be less likely to take risks with owning a potentially harmful dog.