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 March 2009 - Nr. 3

My Dog Teaches … About Dog Attacks

Hunny by David McKagueYes, I know dogs have teeth. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the news of their use is greatly exaggerated.

The simple fact is that dogs almost never use them to inflict damage on either humans or other dogs. While I understand that the fear of dogs may be real enough to some people, it is factually blown out of all proportion to any actual risk.

One crude way of looking at relative dangers is to examine the statistics on causes of death published by the National Safety Council. The odds of dying in any one year by being "bitten or struck by dog" are under one in 9 million. These odds are so close to zero that, in the business of living, they can be discounted as anything to be seriously worried about.

To put it in perspective, here are some comparisons from the National Safety Council. You are more likely to die by the following causes:

  • Lightning
  • A bee or wasp sting (twice as likely)
  • Accidental drowning in a bathtub (10 times as likely)
  • Accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed (15 times as likely)
  • Falling out of a bed or chair (25 times as likely)

Bluntly put, if beds and bees are more dangerous, then dogs really shouldn’t be at the top of our priority list of safety concerns.

In talking about dog attacks, what should be of more concern are our attacks against dogs. If the news media gave a balanced perspective, there should probably be hundreds of "Man Bites Dog" headlines for every one that reads "Dog Bites Man".

While it is true that there are some people who abuse animals that is not particularly what I am referring to. After all, anyone who would deliberately mistreat a dog under his care is demonstrating some level of insanity.

What I find more distressing is the attacks against dogs by people who should have a more objective viewpoint; specifically, those people in our governments and our courts.

Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is one example. Throughout the world, more and more cities, states and countries are banning or restricting dogs based solely on their physical appearance. This has resulted in the killing of thousands and thousands of innocent dogs, not because they are dangerous, but only because they happen to belong to a particular "visible minority" in the dog world.

Over 2,000 dogs have been killed in Denver, Colorado alone since the city enacted a breed ban in 1989. To give one example of the draconian use of their law, one young woman was victimized when Animal Control officers entered her mother’s home and seized her two dogs while she was visiting there. (The woman had moved out of the city limits a few months earlier to save her dogs from this very fate, thinking that the law would not apply if the dogs were kept inside the house while she was visiting.) Within 24 hours, while she was frantically trying to contact people in order to save her dogs, they were killed. *

Unfortunately, the Denver law has been a model for similar legislation passed in various places around the world. The "Dog Owners’ Liability Act" passed here in Ontario was largely based on it. While a few states in the United States have passed laws prohibiting municipalities from adopting Breed Specific Legislation, the frightening reality is that there are hundreds of areas in the U.S. and around the world that have taken this faulty, costly and ineffective approach, and the numbers are increasing at a dizzying speed.

Countries that now have some sort of ban or severe restrictions on owning dogs of certain breeds include Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and, of course, the current champion Italy with its 92 banned or restricted breeds. (For a list, visit

Let’s face the truth here. Problem dogs, like problem kids, do not happen as a result of "breeding". They are created by their upbringing and training, whether that is done willfully or whether it is done inadvertently from a lack of know how.

Politicians, whatever their motive, are simply twisting the truth when they demonize any particular breed of dog. As Karen Delise states in The Pit Bull Placebo, "They are deliberately ignoring the testimonies of legitimate professionals (veterinarians, humane society personnel, dog trainers, breed clubs) and choosing to believe and to validate the boasts of a criminal, inhumane, machismo group of dog owners who for a hundred years have touted extraordinary abilities about their dogs in order to increase their personal and financial worth. The claims [of the politicians] are almost word for word the claims of dog fighters."

One would have to be loopy to think I would continue to own my "pit bull" Hunny if she did naturally what many politicians and lawmakers claim.

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* From The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression by Karen Delise, pp. 101-102

Previous "Petitorial" articles by David McKague:

Editor’s note: I would like to encourage dog lovers everywhere to start a PETITION to have this law thrown out or revised to such a form where justice prevails. SFR.

Email to David McKague
David McKague talks about the pit-bull or pit bulls, pets, dogs, the duress put upon dog and the owners, especially through laws in Ontario, Canada, that affect and encroach on rights and freedoms of the individual, human rights, reputation of individuals and owners. David stresses the importance of being responsible and understanding when dealing with pets.

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