Recently whilst emptying my inbox of all the garbage, junk and voluminous and grammatically disastrous hate mail, I came across a petition sent to me by a member of the Cayman Kennel Club representing one of Cayman’s ever-expanding do-gooder clubs: People Against Breed Specific Legislation in the Cayman Islands (PABSLCI).
Normally I would simply hit the delete button, add the sender to my spam list and go on about my day; but as I had some time in the airport and a speedy internet connection I thought I’d play around with it.
The email asked that I publicize the petition being circulated as an effort to change Cayman's Dangerous Breeds Law. While I am always one to support civil causes and I wholeheartedly support citizens' rights to petition their government, in this case I simply cannot support this petition.
First of all it's poorly written, lacking in any substantiating documentation and rife with emotional statements refuted by factual evidence. Secondly... see my "first of all comment."
One thing that struck me as interesting was a quote in the body of the PABSLCI petition that stated, “Readily available data indicates that any dog of ANY breed can bite; there is NO reliable data identifying biting dogs by breed.”
“NO reliable data…?” Really? Hmmm… Well below is what I found after a grueling 30-second internet search. Have a read and tell me if you think the data is unreliable with regards to breeds, biting and fatalities.
“In recent years, the dogs responsible for the bulk of the homicides are pit bulls and Rottweilers.
"Studies indicate that pit bull-type dogs were involved in approximately a third of human DBRF (i.e., dog bite related fatalities) reported during the 12-year period from 1981 through1992, and Rottweilers were responsible for about half of human DBRF reported during the 4 years from 1993 through 1996....[T]he data indicate that Rottweilers and pit bull-type dogs accounted for 67% of human DBRF in the United States between 1997 and 1998. It is extremely unlikely that they accounted for anywhere near 60% of dogs in the United States during that same period and, thus, there appears to be a breed-specific problem with fatalities." (Sacks JJ, Sinclair L, Gilchrist J, Golab GC, Lockwood R. Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998. JAVMA 2000;217:836-840.) “
(Note: If you’re wondering what the JAVMA is, it’s a little organization known as the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.)
“The Clifton study of attacks from 1982 through 2006 produced similar results. According to Clifton study, pit bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios and their mixes were responsible for 65% of the canine homicides that occurred during a period of 24 years in the USA. (Clifton, Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to November 13, 2006).
“Other breeds were also responsible for homicides, but to a much lesser extent. A 1997 study of dog bite fatalities in the years 1979 through 1996 revealed that the following breeds had killed one or more persons: pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds, huskies, Alaskan malamutes, Doberman pinschers, chows, Great Danes, St. Bernards and Akitas. (Dog Bite Related Fatalities," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 30, 1997, Vol. 46, No. 21, pp. 463 et. seq.) “
Now, while our Cayman dog lovers would try to convince you that one breed is no more dangerous than another – a fact that may or may not be true in light of the fact that there is, in the words of PABSLCI, “NO reliable data…” – there is no denying that a dog that is physically capable of doing untold damage with one of the most powerful jaws in the canine family is a higher risk to everyone if it is not raised, trained, handled and controlled responsibly, than is a weaker and physically inferior animal.
I’m not saying pit bulls, or any specific breed of dog for that matter, are inherently evil and prone to fits of violence any more than is a four-pound Pomeranian who killed an infant a few years back, but if I had to choose between being attacked by an ankle-biting piece of fluff that I could kick to The Sisters or an 80-pound mound of muscle capable of ripping me apart, the choice is obvious.
Regardless of what you believe and in spite of or because of the existence of anything you or I may call “reliable data” there is no doubt in my mind that an out-of-control pit bull terrier poses an exponentially higher public risk than other breeds. Period. If you do not agree with or understand the simple nature of this statement, then you are a fool.
PABSLCI will tell you that the problem with dogs biting is due to the fact that the owners do not properly care for their pets – a fact with which I agree. However, dogs are capable of attacking for any number of reasons such as: encroaching on a dog’s territory, getting too close to a dog’s food, posing a perceived threat to a dog or its offspring, abuse, becoming wild, being teased or chided, high-pitch sounds, etc… and more than half of the attacks occur in the home and more than 75% occur on the dog owner’s property with the victim being a family member or a friend.
Here’s some more (what I’m sure PABSLCI would call) unreliable data from the United States. There is similar data available for the UK as well – a jurisdiction that has had a dangerous breeds law on the books since 1991:
~ The average number of fatal dog attacks has risen from 17 in the 1980s and 1990s, to 31 deaths in 2007
~ Dog bites cost insurers $345.5 million in 2002, $321.6 million in 2003, $317.2 million in 2005, and $351.4 in 2006. The number of claims paid by insurers was 20,800 in 2002, but fell to 15,000 in 2005. The insurance payment for the average dog bite claim was $16,600 in 2002, but rose to $21,200 in 2005.
~ Dog bite claims in 2005 accounted for about 15% of liability claims dollars paid under homeowner’s insurance policies
~ Dog attack victims in the US suffer over $1 billion in monetary losses every year. ("Take the bite out of man's best friend." State Farm Times, 1998;3(5):2.) That $1 billion estimate might be low -- an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that, in 1995, State Farm paid $70 million on 11,000 claims and estimated that the total annual insurance cost for dog bites was about $2 billion
~ A survey by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC) concluded that dogs bite nearly 2% of the U.S. population -- more than 4.7 million people annually. (Sacks JJ, Kresnow M, Houston B. Dog bites: how big a problem? Injury Prev 1996;2:52-4.)
~ Almost 800,000 bites per year -- one out of every 6 -- are serious enough to require medical attention. (Weiss HB, Friedman D, Coben JH. Incidence of dog bite injuries treated in emergency departments. JAMA 1998;279:51-53.)
~ Dog bites send nearly 368,000 victims to hospital emergency departments per year (1,008 per day). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nonfatal Dog Bite–Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments — United States, 2001, MMWR 2003;52:605-610. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report is published by the CDC.
~ 16,476 dog bites to persons aged 16 years or greater were work related in 2001. (Ibid., Nonfatal Dog Bite–Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments — United States, 2001, MMWR 2003;52:608.
~ Every year 2,851 letter carriers are bitten. (US Postal Service)
~ Getting bitten by a dog is the fifth most frequent cause of visits to emergency rooms caused by activities common among children
~ An American has a one in 50 chance of being bitten by a dog each year. (Centers for Disease Control)
Every argument PABSLCI makes can be refuted by data – reliable or not. Likewise, any argument I make will result in the opposition providing data that will contradict the data I used to oppose their viewpoint. Same thing with gun control, abortion, capital punishment, etc…
And who’s to blame? Human beings.
But until such time as the government can control the dog owners, the dogs will suffer - and people will continue to be bitten and killed.
Even one of the aforementioned studies states: “Clifton's opinions are as interesting as his statistics. For example, he says, ‘Pit bulls and Rottweilers are accordingly dogs who not only must be handled with special precautions, but also must be regulated with special requirements appropriate to the risk they may pose to the public and other animals, if they are to be kept at all.’”
Opinions, but opinions based upon very telling information.
In the absence of the ability of the public at-large to self-govern the privilege of pet ownership it is the responsibility of the government to take steps to protect the public – or more accurately, create the appearance that they are doing so.
As pointless as this law may seem to some, the government at the very least understands that there is in fact a direct relationship between a lack of human responsibility and the presence of animal hostility; and that relationship when coupled with certain breeds of animals can put the public at a greater degree of danger than with certain other breeds.
The problem here – I’ll agree again – isn’t with the dogs, it’s with the humans: dog owners and government officials alike.
However, in light of the fact that the government can’t control the humans it might as well control the animals. Kind of like guns: guns don’t kill people, humans do. But since the government can’t control the people who use guns, and a few people that use guns do so irresponsibly, governments around the world have no choice but to limit and prohibit the ownership of firearms.
Perhaps the PABSLCI petition shouldn’t be against the government regulating certain breeds, but actually in support of the government getting off its collective ass and doing something about the morons who consciously and wantonly disregard the welfare of their pets and the welfare of the public, regardless of the presence of current laws on the books that contain punitive measures for offenders. But the government has figured out that it’s easier to create laws to outlaw activities than it is to effectively implement the existing laws to allow its responsible citizens certain simple privileges.
PABSLCI argues that, "The majority of the owners of the targeted breeds are responsible, law-abiding citizens." The same can be said of owners of firearms - yet here we sit in a jurisdiction where firearms are banned; and people still die from gun violence, and very few people would argue that everyone should be allowed to own firearms and the government should simply punish the irresponsible ones after something bad happens which would be consitent with the "punish the deed, not the breed" mentality.
"Punish the deed, not the breed." Bullshit.
Unfortunately to punish the deed instead of the breed means that a deed must be done. And for a deed to be done this means that someone - usually a child - must get bitten, mauled or even killed. The government is trying to prevent the deed NOT by punishing the breed, but by banning the pressence of the breed in Cayman; the same as they've done with firearms. And in spite of the spate of gun violence in recent times the firearms laws do work.
PABSLCI I’ll make you a deal: If you’ll support my desire to own guns in Cayman, I’ll support your right to own any type of dog you like; because if people can’t control their animals and they become a threat to me, at least I’ll have the means to protect myself by removing the threat – along with the right to do so.
My point in all of this? Don’t simply read a petition and sign it because the proponents have filled it with emotional and editorializing statements and pseudo-facts. And don’t be hoodwinked into agreeing with anyone’s point of view just because they lie to you and tell you there is “NO reliable data” that is contrary to the opinions they are presenting. Do some research, do some reading and use your brain to draw your own conclusions – but use facts.
For every fact there is an opposing fact. For every opinion – the same holds true. But there is no denying the devastating physical, emotional and economic impact certain dog breeds have on society when they are not handled correctly – a factual piece of data as reliable as anything PABSLCI will provide you (or avoid providing).
At the end of the day you fight the fights not necessarily worth winning but worth fighting. This fight is hardly worth the effort until such time as PABSLCI can present some sort of reliable data that shows we can trust the humans that own these potentially deadly animals.
Until such time as humans stop needlessly and wrecklessly killing other humans, NO breed of dog is worth the battle, especially when that breed becomes dangerous as a result of human irresponsibilty and indifference - and especially not a breed that falls within a category responsible for nearly 70% of all dog related fatalities.
So Cayman Kennel Club, as per your request I have publicized your petition. You're welcome.