The Continuing Stigma Applied To Pit Bulls

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Chaining & Cruelty Are The Real Villians In This Story

 What a busy few months it has been for me!  Not so much busy with work or the business - well, I was, but it was also a case of being overseas, being ill, having friends over - the usual events that make an already speedy year fly right by.  So I must say it has been a while since I wrote anything.  I meant to a couple of times, was going to - you know the story.  However, today I was reading, or should I say re-reading, an article which ran the gamut of emotions for me - sadness, confusion - but more than anything else, anger.

On September 27th, 2009, a two year old infant girl was killed by a pit bull dog in Orange County, VA (not far from where I live now).  The initial short newsflash from the Richmond Times Dispatch reads as follows:-

Published: September 28, 2009

ORANGE (AP) -- A pit bull that attacked and killed a 23-month-old Orange County girl has been euthanized.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office says the dog attacked the child Sunday night at a residence in the Mountain Track Road area.

Sheriff Mark Amos says a family member found the girl, who had gone outside to where the dog was tied.

Amos says there were wounds all over the child's body.

She was taken to the University of Virginia Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at around 9:10 p.m. Sunday.

The girl's name hasn't been released.

Amos said the dog hadn't caused problems previously and had lived with the family for about 10 years.

Now, at first glance, and to those who subscribe to the Pit Bull or Bully breed myths, this is a tragic death to a young girl at the hands of a vicious dog just living up to the breed's reputation.  Tragic?  Of course it is.  A young girl's life tragically cut short.  Now, let's look a little closer.  "A family member found the girl, who had gone outside to where the dog was tied".  Ok.  Now I get it.

I have two major problems right off the bat with this.  First off - the girl had wandered outside by herself.  A two year old.  She was outside long enough to wander to the neighbor's yard, be attacked, and lie there.   I don't have children.  Well, I have two furry children, but some may say that doesn't count (obviously I don't agree).  I am so paranoid with my cats, it's incredible.  They don't go outside at all and if they are in some hidey hole and I can't find them, I go insane with worry.  So I can't possibly imagine what I would be like with a child, a human child, my own flesh and blood.  Also, can I put forward that I am not perfect; I was a pre-school teacher at one time and I know that children are hard to watch.  They're fast, they're sneaky, and they can be out of your sight in the blink of an eye.  In this instance, enough time elapsed for the child to be attacked and lie there without being found right away.  A single moment of irresponsibility ended tragically, and my heart does go out to the parents, but the question has to be asked - where were they?

Secondly - anyone who has read any of my blogs knows how I feel about tethering dogs.  It is cruel, it is inhumane, and it needs to be stopped.   The dog had lived with the family for 10 years - and I am assuming (and I could be wrong) that it was tethered for most of those years.  When a dog is tethered to one spot, day in, day out, month in, month out, for years and years - this is creating a time bomb just waiting to explode.  Dogs are pack animals - it cannot be said enough.  They need food and water and shelter, but this is NOT enough.  They want to be with their family, they want to be in the social circle.  WHY do people have pets if they do not want them to become part of the family?  This never ceases to amaze me.  To this dog, the little area outside the area he was tethered to was his whole world.  When dogs are tethered, they are usually not socialized.  This dog didn't know that this little girl meant him no harm.  How could he?  All he could see was that an intruder was invading his space, and unfortunately, he took action.  This poor dog was just being a dog, all he knows how to do.  And for a tethered dog with no love or affection, this is the normal reaction.  You read about it in the papers time and time again, a tethered dog attacking a child because most children don't know to stay away.  An adult can sense the danger and knows something is wrong.  After a certain amount of time has elapsed, it becomes more and more difficult for a tethered dog to be rehabilitated as the loving, doting, loyal canine that he is meant to be.  In order to stop these tragedies from occurring, we have to get to the root of the problem, the tethering itself.  In my mind, tethering should be outlawed; banned for good.  Before I get all the complaints, those of you who temporarily tether your dog outside while you are in the garden to prevent them from jumping the fence, I'm not talking to you.  I'm talking about those who get a dog, dump it outside, never visit it or love it, leave it there to hear all the sounds and smell the smells of the household, unable to get near any of it - and think it's ok - these are the people I am talking to.

Besides the death of the child and the tethering, the worst part of all of this is that the dog was a Pitbull.  I am guessing the owners liked having a Pitt in the garden, a guard dog of sorts, someone to scare people away.  The dog is the one who loses in this game.  Tethered in the backyard, then euthanized, portrayed in the media as vicious and nasty - it really serves to undo all the work that groups like Ring Dog Rescue and Misunderstood Rescue have worked so hard for.  I know friends Pitbulls who have literally licked me to death.  If raised properly, in a loving home environment, Pitbulls, like any other dog, grow up to be loving, worthy pet companions.  The truth is, this could have been a Golden Retriever, a Rottweiler, a Shepherd, or a Chihuahua, and the reaction to the child would have been the same.  Maybe not the end result (for the Chihuahua anyhow), but any dog who is tethered is going to react the same way.  In the end the tethering is cruel, unjust and inhumane, and so is the stigma put on the Pitbull breed.  I look forward to the day when that stigma, and tethering, are just a distant memory.

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