Thursday, September 5, 2013

Yet another neutral week for pit bulls

A dog I met a few years ago in a shelter in Corvallis, OR. Pretty unremarkable. Liked people. Liked to play fetch. She was adopted by a family. There would be no story here except for the fact she is a pit bull mix.

So, there's this post that came out awhile ago. Written by a smart guy who's knowledgeable about dogs, so, like, he has all these new insights about pit bulls and gonna skool us all.

Whatever. Same shit, different day.

And thus I break it down:

The title of the post is "Bad Week for Pit Bulls", but it should probably be titled, "I'm Just Really Mad at People Who Like Pit Bulls".

He starts by stating an intention to review a book, Unleashed: The phenomena of status dogs and weapon dogs, that Landauer hopes will be "tackling the dogs and their owners in terms of criminology and sociology instead of the suburban dog-mommy perspective on “saved” and “rescued” and “misunderstood” pit bulls that’s all too common in the dog blog sphere".

He hasn't read it, and yet: "...Reviews on Amazon suggest I’ll be disappointed and that the author reverts to the same old cliches about “only the mixed bred ones are bad” and “they’re nanny dogs!” nonsense."

He is so disappointed that this sciencey-sounding book doesn't seem to reinforce his stance on pit bulls! Apparently he doesn't read books to learn things, but only as reference for already-formed opinions.

He then takes another swipe at pit bull advocates and states "...topics most pibble-mommies don’t want to talk about: the image and use of these dogs as vicious killers by criminal thugs."

People who blog about their pet pit bulls don't want to talk about the use of pit bulls by criminals? Which blogs has he been reading? Because this type of blogger talks about this subject a lot... just not in a context that Landauer approves. They tend to focus on the positive or neutral aspects of pit bulls. When pit bull advocates focus on negatives, it's mostly about the criminals' actions, not specific acts of violence by the dogs themselves.

People who don't like pit bulls, on the other hand, really like to focus on individual acts of violence from the dogs. Something they have in common with dog-fighters, come to think of it. That's why they, like Landauer, prefer context-free news stories instead of the day-to-day details of a dog blog.

Everyone already knows that pit bulls are used for dog fighting and as guard dogs by criminals. What Landauer resents is not that people aren't aware that dogs are being used by criminals, but that they don't share his opinions about those dogs. The thing about all these dog blogs that he so despises isn't that all the observations of pit bulls aren't true, but that they aren't the ones he wants to focus on.

He has a small point in that, yeah, there are definitely pit bull advocates out there who exaggerate in the other direction, to the point of lying to themselves and others; some even claim that pit bulls are incapable of harming people/other dogs without some kind of extreme abuse/training/etc, which of course isn't true. Some dogs are perfectly good at being dangerous without training or abuse. Like so many arguments from pit bull haters, this is a red herring - most pit advocates are very reasonable about the risks of dogs and point out that ANY dog can seriously injure a person or another dog, and also point out that there are many, many pit bulls that make good family pets.This is verifiablly true from a million anecdotes, but, again, not the truth that he wants everyone focused on.

The main part of the blog is a series of three stories involivng pit bulls from around the internet. 
I think the title of the post, "Bad Week for Pit Bulls" is supposed to imply that these three situations indicate some kind of ongoing trend that was just especially bad this week, and also that they reflect on every single pit bull out there (a common trend with pit bull haters). It's unimpressive, as far as trends go: one news story about an owner who can't control her large, unneutered dog and let it kill a neighbor's pomeranian; one Reddit post (where we don't even know a pit bull was involved); and one Facebook kerfluffle where a dog-fighter in Mexico posted video of his dog(s) killing restrained cats.

"It’s important to remember that this is the reality of pit bull culture..."

That's the reality of SOME "pit bull culture". I can think of several different types of pit bull cultures and Landauer even mentions one in the same blog post; "pibble-mommies" are a distinct and recognizable cliche in the same manner of the dog-fighting-Mexican stereotype.

"This is happening in nice neighborhoods by all sorts of wayward youth who view the bully landrace as empowering, status symbols, and a source of entertainment."

So glad he took the time to point this out. NO ONE WAS AWARE OF THIS.

"... I see too many people on crusades to clean up the bully breeds’ image and not clean up the culture itself or even be honest with what is going on"

OK, so lets talk about "thug culture" for a sec. We have to use scare quotes though, because "thug culture" isn't as easy to pin down as they want us to think. The dress style of thugs and ganstas is pervasive throughout the US, with white and colored folks alike, popular with youth who want to look tough or even just fit in at school. Wearing the trappings of "thug" and actually being dangerous are two different things.

Regardless of that, though: cleaning up the bully breeds' image is a way to clean up "the culture". A very small piece of a much larger and more complex social justice picture involving everyhting from poverty, exploitation, gangs, racism, and misogyny.

Landauer calls it "white washing", but all it is is pointing out that many pit bulls make good pets. The fact that that pit bull there was used in dog fighting doesn't change the fact that this pit bull over here was a great family pet for 15 years. Nowhere is it implicit that ALL pit bulls should be pets, but, again with the red herrings, bully advocates aren't saying that.

You know what is good at making these dogs more desirable for criminals? Media hype (and blog posts) about how scary and different they are from other dog breeds/types. So scary and different, they should be killed instead of risking them being family pets.

And as far as honesty goes: being honest that there's a connection between pit bulls and criminals and constantly focusing on the negative are two different things that Lanauer seems to have conflated.

"This breed doesn’t need a make-over.  Dog fighting  needs to go extinct and with it game dogs that are bred to fight."

A) As if he's the only one who REALLY wants dog fighting to go extinct, and B) flinging vitriol at rescue people while, C) not providing any real-world solutions of his own.

He says repeatedly that he does not support Breed Specific Legislation, so that leaves one to wonder how, exactly, he wants "game dogs" to go extinct. Mostly this post is about him being angry at people who promote pit bulls as pets and/or adopt them out as pets, so I guess the first thing he wants is for us rescue folks to stop adopting out pit bulls and start killing them instead.

In a comment Landauer states: "I do not consider death such an atrocious conclusion to an unwanted dog... Why should other breeds be displaced by filling homes with unwanted pit bulls... I don’t think it’s a moral, ethical, or practical problem to put down the surplus unwanted pit bulls ..."

I guess the bottom line is: what does Landauer want me to do with this dog?


She was a stray we fostered. Mellow, sweet, good with other dogs and cats. And he's ANGRY at ME because I dared boast about the fact she was adopted to a nice family? Why should I NOT adopt her to a family? Why the hell would I kill this dog?

What about this one?

Pit bull 4

One of the nicest dogs I've ever met. Family pet with kids and cats. How the hell am I an "apologist" for observing that this pit bull is nice and I wish there were more just like her?

...or this one?


She had stupid owners who let her run loose all the time and I ended up catching her multiple times before they gave up and left her at the shelter, but she was still a nice, friendly dog. How is it a "waste" to spend time and energy helping this dog find a home? How is she "surplus" in a manner somehow totally different than, say, a Labrador in the exact situation?

Type "pit bull terrier" into Petfinder, scroll through the list of nice, adoptable dogs that comes up, and tell me why each of those nice dogs should die because... they're taking up space for other nice dogs?

And tell me who's gonna wield the needle. I'm sure as hell not. I've got only so much time and energy to spend on animal rescue, and I'm not going to spend it killing nice dogs.

I've helped kill friendly, healthy dogs at work a handful of times, and it is soul-sucking. I've killed  lots of creatures, and the intimate act of hugging a happy, slobbery dog to your chest, as his tail is thumping and he's trying to lick your face while the doctor kills hims is terrible and different from any other type of killing: the old, sick, or aggressive, or animals meant to be food. It's different. Hence burnout rate of shelter veterinarians and techs at high-kill shelters. And if they don't burnout, they go numb or turn psycho.

"I do not appreciate that the public service of animal shelters which should be able to help me keep my dogs healthy and safe in the case that they go stray is burdened so much by abandoned pit bulls that my dogs might be killed on admission ...

How do you think your hypothetical stray border collie will fare in a shelter with a "kill all the pit bulls" policy? Staffed by people who, at best, are burned out and numb, and at worst, enjoy mistreating and killing dogs?

In the short term, it might be "practical" to kill every blocky-headed dog that comes in a shelter's doors. In the long term, that sort of policy hurts everything that shelters and rescues are trying to accomplish. You can't magically separate how bullys are treated and how all the dogs are treated. Moreover, shelters and rescues don't become popular by killing nice dogs. It's a good way to lose funding and support and volunteers.

When you actually get down on the ground (where I am, hi! *waves*), you end up having no ethical or practical choice but to treat all dogs as individuals. And, shit, the only reason there's any agenda at all for most of us "pit bull advocates" is because we got annoyed at the pushback when we try to place nice dogs in homes. That's how I personally got started on all these pit bull rants. And I still have a hard time understanding how it's so objectionable to place nice dogs in family homes, and then advertise that fact. That's really all us "apologists" are doing.


Luisa said...

Just excellent [applauds]. Thanks for this.

kittenz said...

Bravo! My thoughts exactly, and I'm delighted to see that another person doesn't fall for the "either/or" as pertains to pitbulls.