This post is NOT about any specific breeds, but more the principle behind the targeting of any one breed.
To start, I would like to add a quotation from Martin Niemöller.
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent; I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
Far too often in these recent times are dogs mislabelled and put to death by acts of ignorance all be it done with (hopefully) the best intentions. Sadly society stands idle and lets this happen.
There is no question that serious injury to children or at the horrific worst case death is not acceptable under any circumstances. The issue I have is that this should not be focused on one or two breed types, but to all breeds across the board.
One of my core beliefs regarding dogs is that "there is no such thing as a safe dog, just degrees of less dangerous". There is absolutely and categorically no situation that warrants unsupervised interaction between a child and a dog.
I have a very firm view that is shared by some great Australian and International dog training minds, in that "once a dog has severely bitten a child there is little or no lenience given to it going forward and in almost all cases the dog should be put to sleep". This is a view that I am prepared to uphold with my own dog now and my future dogs regardless of breed. It is not a question about the dog developing future negative behaviour towards children, it is more the issue that the reason for the behaviour in the first instance needs to be questioned.
The grey area here for me as a dog behaviourist is what kind of bite are we talking about? There is a great deal of difference between predatory biting, alarm or warning biting, and the more intense defensive biting that often leads to massive injuries and death in children.
To people that own dogs that fit into the more placid or less potentially dangerous categories in society please ask yourself this question "if my dog was to bite a child is that action any less severe than the same act carried out by a dog of larger or more driven stature?”
If your answer is yes the act is less severe then I believe that we have serious issues.
Each and every dog has the potential to bite regardless of the ability to inflict damage. The issue we need to focus on is the action rather than the result. If we look at the problem in this manner we can then begin to see that focusing on a specific breed is not the issue, as educated dog trainers and owners, the motives behind the behaviour are what we need to eradicate.
If the answer is no, in that the act itself is the issue not the result then ask yourself the question, “why on earth are we as a society focusing on one breed when so many breeds are responsible for biting children?”
The real problem is that bites from smaller less "harmful" dogs are not often reported and when they are reported, are dismissed as insignificant, while bites from larger potentially more "harmful" dogs even if they are low intensity, are sensationalised.
The parallel in human terms is allowing a light frame small stature man to assault children, but punishing a larger frame and stature man for the same action. Or worse still not allowing a larger stature man from being in contact with children.......does this sound ridiculous? Well that is because it is. Common sense tells us that violence should not be tolerated regardless of the person type. Then why is this principle not applicable to dog behaviour?
Councils have a very hard task at hand and with public scrutiny it is not easy to meet with favourable outcomes, so decisions are not necessarily going to be fair or popular. What needs to happen, is for us as a society, led by our elected officials to take a collective step forward and ask questions regarding responsible dog ownership, that if implemented properly would ensure that the unwanted behaviours are eradicated, not specific breeds.
Sadly breed specific legislation ensures that genuine people with good intentions lose access to certain breeds while people with less wholesome intentions still get access through underground or illegal avenues. This regrettably eradicates the quality and breed control that is currently present in breed clubs around the world.
Many of us believe that the best initiative that has come out of the new Dangerous Dogs Law is the implementation of Criminal Prosecution for the owners of dogs that inflict serious injury. Maybe this will change the culture in society and insist on proper training and socialisation of all dogs not just those within the social spotlight.
When they come for your dog, who will be there to help you unless we all stand together and argue for sensible legislation.
I welcome your comments and hopefully we can get a good debate going on this.