I expected Belling to take a more principled approach to banning dogs like he does on banning guns. In one of Belling's articles, he stated
The cliche that "guns don’t kill people, people kill people" sounds trite but the peace of the Wisconsin deer hunt proves its truth. The shooting gallery in Milwaukee’s central city and near south side has nothing to do with access to guns and everything to do with a breakdown of culture.Belling's point is based upon a clear and faultless logic that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
My position on dog control is based upon similar grounds. Whether intentional or unintentional, dogs are a direct product of their masters. Watching just a few episodes of the “Dog Whisperer” should make it clear that Cesar Millan rehabilitates unruly dogs by “undoing” the damaging effects of their owners. To use Belling's phraseology, Pit Bull attacks have nothing to do with access to Pit Bulls and everything to do with a breakdown in how they are raised.
But in all fairness, I can see the direction of Belling’s point. He thinks that Pit Bulls are naturally more prone to violence due their nefarious breeding history. His point is further bolstered by frequent and disproportionate reports of Pit Bull attacks across the country. Thus, it would appear then that the gun analogy wouldn't really work here since nobody is suggesting that guns, due to breeding history, are inherently violent or evil. However, Belling's theory that Pit Bulls have an inherent quality of viciousness isn't supported by dog experts either.
For example, if you are looking for a good guard dog, you are better off with a German Shepherd. The reason is that Pit Bulls are much more likely to lick a stranger’s hand than to bite it. Dog experts say that Pit Bulls have a naturally strong desire to please humans, and unless trained to do so, their natural aggression is aimed mostly at other dogs, more specifically at members of the same gender and breed.
It's a matter of learned behavior. Pit Bulls learn to be aggressive in two distinct ways: either they are mismanaged by an owner who confuses dog psychology for human psychology, or they are deliberately trained to be violent by malicious owners. By nature, Pit Bull Terriers are “pack leaders”, they like to be in control. And here is where some of the problems emerge. Pit Bulls are strong willed dogs, and therefore they require a strong hand of leadership. When owners pamper their dogs and treat them like they have human emotions, they can become psychologically unbalanced and unruly. This doesn't mean they are naturally vicious, but rather they are natural pack leaders. It is important to understand that this is not the dog’s fault.
Part of the hysteria is that Pit Bulls are intimidating. Their medium size and solid wide gait make them very versatile for defensive maneuvering, and their muscular neck and powerful jaws provide an excellent capacity for attack. Although Pit Bulls don't have a "locking jaw" as widely rumored, this myth has been perpetuated by their absolute unwillingness to relent. No dog in the canine kingdom rivals their level of tenacity or sheer will. Unfortunately, these unique attributes make Pit Bulls a prized possession and a symbol of power for incompetent owners. And this has led to mass neglect, dog fighting, and a tarnished image.
However, banning Pit Bulls from a city is not the answer. It is an over-reaction based upon misdirected fear - like swinging a sledgehammer at a pestering bee. I would suggest that all municipalities start by increasing regulatory restrictions on Pit Bull ownership, thus focusing the attention on owners, not their dogs.
Unlike South Milwaukee, Cudahy’s Common Council made a prudent choice toward progress. Although they mistakenly contributed to the hysteria by defining Pit Bull Terriers as “dangerous animals”, they now require them to be licensed and proper confined. This is a step in the right direction; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Interestingly, the Cudahy Council rejected an amendment that required Pit Bull owners to attend “dog behavior” class. I believe this is one of the better ideas suggested, and it would help reduce dog biting incidents. Remember, a dog training class is more about training the owner how to be a pack leader than it is training the dog to be a pack follower.
Mark Belling has accepted the widely spread myth that Pit Bulls are naturally inclined to be vicious. This myth has been perpetuated by an undeniable statistical prevalence of Pit Bull attacks. And although reports indicate a greater prevalence of Pit Bull attacks than any other single dog breed, the numbers are often read out of context.
Three basic facts account for the disproportional statistics.
First, media sensationalism contributes to inflated numbers. Media outlets often use the designation “Pit Bull” to headline their stories on dog attacks. Some journalists have admitted to airing stories without actually verifying the staring breed of their storyline.
Second, ignorance of a Pit Bull's identifying characteristics have also contributed to inflated numbers. The “Bully” breed includes more than dozen different kinds of dog like Boxers and Bull Mastiffs. And some of these dogs like the "Dogo Argentino", the "Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog", and the "American Bulldog" look so similar to Pit Bulls that they can even confuse Pit Bull owners from a distance.
And third, Pit Bulls are more likely to fall into the hands of ill-prepared or malicious owners than any other breed. Right now, the over-breeding problem is so bad with Pit Bulls, they represent one-third of all stray dogs brought into the Human Society nation-wide. This is a serious problem and probably the most pertinent fact underscoring the nation-wide statistics on Pit Bulls.
We need to make laws that address the responsible ownership of Pit Bull Terriers, and not legislate in such a way as to propagate the myth that Pit Bulls are inherently more violent than any other breed. Simple regulations like licensing, confinement, posting a "beware of dog" sign, or even keeping a dog collared will go a long way reducing attack incidents.