Dr. Anderson: Should any dog breeds be banned?

Q: With recent events in Bloomington-Normal regarding the pit bull dogs attacking two people and causing serious injuries, what is your opinion about breed bans? I have heard a lot of talk about this from people online and am concerned because I have a pit bull mix dog. He is very sweet and has never caused any problems, but I can tell that some people are afraid of him by how they look and act around him. I don’t want to have to give him up or have him taken from me if some sort of ban is put in place.

A: Every time an unfortunate incident like this one occurs, there seems to be an outcry to ban certain breeds of dogs. Of course, there are the usual suspects such as pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds, etc. All of these breeds are large, powerful dogs, so some people are naturally afraid of them. That doesn’t mean that most of these dogs are dangerous, though. We see plenty of pit bulls (almost daily) that are very nice and well-behaved dogs. Those that aren’t are due to lack of training or had been rescued from a bad situation where they may have actually been trained to fight.

The reality is that there are probably just as many dog bites due to small dogs as there are to large dogs. It’s just that people aren’t afraid of an 8-pound Chihuahua that might try to chew your ankle off, but they are afraid of a 65-pound pit bull that could chew your face off. In either case, it really falls back onto the owner for how the dog has been trained — or not. The saying that there are no bad dogs, just bad owners is probably close to the truth.

For these reasons, my personal opinion is that specific breed bans don’t really work and should not be done. Singling out a dog’s action as being representative of the entire breed is discriminatory and won’t really help to solve problems relating to public safety.

As an example, two of my favorite breeds of larger dogs are boxers and golden retrievers. Both breeds are known as being extremely friendly and well-socialized, but in the wrong person’s hands, both can be turned into vicious, dangerous dogs.

Hopefully, the community at large will react appropriately to this situation, and punish the people responsible for this attack, without punishing an entire breed or category of dogs.

Got a pet-related question? Send it to Dr. Anderson, a veterinarian at Hawthorne Park Animal Care Center in Bloomington, via email at features@pantagraph.com.  

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