In New York City some members of the City Council are considering a ban on the sale and possession of pit bulls, a misguided notion based on a few isolated incidents in which pit bulls have attacked (sometimes fatally) humans and other animals. The following is an excerpt from the New York Daily News:

Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Queens) has introduced a resolution asking the state Legislature to make it easier for the city to implement a ban. He said pit bulls are dangerous and are bred to be violent.

This proposed law, if approved, will indeed be all bark (just a song and dance) and no bite (will have absolutely no effect on the real issue, irresponsible owners).

This proposal is severely misguided for two reasons. First, to regard all pit bulls as dangerous and bred to be violent is stereotyping, pure and simple. Banning pit bulls from New York City because they are believed to be violent is like prohibiting Asians from obtaining driver’s licenses because they are perceived to be bad drivers. It would be like forced sterilization of every third Latino because we are perceived as reproducing in excess.

And let’s not forget, the pit bull has only been the breed most favored for use as guard dogs or by so-called tough guys for intimidating others for a decade or so. Rottweilers, bulldogs, German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers have all shared this same stereotype with pit bulls. I understand that pit bulls are not selected by their owners because they get along with children, or are cute and fluffy.

The name alone, “pit” and “bull” implies this animal is a snarling, charging brute among canines.

But breed names and genetics do not dictate whether a dog is going to wind up killing an innocent person, it’s how they are raised and/or trained. Pit bulls are often the pet of choice for families who live in high-crime areas, especially in places where civilian firearm possession is severely restricted.

The few incidents in which pit bulls claim innocent lives are often cases where the owners were irresponsible and either let them off their leash or simply trained them to be vicious attack dogs. Lots of so-called tough guys like to raise pit bulls so they can walk around with them and enjoy intimidating passersby. I get it. But you can’t simply paint an entire breed of dog with the same brush simply because of the irresponsibility of a few owners.

Second, lets assume, for argument’s sake, that every single pit bull on the planet has claimed a human life. So the city bans pit bulls, and the next day there are no more pit bulls, right? The aforementioned breeds of dog will take the place of the pit bull as the guard dog, the attack dog, the animal most frequently chosen to make insecure men look like tough guys. It’s not like pit bulls are the only breed of dog to have ever attacked or killed anyone, and while I don’t have the stats to back it up, I’m willing to bet that most canine attacks on humans have not been committed by pit bulls.

In short, if pit bulls are banned, New Yorkers will continue to be threatened with the possibility of a canine attack, it will just be with a breed other than pit bulls.

A third possible argument concerns mixed breed dogs, namely those that are only part pitbull. Would they be banned too, or only partially given their mutt status?  In the case of human attacks by dogs, these animals are raised to be weapons, or are abused by their owners and therefore liable to attack any human. The owner of any pitbull who savagely mauls or kills a person should be arrested and prosecuted in the same manner as if he killed that person with a knife, firearm or a blunt object.

Criminalize the behavior of the owner, and leave the dog alone.

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