I love dogs. I like my dogs more than most people. I’m not ashamed.
I love the fact that they have different personalities.
I love their loyalty.
I love their innocence.
That said, I want a law that protects both human and animal life in this country.
About now, I really despise the abounding ignorance that currently exists in Trinidad and Tobago about dogs.
It’s not the first time I’ve documented my thoughts on this matter, but since people persist in expounding the same old misinformation and myths, I feel the need to write about it again.
On the 26th of August, 2013 an elderly woman was attacked by a pit bull at her residence. She was bitten several times and the animal “locked his jaws” on to her body and refused to let go.
Initial reports state that the animal was shot nine times by the police on their arrival. Other reports say it was shot six times and others, eleven. With Trinidad and Tobago’s excellent media sources, who can be sure any more?
But let us examine what transpired in this case. The owner of the dog has nine other pit bulls. He was breeding them for commercial purposes. He fed the animals steroids and gave them aggression training. He did all of this in a residential area. He did not familiarise the dogs with this “grandmother,” as the media calls her, though her relationship with the dogs’ owner has not been clarified.
Currently there are no laws in Trinidad that state that what he was doing was wrong. Of course, he walked away from the incident with no charges pressed against him.
Reading over the specifics of this incident, I wonder how human beings can say that it was the animal’s fault. However, the anti-pit bull out cry ignores all these facts.
Why did this man breed pit bulls and give them aggression training in a residential area?
Why did he pump them with steroids to make them more aggressive in his own home?
Why did he not think it wasn’t important to get the dogs familiar with this “grandmother” or try to control their behaviour in her presence? It’s not the first time she was attacked.
However, good sense does not prevail in this country.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan responded to the attack with this remark:
I feel very strongly about this matter that dog-specific legislation is a must. The idea that we should have dog control for all dogs, from pompek and pothound to Pit Bull is something that I don’t subscribe to.
Because the laws of this country are dependent on the AG’s strong feelings. Not so?
But then, being that he said “dog-specific” and not “breed-specific,” maybe he wants to ban all dogs.
The fact is the Dangerous Dog Act is more harmful than helpful. Yet those in power wish to push it forward as indicated by the AG’s response. Added to this, media pages are crawling with comments from those who believe that pit bulls should be poisoned and that dogs on the whole should not be trusted, to those who recognise that the Act is bound to fail and that dogs, if properly socialised are indeed loving, playful and trustworthy.
Those who wish to have dogs killed and pit bulls eradicated are the ones who know the least about dogs, dog behaviour or compassion. They’ve never owned one but presume to advise what should be done about them. They certainly do not seem to respect life as a whole, probably because their religious doctrine teaches that dogs do not have souls. However, if they really thought that human life was so important and that the life of a dog was minor in comparison, they would want a comprehensive law that covers the basics and everything in between.
Detractors of the Bill are quickly stigmatised as citizens and organisations who are not interested in the welfare of humans. They have to battle with a population who refuses to listen to their arguments and are written off as sentimental animal lovers. Humanitarians are interested in the protection of both humans and animals and the Bill, as it stands, can protect neither.
The Dangerous Dog Act is a poorly adapted bill from Canadian law books where in certain areas such as Winnipeg, Manitoba and the Province of Ontario the Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) has failed.
The Bill attempts to class dogs into two categories: Class A which consists of dogs that “are defined as Pitbull Terriers or any dog bred from the Pitbull Terrier; Fila Brasileiros, or any dog bred from the Fila Brasileiro; and Japanese Tosas, or any dog bred from the Japanese Tosa” and Class B dogs which includes all other dogs.
How many Fila Brasileiros and Japanese Tosas have you heard about in Trinidad? When was the last time you’ve heard of people being assaulted by them in the news? Earlier this year a child was mauled by a Rottweiler. Another was killed by an Akita. There was also an incident where a woman was killed by a pack of an unidentified dog breed who were initially irresponsibly labelled by the media as pit bulls. In the past Dobermans, German Shepherds and Rottweilers were considered dangerous dogs, yet they are not part of this bill. Why not? If this law is really about protecting human life why aren’t all these dogs here?
Some time ago, a horse bit off a boy’s hand. Should all horses be exterminated as well? What about humans? In Trinidad, our murder toll is in the hundreds. We should ban humans from breeding also, not so?
Moving on. The Bill mentions in several sections that dogs are supposed to be properly secured at all times. And while effective in some cases, where is the subsection that states that dogs cannot be kept confined for long periods of time? That they need regular exercise to keep them healthy and balanced. Ever took a trip to the zoo? Saw the animals pacing up and down? Saw the otter swimming in circles? They’re going insane. Keep an animal restrained and restricted for extended time periods and the animal’s behaviour will be affected. If you’ve ever watched The Dog Whisperer hosted by dog behaviourist, Cesar Milan, you’d see one of his recommendations in dealing with aggressive dogs is to give the animal regular exercise by taking it out for a walk and giving it a chance to be playful. So how precisely will securing a dog alone help? What happens when a frustrated animal breaks free?
The law also states that people cannot abandon “Class A” dogs, yet how is this preventative when dogs haven’t been registered yet? Can’t an owner who is unwilling to take out that exorbitant insurance bill simply abandon the dog as soon as the Bill becomes law? But wait – it’s already happening!
Speaking of registering dogs, The Trinidad and Tobago Veterinarians Association (TTVA) have professed that they are unqualified to sign certificates that define the difference between a Class A and Class B dog and thus refuse to comply with this law if it comes to fruition. Furthermore, the Association of Trinidad and Tobago Insurance Companies (ATTIC) claim that the insurance policies that currently exist do not distinguish between dog breeds. Too many gaping holes in this Act. Too many.
Seeing how, in this dog attack case on August 26th, the owner applied poor breeding practises, what does the Bill say about the practise of rearing “dangerous dogs” in Trinidad? What’s that? It says nothing? So you tell me, if not for a pit bull, why not pump a Rottweiler with steroids and see what happens? Why not a regular pothound? Why doesn’t the Bill account for proper and safe breeding practises? Why not humane ones where pit bull bitches aren’t simply used as machines birthing one litter of pups after the next? The bill doesn’t cater for those who breed dogs simply for profit. So what or who will control the improper breeding of ferocious animals? Also, who will monitor the training of these so called dangerous animals? Why isn’t the section about training both Class A and Class B properly defined? Where is the section of the Bill that deals with animals being bred to fight, being bred to be weapons?
Where is the clause in this Act where it states that pit bulls and other dogs must be properly socialised to exist peacefully among humans and “Class B” dogs?
This is the Bill you want to have passed?
As mentioned before, Breed Specific Legislations have largely been found lacking. So why is the government pushing for this draconian thing to be passed? Is it simply for the masses to believe they’re doing something? They can’t clamp down on the criminal elements of this country, nor protect people from human-human violence, so why not victimise those who do not have a voice right?
Incidentally, it is interesting to note that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) have stated that a pit bull is not an easily defined breed.
Depending on whom you ask, it can refer to just a couple of breeds or to as many as five—and all mixes of these breeds. The most narrow and perhaps most accurate definition of the term “pit bull” refers to just two breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) and the American Staffordshire Terrier (AmStaff). Some people include the Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Bulldog in this group because these breeds share similar head shapes and body types. However, they are distinct from the APBT and the AmStaff.
Because of the vagueness of the “pit bull” label, many people may have trouble recognizing a pit bull when they see one. Multiple breeds are commonly mistaken for pit bulls, including the Boxer, the Presa Canario, the Cane Corso, the Dogo Argentino, the Tosa Inu, the Bullmastiff, the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog and the Olde English Bulldogge.
How then are we expected to single out and curb a lineage that is so difficult to clarify? Looking at the pit bull’s history it is noted that they were bred by humans to fight large animals such as bears and bulls. When this was banned, humans then pitted the dogs against each other. Still, we want to hold no responsibility for the monsters that we have created.
I wonder, with 500,000 pit bulls in Trinidad (nearly a half of the population) and a minimum of five attacks for the year (some not even from pit bulls) compared to one million people living in Trinidad with hundreds of murders being committed, who is the more vicious animal?
The media jumps on every opportunity to label the pit bull as a diabolical creature, and sure some of them are. Yet how can it not be the onus of a reckless owner? Consider another aspect of the pit bull’s history where they were considered nannies to children due to their loyal, friendly and non-human-aggressive traits. Isn’t it important to ask what happened in between?
What happens to pit bulls who have saved the life of humans? Are they and their owners to be punished due to the poor judgements of negligent individuals? For every article you show me about a pit bull attacking someone, I can show you an article about a pit bull saving someone.
Advocates of BSLs have also neglected to do their research, as they cannot seem to acknowledge that any dog can be trained to be aggressive. A pompek (a Pekingese and Pomeranian cross) can be just as vicious as a pit bull. But a pompek is “cute” so when it barks and rushes your neighbour it’s okay because it’s tiny. But how would you feel about that ferocious pompek if it attacks a child? It’s not impossible. So why are we targeting one breed?
Cesar Milan put it very aptly when he said:
When will they blame humans?
What does this quote even mean, you ask? Simply what I mentioned before, that any dog can be trained to be dangerous. You’ve banned the pit bulls? The pothounds could be next, pompeks could follow and then we might ban the mosquito? How is this Act long term?
The irony is that humans created dogs to be loyal companions. In fact all purebreds were created to serve some kind of function for humans. Dogs are entirely dependent on us for their survival. They love without prejudice, without condition. Yet what do we do in return? Kill, maim, breed them to be aggressive, torture, beat and starve them. We think it is nothing to clip their ears, and cut off their tails, but they can’t hurt us in retaliation.
Why is there no attempt to update the current laws of animal cruelty in Trinidad and Tobago? The penalty for animal cruelty here is $400. Pocket change these days. And who is enforcing these laws against animal cruelty? The police? The ones entering your yards and shooting harmless family pets?
Yes, I care about human welfare, but when we consider ourselves to be so superior that our lives are the only ones worth protecting, I have to wonder if it is not the same arrogance hundreds of years ago that purported Earth to be the centre of the universe.
Though I suppose asking for us to give a damn about dogs is far too much, when we hardly seem to care about our own kind. Our concern for each other is superficial, we say, “To hell with those pit bulls!” because they are voiceless, but where is our vociferation against criminals, murderers and child abusers?
If you really want effective dog handling look at cases of human cruelty towards animals. You want to keep an animal confined for long periods of time and not expect it to be frustrated? You want to starve the animal and not expect it to be hungry? You want to keep an animal tethered in the blazing heat without water and not expect it to suffer? You want to beat dogs and then sell them to hapless owners without a thought that dogs are psychological beings just like us and are capable of reacting and overreacting?
Nobody is begging you to like dogs, but if you really care about human life, seek thorough laws that protects both humans and animals. Instead of applying a fly-by-night law that has little to do with the conditions in our country, why not look at the Antigua and Barbuda Dog Registration and Control Act which accounts for various aspects of human and dog interaction?
If you really care about human life, advocate a proactive law rather than a reactive one.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
World-Wide Failure of Breed Specific Legislation
The Truth About Pit Bulls
Pitbulls Used to Be Considered the Perfect “Nanny Dogs” for Children — Until the Media Turned Them Into Monsters
An Overview of Pit Bull Breeding
Are Breed-Specific Laws Effective?