Pit Bulls, Propaganda & Prohibition

In March 2006, the controversial ban on pit bulls in Ontario survived a constitutional challenge. However two key elements were struck down in a ruling issued that day by the Superior Court. The judge declared the definition of a pit bull terrier unconstitutional, and also struck down a provision that allows the province to use certificates from veterinarians to prove a dog is, in fact a pit bull. Presently the Ontario law forces pit bull owners to muzzle, leash and sterilize their dogs or face a $10,000 fine or up to six months in jail – or both.

Originally terriers served a very real purpose in England. They were bred to take out rats and other vermin, which ruined crops, damaged property, and served as a vehicle for fleas that carried the Black Plague. Terriers destroyed vermin efficiently and were easy animals to care for. As time went on the concept for using them for sport caught on. It is from this original terrier that pit bulls get their kind nature and juvenile behavior; it is also where they get their aggressive side from.

I have two great dogs named Phoenix and Mars. They come from the same litter, but that’s where the similarity stops. They are a mix of American Pit Bull, Texas Red Nose, German Shepherd and some kind of hound. Officially they are not pit bulls, but they are close enough and represent the grey area. Since the Ontario ban has gone into effect, an average of 8000 pit bulls per year have been destroyed by the city of Toronto, the numbers becoming lower over the years, but the problem is no better. Before the ban, my dogs faced the average opposition that any aggressive breed did. Right after the ban, I couldn’t believe the jump in comments from the people in the local park. I was the same person, and they were they same dogs, but now it was all different. Are people really that stupid? People that actually know the dogs? A law goes into effect, and they throw out all their brains and listen to the propaganda? Lemmings!

I am so lucky to be the leader in my pack, which includes 2 cats. I would never jeopardize their lives in any way. But every time I smoke a joint, I jeopardize the safety of my pack. I try to pay off this guilt by being the best animal owner I can be. I buy them lots of toys and take them out to play to the park. Everyone loves my dogs. They get so excited when there’s friends at the door. Phoenix piddles on the ground, Mars leaps for kisses. Then they run and get them a gift, usually a ball, a shoe, a plastic bottle, or whatever is closest lying around. They leap up, or stand on the couch, gifts presented in their mouths, competing bums wiggling like mad. So if any cops ever did come in, they’d just get excited that there’s visitors, and run and get them a shoe. But the sad reality is, on the other side of the door, the cops, having never met the dogs, would not know this, and would come in barging with guns and never give them a chance, no matter how well I trained and loved them. Mars would leap up in ecstasy of a visitor, and he would get shot in mid air before he got a chance to lick them in happiness.

Now I’m guessing that almost everyone reading this article is pro pot. I’m also guessing that perhaps a good number of you have pit bulls and similar breeds, and are on the commercial side of things. Many of you have these dogs in cities and states where they are illegal, like me. Some of you are even law abiding recreational users, or med patients. But because of the pit bull propaganda your neighbours and even the cops can have the wrong impression. They don’t know who you are. They just see pit bulls, they assume they’re a threat, and judge things accordingly.

Despite their particular nature, different dogs have carried the brunt of being the “bad dog” throughout history – Bulldogs, Husky’s, Chow Chow’s, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and lately Staffordshire and Pit Bull Terriers. Over time, these breeds have been used archetypically in movies, music and fashion, making the breed vulnerable to prejudice. News media is another fuel to this fire, exploding the situations to sell their papers. We see this trend in almost any devastation that will shock the people into needing to read the rest of the story. When I was a kid you were supposed to be afraid of Dobermans, now every news article is about Pit Bulls. But the stats haven’t changed. In fact, retrievers and Cocker Spaniels are among the top biters, and they’re promoted as family dogs.

Pits make great pets, if you treat them well. But if you are a pot dealer, grower or even regular smoker, and you decide to get a pit bull, remember they are the on front lines in a nasty drug war, and they’ve been scarred by propaganda. They’ll have two strikes against them. They are willing soldiers, and you must recognize this. Ultimately the onus is on you, the one who sets the rules.

In my opinion, Breed Specific Legislation is racism, and straight prohibition only makes it worse. It’s like saying pot smokers are a problem so therefore let’s ban pot. But really, socially and economically stressed people are a problem, and sometimes they smoke pot. Socially and economically stressed dogs are a problem, and sometimes they’re pit bulls. Again it boils down to prohibition, it doesn’t work – on anything.

Prohibition is not the answer! Just control the breeders, and license the dogs. People who want these special dogs should prove they’re worth as an owner before they’re allowed to get one anyway, even if it’s a “free to good home”. Prohibition just sends the troublemakers underground while the innocent dogs get slaughtered by authority.

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