OPINION: The demonic, diabolical dog

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Frightened pet owners and communities are constantly bouncing around from breed to breed, looking for a certain set of genes to blame anytime a dog goes “bad.”

First it was the German shepherds. They were considered vicious because of the common assumption that they were all police watchdogs. Then it was the Doberman pinschers, because they were good guard dogs.

Today, we fear the pit bull. Their muscular physique and not-so-poodle-like look has led many to believe there should be a ban on the breed here in Kansas. While I do agree some individual dogs are simply born aggressive, categorizing an entire breed as aggressive and dangerous is humankind’s way of ignoring the real problem: not all people are meant to be pet owners.

According to a Nov. 9, 2014 Kansas City Star article titled, “In a quiet trend, pit bull bans are disappearing,” new rules and restrictions are being discussed that aim to prevent dog attacks without discriminating against specific breeds. Instead, they would focus on the behavior of the pet owners and their animals.

Brent Toellner, the co-founder of KC Pet Project, an organization operating the Kansas City, Missouri animal shelter, said in the article that 25 percent of the dogs the shelter impounds are some form of pit bull. Yet on any given day, pit bulls make up about half of the shelter population. This may be because of differing local policies within the Kansas area. For instance, it is illegal to have a pit bull in Shawnee or Overland Park, but is legal in Lenexa.

Scattered laws are not the only reason pit bulls are behind bars. The media is known for blowing things out of proportion. Whether it’s an ebola or zombie apocalypse or the swine flu (which I had, and evidently am still alive), the media does a great job at getting audiences’ panties in a wad. The beginning of the pit bull scare began with nothing other than … you guessed it, the media.

Sports Illustrated ran a 1987 cover photo of a vicious looking pit bull with the headline reading, “Beware of This Dog.” While most “readers” stopped at the photo and headline (as many do), the actual content of the article was somewhere lost in translation. At the time, there were a number of high-profile attacks by pit bulls. One of the most publicized attacks was in June of 1987, when a toddler was killed by a chained pit bull guarding a marijuana crop field in California.

Because of incidents like this and the cover photo, readers were left thinking that pit bulls were bonafide killers. The article, though, indicated that the problem wasn’t the genetics of the pit bull, but rather a problem of ownership and irresponsible pet owners, according to a May 1, 2013 Seton Hall University study titled, “Attacking the Innocent: Why Breed Specific Legislation Cannot Achieve its Stated Goals.”

Vicious dogs are driven by nothing more than poor ownership. A chihuahua who has been chained up outside and left to starve before being found will most likely be fearful or angry at the first person he sees. It is time that lawmakers start looking at the root of the issue: the owners themselves. Why is someone making the initial purchase to get a dog? Do they have the money to support the animal? All of these questions need to be taken into consideration before letting anyone make this huge, life-changing decision.

Breed-specific legislation is a narrow-minded one that focuses more on the outcries of those frightened by pit bulls than the actual animals. Pit bulls are no more likely to hurt anyone than they are to avoid pooping on a well-trimmed lawn, when raised by the right people.

Kelly Iverson is a senior in mass communications.

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