Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Highland Park Mulls Pitbull Ban: Girl Mauled

A Highland Park girl needed 100 stitches on her face
 and hands after an attack by a 9 mo. old pitbull

Mayor Michael Belsky of Highland Park today said that he wants the North suburban village to consider a ban on pitbulls.

At first I thought he was talking about the gaggle of Highland Park liberal Democrats who quadriennally vie for municipal office with such a level of ferocity as to rival the bloodiest South Side Friday night dogfights.

Or perhaps the lefty backers of Dan Seals who engaged in all manner of dirty tricks last year. Or perhaps State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg who unveils an 11th hour surprise, dirty trick every campaign accusing his Christian opponent of having ties to the Nazis.

But no, the mayor was talking about the actual pitbull, favored dog breed of drug dealers, junkyard owners and assorted other thugs and bullies.

This was prompted by an incident last Friday, where a 14 year old Highland Park girl was attacked on the face and arms by a neighbor's newly acquired 9 month old pitbull. She will live, but required more than 100 stitches.

My libertarian instincts make me take pause at agreement with inveterate do-gooders and nanny staters like Mayor Belsky, who made it a personal crusade to save Highland Park beachgoers from the horrors of 2nd hand cigarette smoke (as if that's a real problem given the gale-force winds usually howling at Chicago beaches.)

But reluctantly, I have to agree with him on this count.

Having been an owner of sporting-breed dogs for almost a quarter century, I've had numerous run-ins with pitbulls and pitbull owners. They can be real white knuckle experiences.

I have ended up in the emergency room with a gash on my hand acquired while trying to save my dog from a pitbull. It was a successful effort, but my hand required stitches, was swollen for a week due to the blunt force trauma of the pitbull's jawlock on my hand and I still sport a scar there.

I have not been a big fan of that breed ever since.

The kind of people who gravitate toward pitbulls usually leave something to be desired.

Once while walking along the Chicago lakeshore with my dog we happened across a young black guy with a pitbull pup. The guy boasted, " when he gets bigger, my dog's gonna be able to beat the shit out of any dog."

Something told me that this canine-human relationship was not going to work out well.

And indeed they haven't usually worked out all that well.

A few years back the Evanston Animal Shelter, which had boasted of its humane, no-kill policy, finally had to abandon it in light of the profusion of unadoptable fighting pitbulls that it was sheltering. It now euthanizes dogs.

Let's face it. The pit bull terrier was bred for one purpose and one purpose only. Fighting.

It's jaws have almost twice the psi pressure of the next closest breed, the German Shepherd. It has an instinctual drive to clamp its jaws and hold on. And so many druggie types have been backyard breeding them that even its naturally menacing characteristics have been further complicated by in-breeding, often resulting in very erratic and unpredictable behavioral traits.

The death and injury toll of pitbull victims, human, canine and feline -- rises almost monthly.

That's why Great Britain, the State of Ohio and a growing number of municipalities have banned ownership or possession of the breed in one form or another.

And Highland Park would be right in adopting a ban.


  1. While bsl is an issue that Pit Bull owners do not want to face, IT IS what the Pit Bulls need!

  2. NO IT ISNT!.....I work at a pitbull rescue and 99% of the dogs are sweet as can be and those that are not nice were made to be mean and can be rehabilitated int he right hands....BSL is a cop out. Laws need to be made for who can buy a pitbull...stop the drug dealers and gangsters and downright scumbags from getting these dogs....you dont sell guns to criminals right? so why sell a pitbull who's best n worst trait is their loyalty to their owner. These dogs will do ANYTHING to please their master....If the owner likes fighting n killing the dog will do that.....if the owner wants the pit to play with cats the Pit will do that. Stop morons from getting Pitbulls

  3. This article is inaccurate. Pitbulls were not bred for only fighting. Their ancestry goes back to the original working dog. They are a utility dog that can be used for anything. Helen Kellar had one as a service dog. They were bred to be loyal, tenacious, strong, powerful, fearless. animal to animal aggression. They were specifically bred not to bite ppl because in a hunt of a dog fight the dog needs to be pulled off the animal it has attacked n the owner does not want to be bit...they are also fantastic with children. Most issues are due to poor breeding/inbreeding and bad owner....turn on the dog whisper he has a whole bunch of pitbulls that are amazing dogs

  4. There are many inaccuracies in this article, particularly about their jaw strength - Rottweilers win in that category, and all dogs naturally have the instinct to clamp down on prey.

    But, I do appreciate that the author included the abusive owners who exploit the breed as the main issue with pit bulls. Which makes me wonder why people are so intent on banning the breed when it's obviously not a logical solution. In fact, it worsens the problem, as banning increases the fear of them and contributes to their tough image which in turn makes them more attractive to people who use pits to intimidate. Dobermans and Rottweilers used to be discriminated against, and after pit bulls it will be another breed. What we need to focus our efforts on are the criminals who abuse these animals! Pit bulls are victims of these people and the media.
    The dog in the HP case was not vaccinated and did not have vet records. Does that sound like a responsible owner to you?
    I am from Highland Park and am very sorry to hear that an otherwise liberal and educated town would support something so ignorant. We should be working to protect these animals, not victimize them further.

    1. Having had one attack my lab mix and having had to go to the emergency room after the pit bull clamped down on my hand, while I was saving my dog from him - I won't go near the breed today.

      I've rescued a number of strays over the years and won't go near a pit bull who's strayed.

      That should be another thing for pit bull fanciers to consider. People won't help their dog find his way home.

      As for the "slippery slope" argument, pit bulls are sui generis -- bred and used for fighting.

      With all the great dogs out there, why would someone in his right mind gravitate toward this breed?

  5. I am very sorry that you and your dog were attacked. I'm sure that was scary and I understand if it prevents you from helping other dogs in the future. I hope that you can soon also meet friendly, well-adjusted pit bulls so you can have some positive experiences with them. I grew up with a lab we raised since she was a puppy and despite our training and socialization, she ended up being aggressive towards other dogs. But as responsible dog owners we were very vigilant and made sure she was never in a situation where she could be a danger. Breeds can tell us a lot about a dog, but it does not necessarily define or guarantee anything about them.

    I would firstly like to make a very important point - pit bulls were not bred to be aggressive towards humans. In fact, dogfighters depended on their dogs to be loyal and submissive toward humans:

    "Despite the fact that pit bulls were bred to fight with each other, early breeders took pride in producing dogs that were trustworthy and friendly to people. Handlers bathed their opponent’s dog before a match, stood in the pits with the battling dogs and often pulled them apart to end a fight. Any dog who behaved aggressively toward a person was culled, or killed, to avoid passing on such an undesirable trait. Pit bulls typically lived in their owner’s homes, where they earned the nickname “nursemaid’s dog” because they were so reliable with young children." (ASPCA's "The Truth about Pit Bulls" http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-articles/the-truth-about-pit-bulls)

    A dog that is aggressive towards people is a dog that is fearful, a dog that has been abused, neglected and poorly socialized. It is our duty as a society to protect and rescue dogs that are victims of these situations -- victims of people like the young man you mentioned in your article who threatened you with his dog. These people are not loving or responsible pet owners, and they are the real problem at hand.

    1. I met a nice woman at a dog park who was a professional dog trainer and she had 2 of the nicests, most loveable pit bulls you'd ever want to meet. But she was a very rare exception.

      How about the woman who was just killed in CA when she was attacked by a pack of pit bulls while jogging? How much more of this can be allowed to go on?

  6. It is true that initially pit bulls were bred for bull and bear baiting, and in more recent years some have been bred for dog fighting. But not all of them have been; many have been bred to be happy family dogs. Also, the term "pit bull" is a catchall term and not one specific breed, so many dogs can be put under this category unfairly. Most pit bull type dogs that are currently in shelters are mixes of many different breeds. It is ineffective and a waste of time and resources to train officers to define a pit bull type dog and put restrictions on owners, especially since the owners that carry the most burden are the responsible ones that comply with the law. BSL does not help all the dogs that are obtained unofficially (backyard breeding, etc) and kept without any registration or vet records, and where more likely they are being used as intimidating accessories. And although many pit bull advocates would cry foul, I would agree that there are some pits that have been overly inbred by these types of people and may not be able to ever become normal family dogs. But that doesn't mean that every pit bull type dog was bred that way or carries those traits - most are mixes and have never been in the hands of dogfighters. And I will mention this again, but I am against any type of pit bull breeding -- I only support rescue and adoption as options.

    Someone who decides to adopt a pit bull should be an experienced dog owner and especially vigilant about their interactions with other dogs because of their breeding history. In general, pit bull owners should be educated fully about this breed, and anyone who owns a physically strong dog needs to be the type of person that can handle, train and socialize them properly and responsibly. Because of their reputation it is especially important that owners of this type of dog make sure they never let their dog be a danger to others, and most pit owners do not bring them to dog parks (especially if they come from abusive or unknown backgrounds). But that doesn't mean that most of them don't make wonderful, gentle family pets that never hurt a fly, and that doesn't mean that the thousands currently in shelters deserve to be put down or won't make great pets.

    To answer your question, I do not "gravitate towards this breed" and I would first just like to say that I would fully support a mandatory spay/neuter for all dogs that are not part of a licensed breeding operation. Because I care about this breed I think there should be serious restrictions or a ban on breeding them at all, since the shelters are already burdened with them, and I suspect anyone breeding pit bulls is not truly interested in their welfare. I care about this breed because there is a heartbreaking situation out there and I care about ALL dogs and their welfare. There is a widespread problem in this country of people who do not value their pets, do not take proper care of them, abuse and neglect them and force them to endure horrible conditions. If we really want a long-term solution to the problem of dog attacks, we need to raise the standards and legal requirements for ALL dog owners. And if a person has proven themselves to be an unfit dog owner, they simply should not be allowed to own animals in the future. In Michigan they are attempting to create an animal abuse registry which would prevent a lot of recurring abuse. We need to begin taking complaints to police about dogs more seriously - I am willing to bet in many of these tragic attacks, this wasn't the first clue that the dogs were not happy dogs with responsible owners. Neighbors will complain about dogs roaming the streets, chained up in the yard, growling and barking at people -- with improved animal abuse laws, we can preemptively address these volatile situations before something major happens. We also need to educate underserved communities on how to be better pet owners, and there are many wonderful programs that are doing just that (links below).

  7. Responsible owners spay/neuter, keep up with vaccines and have vet records, register their dogs with the city, do not let their dog escape from their home or yard, socialize their dog properly with other dogs and people, and if they notice signs of aggression, they are extremely vigilant about how this dog interacts with the world. And if they are not qualified to handle aggression, they turn the dog over to someone who can. I am not even saying that every dog can be saved, or if they can that it is reasonable to invest the time and resources it would take to rehab them. But I wonder what the ultimate goal of BSL is? To eradicate these breeds and then they think there will be no more aggressive dog situations? All kinds of breeds bite people every day. Criminals will keep on using dogs as weapons, and if they one day do not have access to pit bulls they will use another dog to scare people with. Any dog raised in the environment that many pit bulls in this country are would be vicious too.

    It's time to start thinking about long-term solutions and forcing everyone in this country to evolve to value animals and their welfare! We need to raise the standards of how we treat animals and create laws to support those standards. Pit bulls are victims - of criminals who exploit them, and of the media that has targeted them, and the vicious cycle that the two have created. BSL is a band-aid on a much bigger and more serious wound, and it lets the real criminals off the hook for the problems they have created.

    I urge you to volunteer with a local shelter and try to understand the situation better. I think you will find that the problem is much more complicated than you think.

    PLEASE read this, the ASPCA's take on BSL: http://www.aspca.org/Fight-Animal-Cruelty/dog-fighting/breed-specific-legislation

    Michigan animal abuse registry: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/articles/2013/05/12/news/local_news/doc51902ca7aa4e6525732246.txt
    The Humane Society's "Pets for Life" program: http://www.humanesociety.org/about/departments/pets-for-life/what_is_pfl.html
    ASPCA - The Truth about Pit Bulls: http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-articles/the-truth-about-pit-bulls

    1. Well Annie, here's another upshot of the pitbull profusion that almost blew me away.

      I met a young mom in Wrigleyville who was with her kids and her very expensive dog of an obscure breed with which I was unacquainted. She told me that they spent around $1k to buy the dog from a breeder. She said they were going to adopt a dog from a shelter, but their veterinarian advised against it!!!

      The vet told them that due to the profusion of pit bulls in Chicago, the strain had entered a lot of the shelter dogs and since they had kids, they should not risk getting a dog which may have pit bull genes lurking within.

      She told me that this advice surprised her, but that the vet had no monetary interest whatever in proffering it.

      So now we have vets saying that it is too dangerous to adopt pound puppies because of the pit bull epidemic.

      When will this whole mess stop? Maybe with a phase out ban on pit bulls as they now have in the British Isles and in Germany.

  8. Okay, let your anecdotes guide your opinions instead of educating yourself. I'm not really sure how your stories are a response to anything I've said.

    I am not trying to downplay the attacks by any means - I keep up with all news about dogs and am very affected when I read these stories. I absolutely think a lot needs to be done to prevent them from happening in the future. I just am presenting ideas that will be effective and will prevent attacks in the long-term. Which is, or so I thought, the ultimate goal of all this controversy, but it seems that people are unwilling to truly educate themselves on the situation and base their decisions on fear instead of logic.

    As for the case in California, horrifying. Please read this article that follows up on the situation:

    The owner of these dogs:
    -Had EIGHT dogs living at his home (six pit bulls). Does that sound like a normal dog owner? Do you think those dogs were socialized and just regular happy well trained pets? Doubt it.
    -There were at least THREE previous reported attacks from this guy's dogs. This attack was completely preventable. This man was obviously not a fit dog owner and if those attacks had been taken seriously and the situation looked into, his dogs would have been taken away and this never would have happened.
    -They were not spay/neutered, were not registered and were not up to date on vaccines. Responsible dog owners keep up with all these things, and BSL wouldn't even affect people like this who do not follow the rules.
    -Was discovered to have an illegal grow operation, which may be a clue as to why he had all these dogs. Many people keep pits because they know other people are intimidated by them, so they use them as guard dogs, scary accessories, and encourage aggressive behavior. It's a bad cycle - the more pit bulls attack, the more fearful people become, the more criminals enjoy their bad reputation and continue to use them for their needs.

    This whole mess will stop when people stop making emotional snap judgements on the situation, and truly educate themselves and look for real solutions.

    1. Let's see, darling, where does anecdotal evidence become such that you can rely upon it?

      My dog and I have been attacked by a pit bull. I ended up in the emergency room - almost getting a gangrenous hand -- due to a pit bull. I have run into low-life blacks who boast that their pit bulls will become vicious-- I have cited the recent case where a woman was killed by pitbulls in California -- I have cited the case where a little girl got her face mauled by a pit bull in Highland Park, Illinois.

      I did not cite the case a few months ago, where a homeless black man was attacked by feral pitbulls, nor did I cite the case 2 weeks ago, where a cop had to shoot a pit bull which was attacking a little black kid in Chicago.

      How many anecdotes add up to sufficient evidence for you? Or won't you be satisfied until I hire a statistician and in the meantime, while we're crunching the numbers to your satisfaction, another kid is killed by a pit bull?

  9. I am not denying that these attacks are a serious problem or that something major needs to be done about them. I am trying to talk about real solutions that can prevent them from happening again. BSL is an easy way out and DOESN'T WORK. It is a way for politicians to say they are doing something about the issue. Most research tells us that the breed is not the issue, it is the people who own the dog that cause these problems. I am simply asking that when you read these articles about the attacks, look deeper, and try to identify what the real problem was in the situation. Almost every case I read, the attack could have been prevented, and it is the owner's lack of responsible ownership that is the issue. The solutions I have presented above would stop these owners from mistreating or owning dogs in the first place.

    We are all on the same side here - we all want the attacks to stop. Now it is time to talk about solutions that will work. We need to use logic to guide our opinions and legislative action, not our emotions.

    1. Re: "Most research tells us that the breed is not the issue, it is the people who own the dog that cause these problems."

      This particular breed is more prone to becoming an "issue" when combined with a negligent owner. A particularly dangerous issue.

  10. The Pitbull has a greater tendency than other breeds to attack. They are good at it and are dangerous. There's always going to be comments from the peanut gallery trying to deny this. Most often when a human is mauled we hear what a gentle and loving animal the dog was up to that point.

    I consider people like this to be dangerously stupid, clueless, and often negligent. Sorry if you feel insulted.

    1. No -- I entirely agree with you. My really nice lab-setter mix was attacked by one of them. Fortunately he was a tough little pup and fought him off. But what of the little dogs who can't fight back? This really stinks and pit bulls should be banned here in the USA as they are banned in Great Britain and Germany.


Comments invited, however anonymous commentors had better deal directly with the issues raised and avoid ad hominem drivel. As for Teachers' Union seminar writers -- forget about it.