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BC Politics

Denying a Dog's Danger

Pit bulls are bred to 'fight and kill': plastic surgeon.

Bill Tieleman 13 Jan

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist whose clients include unions and businesses in the resource and public sector. Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at [email protected] or visit his blog.

"Based on my extensive experience, I believe that the risk posed by pit bulls is equivalent to placing a loaded gun with the safety off on the coffee table. In my opinion, these dogs should be banned." -- Dr. David Billmire, paediatric plastic surgery director, Cincinnati Children's Hospital

Pit bull advocates are as fierce as the dog breed that has killed and maimed more people than any other by a wide margin.

But worse, many pit bull owners and supporters are simply in denial.

And my column calling for a pit bull ban in British Columbia, like those in place in Ontario since 2005, Winnipeg since 1990 and many American cities, stirred up some of the nastiest emails and comments I have received in many years.

An angry reader in Prince George [name withheld] emailed me directly:

"You and your opinions can fuck right off. Nobody needs your half assed informed articles causing problems for the tame and loving animals we know and love."

Equally charming and articulate was this email, replete with spelling and grammar errors: "I thought that same way about the breed because of clowns like you writing this bullshit. Until I bought one as a protector for my famy cus I work away & since we socialized her n discouraged aggressive behaviour she is now worthless as a guard dog but the best most loving animal I have ever owned... You sir are what's wrong with the work [sic] fuck off."

Stunningly, last week's column was shared on Facebook over 15,000 times.

And by no coincidence, over 14,000 readers of 24 Hours Vancouver voted "No" to banning pit bulls, in what was obviously a coordinated effort to skew the results.

My sin? Pointing out the need for action after three serious pit bull attacks in B.C. in just two months and citing U.S. statistics showing 25 people were killed by pit bulls in 2013 alone, including 18 children -- making up 78 per cent of all fatal dog bite deaths, even though they account for just 6 per cent of all U.S. dogs.

Dog mauls elderly man

Despite being "tame and loving animals," since last week's column, an 87-year-old man was mauled to death by his own pit bull in Maryland; only a police helicopter and intervention saved a California man's life after four pit bulls attacked him in his own alley; a 10-month-old Florida child was severely maimed by the family pit bull; and a puppy and its owner were savaged by a pit bull in a Florida dog park, also caught on camera.

Sadly just another week in pit bull attack news.

Unfortunately, pit bull advocates go into denial when faced with these grim stories, blaming "bad" owners -- even the parents of attacked children and babies -- and saying their pit bull is sweet and loving.

Several people invited me to meet the family pet and change my mind -- but that's not the point. No doubt some pit bulls behave well but far too many have not or have suddenly snapped, leaving a defenceless child scarred or dead -- and sadly some of these incidents were in the dog's own home.

I prefer to listen to Dr. Billmire, who, in Cincinnati alone, has dealt with so many horrific child injuries from pit bull attacks that he has stepped out to criticize the breed.

"I recently gave a talk summarizing my 30 years of practice in paediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery, and one segment was titled 'Why I Hate Pit Bulls.'

"I watched a child bleed to death one night in our operating room because a pit bull had torn his throat out, " he wrote. "I have had to rebuild the skull of a child who had his ears and entire scalp torn off. I am currently reconstructing the face of a child, half of whose face has been torn off down to the bone. I have had to rebuild noses, lips, eyelids, jaws and cheeks of numerous children."

"Now, I am a dog lover and virtually every one of my family members has a dog. But it is a fact that different dogs have always been bred for specific qualities. My sheltie herded, my daughter's setter flushes birds and my pug sits on my lap -- this is what they are bred for.

"Pit bulls were bred to fight and kill and, unfortunately, many current breeders favor these aggressive traits. There is no need for any dog with the characteristics," he concluded.

Sorry, but Dr. Billmire is right -- pit bulls are simply too dangerous and a ban is needed for public safety.  [Tyee]

Read more: Health, BC Politics

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