Monday, December 22, 2014

Biting reactions


Pit bull.

Two simple words, but so very charged, the reaction to which varies wildly. There are pit bulls’ fearful detractors; those who would have them demonized, having fallen prey to the dogs’ misrepresentation in the media. And then there are their champions, who are struggling to change the tide of public opinion.

Pit bull.

Two simple words, but so very charged, the reaction to which varies wildly. There are pit bulls’ fearful detractors; those who would have them demonized, having fallen prey to the dogs’ misrepresentation in the media. And then there are their champions, who are struggling to change the tide of public opinion.

Pit bull is, in fact, a loose term for many distinct “bully” breed dogs, such as the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and, here in Ottawa, even the regular old Bull Terrier couldn’t escape the label.

There is a general misunderstanding of the nature of dogs that fall into the pit bull camp, one that can be blamed largely on the sad fact that any aggressive attack is often inaccurately blamed on the scapegoated pit bull with little concern as to the offender’s actual breed. According to testing by The National Canine Temperament Testing Association, the Golden Retriever, Poodle, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, English Setter and numerous other breeds are considered more likely to become aggressive than the breeds commonly referred to as pit bulls. While the average score of the 231 breeds tested was a mere 82.4 percent, pit bulls scored a 86.5 percent (the higher the score the better). In 2006, an Ottawa-banned breed of the pit bull family, a Bull Terrier name Rufus, was actually named best in show overall breed at the Westminister Kennel Club’s national dog show. I hope there will be a day soon that Rufus can come to Ottawa without being confiscated from his owner for his appearance.

In response to David A. Lee’s Reader Forum letter published in the Dec. 18 Herald, I first want to start out by saying I appreciate his opinion, and I also appreciate him pointing out the massive contradiction that the whole country is becoming aware of as more and more municipalities strike down these ineffective breed-specific laws.

I would like to start out with the points we agree on. Lee stated, “I wish to record my very strong objection to any effort to relax any Ottawa city ordinance imposing severe limits on the possession or public exposure of breeds of dogs hitherto known as dangerous and/or vicious.” I completely agree with that statement. Ottawa should have a proactive ordinance protecting Ottawa residents from vicious/dangerous dogs without “relaxing it” one bit. Piles and piles of research has been completed since 1975 on the subject, all showing that dogs are not inherently dangerous based off their specific breed. Like the ongoing study mentioned above, and even a brand new study just released by the Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association, three days before Lee’s opinion was published, this is not “propaganda.” This is plain old scientific method in action creating a conclusion that becomes more accurate with every new dog they test, which there are currently more than 35,000 and counting.

Lee also stated, “Some dogs are, unfortunately, naturally dangerous to human life and limb and safety, no matter how human beings treat them. And some breeds are, in fact, deliberately bred for their violent potentialities to life, animal and otherwise,” which also is a very true statement. Some dogs genetically should not be allowed in city limits because their inherent behavior makes them a danger to society. This again, however, is not breed specific. The dog genome is made up of more than 20,000 genes, and they vary widely in the “pit bull” group of breeds, especially since the City of Ottawa groups five breeds and anything that may or may not look like it in the mix.

Might I remind you the last dog attack to happen near our beloved town was by a German Shepherd. The German Shepherd happens to have the most powerful bite psi [pounds per square inch] out of all dog breeds, which could cause some serious anxiety to the average person and still is completely legal to have in Ottawa, but so does driving a car for some people which also can be dangerous if you neglect the laws of the road in the same way a dog owner could neglect the comprehensive dangerous dog ordinance we are proposing in place of the “Pit Bull Ban.” The City of Ottawa needs to put the comprehensive dangerous dog ordinance into effect if we really want to make our community a safe and fair place for all residents.

Those two points Lee had correct. The rest was just a mess of hostile contradictions. Such as when he stated, “The City of Ottawa loves to boast that this is a great place to live, work and retire. That slogan will become a lie the instant any child or senior citizen or anyone else suffers the least degree of harm, danger or fear or anxiety about an encounter with a dangerous beast coming into public space from any private space.” The question I want to ask Lee is whether that slogan becomes a lie when a child or senior citizen is bitten by a Golden Retriever or any other breed of dog with the current ineffective laws on the books here in Ottawa that do nothing to protect us from the real issue (negligent owners), or does it just become a lie if an American Staffordshire Terrier, an American Pit Bull Terrier, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or a Bull Terrier bites a child or senior citizen?

I appreciate someone with an opinion from “the other side” coming forward and voicing the fears that someone on my side may just not understand because of our experience with the specific breed as a family member. Differing opinions are exactly what helps and are needed to form all-around great legislation. My hope is that we as Ottawa citizens come together to create an ordinance that the majority of citizens can agree with addressing everyone’s fears and anxieties while still being fair to all of our citizens and four-legged inhabitants.

In fact, the Bible says we must never treat any part of God’s creation with contempt. When we do, we are indirectly treating our Creator with contempt. Instead, God calls us to be stewards or trustees of His creation, and the Bible reminds us that we are responsible to Him for the way we treat it. We’ve often forgotten this in our colorful history and even today — but it’s still true, and when we ignore it we not only hurt God’s creation, but we also hurt ourselves.

I invite anyone who is anxious about lifting the pit bull ban to contact me, my wife Ashley, or Becky Bentley and let me know your thoughts so we can address them in the proposed ordinance our group is going to give to the Ottawa City Commission. Our goal is not to divide the City of Ottawa but to bring it together for a greater good.

— Jason Berve,


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