A Vet’s View
As a veterinarian, I was saddened by your article on the pit bull controversy (“Pit Fighting,” November 28th). The opinions expressed by Mr. Phillips showed remarkable ignorance of the breed, dog behavior and of the complicated circumstances surrounding most dog bite incidents. His comparison of the pit bull to “a toy imported from China” which is “clearly defective” and a “terrorist” were especially disturbing, and not only due to the racist undertones of these remarks. Most dog attacks occur due to a combination of factors, which include (but are not limited to) the owner, the individual dog and that dog’s history, home environment and background, and the wrong overall situation.
In my 15-year career I have worked with thousands of dogs, including hundreds of pit bulls and pit mixes. Many times I’ve handled these dogs in stressful situations where they are injured and in pain. They have been overwhelmingly stoic and easygoing as patients. The few that have been aggressive have always given me some kind of warning. Yes, they can be prey-driven, but that characteristic is certainly not exclusive to this breed. In the right hands, pit bulls usually shine as companions. Any dog, but particularly a large breed dog, has the potential to inflict significant harm toward humans or other dogs. For this reason, among others, dog ownership comes with tremendous responsibility. They are not toys, but rather living beings who are influenced tremendously by their caregivers and their environment.
The best thing we can do to prevent dog bites is to educate the public, and to spay and neuter to prevent so many unwanted dogs from ending up in shelters, where they are unable to get the socialization so vital to a dog’s psychological health. Unfortunately, I think this article is just fanning the flames on both sides of the controversy (and neglects to include the opinion of a veterinarian, hmmm...). In closing, I would like to refer both your author and Mr. Phillips to a wonderful article in the New Yorker (“Troublemakers” by Malcom Gladwell, Feb. 6, 2006) comparing stereotyping of the pit bull to racial profiling. Both, it appears, are ineffective.
Dr. Gabrielle Ravina, veterinarian
Mr. Phillips’ position is laughable. Is he a veterinarian? Is he an animal psychologist? Finding a lawyer with an extreme opinion which drives business his way is like finding a blade of grass in the lawn. There are more lawyers who refer to themselves as pit bulls to describe their willingness to win a case regardless of the truth than there are pit bull attacks in the U.S. If I was in a hole with a pit bull, a cobra and a lawyer, under no circumstance would I ever turn my back to the lawyer. In 2011, I lost half my income due to the legal sweet talking of a lawyer. I have never been bitten so hard by a dog.
Rep is Real
Pit bulls are like guns, they are only as safe as their owners. They differ from most other dogs in that they have been bred to fight, sometimes to the death, and they are extremely strong. Certain people should not be able to own or breed these potentially dangerous dogs. I don’t think the reputation pit bulls have is at all based on myth.