News

A local vet voices her support for pit bulls and another guy really, really hates lawyers.

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

Santa Cruz

 

Billable Biting

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.

Aaron Lloyd

Santa Cruz

 

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.

Mike Whitten

Via email

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2012/12/04/letters_to_the_editor_dec._5_11 Mia

    Thank you Gabrielle for your insight. I appreciate a vet’s perspective, and I agree this was missing from the original article. My sister has two pit bulls and I have never met kinder, more gentler dogs. They are real companions to my sister and her husband. They have never been vicious, they are big-hearted dogs. I think the underlying debate here is one of nature vs. nurture. Pit bulls are not born evil, but they can be trained to be. I’ve often come across smaller dogs that are more aggressive. It is the owner’s responsibility, just like with any other breed, to train the dog right. And it is the owner who should be penalized for any wrongdoing.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/letters_to_the_editor_dec._5_11.html Mia

    Thank you Gabrielle for your insight. I appreciate a vet’s perspective, and I agree this was missing from the original article. My sister has two pit bulls and I have never met kinder, more gentler dogs. They are real companions to my sister and her husband. They have never been vicious, they are big-hearted dogs. I think the underlying debate here is one of nature vs. nurture. Pit bulls are not born evil, but they can be trained to be. I’ve often come across smaller dogs that are more aggressive. It is the owner’s responsibility, just like with any other breed, to train the dog right. And it is the owner who should be penalized for any wrongdoing.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/2012/12/04/letters_to_the_editor_dec._5_11 Angela

    Almost every decade has seen discrimination of one of the dog breeds. When I was very young, it was St. Bernards, then German Shepherds, then Dobermans, then Rottweillers… and now Pit Bulls (or anything even vaguely resembling a pit bull).

    In each breed’s case, there were concrete reasons given as to why that breed was dangerous. Do we remember them now? No, and in 10 years there will be a different breed we are against.

    I understand that some people are afraid of dogs, but dogs are here to stay and maybe pet care should be taught in the schools so that kids know the proper way to approach an animal – whether it is a gerbil or an elephant. There are just certain things you should not do around animals.

    I have been bit twice (not by a pit) and it was MY fault both times – my body language was wrong (and I knew better). You would not walk up to a person, put your fists up and said “let’s rumble”, and you should not do an equivalent gesture to an animal.

    I am disappointed that there was not a companion article about the OTHER side of the issue. Stop spreading the fear.

  • http://www.santacruz.com/news/letters_to_the_editor_dec._5_11.html Angela

    Almost every decade has seen discrimination of one of the dog breeds. When I was very young, it was St. Bernards, then German Shepherds, then Dobermans, then Rottweillers… and now Pit Bulls (or anything even vaguely resembling a pit bull).

    In each breed’s case, there were concrete reasons given as to why that breed was dangerous. Do we remember them now? No, and in 10 years there will be a different breed we are against.

    I understand that some people are afraid of dogs, but dogs are here to stay and maybe pet care should be taught in the schools so that kids know the proper way to approach an animal – whether it is a gerbil or an elephant. There are just certain things you should not do around animals.

    I have been bit twice (not by a pit) and it was MY fault both times – my body language was wrong (and I knew better). You would not walk up to a person, put your fists up and said “let’s rumble”, and you should not do an equivalent gesture to an animal.

    I am disappointed that there was not a companion article about the OTHER side of the issue. Stop spreading the fear.