Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Nature of the Beast

Well, it's another day in Britain, and yet another child has been mauled to death by a dangerous dog.

Four-year-old Jean-Paul Massey, from Liverpool, was killed by a pit-bull terrier at his grandmother's home. As the family mourns, pit-bull owners and breeders around the world prepare their defences in supporting the keeping of these supposedly-domesticated animals as pets.

Here's the simple issue we are faced with: nature did not make pit bulls. These dogs were bred, by humans, for violence nearly 200 years ago and the genetic make-up of the dog dictates that they will always be dangerous.

'According to one RSPCA inspector, quoted in The Independent (21 May 1991, page 3), "They're bred to kill. No other dog is like them". ' (
And we wonder why these dogs turn on our children and kill them.

Even the United Kennel Club (, stout supporter of all dogs and largest all-breed performance-dog registry in the world, tells us the breeds were bred as 'catch-dogs' in the 19th Century to hunt boar and to keep livestock under control. The Kennel Club states they combine 'the gameness of the terrier with the strength and athleticism of the bulldog. The result was a dog that embodied all of the virtues attributed to great warriors: strength... indomitable courage.'

Do warriors sound like friendly household pets?

Jean-Paul Massey's parents don't think so. In fact, I think the owners of the pit bull showed a distinct lack of courage by feeling the need to keep a violent dog as a pet.

Owning a dangerous dog and being surprised when it mauls a child is similar to using the butt of a Beretta as a hammer, then feeling unfairly treated when a round unloads and blows off your hip-bone. Perhaps now we'll take responsibility for our actions, before it happens again.

I'll never forget time when a violent, crazed dog squeezed under the school gate and chased the pupils around the playground, jaws snapping. I was 10. We scattered, screaming. I was one of the first to dive into the classroom and slam my back against the door. I watched from the window as the sternest teacher in the school marched out into the yard with a rolled-up newspaper, taking the dog's attention off the pupils. In retrospect, that's one of the bravest things I've ever seen a man do.

Later that week a dog handler from the RSPCA visited the school. I learned a valuable lesson about interacting with dangerous dogs: Don't interact.

The Dog Handler's Advice:
Don't make eye contact. Locking eyes is an invitation to fight.
Don't smile. Smiling bears teeth. Another invitation.
Don't run. Dogs can run faster.
Do stand still, like you're a tree. Sure, the dog might pee on you. But dog pee washes off. Dog teeth-marks don't.

This was in the early nineties- a time when dog attacks were frequently making the papers. The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act- outlawing the breeding, sale, exchange or ownership of the pit bull and all cross-breeds related to it, had recently been implemented.

Jean-Paul Massey's death clearly indicates that, once again, the British government have done little but deliver more bureaucracy and big talk. Both Labour and the Conservatives failed to protect the country's inhabitants by allowing dog owners to hide the genetic history of the dog, thereby squeezing out through loopholes in the law.

I would have thought it was a pretty simple process- If a dog shows any indication of being bred from banned breeds, it should only be kept and controlled by recognised institutions- the police, the RSPCA, the military, or a respected scientific research organisation. In short, only organisations that are trained to handle these dogs professionally should be allowed to keep them- and even then, only with good reason. If they don't need them, the dog should be destroyed.

That's the nature of the beast.

No comments: