DEAR DR. FOX: I have followed your column in the local newspaper for years. Your response to J.G. of Palm Beach on Feb. 17 prompted me to write, as your answer did not go far enough to defend pit bulls.
I spend 25 to 30 hours a week as a dog adoption counselor and dog walker. I assist with dog-meets and playgroups, and also work with an outside trainer to help the long-term residents get adopted.
I also have a pit-mix as my second dog, and I cannot say enough about the beauty of these dogs. People need to understand that “pit bull” is not a breed, but a mixture of Staffordshire terriers and something else.
My shelter receives all the cruelty/abuse cases in the county and also receives nearly daily surrenders and stray pit-mixes. The vast majority of these dogs are sweet, loving dogs that are highly adoptable. Many have been treated poorly and neglected, and come in undernourished and with unaddressed medical issues. While we are unable to do home checks, we offer follow-up and other continued support for all adopters.
I cannot tell you how many of these dogs have been adopted by people with children and other dogs, and go on to be beloved family pets. I am often appalled at how these dogs are unfairly treated by the media -- they are just dogs, and are among the most resilient and people-pleasing.
J.G. said pit bulls “frequently kill their owners for little or no reason.” I would like to know where they get their information.
While I agree with everything you said in your reply, I do not understand why you didn’t go further to promote what wonderful pets these mixes can be, and often are. -- C.L., Tinton Falls, Connecticut
DEAR C.L.: Some readers will appreciate your letter. Others will not. Perhaps there is some similarity between certain irresponsible people owning any kind of dog powerful enough to kill a human being, and owning a lethal weapon. But why single out just pit bulls, I ask?
To reduce the incidence of dog bites nationwide, regardless of breed, calls for better supervision -- especially of children -- around dogs, according to a recent review of reported dog bites in the U.S.
Thirty-four percent of children with dog bites were ages 6 to 12; 30 percent were ages 2 or younger, who had more severe injuries than older youths, reported researchers in the journal Injury Prevention. The findings, based on data analysis for 7,900 patients ages 17 and younger, collected for the National Trauma Data Bank between 2007 and 2014, also showed that bites were more likely among girls, but boys had more severe injuries.
An article published in the Journal of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine reported some 272 people were killed by dogs over a seven-year period from 2008-15, according to an analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
My own wonderful, gentle family dog, part Australian heeler and part boxer, was rescued from an animal shelter in a state where she would have been killed because she looks like a pit bull and regulations prohibit their adoption. Animal shelters and rescue organizations need to stop unfounded breed discrimination and summarily executing good dogs, and should instead use temperament tests and prospective owner/home evaluations.
DEAR DR. FOX: My friend has a very good-natured, but big, Labrador retriever. He got her when she was a puppy, but failed to properly train her. She is now 6 years old.
The problem is, whenever you try and pet her, she goes bananas. She jumps on you, playfully opens her large mouth to grab your hand, jerks her head and runs around the room. She is hyperactive and can be so annoying to those who wish to interact with her.
Is this something that can be reversed so that I, and others, can enjoy her companionship? -- V.M.N., Medford, Oregon
DEAR V.M.N.: Some people think it cute to let their puppies (and toddlers) run riot with no boundaries or self-discipline. Young human and canine delinquents are comparable in this regard, both enjoying being the center of attention, respecting no boundaries and always insisting on their own way.
Some freedom during early development is essential to allow self-expression, especially during interactive games and outdoor activities. But just as children go to school, so should our canine companions, to avoid delinquency and to facilitate the development of social behavior and self-control. It is never too late to begin educating a canine delinquent, essentially one raised to act like a perpetual puppy. It’s time to grow up and go to obedience school.
Clearly our dogs are telling us there is a serious problem -- not primarily with them, since it is not in any good dog’s nature to bite the hand that feeds it -- but in our relationships with and treatment of them. They are perhaps one of our best indicators of dystopia!
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.net.)