I hate pit bulls; absolutely fucking hate 'em. Most dogs I can take or leave, but pit bulls…oh fucking no.
When I was about 15 or so, I knew a family, the Cramers, that kept a mountain lion as a pet. We weren’t especially close— they were friends of a friend—but I visited their house out in the boondocks several times and got to interact with their cat on a number of occasions.
I believe her name was Sheeba, maybe Sheena. She was about the size of a big German Shepherd, only longer. She was a beautiful animal that behaved like one of the sweet ‘lil pussycats she was raised with. It was kind of surreal seeing this big tawny cat, who looked like she had just jumped straight out a nature documentary, lounging around on the sofa, playing with kitty toys, demanding table scraps and behaving like any other housecat.
They’d had her declawed, and her big stabbing Bowie knife-like incisors were kept filed down to slightly rounded butterknives. Not that it was necessary; she was a sweet, lazy, good-natured old beastie who loved company, adored her adoptive human family and seemingly wouldn’t hurt a fly.
The law of the land in north central Texas back then (it may have changed since) was that this type of potentially dangerous animal could not be kept within the city limits, had to be registered, and had to live in an enclosure with steel fencing on all four sides and on top, and a concrete or similar floor that couldn’t be dug through. I want to think that they also had to have a specialized sort of insurance policy, as well.
Even with all of the precautions the Cramers took, they realized that their pet of choice could pose a problem to the public if she got out and was frightened, or hurt, or provoked. They had a perfect “…better safe than sorry” attitude, and a full understanding that laws pertaining to ownership of potentially dangerous pets weren’t about penalizing them for their choice of pet, but about protecting the general public. They never had any problem with the strict regulations surrounding ownership of their sweet, friendly, affectionate—and potentially lethal—pet.
This is a concept 99.9% of Pit Bull owners just can’t quite seem to grasp. Of course most of them have absolutely no intention of trying, either. Pit Bull owners want to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to own these big, powerful, potentially dangerous animals, but they go near-apoplectic, stomping and red-faced with indignant rage, when it’s even suggested that maybe certain legal safeguards should be put into effect. They refuse to even enter into a dialog about the subject.
My personal opinion is Pit Bulls— and, just to be fair, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios, and any other breeds with a similar track record—should be kept under stricter conditions than most other dog breeds. What sort of conditions? Maybe a registration program, maybe a public muzzle law, maybe regulations regarding the type of enclosure they’re kept in, maybe a mandatory amount of liability insurance coverage, maybe…
I don’t know. I don’t claim to have all—Hell, I don’t claim to have any—of the answers, but I definitely think a dialog needs to be opened up about the issue.
Do owners of these animals have a right to own them? Maybe. Do I have a right not to have my child’s face torn off by my neighbor’s pet? Absolutely. Is it unreasonable to expect that society should be protected, in the form of legislation, from this potential threat? I think it’s a completely reasonable expectation.
An individual’s right to own specific property (no matter how warm, fuzzy and familial people feel towards a pet, most states consider them to be ‘property’) ends at my right, and that of the community as a whole, to be safe.
If you keep a Pit Bull, or a mountain lion, as a pet, the burden of responsibility for keeping it from potentially harming someone should not be on society’s shoulders, it should be on yours.