Editorial: Their day is gone


Parrots are regarded as good pets. Owls are not. Corn snakes are perfectly safe for a child to keep in a home aquarium. Rattlesnakes and cobras, not so much.

In a lot of cases, it is easy to make statements about what kinds of creatures are appropriate to be kept as pets and what kinds are more appropriate for zoos, farms or the great outdoors.

Then there is the issue of fighting dogs, which arises in Harford County on the occasion of a pit bull terrier being shot recently by a Harford County sheriff's deputy in the aftermath of an attack on an 11-year-old boy in Edgewood.

While it's certainly true that just about any dog can be provoked into biting or attacking people, the breed in question in this case, and in far too many comparable cases, is a breed that was cultivated to exploit the more violent aspects of the canine genus.

The wolf is regarded as the progenitor of all domesticated dog breeds, and wolves fall into a broad category with owls, cobras and alligators that could be labeled with the cumbersome heading: Animals That Don't Make Good Pets.

It stands to reason, therefore, that a domesticated dog, the pit bull terrier, whose wolf-like qualities for aggressiveness, strength and sturdiness of body were favored in the breed selection process would be regarded as falling into the same category as wolves. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. Curiously, pit bulls rose to prominence in the late 1980s as the dog of choice for those trying to broadcast an image of being tough. A tough guy should have a tough dog.

Then there's the reality that some folks just can't resist keeping dangerous pets, be they fighting dogs or venomous snakes.

Curiously, the Edgewood pit pull attack and shooting took place during a convening of the Maryland General Assembly to address gambling, with the issue of pit bull attacks being added as something of an afterthought. The dog issue came into play because of a state high court decision assessing blame for pit bull attacks on the owners of the offending dogs as well as the landlords who rent to the owners of the dogs.

It's a hot button issue because pit bulls continue to enjoy a measure of public support as worthy pets, despite their documented breed characteristics. Then there's the whole issue of at what generation a dog's breed characteristics begin to fade into those of ordinary mutt. Clearly, many a creature billed as pit bull or pit bull mix is not a documented purebred.

On the whole, the pit bull breed is one that would be best allowed to slip into oblivion; the blood sport of dog fighting is regarded as unfit for our civilization, so the potentially violent breed necessary for the endeavor should be similarly regarded as unfit. Until the breed is regarded as the abomination it is, no amount of legislative or court action will be enough to prevent the kinds of things that happened last week in Edgewood.

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