I occasionally get asked if I’ll ever admit I’m wrong about something. Perhaps it’s the curse of people in the media, but it’s far easier to defend every word of every column than it is to admit an error. But sometimes writers are given a second chance to revisit a topic, and that’s when we can say to err is human, to make an error as a writer is painful torture.
So let me try to bring the point back home. Last week, the city of Oconomowoc decided to keep in place an ordinance that specifically targets pit bulls by requiring “vicious animals” to be muzzled when out in public. While there are some claims that the ordinance does not especially target pit bulls, the ordinance itself says:
Pit Bull Dogs Presumed Vicious. There shall be an irrefutable presumption that any dog registered with the City as a pit bull dog is a dangerous dog and is therefore subject to the requirements of this ordinance. Pit bull dog means and includes any of the following dogs: the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed of dogs, the American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dogs, the American Pit Bull Terrier breed of dogs, dogs that have the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of dogs known as Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or American Pit Bull Terrier.
A few years ago, I wrote a column for the Waukesha Freeman questioning the sanity of anyone who owned a pit bull, citing an incident in Waukesha. It turns out that the dog had been in trouble before, but I took that as a sign that pit bulls are just inherently dangerous dogs. In other words, pit bulls are always guilty.
And then I owned one, completely by accident. My wife, the lovely Doreen from Waukesha, saw that a heartworm positive dog was on death’s door at an animal shelter unless a foster home could be found. Unfortunately, our southern friends are not as quick to treat and adopt dogs and the animal shelters are more than happy to dispose of a “pit bull” by putting them to the front of the euthanasia line.
It turns out that because of their fearsome reputations, pit bulls are both overbred and over-represented in our nations’ dog shelters. (If you want one, adopt, don’t shop.)
That’s how Prince came into my life. When it came time for him to go to another home, I found I couldn’t part with him so the big baby with the “devil-cut” ears stayed with us.
Meanwhile, I learned about how so many pit bulls are raised, and how they are abused. I also learned that many of the supposed pit bull attacks are described that way because people don’t know how else to describe a dog, but they know “pit bulls” are dangerous dogs.
Soon, unfortunately, my friend Prince developed epilepsy. We did our best to treat him but one seizure too many finally claimed my baby boy. The only harm my pit bull ever caused was to break our hearts with his passing.
We have another dog now that was classified as a pit bull and she, too, was on death’s door. Her name is Leia, and I’m becoming convinced that the only pit bull in her is the classification at the shelter. Such is the mistake that people make when they don’t know how to label a dog. With training and patience, we’ve turned another “vicious” animal into a serious cuddler and a friend to everyone.
And I’ve learned a lesson that every conservative should understand. Every dog is different, and how they’re raised is how they will behave. It’s up to the owners to learn what their dogs are like and to make sure that they are trained (and treated) accordingly. Every dog can be dangerous if it’s maltreated or trained to be vicious.
It’s too bad that the city leaders of Oconomowoc can’t overcome their prejudices and see dogs as individuals, just like I hope they see people.