OLD ORCHARD BEACH – I have an alternate viewpoint to the one presented in the Maine Voices column, “Maine should take the lead on the prohibition of vicious dogs,” on Tuesday.

To propose that Maine take the lead is inherently part of the being of a Mainer.

Pride in who we are, what we have done, and what we will do has led Maine to taking the lead most recently in legitimized marijuana dispensaries, comprehensive clean energy and environmental legislation, among many others.

It implies that we have thought deeply about the topic and come up with a solution that will benefit all of us, and alienate none of us.

This published article takes a different path through the woods; one heavily influenced by under-researched media coverage and hysteria centering on breeds of canines, rather than what the real underlying problem causing the increase in dog attacks, mauling and personal injury.

The article mentions that three breeds account for the majority of dangerous attacks, and for that reason, all dogs of these breeds are vicious by nature.

Experts disagree with this assessment.

The ASPCA has published a position statement on breed legislation that includes the following statements and citations.

“A variety of factors” may affect a dog’s tendency toward aggression: heredity, early experience, socialization and training, sex and reproductive status.

“For example, intact males constitute 80 percent of all dogs presented to veterinary behaviorists for what formerly has been described as dominance aggression, are involved in 70 percent to 76 percent of reported dog bite incidents, and are 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs.

And unspayed females “attract free-roaming males, which increases bite risk to people through increased exposure to unfamiliar dogs,” according to one authority.

Further on in the column, it is indicated that “a pit bull attacks with the shearing force of a shark and will not release its jaws even when tranquilized or beaten unconscious.”

A study at The University of New South Wales has measured a Great White Shark to have a bite force of 1.8 tons. Another study conducted by Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic tested American pit bull terrier to bite with 235 pounds of force.

It is apparent that there is no correlation between the bite of a shark and a pit bull, and demonstrates how irresponsible, unfounded statements taint the American pit bull terrier’s reputation.

With regards to the connotation that pit bull type dogs have locking jaws, Dr. Lehr Brisbin of the University of Georgia wrote: “(S)tudies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of ‘locking mechanism’ unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American pit bull terrier.”

Finally, please keep in mind that because the localities captioned in the article have adopted breed specific legislation doesn’t make it the best choice or the most appropriate solution.

The previously cited ASPCA position statement notes that “Breed-specific laws must also be evaluated from a welfare perspective. Although intended to improve community safety and comfort, ultimately these laws can cause hardship to responsible guardians of properly supervised, friendly, well-socialized dogs.

“Although guardians of these dogs may have done nothing to endanger the public, they nevertheless may be required to choose between compliance with onerous regulations or forfeiture of their beloved companions. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, where pit bulls are banned, the Animal Management Division reports that 80 percent of the approximately 500 to 600 animals seized and killed by animal control every year under the ban are ‘nice, family dogs’.”

Breed-specific legislation is not the answer.

Intelligent control of animal populations, including enforceable sterilization legislation, comprehensive licensing, minimum age prerequisites on dog owners, and serious legal consequences consistently imposed on those who choose not to carefully and methodically care for their pet, will provide sustainable policy to guide Maine residents to responsible pet ownership.

And that can happen without prejudice against particular breeds.


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