The Link Between Pets, Humans, Health–and Breed-Specific Legislation

In animals, ASPCA, Humane Society, Uncategorized, veterinary, wellness on August 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm

A couple of years ago, I took one of those real age tests–you know, the one created by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen.  While the results indicated a pretty long life span, the test did pick up on one potential negative.  I was currently without a pet, so I was reminded about the potential health benefits of having an animal around.

We all know how much animals do for us.  In fact, there was a recent survey (hyperlink) indicating that children who were around dogs and cats early in life might have increased immunity.

Animals communicate differently, but they do converse with us.  And just as with humans, they need good, healthy nutrition and lifestyle to survive.  They get many of the same illnesses we do, including colds, flu, bronchitis, arthritis, cancer and more.  They have their “off” days, too, sometimes needing some extra attention or care.

Humans aren’t the only ones with rapidly-expanding waistlines; in fact, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (hyperlink) now indicates that 54 percent of all US dogs—and 55 percent of all US cats, are now overweight or obese.

Given all that, one has to wonder about the efficacy—and fairness–of breed-specific legislation (BSL), a blanket term for laws that either regulate or ban certain breeds completely in the hopes of reducing dog attacks. Some of the targeted breeds include American Pit Bull Terriers; Rottweilers; Doberman Pinchers; German Shepherds; Dalmatians; Chow Chows; English Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers.  The most well-known case is Lennox, a Pit Bull, who sparked global outrage; Lennox’ only “crime” was that he looked like a “dangerous” breed and, based on that fact alone, he was put to death.

Let’s be clear: Dogs that attack people or other animals are certainly real and often serious problems in communities across the country, but the question of how best to address this issue is a complex–and emotional–one.  While New York State, Texas and Illinois prohibits BSL, one county in Maryland spends over $250,000 annually to enforce their ban on Pit Bulls, despite that county’s surveys indicating that the community is no safer.

I have a few thoughts on this matter—but, first, I need to introduce you to Logan, a Pit Bull mix who’s one of the most wonderful, friendly, loyal dogs around.  Logan seems to only have one mood: Joyful, and he recently put himself in grave danger to protect his family. They (the mother and two young kids) were all out in the yard and this very big, very scary black bear came out of the woods––standing upright on his hind legs. Logan, who was in the house, spotted the bear and toore out of the house, barking frantically.  While Lizz still didn’t know what was going on, Logan opened the door (yes, he knows how to do that!) and chased the bear back into the woods. Moments later, he returned, unscathed.

So here’s what I’m wondering:

  • Should the owner be held responsible and, if so, how much?  After all, many let their dogs roam unsupervised and off the leash—even when the owner knows there could be a problem.
  • Should more attention be given to animal abuse?  I’m happy to see that more and more judges are paying closer attention to this matter, but much more needs to be done.  If beaten and tortured long enough, any animal (or human, for that matter) will become fearful, mistrustful and very aggressive.  Case in point: Several years ago I was walking up Third Avenue in New York City to witness someone beating his puppy with a cleated shoe and chains.  When I confronted this person, he shouted a long chain of profanities at me and went right back to beating his puppy.  While animal abuse is reprehensible on all levels and for all breeds, this puppy was one that’s specifically targeted for ban by some municipalities and governments–the Pit Bull.  If the dog became aggressive, wouldn’t that be caused by the owner?
  • Let’s remember that this problem doesn’t pertain only to dogs. Here’s another personal example: A deli on my block had a mouse problem so they harbored a cat. A hungry cat would be a more effective hunter, they thought, so they never fed it. Needless to say, the cat was out of its mind and once, when I was walking my dog, it shot out of the deli to get my dog. I lifted my dog over my head to protect it and, as a result, I was severely clawed and bitten, with the cat even climbing up my back; since the cat owner refused to release any information on the cat’s health, the CDC strongly recommended that I start on a series of rabies vaccines.  Oh-and by the way, the deli workers just stood by and watched.

What do you think about this?


  1. The real solution is encouraging responsible dog ownership as well as exclusively punishing dog owners that engage in criminal activitiies…

  2. The real solution is promoting conscientious dog ownership along with specifically punishing dog owners that engage in criminal activitiies…

  3. This is an excellent read

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