Na­ture of the beast dog

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Brian-Paul Welsh I Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and pub­lic af­fairs com­men­ta­tor. He can be reached at bri­an­paul.welsh@gmail.com and on so­cial me­dia @is­land­cynic.

IF THE hor­ror story de­scribed in the cover story of last week’s Sun­day Ob­server is to be be­lieved then it con­firms what has long been sus­pected: that up­town sub­ur­bia, with all its fancy streets and well-heeled res­i­dents, is pop­u­lated by a tribe of ‘boasy’ peo­ple with mucky char­ac­ters.

This would ex­plain the lapse in hu­man de­cency ef­fec­tively il­lus­trated by the au­thor of that par­tic­u­larly ar­rest­ing ar­ti­cle by de­scrib­ing, in vivid de­tail, the maul­ing of a young boy by neigh­bour­hood dogs after he and his mother en­coun­tered them on their walk to school.

In the cir­cum­stances, as de­scribed, it seems the an­i­mals re­spon­si­ble for the at­tack were care­lessly left loose along a pub­lic thor­ough­fare, and fur­ther, upon be­ing alerted to the carnage tak­ing place, the owner al­legedly be­gan be­rat­ing the mother and her bleed­ing child for caus­ing this ruckus on her ‘stoosh’ side­walk, join­ing the pack of an­i­mals in at­tempt­ing to chase th­ese ‘in­trud­ers’ from her street.

And now, just as in times of yore, the vil­lagers are in­censed, de­ter­mined to lynch and de­stroy the wily beasts and raze Franken­stein’s castle to the ground for the ter­ror un­leashed on their com­mu­nity.

I won’t join the cho­rus of con­dem­na­tion for the ca­nine an­i­mals since their sen­tience is limited be­cause of ge­netic and fa­mil­ial pro­gram­ming. My griev­ance is in­stead with the hu­man an­i­mal – the one in care, con­trol, and in­flu­ence of the dogs – for en­abling the dys­func­tional en­vi­ron­ment that led to this hor­rific en­counter in which a child need­lessly suf­fered griev­ous bod­ily and psy­cho­log­i­cal harm.

THE QUEST TO DOM­I­NATE

Na­ture doesn’t cre­ate mon­sters. Ev­ery­thing has its pur­pose. It is man, in his quest for do­min­ion over na­ture, that learnt how to ma­nip­u­late it to suit his needs. Once man ate from the tree of knowl­edge and dis­cov­ered the plas­tic­ity of genes, he im­me­di­ately be­gan cre­at­ing in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties. The re­sult­ing plants and an­i­mals that sur­round us to­day are part of the very foun­da­tion upon which civil­i­sa­tion was built.

In his quest to do­mes­ti­cate planet Earth, man has continued this cre­ative ex­per­i­men­ta­tion by iden­ti­fy­ing and ex­ag­ger­at­ing the nat­u­ral traits he de­sires, then cat­e­goris­ing sim­i­lar off­spring by type or ‘breed’ based on their util­ity.

The dog we call the pit bull ter­rier is a mar­vel of ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing that was de­vel­oped over cen­turies of nat­u­ral and ar­ti­fi­cial se­lec­tion in what is now the United King­dom. Peo­ple dis­cov­ered that by com­bin­ing the re­silience and tenac­ity of the ter­rier with the loy­alty and de­ter­mi­na­tion of the bull­dog, the result was a strong breed suit­able for both com­pan­ion­ship and sport.

This new breed of bull and ter­rier crosses grew in pop­u­lar­ity, even­tu­ally be­com­ing known as the ‘nanny dog’ in Bri­tish folk­lore be­cause of their ador­ing na­ture with fam­ily and chil­dren; but they also came to be revered as the ul­ti­mate fight­ing ma­chine in the an­i­mal-fight­ing pits, hence the devel­op­ment of the name pit bull ter­rier. Own­er­ship of the breed for com­pan­ion­ship, home se­cu­rity, and for use in the sport of dog fight­ing con­tin­ues to en­joy pop­u­lar­ity in the for­mer Bri­tish colony of Ja­maica into the present day.

To see a good ex­am­ple of a pit bull ter­rier at work is a mag­nif­i­cent sight to be­hold. The awe­some power con­tained in that rel­a­tively tiny frame can make even the most jaded of men weak in the knees; and a few min­utes after that nu­clear ex­plo­sion, the dog will wag its tail and go play with the kids as if noth­ing hap­pened. The breed has a re­mark­able tol­er­ance for pain, is rel­a­tively low main­te­nance, and is gen­er­ally very hardy and long-lived. They also have looks that will stop in­trud­ers in their tracks, plus a deadly rep­u­ta­tion, ar­guably mak­ing them the per­fect breed for Ja­maica’s harsh en­vi­ron­ment. All this makes pit bulls very at­trac­tive in the eyes of prospec­tive dog own­ers, many of whom shouldn’t have a pick­ney, much less a puppy.

We live in a coun­try where per­sonal se­cu­rity is para­mount. In this state of per­pet­ual inse­cu­rity, frankly, a bad dog is eas­ier to come by than a li­censed firearm; and given the con­tempt with which we treat those gen­er­ally re­garded as be­ing of a lesser ilk, when a dog bites a t’ief, the con­se­quence will surely be less than if the home­owner had shot him with an il­le­gal gun.

So, many have caught on to the lat­est trends in bad-dog cou­ture but have a fun­da­men­tal mis­un­der­stand­ing of the na­ture and pur­pose of the beasts over which they have ste­ward­ship.

They con­tinue to en­dan­ger them­selves and the pub­lic by re­fus­ing to have re­gard for ba­sic prin­ci­ples of an­i­mal hus­bandry, such as con­tain­ment. Ba­si­cally, own­ers should keep their an­i­mals con­fined to their prop­erty, and if they can­not be prop­erly ac­com­mo­dated, an­i­mals should not be kept.

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