Time to pity the pit­bull?

Clas­si­fied as ‘‘men­ac­ing’’, they are eu­thanised by many coun­cil pounds, with no at­tempt at re­hom­ing, writes

The Napier Mail - - CONVERSATIONS -

For decades it has been the vil­lain of the ca­nine world, but now it could be time to pity the pit­bull, ac­cord­ing to the SPCA.

Un­claimed pit­bulls in coun­cil pounds in Welling­ton, Auck­land, Dunedin and Hamil­ton are rou­tinely eu­thanised, with­out any assess­ment of their po­ten­tial for re­hom­ing, be­caused of their clas­si­fi­ca­tion as a men­ac­ing breed.

SPCA chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drea Mid­gen says that is un­ac­cept­able, and needs to change.

‘‘It’s com­pletely un­nec­es­sary, it’s just an easy way out.’’

Pit­bulls are one of five breeds au­to­mat­i­cally clas­si­fied as men­ac­ing in New Zealand. They re­ceive the clas­si­fi­ca­tion re­gard­less of their be­hav­iour.

Pounds say the dogs are over­rep­re­sented in at­tack sta­tis­tics, ca­pa­ble of in­flict­ing se­ri­ous dam­age, and are not re­homed for good rea­son.

But Mid­gen says judg­ments should be made ‘‘by deed, not breed’’, as is the case in Christchurch, the only main cen­tre that as­sesses pit­bulls for re­hom­ing.

‘‘We to­tally op­pose eu­thing a dog sim­ply for it’s breed and we are com­pletely fight­ing it.’’

Mid­gen said no law pre­vented the dogs from be­ing re­homed. The only le­gal re­quire­ment was that a men­ac­ing dog must be de­sexed and muz­zled in pub­lic.

While she wanted au­to­matic eu­thana­sia stopped, she also ques­tioned coun­cils’ abil­ity to cor­rectly iden­tify the breed, sug­gest­ing dogs re­sem­bling pit­bulls were also be­ing killed.

‘‘How do you de­fine these dogs? DNA is not a con­clu­sive an­swer on any dog be­cause the breeds are so in­ter­mixed, so you can’t say that is a pit­bull or not.’’

She ac­knowl­edged some of the dogs – of­ten kept for their ‘‘tough-guy’’ im­age – could not be re­homed be­cause they had been ne­glected or abused. But she said they should all be as­sessed by coun­cils, or re­leased to other or­gan­i­sa­tions who would test them.

‘‘There are some lovely, lovely dogs who should be given a chance.’’

Christchurch Bull Breed Res­cue owner Abbey van der Plas said she had re­homed ‘‘hun­dreds’’ of pit­bulls over the past decade, and peo­ple needed to re­think the dogs’ im­age.

‘‘These are just dogs, there is no spe­cial gene that makes a pit­bull get to an age where it just snaps. They are no more likely to bite than any other dog and, like any other dog, they de­serve a chance.’’

Her young chil­dren helped take care of the dogs, which showed just how lov­ing and trust­wor­thy pit­bulls could be, she said.

‘‘When peo­ple with kids ask me what sort of dog they should be get­ting I al­ways rec­om­mend a bull breed, they are so good with chil­dren.’’

Pounds should as­sess all dogs, re­gard­less of their breed, and al­low them to be re­homed to re­spon­si­ble own­ers or re­leased to or­gan­i­sa­tions who would do the same, she said.

‘‘There’s no­body stick­ing up for these dogs and they re­ally have been de­monised.’’

In the Welling­ton re­gion, the Ka¯piti Coast and Porirua coun­cils oc­ca­sion­ally re­home pit­bulls. Last year, Porirua City Coun­cil eu­thanised 35 dogs classed as men­ac­ing be­cause of their breed. A spokes­woman said she was aware one pit­bull­type had been re­homed.

Ka¯piti Coast Dis­trict Coun­cil could not say how many were homed or eu­thanised.

Welling­ton City Coun­cil re­gional man­ager an­i­mal ser­vice Les Dal­ton said 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence had shown him pit­bulls were more ca­pa­ble than any other dog of in­flict­ing se­ri­ous dam­age to hu­mans and an­i­mals.

‘‘This type of dog needs an owner who is skilled, ex­pe­ri­enced and de­ter­mined to con­trol the dog, and of­ten those own­ers are not easy to find.

‘‘The SPCA ar­gues that de­sex­ing does qui­eten a dog down even­tu­ally, but given past ex­pe­ri­ence of coun­cils re­hom­ing men­ac­ing breeds, and hav­ing many of those back­fire on them, I to­tally agree with this pol­icy of not re­hom­ing cer­tain breeds.’’

Hamil­ton City Coun­cil an­i­mal con­trol man­ager Su­san Stan­ford said the dogs were over-rep­re­sented in at­tack sta­tis­tics.

‘‘On av­er­age 20-25 per cent of our at­tacks in Hamil­ton in­volve pit­bull-type dogs, yet they make only 4 per cent of the reg­is­tered dog pop­u­la­tion.’’

‘‘There are some lovely, lovely dogs who should be given a chance.’’ SPCA chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drea Mid­gen

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