Don’t ban pitbulls, ban stupid think pieces about banning pitbulls

Duncan Garner just wrote a think piece called “I hate pitbulls – ban them”.

This is a terrible idea, and here’s why:

“Pitbulls” aren’t a breed. American Pitbull Terriers are a breed, and they’re already legislated against in New Zealand. You can’t import or breed them, and they need to be registered as ‘menacing’ and kept muzzled in public at all times as per most Council by-laws.

Pure pitbulls are a rare find in New Zealand. Pitbull breeders do so underground, and often don’t register their dogs. Given most attacks in New Zealand are by unregistered dogs, when The Department of Internal Affairs did a survey of territorial authorities on dog control issues, they found:

Councils consistently identified the lack of any preventative power of entry and seizure as a major impediment to dealing with dog control problems, along with the inability of councils to seize unregistered dogs that are under the control of the owner or on private property.

There are many bull-type mixes in New Zealand including most shelter dogs. They could be mixes of Staffordshire Bull Terriers, English Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, Bullmastiffs, American Pitbulls or (more likely) mixes bred from mixes with a dose of Huntaway or Labrador all the way down.

We all know beautiful-natured bull-breeds. Pitbulls and staffies were even called “Nanny dogs” in the late 19th and early 20th century because of their sweet, doting demeanor with children.

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But I’m not going to spend time outlining why it’s stupid to decide an entire (mostly bastardised) breed is ‘bad’, because I’d rather yell into the wind or chew off my own hands. Instead, let’s talk about how to mitigate potential harm from bull-breeds because of their strength, power and potential to do damage.

Bull-type dogs are strong and their jaws are more powerful than most. Because of this, an aggressive bull-type dogs is more dangerous than an aggressive Labrador. Part of the history of many bull breeds was the deliberate design to pull things, kill vermin, hunt much larger animals and be a balanced part of the family. Many other breeds have similar designs, but few have those skills and 30kg of pure muscle behind them.

Even breeds with a similar level of strength and power like Rottweilers, don’t find themselves on the receiving end of witch hunts. And I’d wager an educated guess that’s because they’re less easily confused with other breeds, less cross-bred with other breeds, and far less common than bull mixes. But I have no doubt that if they were as prevalent, especially in animal shelters, that you could replace “pitbull” with “Rottweiler” in Garner’s article and it would read exactly the same.

What Garner seems to be calling for is any dog that looks like a pitbull to be banned (does that mean euthanised?). But currently most SPCAs already euthanise any dog that can be positively identified as majority pitbull. So what’s the next step? ‘Banning’ any stocky crossbreed with a short head & strong jaw? That empties out most SPCA shelters in the country. Is this actually what he’s dogwhistling to? (Ugh, pun).

If we’re really serious about minimising dog attacks in New Zealand, we need to allocate resources to fix the problem, not try and wipe out an entire type of dog.

Why don’t we:

  • Invest resources in ensuring dogs get registered at a Council level. That means more inspections, more collecting intelligence from the numerous ‘dogs for free/buy/sell/swap’ type Facebook groups and TradeMe, more working with communities and more listening to people who say there are dog fighting rings in their areas.
  • Stop places like TradeMe from being able to sell dogs unless the sellers have undergone mandatory certification. Not the current week ‘this person has ticked a box to say they comply’ crap.
  • Give Councils the legislative power to seize dogs and enforce registration more strictly.
  • Invest resources in Animal Welfare Officers at the SPCA who currently enforce animal welfare legislation on behalf of the government, for an organisation that receives no government funding.
  • Start viewing capabilities of different types of dogs with equal seriousness and have a certification of suitability for the type of dog you’re getting. (Most people know not to get a 10th generation working heading dog and keep it in an inner city apartment. Most people know not to get a Samoyed if you’ve got all black furniture and a terrible dog hair allergy. So, if you want to own a dog that’s the dog equivalent of the Hulk, you should have to prove that you have the skills, time and resources to own one).
  • Ensure dog registration and any new certification process is means-tested or financially scaled, and lower-income communities are supported to undergo this process.
  • Enforce dogs wearing registration tags at all times (and make the tags less ugly, and not one-size for all dogs)
  • Encourage communities to view unregistered dogs as a community problem, and encourage people to report them to the Council, especially if registration fees become financially scaled.

There are lots of other options to help minimise dog attacks. It all involves funding and resources, but so would seeking out and banning all bull-type breeds in the Country, eh.


As an aside, how much hubris do you have to have to write a think piece about the banning of something you self-admittedly don’t like and obviously don’t know much about?

Oh, to have the confidence of a male with a platform.


4 thoughts on “Don’t ban pitbulls, ban stupid think pieces about banning pitbulls

  1. Thank you for standing up for these dogs. We are a Staffy family. Where I live (Switzerland) all fires time dog owners need to take a theory course before they can own a dog and need to complete a practical course within one year of owning their dogs. In some Cantons certain breeds are banned, but interestingly in Zurich it was recently established that even though the number of Pitbulls went down, dog bite incidents went up thanks to German Shepherds. They attribute the increase in bites to owners not completing the mandatory training and it not being enforced.

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