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Sun: Dog bites are down? Sure...

February 20th, 2006, 04:50 PM

Dog bites are down? Sure...
How lazy legislation and stereotypes only breed more trouble
By Linda Williamson

Let's get away from stories of politics and prejudice and talk about an issue that has

plenty of both, but with teeth. Of course I'm talking about dogs.

This past week's latest pit bull attack in Toronto coincided with a fascinating article by

one of the city's most celebrated authors -- an article that exposes just how absurd

Ontario's law banning pit bulls is.

Details about the attack are still sketchy, as charges are likely pending. Witnesses said a

pit bull, apparently not muzzled or leashed as is now required by Ontario Attorney General

Michael Bryant's new law, attacked a tiny Shih-Tzu and its owner, killing the animal.


But Bryant quickly reminded the public that despite this ugly incident, his law was working.

Pit bull attacks have declined since the law took effect last fall, he told the Sun.

Sounds great, but how would he know?

As a number of astute Sun readers (and dog enthusiasts) pointed out in letters to us last

week, there is no way Bryant could back up that claim with numbers. That's because there is

no province-wide body that keeps track of dog bites by breed. His assumption may be correct,

since we're in the middle of winter, when all bites by all types of dogs naturally go down

because people and dogs spend less time outside. But that's all it is -- a sweeping


But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good quote -- or a bad law? That's not just

my cynicism, it's the theory of none other than Malcolm Gladwell, the Toronto-born author of

bestsellers The Tipping Point and Blink.

In a New Yorker article earlier this month, Gladwell dissects the bad logic behind Ontario's

put bull ban -- likening it to other bad legal generalizations like racial profiling and

assumptions about crime rates.

Just as stereotypes about race don't help police catch terror suspects ("they don't come

dressed in identifiable costumes"), so are breed bans an illogical way to deal with the

problem of aggressive dogs.

Not because judging a dog by its breed is akin to "racism" -- certain dog breeds do have

certain reliably predictable traits. But aggression toward humans isn't one of them.

Study after study shows the most reliable connection between dogs and biting humans is the

owner's background, Gladwell writes. Citing statistics on fatal dog attacks in the U.S., he

shows how various breeds have predominated over the years (from Dobermans to pit bulls to

Rottweilers to huskies), but the number of attacks has stayed constant. The most common

factor between attacks isn't the breed of dog but the owners' own propensity to violence and


Court order ignored

He cites a case of a 2005 Ottawa attack, just prior to Bryant's ban coming into effect, that

perfectly illustrates the point. Three pit-bull-type dogs that attacked a two-year-old boy

turned out to have attacked children before -- but the owner, who had a troubled legal

history himself, failed to obey a court order that he neuter, muzzle and train the dogs.

Worse, no one followed up to enforce it.

As Gladwell notes, that kind of crackdown and enforcement is difficult. "It's always easier

just to ban the breed."

Gladwell also offers a useful hint about why New York City's already-low crime rate is still

declining: Police there keep a precise map of where all major crimes are happening, and new

officers are assigned directly to troubled "hot spots" rather than being distributed around

the city. As crime plunges, new hot spots are targeted.

Such a strategy challenges lazy assumptions about certain places being doomed to crime

because of poverty or "cultural dysfunction," Gladwell writes -- the same kind of lazy

assumptions at the heart of our well-meaning dog ban.

Toronto and law enforcers like Bryant could learn a lot from Gladwell's examples (he's also

a champion of the "broken window" crimefighting theory that worked so well in New York, but

Toronto seems to prefer tolerating vagrants and gunfire on our streets).

But I won't hold my breath. After all, Bryant is the guy who still thinks he can stop crime

by "banning" handguns.

February 20th, 2006, 05:41 PM
Excellent article and it points to a truth that was ignored. When New York passed the broken window law it was a huge step forward for that city. It was believed that a vacant warehouse could sit empty and with its windows intact for only so long. Sooner or later somebody would break a window. Once that first window was broken it would soon follow as others believed it was OK to break the windows that all the windows would then be broken. Even if windows were repaired they would continue to be broken. It was OK to break the windows. It was OK to commit other crimes.

The broken window law was put into place and when the first window was broken a message went out from law enforcement that it would not be tolerated. As new hot spots flared up the police would concentrate on that area. Soon it was known that if you break the law you will be caught and punished. The police seemed to be everywhere but in reality they weren’t they were where the problems were. Crime went down.

That truth that Bryant missed. The laws we had weren’t enforced and they aren’t enforced today. New laws don’t make any difference if they are ignored just like the previous laws were. Dogs run free in my neighborhood and dogs are walked off leash.

As for bite stats… BS….it isn’t dog bite season and the truth is that in fact dog bites are up. Do I know this? No, but when they refused the dog bite registry they made it hard to prove…either way. Dog bites are way up. Why? Because many that believed only pit bulls were an issue became irresponsible with their dogs and believe that if they don’t own a pit bull they have nothing to worry about. Bites are way up. Quote me. I can lie as well as any scum sucking Liberal.

February 20th, 2006, 07:42 PM
Come on now !
Bryant wouldn't lie to make himself look good just like
I was out riding my snowmobile yesterday and had to duck to miss a flying pig and
We have Unicorns in our bush also
Leprachans are plentiful just north of here.

February 20th, 2006, 07:53 PM
Come on now !
Bryant wouldn't lie to make himself look good just like
I was out riding my snowmobile yesterday and had to duck to miss a flying pig and
We have Unicorns in our bush also
Leprachans are plentiful just north of here.

AND Bites are way up.

February 20th, 2006, 08:49 PM
I was out riding my snowmobile yesterday and had to duck to miss a flying pig....

I think that's why McGuinty wanted a mandatory helmet law, last year - too many flying pig incidents. :)

BTW here's a link to the New Yorker article mentioned in the Sun column:

February 21st, 2006, 10:36 AM
That is the first time out of any of the coverage of this incident that it was said that the dog actually bit this kid or held him in the dogs mouth. All that was reported in any coverage was that this little boy fell and the dogs jumped all over him. He came out with no bite marks, only scratches. The dogs were all tested and found not to be aggressive and were allowed to be adopted. I believe only one of the three found a home.

February 21st, 2006, 11:48 AM
Actually, I recall a few stories ( CBC in particular) where the child's mother claimed that the dog held the child in his mouth. It may not have happened that way - but there were definitely some media outlets that reported it that way.(based on the mother's version of the events)

I agree that the media sensationalized Cafe's attacks ( like many others), but I think the New Yorker article is very good. He described the attack, in the same manner that many media sources did, and used it to make the point that breed wasn't the issue - enforcement and ownership was.

February 21st, 2006, 05:18 PM
Thats a great article from the Sun, its good that the New Yorker article is actually getting publicized. (also a great article). I take issue with only one small part " well meaning dog ban" I dont believe it was ever well meaning, but then Ive said that over and over and over LOL. its nice to know that they do read the letters that people are writing, I know a number of people from the DLCC and others, made those points that they refered to, a few of the letters were printed.

February 22nd, 2006, 10:29 PM
cool, i knew malcom when i was at uoft. wicked and brilliant dude.

if you guys haven't had a chance to read his books the tipping point and blink, i highly recommend them.

February 23rd, 2006, 09:11 AM
Dog bites always go down in the wintertime,so do boating accidents.More people are going to be outdoors with their dogs in the warmer months than in the middle of winter.The government is trying to take credit for the weather?No wonder its been such a lousy winter this year.

February 23rd, 2006, 02:38 PM
I often wonder with some of the dog bite cases, which I think are at their peek in August, if its in part due to the dogs suffering frm heat stroke and maybe being disorientated, especially in the case of loose dogs. They say that heat stroke can happen incredibly fast so if there on there own and not drinking...... I know its ,ofcourse, also so many people being out with there dogs, but I think that the heat stroke thing may also play into it.

February 25th, 2006, 12:37 PM
Come on now !
Bryant wouldn't lie to make himself look good just like
I was out riding my snowmobile yesterday and had to duck to miss a flying pig and
We have Unicorns in our bush also
Leprachans are plentiful just north of here.