Jesus would probably love pit bulls

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by Jen Clyde

Recently, my email account has been awash in messages from groups advocating against breed discriminatory legislation, specifically laws requiring animal control officers to destroy family pit bulls. As I was researching these laws and signing petitions, I was also studying the Bible and reflecting on my Christian faith. One of the challenges people of faith face in the modern world is applying the rules and lessons of ancient teachings to a modern cultural context. What would Jesus think about pit bulls? Jesus loved to connect parables to animals, so I believe that he would be quick to apply pit bulls to important lessons on God’s love and acceptance.

 

To illustrate this point, I look to Matthew’s retelling of the story of Jesus blessing the children:

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.   Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

                                                                                                                          Matthew 19:13-14 (NIV)

 

In this passage from Matthew, the disciples are trying to keep a pack of kids out of Jesus’ hair. He has important, adult work to do, and these little kids are getting in the way. Jesus cuts the “helpful” disciples to the quick, saying that little children, who even today are essentially the most powerless members of society, are the rulers of heaven.

 

Jesus was revolutionary for many reasons, not the least of which was his commitment to social outcasts. Widows, the poor, tax collectors, sinners – all people who were looked down upon by the elite class of society – were lifted up by Jesus one by one, time and time again. Almost as often as he healed, Jesus encouraged us to love those we fear or feel superior to.

 

As I reflect upon this story, I like to reimagine it in a modern setting. Perhaps Jesus is at a park, in an outdoor amphitheater, talking to a gathering of curious and devout Christians. It’s a Saturday, and other people are also out enjoying the park, largely oblivious to Christ’s presence. A woman walking a pair of pit bull dogs pauses on the path near the amphitheater to listen to what Jesus is saying. Excited by the crowds and eager to be the center of attention, one of the dogs breaks loose and, trailing his leash behind him, bounds up to Jesus and knocks him over.

 

The disciples are horrified. Who released this undisciplined monster? Is he dangerous? Will he bite Jesus? They rage at the woman, and she attempts to disengage her dog from his furious and enthusiastic licking of Jesus’ face.

 

At this point, I imagine Jesus sitting up, laying hands on the suddenly calm dog and rebuking the disciples, saying, “Let the pit bulls come to me, for dogs such as these frolic in the kingdom of heaven!”

 

Forgive me; I don’t mean to make light of the lesson. But in this day and age, we place a lot of value on individual children, so I think Christ’s deeper meaning may have become obscured in ways that are a bit more clear in this version of the story. At the time of Christ, many children died long before developing distinct personalities or becoming contributing members of society. Consequently, people had much larger families and children weren’t individually valued quite as much. That’s not to say they had no value; they just couldn’t be depended on to survive.

 

With this in mind, the revolutionary quality of Jesus’ statement becomes clear. It’s as if he’s saying, “Do you see this little kid, who could die at any minute and who is in constant need of valuable resources? This child is more deserving of heaven than anyone else!” It’s not about how big and important we are here on earth; it’s about how much God loves us in spite of the value assigned to us by society.

 

Now back to the pit bulls. This is a group of dogs so universally hated and feared that only one of the 600 pit bull terriers surrendered to shelters will ever find his or her way into a home. In spite of the loyalty, affection and intelligence of many of these dogs, they are regarded with suspicion and haunted by popular myths. For example, many people believe that pit bull dogs have “locking jaws” that allow them to tear into prey and hold on like a bear trap. This is false. According to senior researcher and behaviorist Dr. Lehr Brisbin of the University of Georgia, American Pit Bull Terriers are physiologically no different from any other breed of dog. They do not have biting super powers, nor do they exhibit more biting pressure than other dogs of a similar size. Yet the media continues to sensationalize dog bite cases involving pit bulls and legislators continue to connect arbitrary euthanasia of pit bulls to safer, bite free communities.  Like the tax collectors Jesus defended, pit bulls have a bad reputation but they are not inherently evil.

 

Bite fatalities are not determined by breed, but by the treatment of the dog’s owners. If any dog is isolated from positive family interaction, abused and neglected, left alone with children or infants, there is a high risk of serious bites or mauling. If a dog is not spayed or neutered or if he or she came out of a puppy mill, there is an increased risk of biting. According to Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, “Statistics on fatalities and injuries caused by dogs cannot be responsibly used to document the ‘dangerousness’ of a particular breed …” This means that our judgements against pit bulls are based on groundless stereotypes.

 

Jesus represented sinners and outcasts, gave hope to the downtrodden and encouraged us to see the potential for good even in the things that we fear. Pit bulls are no different from other large dogs; they bite about as often as standard poodles and they do not have super powered jaws that lock. They are just dogs, but because they are commonly owned by people in poor and working class conditions, because they have been associated with violence and gambling, because they are often neglected and abused to the point of becoming anti-social, North Americans have grown to hate and distrust them, just as we once hated black cats.   And thousands of pit bulls are euthanized in municipal animal shelters each day as a consequence.

 

Jesus defied stereotypes, superstitions and excuses. He pushed back against groundless popular cultural beliefs and biases. He healed on the Sabbath and proclaimed the value of young children and widowed women. I believe that, if he were to return to us in physical form today, Jesus would have stood up for pit bulls.

 

 

Jen Clyde lives in the Bay area of California, is  a Third Order Franciscan postulate and is deeply committed to animal health and welfare

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Ann Fontaine
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Golden retriever bites are most common according to what I have read. No dog can be absolutely trusted not to bite.

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Joanie Kenoshmeg
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Joanie Kenoshmeg

Golden Retriever bites are not most common. You can go to any local animal control office and determine this is not factual. In addition BITES do not reflect the problem. The most commonly owned dogs should be the dogs with the most bites as they are owned in much greater numbers. But BITES were never an issue with the dogs of yesteryear. Most bites do not even require medical supervision. What pitbulls do to humans and pets is what large bears do, but even a bear will stop attacking if it finds that the victim is no longer a threat to its young, and plays dead. A pitbull will continue to go after its prey and shred it into tiny little pieces long after it submits or is in fact dead. Many human victims of pitbulls are found completely naked. The pitbulls tears off all their clothes . People who have witnessed these attacks often say the pitbulls appear to be literally eating people alive. Bites do not remove body parts and leave victims disemboweled. If you happened upon a dead victim of a pitbull attack you would more likely think it was the work of a Satanic cult than the work of dog that Jesus would accept. Someday someone has to start comparing apples to apples. What pitbulls do is cause intense catastrophic physical and mental permanent injury's to human's and pets. Yes pets that are attacked by pitbulls that manage to survive, like their human counterparts are often afraid and no longer the happy go lucky pets that they once were, and they suffer permanent pain. Just because a well funded and monied group lobby's continually for the normalization of pitbulls doesn't make them safe. Some of the same advertising companies that successfully duped the majority of adults in the United States to accept cigarettes as safe now work for pitbull political action organizations. These groups actually bankroll politicians to prevent meaningful laws that apply to pitbulls including spay and neutering laws to stop the inhumane overpopulation of pitbulls. Pitbulls are the only dog in the world that has its own political action committee as it is the only dog that has needed one to flood the media with perpetual pro pitbull propaganda to cover up the intense suffering these dogs inflict on people and other living beings.

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David Carver
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David Carver

Jen's a novice now, not a postulant. 🙂

As for the subject at hand, I've heard a lot of conflicting reports. Some people swear by pit bulls, while others have... much less favorable things to say. I don't have a whole lot of experience with the breed, so I can't fairly pick a "side". I'm assuming there is a "right answer" (a dangerous thing to assume on many matters), but I don't know which it is. If pit bulls *are* particularly dangerous, though (and again, I don't know if they are) can't a compromise be reached? We don't have to "destroy" people's pets purely on the basis of breed, surely, but maybe we can require pits to be spayed/neutered and outlaw breeding them? That way the breed could be phased out peacefully within a generation. I'm sorry if this sounds terrible to pit bull lovers (hope you don't think less of me if you're reading this, Jen) -I'm just thinking. And again, I don't know the "real truth" here.

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Tina Pounds
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Tina Pounds

I just want to say that none of the proposed breed specific legislation I support advocates removing or destruction of anyone's pet. In the event of maulings like mine, however, the dog must be put down. Rather, as you pointed out they do require spay/neutering, adequate insurance coverage, adequate containment to prevent escape, registration and possibly muzzling.

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It is fact that there have been attacks by pit bull dogs that were severe and sometimes fatal. It is fact that most attacks by dogs, including those that are severe and sometimes fatal, are not by pit bulls. The more common underlying issue is that dogs of any breed that attack have been raised/trained/pressed to be attack beasts.

The vast majority of pit bulls (as for any dog breed) do not attack anyone. The vast majority of dog owners treat their dogs in such a way that the dogs don't attack anyone. Where we often fall short is in holding the owners accountable.

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Helen Kromm
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Helen Kromm

"It is fact that most attacks by dogs, including those that are severe and sometimes fatal, are not by pit bulls."

Please explain. What am I missing?

http://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-fatalities-2015.php

In 2015, Pitbulls accounted for 82% of dog bite fatalities.

http://www.dogsbite.org/pdf/11-year-dog-bite-fatality-chart-dogsbiteorg.pdf

Over a ten year period, that statistic is 64%.

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Tina Pounds
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Tina Pounds

No actually that is not factual. It has no basis in reality. With so many loving docs needing homes why risk getting that one dog type with a propensity towards harming a child?? It is not worth the risk to me.

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Member

Helen, the Journal of Pediatrics article cited first said 39%. While the second article (and, yes, I did read it) came up with a percentage of roughly 62% in one place, in their own actual review of 228 ED patients of dog bite, only 29, or about 13% were noted as pit bulls. Indeed, they do have a sidebar from dogbite.com; but that is a site with a very specific perspective.

I would suggest reviewing the literature review of the American Veterinary Medical Association at https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/LiteratureReviews/Pages/The-Role-of-Breed-in-Dog-Bite-Risk-and-Prevention.aspx. It doesn't downplay the seriousness of dog attacks in general, or of attacks by pit bull type dogs (because identification is an important issue). It does, however, note that in other studies other breeds are more prevalent. More to the point, it emphasizes that it is owners, and not breed, that are more responsible for dog attacks of all types.

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Joanie Kenoshmeg
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Joanie Kenoshmeg

That study from AVMA is OLD and if you look at the authors of the study, pro pitbull political action committee heads are among the authors that have no experience as vets. This is like having the promoters of a weight loss drug with no experience in statistics or medicine publish a "research study" and presenting this with the credentials of the American Medical Association. The AVMA study is not a peer reviewed study, it is misusing the name and reputation of one group to present the opinions of the pitb ull advocacy groups. I know of veterinarians that do not belong to this group that are firmly against pitbulls as pets. It is telling that in areas where pitbulls are banned and vets will not lose business by expressing their opinions, many more veterinarians speak out against pitbulls as pets. This is the power of money and self-interest. This study would never be accepted in a scientific journal as it is not and unbiased scientific study. Mortality, Maiming and Mauling by Vicious Dogs, a peer reviewed study published in Annals of Surgery, finds that you have a more than 2500 times higher chance of being killed if attacked by a pitbull as compared to a Labrador Retriever which is a dog of comparable size. Dr. Billmire is professor and director of the Division of Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical . He has spoken out about he started to see much more extensive damage from dog attacks when pitbulls started to be popularized. The attacks were so much horrendous the physicans are left with a pile of mangled flesh and pulverized bones to try to reconstruct into some sort of normal looking face He spoke about the organs hanging out of victims and his desperate attempts to save lives in operating rooms from pitbulls. Pitbulls kill more people than all other dogs and wild animals combined and those who have to work on the human victims and comfort family members who have loved ones who will never walk, see, hear or live again have more empathy for the GOD's creation: human beings, than the human dog created specifically for evil.

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Tina Pounds
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Tina Pounds

If anyone this I troll nothing could be farther from the truth. Reliving that horrible attack is most assuredly not enjoyable. I do it because What If??? What if I had not been walking hand in hand with Gran's boy. What if I had not been strong enough to fight that dog? What if I had been given the instinctual understanding of what to do to protect my grandson? I would like to think I am helping others. But that's just me. It's all I can do. And the pain that I am in today is excruciating. Not enjoying this at all.

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Joanie Kenoshmeg
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Joanie Kenoshmeg

Jesus knows PEOPLE created pitbulls for evil. Evil begets evil. Pitbulls kill more people, pets, farm animals and wild animals than all other dogs and wild animals combined. Feral pitbulls are becoming an expensive predator that wipes out native species like deers. Pitbulls can be loving normal dogs for years and then suddenly attack family members without warning. Their tenacity and strength make their attacks deadly and life changing as clubs and bats can't make the dogs let go. These are not dog bites but maulings: sustained ongoing attacks met to kill. Pitbulls have been popularized by promotions of the dogs on television. Pitbull promoters know television increases the overpopulaton of the dogs. This is great for dog fighters who need a perpetual supply of fresh pitbulls to use in dog fighting and for the purpose of hiding dog fighting in plain sight. In the past if police saw pitbulls they knew dog fighting was happening as pitbulls accounted for less than .02 percent of the dog population prior to the the 1970's. History has shown us that these dogs were a problem even when they were owned in such small numbers as bans on pitbulls started in the 1800's, and pitbulls were attributed to more then half of all fatalities caused by canines from 1930-1960. Before pitbulls arrived on the scene, we were not spending billions of dollars on animal control and humane societies. Dogs were not nuetered and their were no leash laws so dogs ran free, but fatalities and serious attacks were so rare, most states had a ONE BITE FREE law, as bites were usually minor occurrences that did not require medical intervention. Pitbulls were deliberately bred to withstand pain, attack without provocation and fight to the death for centuries. Most pitbulls died early in the dog fighting pits so diseases and neurological problems with bloodlines were never monitored or eradicated. My dog is a Border Collie and this breed is known to have a tendency to have more problems with seizure disorders. This is a fact that is not denied. Pitbulls have a problem with the development of neurological problems later in life. This fact has been documented by esteemed Animal biologist A. Semyonova author of the 100 Silliest things people say about dogs. A chihuahua or collie with sudden neurological problems is not deadly. A pitbull that suddenly develops neurological problems is a threat to public safety. In addition, pitbulls are commonly aggressive to other dogs. The attacks and murders of pets by pitbulls are traumatic to the young and old alike that witness their pets cry out in pain. People have been killed and seriously injured trying to defend their dogs from pitbulls. Pediatricians have released a warning to keep small children and pitbulls seperated as pitbulls cause more deaths and catastrophic injuries to infants and children than other dogs. In addition numerous studies have shown that pitbulls attack people unprovoked at a much higher rate. Animal control agency calls back up this statistic repeatedly. Pitbull attacks often require the victims to under go weeks of surgery's, bone grafts, skin replacements, plastic surgeries, and extreme post traumatic stress disorder remains with fears and nightmares, as unlike an isolated Lion or bear attack during a trip to a remote area, victims can not escape from pitbulls unless they become hermits. Jesus would say if we diminish the pain and suffering of one person we diminish humanity as a whole. Jesus would tell us to keep pets that don't have the capacity to ruin someone's life.

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