I recently saw a news article about people in Germany lighting candles and protesting the euthanasia of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier that killed its owners, a 52 year-old woman in a wheelchair and her 27 year-old son. It has taken me a while to put into words the thoughts that crossed my mind on seeing that article. However, after reading today the bitter comments on a Facebook post concerning the euthanasia of several Pit Bulls rescued from a fighting ring in Port Elizabeth, I feel the need to comment.
Where has this idea come from that every dog should be re-homed, regardless of their history and their emotional and physical state? Regardless of who is at fault for “creating” the kind of dog that easily and efficiently kills two people in its own family (whether it is through nature, nurture or a combination of both), what twisted logic says that it is okay to ever risk the life of another person in order to save that animal from humane euthanasia. Who would work with that dog? Which veterinarians, shelter staff, fosterers, trainers, behaviourists and adopters’ lives are worth less than the life of this dog? What person in their right mind would willingly live with an animal that has killed two people in its own home, for reasons unknown?
The lengths that people will go to in their defence of dogs that have killed people defies all logic and sense. It seems that in response to breed specific legislation, there has developed a movement which utterly denies any danger that any dog poses whatsoever. The “its all how you raise them” ideology has gotten so out of hand, that not only does it seek to defend dogs that may only pose a danger, but rabidly protests that even a dog that has killed people should be labelled dangerous.
In a country where we currently seem to have a "fighting-breed" epidemic, judging by the numbers we deal with and the fact that every second shelter pup is a pit bull mix (often from fighting lineage), this blinkered denial is frightening. How many people would be happy to encounter an ex-dog fighting dog on the beach while walking their own dogs? How many want to live next door to a dog that has killed someone? How many would be willing to take on an ex-fighter and agree to never having any other animals in its lifetime, never walking it off lead or unmuzzled in public and living with double gate systems to ensure that it never accidentally got out of the property?
In the case of the PE dogs, it was clearly stated that the dogs were in horrific condition and they were not only dog-aggressive, but human aggressive. Why should anyone have to risk their lives to try to save a dog that in all likelihood would end up leading a very limited existence? Why do these dogs take preference over the tens of thousands of dogs that do not pose a danger to other dogs or people that are waiting for homes in shelters all over South Africa? Dogs for whom time is running out…..
Do I want any animal to die? No, of course not. However, there are fates worse than death. Living in isolation in a cage in a shelter, in a state of misery and depression is far worse. In addition, people’s lives matter too and so do the lives of other dogs in society, that these dogs may encounter and pose a threat to. Sometimes hard decisions have to be made, as unpopular as they may be. Instead of vilifying the people who have to make these decisions, we should be grateful that it does not fall to us. We should be thankful that they care enough to make the tough calls.