Rant and Rave

Going to the Dogs: Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and Testosterone Poisoning

A Canine Rant and Rave by Raymond Magliozzi


Right at this very moment, I'm on the hairy edge of going 100 percent, completely ballistic. But, before I do, I'm going to take a deep breath, slap on some Preparation R&R and start this Rant and Rave out on the right foot (or paw, in this particular case) with an example of what I consider to be responsible dog ownership.

Ralph, Bruno and Rambo

I have a buddy, Ralph, who owns a gas station in my neighborhood. Ralph has two Rottweilers that are positively humongous. We'll call these beasts Bruno and Rambo. Every few weeks, I drop by to say hello to Ralph and buy some gas. Each time I go in, Bruno and Rambo are lying there, chained to a block of cement that is permanently embedded in the concrete floor. The chain that goes between the dogs and the anchor are not unlike the ones that Cunard uses to keep the QE II from drifting around Portsmouth harbor. The point is, these dogs are securely tied down.

Bruno and Rambo never make a peep when I approach them. They never wag their little nubs of tails, and they're never happy to see me. Bruno and Rambo have the canine version of the Timothy McVeigh blank stare. Ralph always says, "Don't worry! They'll never hurt you. They're gentle as can be." I, of course, can't help but think that they must be communicating telepathically: "Yeah, that right butt cheek -- now that looks like a good snack!"

Bruno and Rambo are, for all intents and purposes, deadly weapons. Ralph knows that these dogs are dangerous. At the end of the day, when he closes the shop, he lets them have the run of the place -- knowing that anyone who broke in would be quickly inhaled. And, quite frankly, Bruno and Rambo would be well within their rights to take you out in that situation. I can accept that, under those circumstances. Just barely.

Spike Comes Home

Here's what I can't abide: I can't abide the next-door neighbor who's stupid enough to think that having a Bruno or a Rambo as an unrestrained pet is a prudent thing to do -- especially when he has a couple of little kids running around the house. It's just plain stupid, because these dogs can be absolutely nuts. Any dog can be aggressive, but these dogs are so powerful they have the potential to kill.

Sure, you can raise a Rottweiler to be docile, but what's going to happen when something goes wrong? When this dog gets old and crotchety and his brain chemistry goes completely haywire, he'll turn on somebody. And then what? Congratulations. You'll have it on your conscience for the rest of your life that your dog killed a neighborhood 4-year-old. To my way of thinking, that's just plain ridiculous.

You want to own a dog that's a deadly weapon? Then, by God, you should do what Ralph does: get your dog a metal collar and have it chained to a QE II anchor that's bolted into bedrock, and make sure your property is plastered with signs that say things like "Survivors Will Be Prosecuted."

Ray's Law: Your Dog Is Your Agent

I can only assume that people who buy dogs like rottweilers, pit bulls and other huge dogs like mastiffs, get a certain thrill from having a dog that's powerful and threatening. I don't have a problem with that. This is America, and it's a free country. But, I think what the law should be is this:

If you allow your dog to do something stupid, the law should interpret that as the dog acting as your agent.

In other words, these irresponsible people deserve to be treated as if they had committed the crime themselves, nothing less.

Now, don't get me wrong. We all know that every dog has the potential to bite. Take, for example, my neighbor's Lhasa Apso. Sure, even that little dog can bite. This dog might be able to do in your pet parakeet -- on a good day and only if he was really, really mad. In fact, sometimes it seems like it's the littlest dogs that are most apt to bite. It's the little dogs that believe in the preemptive strike. (Hey, if I weighed 12 pounds I'd feel that way too; at that weight you don't get a second chance.)

But, the Lhasa Apsos of the world aren't going to kill anybody. If you have a dog that's a barker or maybe a little bit aggressive, fine. If he bites someone, then, sure, you might get sued -- but at least you're not going to have it on your conscience that one of the neighbor's kids died because your 165-pound "best friend" had him for hors d'oeuvres. The difference with dogs like Rottweilers and pit bulls is that they have the potential to kill, with little or no provocation -- and that's what disturbs me about them.

I have a dog. She's a border collie. She's never bitten anyone I know. (She hasn't bitten anyone I don't know, either, for that matter.) Philly's certainly had confrontations with other dogs, in which she has snarled and bared her teeth. But, I never worry that she's going to take down one of the neighbor's kids for a snack.

Smith & Wesson vs. Brutus

Owning a pit bull or a Rottweiler is no different, in my opinion, than having your 5-year-old find a loaded gun in a kitchen drawer and shoot the kid next door. You'd be criminally responsible for that lapse in judgment. The same laws should apply for these dogs. Your dog gets out of the yard and attacks somebody? Somebody comes into your yard when it's not properly posted, and he gets chewed into hamburger? You're guilty. And you go to jail. Or, maybe we feed you to the dogs and you see how it feels!

I think it's ridiculous that people want to defend themselves with a dog. If you want to defend yourself, go buy a gun. At least you have more control over the gun. If you don't want to use it, you can lock it up. You don't have to feed it and it won't go to the bathroom on the living-room carpet.

It's ironic that in many cases the people who buy these dogs and train them to be vicious attack dogs end up losing a loved one to the very dog that's supposed to be "protecting" them.

A Pattern of Inadequacies?

I'd like to close with one final observation. The sort of guy who goes out and gets a pit bull or a Rottweiler is the same sort of testosterone-poisoned person who buys the Camaro with the oversized engine. Why do these guys insist on acting this way? All I can hypothesize is that they're somehow making up for a deep-seated insecurity, which must have its roots in an anatomical inadequacy.

I rest my case.

Thank you. I feel much better now.

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