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The Dumbest Story on Breed Profiling I've Ever Read


The New York Times must have sent a cat person out to public housing complexes to get the story on the agency’s new ban on pit bulls, rottweilers and dobermans as well as any dog over 25 pounds. The big issue is: Will the agency be get rid of harmless dogs that keep little old ladies company instead of going after gangs’ attack dog props?

Without discounting fears of pit bulls and fighting rings, I don’t know any serious dog person who wouldn’t see those rules as anything but ham-fisted. Everyone knows that a dog’s weight and breed don’t tell you how dangerous the dog can be. The dogs need to pass a behavioral test, like the Good Citizenship Test trainer Bash Dibra helped develop with the AKC.

But this story seems to portray both sides as clowns, whose motives are as inscrutable as they are mockable. The story story begins with the tail of a miniature pincher, who is grandfathered into his housing spot while “others of his kind are not.” Manny Fernandez goes on to point out the folly of banning this 10-pound toothless dog. The housing authority may be ignorant, but they’re not that dumb.He’s completely oblivious to the fact that this is a separate breed that’s been established for centuries and, according to the kennel club, “is not a scaled-down version of anything, especially the much larger Doberman Pinscher.” This wasn’t just a particularly petite doberman that had been swept up in the new law; it’s a different breed.

Or different species, as Mr. Fernandez would have it. He describes dobies, pits and rotties and “the three banned species.” Oh if only that were true. Since the classic definition of a separate species is a group of animals that can’t breed with animals outside their species, that would be a great form of birth control to prevent our dog overpopulation problem.
And then for the justification of the new rule, Mr. Fernandez cites not any of the substantial arguments on either side of this issue, but a few anecdotes of pit bull attacks. He doesn’t mention the dog bite stats that place these breeds among the disproportionate perpetrators. He doesn’t bother to talk with trainers–who would point to a behavioral rather than breed test. He doesn’t bother to mention the Malcolm Gladwell story from the New Yorker disputing breed stats.

This is a big story to a lot of people. Did the Times have to lay off all the dog people on their reporting, editing and copy-editing staffs?

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