Roissy’s perspicacious, if deliberately provocative (it’s who he is, after all), post on pit bulls and the bleeding heart SWPL instinct to apologize for (if Tookie was a dog, he’d look like this) and adopt them got me into a heated facebook conversation. Opposition to Roissy’s post took two familiar forms; 1) Exceptions to the rule (“My family’s three year old pit bull is the most lovable dog ever.”), and 2) External factors (“It’s all about how they are socialized and raised. Any dog can be made vicious by an irresponsible owner. Rottweilers and German Shepherds used to be thought of as the most dangerous dogs, now pit bulls are.”).
Different breeds of dogs do not all share the same propensity for violent behavior. Statistics show that pit bulls kill more people than does every other kind of breed of dog combined. Yes, part of that is a consequence of the way pit bulls are often raised, but the reason they’re raised to be fighters is because they are the breed most naturally suited to fight. Even if, for sake of argument, propensity for violence is assumed to be identical across breeds, when a pit bull snaps, it can very well be lethal. When a dachshund does, it’s essentially harmless and just sort of funny. Further, pit bulls notoriously give little or no warning prior to attacking, unlike virtually all other dog breeds, which bark, growl, and assess their targets before lunging.
Humans aren’t great at thinking in terms of probabilities. Of course most pit bulls are not going to seriously injury people (or other dogs)–the nice pit bull story isn’t even the exception that proves the rule, because it’s more the rule than it is the exception, but the fact remains that though they are in an absolute sense unlikely to injure or kill people, they are more likely to do it than any other breed is, by a long shot. In absolute numbers, Rottweilers are the second most lethal dog breed, and huskies (or wolf-dogs, depending on how prevalent the incorrect identification of wolf-dogs as huskies is) are third.
Regarding irresponsible owners, there are reasons certain animals are outlawed in most cities. Take tigers as an extreme example. Blaming a tiger’s reckless owner after it rips my face off doesn’t change the fact that my face has been ripped off. If that same irresponsible owner had a pug instead, I’d be just fine. There exists a spectrum, and pit bulls are as far to the dangerous end of the spectrum as dogs get.
The assertion that pit bulls are the new rottweilers or new German shepherds is difficult to square with the fact that the former breed is (and appears to have been for as long as records have been kept) considerably less common than the latter two breeds are. According to the American Kennel Club, in 2012 German Shepherds were the second most widely owned breed, Rottweilers were ninth, and pit bulls were 76th. These stats rely on registration data, and presumably pit bull owners (present company of SWPLs who are the target of Roissy’s derision excluded) tend not to be the types of people who do civically-minded things like registering a pet, obeying federal drug laws, or joining the PTA. Still, it is clear that despite being less common than other potentially dangerous dogs, pit bulls cause a lot more absolute harm than other problematic breeds do.
The same sort of thinking that makes people jump to the defense of pit bulls is the sort of thinking that leads them to defend hip hop culture, oppose racial profiling, support open borders, etc.
Allow me to excerpt one of Roissy’s many golden lines:
Not content with leaving ill-bred animals alone, and apparently incapable of enjoying the simple pleasure of normal dogs like labs without experiencing an existential crisis, the pitbull has become the newest cause celebre for urban SWPLs who can’t make it through a day without a pat on the back from their fellow missionaries.
For fun, I took a gander at Google trends’ results for the terms “labradors” and “pitbulls” (understanding that the compound word should actually be two separate words, but also aware of the fact that “pitbulls” is more commonly searched on than is “pit bulls”, and cognizant that the ‘musician‘ who uses the singular form of the word requires that both terms be searched on in the plural) by state. The following table ranks states by labrador preference, which is calculated by simply taking a state’s search index (on a relative scale from 0-100, the higher the number the more frequent the search term is) for labradors and subtracting from it the state’s search index for pitbulls:
|1. New Hampshire||69|
|5. South Dakota||54|
|10. North Dakota||34|
|18. Rhode Island||27|
|23. New Jersey||16|
|28. New York||5|
|29. West Virginia||5|
|36. New Mexico||(5)|
|42. North Carolina||(11)|
|45. South Carolina||(19)|
A cartographical representation is available here. Head north for civilization, south for barbarism.
Weather aside, this ranking could almost double for a listing of the nation’s nicest places to live in. The correlations between a state’s estimated average IQ and its labrador preference is .77 (p less than .01) and between a state’s homicide rate and its labrador preference is an inverse .72 (p less than .01).