Here is the truth about breed-specific legislation, from veterinary animal behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall: "Breed specific laws are not based in science. [Laws] banning breeds will not make you safer, and the illusion that they will do so is dangerous to humans and unfair to dogs."
The facts back her up. So why are various city councils so determined to ignore the science? Because it's easier to imagine that the truth is somewhere in the middle. It requires less courage and a lot less work. Russell Baker — quoted by the late, great Molly Ivins back in 1987, so help me, and things haven't gotten better — explains how "balance" works. Boldface is mine:
In the classic example, a refugee from Nazi Germany who appears on television saying monstrous things are happening in his homeland must be followed by a Nazi spokesman saying Adolf Hitler is the greatest boon to humanity since pasteurized milk. Real objectivity would require not only hard work by news people to determine which report was accurate, but also a willingness to put up with the abuse certain to follow publication of an objectively formed judgment. To escape the hard work or the abuse, if one man says Hitler is an ogre, we instantly give you another to say Hitler is a prince. A man says the rockets won't work? We give you another who says they will.And here is Ivins herself [both quotes from her book Who Let the Dogs In?]:
The public may not learn much about these fairly sensitive matters, but neither does it get another excuse to denounce the media for unfairness and lack of objectivity. In brief, society is teeming with people who become furious if told what the score is.
The American press has always had a tendency to assume that the truth must lie exactly halfway between any two opposing points of view. Thus, if the press presents the man who says Hitler is an ogre and the man who says Hitler is a prince, it believes it has done the full measure of its journalistic duty.Now imagine a city council meeting, which shouldn't be too much of a leap. Members of the city council are 1) debating whether to ban certain dogs based not on their behavior or temperament but on their physical appearance, and 2) turning their backs on the concerns of law-abiding citizens whose good dogs have never harmed or threatened to harm anyone.
This tendency has been aggravated in recent years by a noticeable trend to substitute people who speak from a right-wing ideological perspective for those who know something about a given subject. Thus, we see, night after night, on MacNeil/Lehrer or Nightline, people who don't know jack about Iran or Nicaragua or arms control, but who are ready to tear up the pea patch in defense of the proposition that Ronald Reagan is a Great Leader beset by comsymps. They have nothing to offer in the way of facts or insight; they are presented as a way of keeping the networks from being charged with bias by people who are replete with bias and resistant to fact. The justification for putting them on the air is that "they represent a point of view."
The odd thing about these television discussions designed to "get all sides of the issue" is that they do not feature a spectrum of people with different views on reality: Rather, they frequently give us a face-off between those who see reality and those who have missed it entirely. In the name of objectivity, we are getting fantasyland.
There are two opposing points of view.
- Strongly opposed to breed bans are the real experts at the CDC; the AVMA; the authors of A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention; and virtually every competent dog-trainer, veterinary animal behaviorist and humane organization in North America.
- In favor of breed banning: someone who quotes an odd "study" lacking citations and footnotes and filled with misspellings, misstatements and some of the nuttiest dog behavior analysis since Thurber's mother.
And the city council, if it is sufficiently replete with bias and resistant to fact [not all of them are, thank God], will pat itself on the back for its "balance" and cast its deciding vote in favor of those who have missed reality entirely.
"We create our own reality," as the man said. The truth is somewhere in the middle! So we ignore science, we fill law-abiding citizens with anguish, and when we feel like it, we confiscate and kill their good dogs.
Those who like to keep their bullshit detectors honed might want to check out the links in the Vagabond Scholar's posts on Faulty Argument Patterns and False Equivalencies. H/T to Batocchio for the Molly Ivins lead.
[Universal B.S. Detector Watch from Gizmodo.]