Should pit bulls be banned in Texas? The question has sparked an enormous debate that ultimately brings us to the age old question of "nature vs. nurture." Are pit bulls inherently dangerous, or are their owners responsible for making them aggressive?
Justin Clinton, a 10-year-old boy from Texas, was mauled to death in 2009 by two pit bulls. After winning a $7 million civil suit against the dog's owners, the Clintons are now proposing "Justin's Law." The legislation written by Cynthia Kent, the family's attorney, would make it a third-degree felony to own a pit bull in Texas, though it currently has no sponsors in the Legislature.
Despite the proposed law having a slim chance of passing, it has ignited a heated debate over the animal breed. Pit bull owners are outraged, as seen in the HLN footage below of the Shoemaker family. They have good reason to be upset - their pit bull saved them from an intruder who shot the dog three times before running away. The pit bull was awarded the "Dog of Valor" award.
Dog trainer Michele Crouse believes that it's not the dog's breed, but rather the dog's owner who determines the animal's aggression. "It's all upon the responsibility of the owner and not what dog they have," she told NBC. "It doesn't matter if they have a 2-pound Chihuahua or a 200-pound mastiff."
The Dallas Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals accepts pit bulls at its shelters. As SPCA of Texas president James Bias explains, "We treat every dog coming in here as an individual rather than lumping them in as a specific breed type."
The American Temperament Test Society evaluates dog instincts. In the past, pit bulls have reportedly ranked better than average - the American Pit Bull Terriers recently scored an 85.3%, ranking above the much-beloved Golden Retriever.
But advocates of the ban suggest that dog bite statistics speak louder than temperament tests. According to a study conducted by Merritt Clifton, editor of "Animal People," pit bulls are responsible for a higher percentage of dog bites than most other dogs.
Clifton argues that the humane community doesn't encourage pumas for cat adoption, because "it is clearly understood that accidents with a puma are frequently fatal. For the same reason, it is sheer foolishness to encourage people to regard pit bull terriers... as just dogs like any other, no matter how much they may behave like other dogs under ordinary circumstances."
According to Change.org, dog bite statistics based on specific breeds are extremely unreliable, and the Center for Disease Control even opposes breed-specific legislation due to those numbers being so faulty.
Matt Miner, a pit bull owner and animal activist, offers an alternative suggestion to the pit bull ban. "Ban the breeders, put a moratorium on breeding and stop this nonsense. There's too many dogs in our shelters, and we need to give our rescues time to catch up with the sheer enormity of the problem."
Jane Velez-Mitchell puts it a bit more bluntly when she states, "People are too lazy and too cheap to get their dog spayed or neutered."
What do you think? Should pit bulls be banned? Should breeders be held responsible? Or is this an issue less about pit bulls and more about overpopulation due to overbreeding?