The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

TMID Editorial: ‘Dangerous’ dogs - The problem is not the breed

Monday, 14 September 2020, 09:26 Last update: about 2 months ago

The country was shocked a week ago when an elderly woman was mauled to death by two dogs at her family home in Msida.

Two simultaneous debates kicked off as soon as the news broke. The first was that this was another case of animal cruelty. The second, that Pitbulls are a dangerous breed and should be banned from the country.

There are conflicting reports about the state the dogs were being kept in. The owner, who had several other animals at home, says they are like his “babies” and explained that he had rescued a number of his dogs from shelters or from the street. Others said that the dogs were in bad shape, with some of them showing signs that they had been used in dogfights.


Whatever the case – the police will determine what the truth was – every dog owner is responsible for his pet.

The law is clear in this regard. There is no excuse as to why such incidents happen. Whether the dogs had been abused by previous owners is irrelevant in such a case. If your dog injures, maims or kills someone, you are responsible for it.

Now to the second point. There is a raging debate, both locally and abroad, about this particular breed of dog.

While some breeds may naturally have a more aggressive streak than others, ultimately, their behaviour reflects the way in which they were trained and brought up. Many different breeds of dog, even the most docile, can be raised to be aggressive guard dogs. Likewise, breeds that are often said to have a violent temperament can be brought up to be lovable family pets.

The problem is not the breed, but rather the owner. So talking about a blanket ban on certain breeds of dog is not the answer but, perhaps, some people are not ideal to handle certain breeds of dog.

The truth is that there are several people out there who buy this particular breed of dog to show off and project a macho image. The stereotype surrounding Pitbulls makes it the ideal (and unfortunate) candidate for this sort of thing. Many people already believe that Pitbulls are bloodthirsty animals. Crop off its ears to make them pointy and slap on a spiked collar and the fiendish look is complete.

The people who do this are only reinforcing this stereotype.

But they are also breaking the law. A few years back, Malta introduced an animal welfare law that outright bans the docking of tails and ears. Basically, you cannot alter the natural image of a dog in any way.

Yet people still do it, and they get away with it.

We have seen few, if any, arraignments in this sense. One can spot dogs with chopped off ears and tails all around the country, yet the authorities are either turning a blind eye to this or simply do not have the resources to respond.

While it is true that one seldom sees stray dogs in the streets nowadays, and that animal cruelty cases have decreased, animal abuse in this sense continues unabated. If we truly believe that we are an animal-loving nation, this needs to change.



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