The Tiger vs. The “Jackal”

The Humane Society of the US is an organization I have tremendous respect for. I support 98% percent of their positions on animal issues, but I strongly disagree with their unwise move into breed-specific advocacy on behalf of fighting dogs. I am a regular reader of HSUS president Wayne Pacelle’s blog, Humane Nation, but I found deep irony in two of this week’s back-to-back posts.

On Sept. 6, Pacelle blogged about the serious problems in keeping large exotic species as pets in a post titled “New Day in Ohio as Exotics Law Takes Effect“. Wrote Pacelle:

For years, The HSUS has been warning about Ohio’s decision to allow private menageries as large as Terry Thompson’s to thrive. The terrible incident he caused was the most extreme in terms of outcomes for the animals, but it was just one of a laundry list of incidents in which animals and people have been injured or killed because of the wrong-headed decision by private citizens to keep dangerous wild animals as pets.

There are people who think it’s their right to keep any animal they want. They have always been in the minority, but now, increasingly, their views and behavior are judged not just as extreme, but also dangerous.

We shouldn’t be so selfish, or so naïve to think it’s okay to keep a powerful exotic animal as a pet. Ohio’s new law is a good one, and the other states with few regulations on exotic animals should work to pass similar legislation.

All level-headed information. Yet, just a day prior, Pacelle posted another blog titled Help Protect Dogs in Maryland. Seemingly without realizing it, the HSUS president became a mouthpiece for the pit bull terrier breeding and ownership lobby, which uses remarkably similar arguments as the aficionados of dangerous exotic pets. Blogged Pacelle:

This August, the state of Maryland’s Court of Appeals ruled that “pit bull” dogs are “inherently dangerous,” creating one of the most dog-unfriendly policies in the entire country. The ruling essentially states that if a “pit bull” dog injures someone, not only is the dog owner liable, but so is the owner of the property where the incident occurred.

Right now in Maryland, landlords, veterinarians, dog daycares, and groomers are being forced to consider banning pit bull type dogs from their properties, based on a false assumption about the aggression of these animals.

But “pit bull” is a generic name attached to an entire class of dogs, not one specific breed–leaving the door open for confusion and overzealous action by insurers and property owners who want to comply with the law. To preserve their families, some Maryland renters are looking to move out of state, instead of surrendering their beloved dogs. Families without the resources to move are facing the heartbreaking possibility of giving up their pets, and Maryland shelters are already seeing an uptick in dog surrenders.

Please share this information with Maryland dog owners or property owners. For non-Marylanders, this action is a wake-up call, and we hope you’ll be alert to similarly ill-considered ideas.

You can also sign our pledge to stand with Maryland families and let the state legislature know they have made a decision that is bad for dog owners, bad for businesses, and bad for Maryland. In the meantime, we’ll keep on working to help keep pets and their families together.

If the irony still doesn’t strike you, I urge you to watch this LiveLeak video from Brazil. (Warning–incredibly graphic.) In this film, an overfed pet pit bull, Jackal, mauls his owner Cezar Gonçalves. If you choose to watch this film, please attempt to imagine any other common, non-fighting dog breed having the strength and tenacity to launch an attack like this. Also, ponder how Jackal’s attack differs in severity from that of a chimpanzee, wolf, or any other large exotic animal being kept as a pet.

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