The American Kennel Club Has No Breed Standard For Pit Bulls
But your police department does. According to the police, a Pit Bull is defined as:
any non-black dog shot by a police officer.
The police department has another term for black dogs which are shot by officers. The term is "rottweiler."
For instance, this dog, were he to be shot by an officer, would be called a rottweiler.
I happen to know that this dog is not a rottweiler, or even a rottweiler mix, at least as defined by the American Kennel Club. Because he's my dog. But if an officer came to my house, Wilbur (that's his name) would have a fair chance of becoming a rottweiler. In police reports, it appears that there are only two breeds of dogs, pit bulls and rottweilers.
How else to explain what happened to 13 year old Tiffany Summerall's dog, which was transformed by one officer's word into a pit bull.
Tiffany Summerall, 13, who resides at the residence with her parents, Raphael O. Houston and Christina Summerall, and five younger siblings, said she let the family dog out not knowing deputies were in her yard.
Brooklyn, a 6-year-old brown and white dog, normally was let out at the time the deputies were at the residence, according to family members.
Tiffany heard a man’s voice telling her to come and get the dog.
“I called the dog three times and then walked over,” she said. “(The deputy) was swinging a walkie talkie at the dog. He then pulled out a gun. I said, ‘Please don’t shoot him. He’s not going to bite.’”
Tiffany called the dog one last time and the dog started to walk toward her, she said.
“He started walking toward me and he shot him,” she said. “I started screaming, ‘Why did you shoot my dog?’”
As an aside, that's pretty hard-core, dude. I mean, any cop can shoot a dog. But to do it in front of a 13 year-old girl? Someone should get a medal.
But to answer the question, because the dog was an aggressive pit bull, Tiffany. The deputy had to shoot the dog, as he feared for his life.
According to a sheriff’s office internal affairs report, the deputy told investigators, “The dog was barking and/or growling and bearing it’s (sic) teeth. I began back peddling (sic) and the dog continued charging toward me and lunged toward me with its front legs leaving the ground. I swung my radio at the dog in an attempt to avoid being bitten.”
The sheriff’s office classified the dog as a pit bull in reports, while the family said the dog was not a pit bull, but rather a mixed breed.
I read a lot of stories about police officers who shoot dogs. I do this because I like dogs, and because I'm concerned that while I often read of cops killing dogs, I never read of mailmen (who encounter dogs much more frequently) killing dogs.
That may be a question of selection bias. Officers go into dangerous neighborhoods, and encounter angry dog owners. Of course, mailmen go into rough neighborhoods too, as do census workers, and I never hear of them killing dogs. Of course I never read of mailmen and census workers being mauled by dogs either, but perhaps they don't taste as good as policemen.
Or it could be that policemen, who certainly encounter dogs frequently enough as they're always barging uninvited onto others' property, aren't trained to deal with dogs. Or perhaps they are. They're trained to shoot first and ask questions later. Any dog shot can automatically be classified as a rottweiler or a pit bull, and the newspapers, which generally report these things, will automatically name it as one of these breeds, which all Americans know are dangerous.
Even if it isn't. I was struck, on reading this, that it's rare for a newspaper to report on a dog owner disputing the characterization of the pet. And I wonder how often this sort of dispute arises. Google the phrase officer shot dog, and see how often it happens, and how the dog is almost always described as a pit bull or a rottweiler.
I'll bet that in some bureaucratic Newspeak seminar for police department internal affairs or public relations personnel, officers are taught, always, to characterize dogs shot by the police as "pit bulls," "rottweilers," or if they can't jam it into one of those categories, "German shepherds."
Considering the number that are shot by the police each week, it's a wonder there are any pit bulls, rottweilers, or German shepherds left.
Update: While we post rather frequently on this topic (using the tag "War on Dogs"), as commenter JB points out, Radley Balko deals with police abuse much more frequently, and has even coined the term "Puppycide".
Read no further, unless you want to get really angry.
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