A pit bull has been confiscated from her owner after the dog was found protecting her unconscious and injured owner while the family’s home was ablaze. The owner, April Newell, had been lying on the ground outside of the burning house, when her pit bull, named precious, had decided to sit beside her calmly and quietly.
At the time of the incident, April lived with her father, a 65-year-old blind man named James Newell, in their Prince George’s County, Maryland home. When the house burned down, both the owner and her father sustained injuries.
Upon arriving at the scene, firefighters attempted to approach April to treat her injuries; however, Precious reportedly acted “aggressively” towards them—a typical reaction for a dog who is attempting to protect their injured owner. This prompted the firefighters to deploy a powder fire extinguisher in her direction. Precious then move away from her owners side, allowing the firefighters to put April on a stretcher and treat her injuries.
Throughout the entire ordeal, Precious did not attack anyone. In spite of this fact, Animal Control proceeded to confiscate Precious, along with her young pup Molly. Once they had recovered from their injuries, the Newell family was informed that they could not reclaim the dogs due to the county’s ban on pit bulls.
“I thought it would be with me until the day I die,” Newell told the New York Daily News. “Everything is changed.”
Since 1997, pit bulls have been banned from Prince George’s County. As a result, the owners were left with only two options: find the dogs a new home outside the county, or leave the county with their pets in tow.
April decided to place the pit bulls with her sister, who lived outside of the county. According to reports, April’s sister has since declared that she cannot keep the dogs permanently.
Fortunately, video footage of Precious standing guard over her injured owner quickly went viral and was noticed by Jessica Stuby, president of the pit bull advocacy non-profit Babes 4 Bullies. Upon learning Precious’ story Stuby decided to help the canine hero find the new loving home she deserves.
However, although this particular story has a relatively happy ending, many other pit bulls are not so lucky. Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL), has been heavily criticized in recent years due to its discriminatory and inaccurate nature.
“A recent study showed that even people very familiar with dog breeds cannot reliably determine the primary breed of a mutt, and dogs are often incorrectly classified as ‘pit bulls.’ By generalizing the behaviors of dogs that look a certain way, innocent dogs suffer and may even be euthanized without evidence that they pose a threat.”
As it is very difficult to correctly identify a pit bull, many dogs are often mistaken for them. As a result, it is likely many of the recorded pit bull attacks are inaccurate. With this in mind, statics surround the aggressiveness of the breed are also likely to be inaccurate. In fact, one study identified Dachshunds and Chihuahuas and the most aggressive dog breeds. In addition, a year-long survey of dog bites in various regions of Colorado, spanning 2007-2008, found that Labrador Retrievers attacked most frequently. Despite these findings, these breeds are rarely included in BSL.
With these statistics and findings in mind, you may be wondering how you can determine whether a dog is dangerous or likely to attack? The likelihood of a dog attack is influenced by factors like the dog’s upbringing and the victims interaction with the dog, according to a nine-year study by AMVA.
In fact, even the White House has spoken out against the discrimination and inaccuracy of BSL. A White House press release states: “The CDC…noted that the types of people who look to exploit dogs aren’t deterred by breed regulations — when their communities establish a ban, these people just seek out new, unregulated breeds. And the simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when they’re intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive.”
With these facts in clear site, why are pit bulls still perceived as the most dangerous breed of dog? Some argue that the bias was sparked and fuelled by the media. According to reports, ASPCA claims that “Animal control officers across the country have told the ASPCA that when they alert the media to a dog attack, news outlets respond that they have no interest in reporting on the incident unless it involved a pit bull.”
However, despite the media’s obvious attempts to promote bias and inaccurate perceptions, BSL have proven to be nothing but ineffective and costly—Precious and her pup being key examples. As a result, many cities and states have passed laws banning BSL.
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