Culture At Large

Pit bulls and creation care

Caryn Rivadeneira

Last month, in response to a petition signed by tens of thousands of dog fans, the Obama Administration released a statement condemning breed-specific legislation. The move particularly set pit bull lovers’ tails a-waggin’.

Breed-specific legislation makes owning a pit pull (or Rottweiler, German shepherd, chow chow or Doberman) illegal in places like Miami-Dade County, Denver and many United States military bases (ahem, Commander in Chief?), among lots of other areas.

It’s the sort of legislation that forces families to move or give up (or hide) beloved dogs. It’s the sort of legislation that has landed thousands of pit bulls in shelters across the country. It’s the sort of legislation that breeds ignorance and intolerance and bigotry beyond dog breeds.

I’ve long been opposed and outraged by such legislation, not simply because I love pit bulls and believe them to be among the greatest dogs, but because I believe laws should do something. And, as the Obama Administration points out, these laws are “ineffective” as a means of stopping dog bites. All dog breeds bite.  

Beyond that, I oppose breed-specific legislation because it’s based on lies and fear, “reputation” rather than reality and knee-jerk reactions. While it’s my American identity, certainly, that wants to see our laws based on truth and reason and justice - as opposed to irrationality and fear and bigotry - it’s also my Christianity that fuels my opposition to these laws. And I think all Christians should join me here.

Christians should care about pit bulls because we are called to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Breed-specific legislation does more than just waste time and money and clog up court rooms and law books (though this ought to be reason enough). These laws damage the very things Christians are supposed to care about.

In fact, all Christians should care when pit bulls (or any things or any one) are unfairly and wrongly portrayed because we are called to care about the truth and to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. And pit bulls cannot tell you that they are not inherently dangerous, that their jaws do not lock, that they are not “time bombs” just waiting to go off. They can’t tell you that they rate low on aggression when compared to other dog breeds (basset hounds are more aggressive). They can’t tell you that they are the most love-a-bull, snuggle-a-bull, family-oriented dogs around. (Well, they can’t unless you count cuddle time with a pit bull as telling, which I do.)

Christians should care that breed-specific legislation contributes to the sickening overabundance of pit bulls in shelters and that more than 80 percent of them will die before they turn 2. Instead of banning pits, Christians should help us all turn eyes toward the pit bulls chained and under-fed and over-bred, taunted and abused and trained to fight. Not only because we are stewards of God’s creation, but because God sees these neglected dogs being needlessly destroyed, and He cares.

Christians should care about pit bulls because our neighbors do. All around us are people who love these animals, who consider them family and who do not deserve to be discriminated against because they love and care for a dog some fear. God calls us to love our neighbors - not needlessly legislate against them.

While the White House’s statement doesn’t change any existing laws, I’m hoping it changes some hearts and minds. And that Christians can join our pit bull-loving neighbors in getting breed-specific legislation off the books.

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Environment, News & Politics, Politics