Malcolm Gladwell has written a nice article that talks about our little town, in the New Yorker no less. It starts off like this:

One afternoon last February, Guy Clairoux picked up his two-and-a half-year-old son, Jayden, from day care and walked him back to their house in the west end of Ottawa, Ontario. They were almost home. Jayden was straggling behind, and, as his fathers back was turned, a pit bull jumped over a back-yard fence and lunged at Jayden. The dog had his head in its mouth and started to do this shake, Clairouxs wife, JoAnn Hartley, said later. As she watched in horror, two more pit bulls jumped over the fence, joining in the assault. She and Clairoux came running, and he punched the first of the dogs in the head, until it dropped Jayden, and then he threw the boy toward his mother. Hartley fell on her son, protecting him with her body. JoAnn! Clairoux cried out, as all three dogs descended on his wife. Cover your neck, cover your neck. A neighbor, sitting by her window, screamed for help. Her partner and a friend, Mario Gauthier, ran outside. A neighborhood boy grabbed his hockey stick and threw it to Gauthier. He began hitting one of the dogs over the head, until the stick broke. They wouldnt stop, Gauthier said. As soon as youd stop, theyd attack again. Ive never seen a dog go so crazy. They were like Tasmanian devils. The police came. The dogs were pulled away, and the Clairouxes and one of the rescuers were taken to the hospital. Five days later, the Ontario legislature banned the ownership of pit bulls. Just as we wouldnt let a great white shark in a swimming pool, the provinces attorney general, Michael Bryant, had said, maybe we shouldnt have these animals on the civilized streets.

A tragic story, and obviously, one that changed the law. But after 5 pages of talking about dog bites, and racial profiling in general, Gladwell gives us the backstory.

Jayden Clairoux was attacked by Jada, a pit-bull terrier, and her two pit-bullbullmastiff puppies, Agua and Akasha. The dogs were owned by a twenty-one-year-old man named Shridev Caf, who worked in construction and did odd jobs. Five weeks before the Clairoux attack, Cafs three dogs got loose and attacked a sixteen-year-old boy and his four-year-old half brother while they were ice skating. The boys beat back the animals with a snow shovel and escaped into a neighbors house. Caf was fined, and he moved the dogs to his seventeen-year-old girlfriends house. This was not the first time that he ran into trouble last year; a few months later, he was charged with domestic assault, and, in another incident, involving a street brawl, with aggravated assault. Shridev has personal issues, Cheryl Smith, a canine-behavior specialist who consulted on the case, says. Hes certainly not a very mature person. Agua and Akasha were now about seven months old. The court order in the wake of the first attack required that they be muzzled when they were outside the home and kept in an enclosed yard. But Caf did not muzzle them, because, he said later, he couldnt afford muzzles, and apparently no one from the city ever came by to force him to comply. A few times, he talked about taking his dogs to obedience classes, but never did. The subject of neutering them also came upparticularly Agua, the malebut neutering cost a hundred dollars, which he evidently thought was too much money, and when the city temporarily confiscated his animals after the first attack it did not neuter them, either, because Ottawa does not have a policy of premptively neutering dogs that bite people.

On the day of the second attack, according to some accounts, a visitor came by the house of Cafs girlfriend, and the dogs got wound up. They were put outside, where the snowbanks were high enough so that the back-yard fence could be readily jumped. Jayden Clairoux stopped and stared at the dogs, saying, Puppies, puppies. His mother called out to his father. His father came running, which is the kind of thing that will rile up an aggressive dog. The dogs jumped the fence, and Agua took Jaydens head in his mouth and started to shake. It was a textbook dog-biting case: unneutered, ill-trained, charged-up dogs, with a history of aggression and an irresponsible owner, somehow get loose, and set upon a small child. The dogs had already passed through the animal bureaucracy of Ottawa, and the city could easily have prevented the second attack with the right kind of generalizationa generalization based not on breed but on the known and meaningful connection between dangerous dogs and negligent owners. But that would have required someone to track down Shridev Caf, and check to see whether he had bought muzzles, and someone to send the dogs to be neutered after the first attack, and an animal-control law that insured that those whose dogs attack small children forfeit their right to have a dog. It would have required, that is, a more exacting set of generalizations to be more exactingly applied. Its always easier just to ban the breed.

Which is a long way of saying. There are two very nice pitbulls that come to the dog park. Their owner is very nice, and works at a veterinarian's office, and knows how to behave with dogs. One of them is actually very timid, they're both perfectly nice dogs, and shouldn't be illegal.


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11 January 2008