Monday, June 14, 2010

Animal cruelty leads to other kinds of violence?

(Or, why everyone should be encouraged to rescue pit bulls from the pound instead of buying puppy mill puppies at horrible pet "boutiques.")


Credit: Charlotte Dumas/Julie Saul Gallery
via New York Times

Monica, who helps me in the house a couple of hours a week, volunteers in an animal shelter at the weekends. She loves dogs, has two of her own, adores bathing my dogs (they're not as thrilled about it).  She often comes with tales of the dogs in her care, the abuse cases, the old dogs who've been dumped, brings pictures of her favorites, tries to find homes for some with our friends. Last week she told us about a pit bull who'd been doused in gasoline and set on fire.  Someone saved it and somehow it survived.  It ended up in her shelter.  I could hardly hear the story, had to walk out of the room with the tears pricking my eyes. "Why on earth would anyone do that to get rid of a dog?" I asked.  "It's the code of the street" she said.  "The dog didn't win a fight. The guy didn't win the money.  The guy felt humiliated and so he had to humiliate the dog by burning it in the street, so that other people could see that he wouldn't abide that. You know, like, he's the big guy."

I found it hard to wrap my head around this logic.

There's a piece in the NY Times Magazine which links animal cruelty/dog fighting to domestic violence and even homicide.  In it, there is a similar story.  The piece is beautifully written, but very hard to read. This paragraph is of particular interest:
In a study from the 1980s, 7-to-10-year-old children named on average two pets when listing the 10 most important individuals in their lives. When asked to “whom do you turn to when you are feeling sad, angry, happy or wanting to share a secret,” nearly half of 5-year-old children in another study mentioned their pets. One way to think of what animal abuse does to a child might simply be to consider all the positive associations and life lessons that come from a child’s closeness to a pet — right down to eventually receiving their first and perhaps most gentle experiences of death as a natural part of life — and then flipping them so that all those lessons and associations turn negative.  
 Australian Heeler

For wonderful pictures of pit bulls, check out Marc Joseph's book: American Pitbull.

Minky and I passed a woman in the street today who was sitting on a bench under a tree with her lovely brown and white dog at her feet. It was warm and she was getting some shade, fanning herself with a piece of paper. I stopped and told her how much I loved spotted dogs and remarked on his beautiful coloring. "The shelter told us it was an Australian Heeler" she told me "but we think it's part pit. We kinda like that."

I suspect my youngest dalmatian to be part pit bull also.  (Both my dogs are rescues.  One was owned by a man who threatened to shoot her, and the other comes from the overcrowded pound in Lancaster.)  I'm rather inclined to find an old, male pit bull at the pound to keep the girls company. You know, a battered old boy, who would be happy living out his days with two spotted girls and whole load of squirrels and crows in Laurel Canyon, somewhere he could hang out and sleep in the sunshine.  In fact, doesn't the top picture (from the heartbreaking NY Times NY Shelter dogs slideshow) make you want to adopt every single pit bull you can find?

Beans, who we suspect to be part pit

**Addendum: In response to a really helpful reader comment, here's a link to a terrific organization in the LA area: Much Love Animal Rescue.  (Cesar Milan is on their board of advisors). In addition, Petfinder links to over 13,000 adoption groups across the US and you can search specifically by breed. For Bay Area pitbull rescue check out Bad Rap (with thanks to reader Lucia). 


Kristin said...

I volunteer with Much Love Animal Rescue ( and we pull a majority of our dogs from kill shelters around L.A. We have pits & pit mixes a lot and they are some of the sweetest, most loving dogs (as are most of our rescues.) This is a great post and I always love reading people encouraging others to adopt vs. buy. There are so many great dogs out there in shelters or rescue groups that need -- & deserve -- good homes!

Miss Whistle said...

Thank you so much Kristin. I'll put a link up to Much Love on the site.

Miss W

vera said...

When I wrote and photographed my book about domestic violence (and women incarcerated for killing their batterers) I was shocked to learn how often the cycle of violence started with animal abuse. Pit bulls get a bad rap because they are too often ruined by the abuse as well, but in fact if nurtured they are the sweetest and most appreciative pets! We love our upstairs tenant's wonderful boxer-pit mix Diesel and we'll miss him terribly when they move out next month. Thanks for the post, Bumble! xoxoxox Vera

lucia said...

They are amazing dogs and thousands are homeless. A truly wonderful web resource is BadRap ( - Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls - lots of information and stories and advice and training programs - everything you need to find out more about bringing home a lovely 'pibble'!