"Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way - that is not easy." – Aristotle
A few years ago, I experienced a serious pitbull attack that led to countless personal losses, I found myself outraged at the system that had enabled such attacks to occur in the first place. I mean isn’t Government supposed to protect innocent people from such unnecessary brutal and violent assaults? It didn’t take long for me to discover why, I soon learned there was an aggressive and outraged pitbull advocacy movement that had influenced Government and prevented reasonable protective legislation from being implemented. So I turned to social media to interact with these people, only to realize that they felt they were the aggrieved party, even though they had suffered no permanent physical injury, as I had, they had not lost the ability to walk or care for themselves for a substantial amount of time, as I had, they had suffered no large financial losses, as I had, they had never faced years of legal wrangling to seek compensation for their losses, as I had and they had not lost their business as I had. The only loss it appears they had incurred is that people hurt their feelings because they were critical of the breed of dog they had chosen as a companion animal. And yet their outrage was as if someone had murdered their entire family. This disproportionate over reaction struck me as incredibly bizarre and until now I hadn’t been able to understand it sufficiently.
Up until a few years ago, I knew little about fighting breeds of dog until I was seriously injured after I was confronted by two angry pitbulls, leaving me unable to walk for 6 months, a severed Achilles tendon, a permanently maimed left leg, a badly mauled left leg and arm, a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and serious skin infections and at the time forcing me to close my business and eventually lose my life savings. It was this event that initiated my investigation into the issue and how and why such attacks were still occurring in modern civilized communities. It didn’t take long to discover there was a maniacally obsessed group of people who literally worshipped pitbulls. I visited pro pitbull webpages that had posted graphical memes that had replaced Jesus on the cross with a pitbull with statements such as “He died for others sins’. They were literally insinuating the pitbull was the son of god and was being unfairly persecuted. Needless to say, such revelations were shocking. I mean, aren’t all dogs wonderful, what is it about the pitbull that had elevated itself to such divine status in the eyes of such people? It didn’t make sense to me that a breed of dog that regularly maimed, mauled and killed innocent people and animals and was bred for the specific purpose of efficiently killing other dogs could be compared to what many religious people claim to be the son of god, a symbolic perfect human being who had never sinned in his life, let alone violently mauled an infant to death.
Only recently did it occur to me, the pitbull is more than a dog for such people, for them, the pitbull is a SYMBOL. A symbol is an object that represents an idea, visual image, belief or an action. For those whose lives have been forever negatively impacted by pitbull attack, the pitbull represents senseless violence, unimaginable pain and suffering, a lack of freedom and an ongoing threat to everyone’s safety and security. But for those who worship the breed, the pitbull is a symbol of injustice and unfair persecution, unfairly despised because it is misunderstood.
Now I feel I need to go off on a tangent here to further explain my theory. I have always had an interest in psychology, and why people behave in certain ways, and recently I have been exploring the issue of child rearing and its later impact on adult behavior. I recently read some of Alice Miller’s writings on what she terms ‘poisonous pedagogy’, referring to destructive child rearing practices and its relationship to the later development of tyrants and serial killers and the like. To simplify the theory somewhat, she espouses that children exposed to very harsh and punitive upbringings are forced to repress, deny or justify such humiliating experiences until they can be safely expressed at a later date. She explores the childhoods of many prominent Nazis who almost always had incredibly punitive and harsh upbringings to highlight her theories. The infantile rage felt during such harsh child rearing is pushed to the unconscious and often times expressed much later on as an adult through dysfunctional and/or anti-social behavior. One of the ways this can manifest is through what Psychology terms ‘Repetition compulsion’, the unconscious drive to replay negative past events in the here and now in the hope that they can achieve a different outcome and therefore resolve the initial issue. For example, a young girl who witnesses her alcoholic father beat her submissive Mother may grow up to be submissive herself and marry an abusive alcoholic and make every attempt to affect a different outcome.
Now back to why I think Pitbull advocates are ‘Nutters’, for some people, the pitbull is symbolic of their unacknowledged childhood hurts and any real or perceived unfair oppression they had to endure long ago. They come to view the pitbull in the same light they do their wounded inner child, as an innocent victim, unfairly persecuted and deprived of the love every child craves and needs. In effect, the pitbull is a physical manifestation of their past childhood wounds long since buried deep in their psyche and any aggression shown by the pitbull is more than justified due to the unfair and unacknowledged suffering it has long had to endure. In effect, the pitbull is THEM, it embodies everything the owner believes they are: misunderstood, unfairly persecuted, unloved or unlovable and justifiably angry and aggressive.
Now where do the pitbull attack victims fit into this picture? It isn’t unusual for those who have been negatively impacted by a pitbull attacking either them, their loved ones or their pets to feel aggrieved and outraged, as often time such attacks cause a disproportionate amount of damage in comparison to incidents involving non fighting breeds of dog. Over recent years, pitbull related fatalities have become inevitable and occur every few weeks and those attacks that don’t kill, often cause serious and permanent injuries and countless other losses. To feel outraged after such an experience is a normal and healthy response to such an injustice. The victims, previously unaware of the level of threat such dogs present soon realize that some type of legislative protection is needed. Out of a healthy concern for both themselves and others some victims choose to speak out either in the media, in public or via the Internet. They soon learn that for quite some time many others have also been trying rather unsuccessfully to achieve the desired protection and stand up to a hostile and aggressive pitbull lobby group.
It is at this point the attack victims and the pitbull supporter’s clash, with the former usually experiencing shock at the hostility and abuse they receive when they initially express their disappointment at being attacked by pitbull/s and their desire to seek future protection to prevent such an incident occurring again. Many victims never overcome this shock and learn they were thoroughly unprepared for the well-rehearsed onslaught of those who have been deterring such dissenters from expressing their desire for legislative protection for many years prior to the recently created victim entering the fray. At this juncture, many victims simply give up, as the thought of experiencing even more suffering on top of the pitbull attack is too overwhelming. The initial pitbull attack experience was overwhelming enough and the thought of any more unnecessary suffering after that quickly dissuades them from pursuing any further attempts at speaking out.
Some victims do overcome this initial onslaught and develop the resolve to continue speaking out with the goal being that society puts in place appropriate protective mechanisms to ensure the safety of innocent people from other peoples poor choices of companion animals. And this is where the Pitbull advocates focus their unconscious fury; you only need visit any online pitbull news stories to see the pitbull advocates aggressively insulting and taunting anyone who dares disagree with them. It is not unusual for pitbull attack victims who speak out to receive regular messages of hate, abuse and even threats from those who promote pitbulls.
Such advocates try to dissuade the outspoken victims from blaming the breed of dog and suggest that irresponsible ownership is the reason as to why there is a disproportionate amount of pitbull attacks causing serious injury and death. But this argument makes little to no sense to victims, as it wasn’t the dog owner that violently and unpredictably attacked them, it was their pitbull. And frequently the owner was just as surprised as the victim at the sudden assault and often times there is little evidence to suggest the owner had been irresponsible with their dog, no more so than the owner of any other breed of dog. It also doesn’t explain why pitbulls also kill their owners more than other breeds of dog do; surely no sane human being would run the risk of neglecting or training their pitbull in such a manner that exposed them to the chance of a fatal mauling by their own dog. And if irresponsible ownership is the cause of dog bite related fatalities, why do we not see similar statistics associated with the many other varied breeds that irresponsible people own. Surely it isn’t just pitbulls that attract irresponsible owners. And if it is just pitbulls that attract a disproportionate amount of irresponsible owners, why is that? Why do they choose the pitbull specifically?
In all honesty, such arguments mean little to the victims who seek legislative protection, they don’t really care why such incidents occur, much like rape victims don’t care too much about the unfortunate childhood of the perpetrator of the crime. The family and friends can praise the perpetrator all they like; it’s unlikely to matter to the rape victim. At the very least, the victim of such a crime that society has already legislated against can at least feel that their experience and its negative consequences are recognized and acknowledged by the society they live in. This cannot change what has happened to them, but at least the majority of society will understand and offer the appropriate support after such a traumatic experience. Pitbull attack victims have no such luxury, they are often left to pay all the costs associated with recovery from such a serious attack, only to learn their society didn’t care enough to provide reasonable legislative protection in the first place and then they eventually run head on into an aggressive and abusive pitbull lobby determined to promote their selfish desires ahead of the safety and security concerns of other citizens. Pitbull attack victims feel their communities have let them down and worse yet, refuse to acknowledge it. There are few places such a victim can go to seek the consoling so sorely needed for healing to occur. Appropriate dangerous dog legislation would go a long way to minimizing such serious attacks in the first place but also provide the already countless victims the much needed societal understanding they so desperately need.
Now back to the original topic, why I think Pitbull advocates are Nutters. In my years of advocating online via the use of social media I have often wondered what pitbull advocates gained from sending me hate mail, littered with insults, abuse and veiled threats. I mean it’s not like my humble facebook page called ‘pitbull attack’ threatens to change any politicians minds anytime soon, after two years of diligent and thoughtful work on the page, it is yet to see a thousand likes. Yet, it isn’t uncommon for a pitbull on death row after a serious attack to have a facebook page started to save the dog from euthanasia to attract tens of thousands of likes in just a few days. So what is it pitbull attack victims represent to pitbull advocates?
Well it goes back to what I was saying earlier, about how the pitbull becomes a symbol for the wounded inner child of the owner. Now as I also alluded to earlier, those who were unfairly treated as children find ways to repeat such incidents later in life in the hope of mastering the trauma and creating a different outcome. The pitbull comes to represent all the unresolved hostilities the once wounded child experienced but had long since pushed to the back of their conscious awareness. Any attack or criticism of the pitbull is seen as personal attack on the once innocent, unfairly treated child. I mean who wouldn’t be upset at adults unfairly criticizing and attacking an innocent child who had already endured untold suffering and oppression by the parents they loved and depended upon? That would be outrageous! Except everyone else knows the pitbull isn’t an innocent child that was long ago mistreated and left with unresolved and unconscious torment. This fact escapes the pitbull owner, who isn’t consciously aware of how they are using the pitbull as a psychological prop to repeat past traumas in the hope of securing a better outcome and hopefully resolution to the pain and suffering that remains outside of their conscious awareness..
The victims of pitbull attacks, who are in essence the driving force behind seeking legislative protection from pitbulls come to represent to the pitbull advocate the oppressive and authoritative force that long ago treated them poorly and didn’t take the time to understand them and as a result withheld the love they so desperately craved and needed. The goal of the pitbull advocate and their ‘’Repetition compulsion’ is to get the oppressive force to come around to their way of thinking, to finally understand their point of view and only then can love and respect flow between the two. If this is achieved, the initial trauma has been repeated, mastered and in the mind of the afflicted, overcome.
But is this really all that is needed to overcome their childhood oppression and humiliation? Even if pitbull advocates are successful in their attempts to convert those they believe represent their childhood oppressors, such pseudo victories don’t really heal the initial wound. Because the initial hurt, shame and rage experienced as a child has been repressed, denied or justified and later displaced without the initial causes for such feelings of hurt and humiliation ever rising to conscious awareness. The initial oppressors, the parents or caregivers have been absolved and the resulting adult rage has been displaced onto a pseudo parent figure, in this case the pitbull attack victims who dare speak out. It isn’t any wonder then that such people that have let the idealized parents/caregivers of the hook by idealizing the parents and displacing their negative feelings elsewhere, in this case pitbull attack victims who speak out. They then go on to do the same with the pitbull breed, absolving the idealized pitbull and displacing the blame elsewhere, in this case ‘Irresponsible owners’ or any number of justified culprits.
So what is the answer for both the pitbull attack victims and those that promote them? Well, the theory goes that those who don’t find a way to bring past unresolved transgressions into conscious awareness are doomed to displace unconscious negative feelings onto others, at best only creating relationship difficulties or self-destructive behaviors and at worst, severely harming or killing other people. Only when someone comes to realize the deep pool of pain and suffering buried in past unresolved hurts and humiliations can someone then rightly experience the resentment and the sorrow such incidents caused. They can then eventually grieve and move towards healing thereby reducing the future chances of participating in similar destructive behaviors and further traumatizing other people needlessly, in other words, breaking the cycle.
My advice to fellow victims of pitbull attacks, whether they be the direct victims of a serious attack, or they are the relations of a loved one that has been attacked and seriously injured or killed, and even those who have lost beloved pets to pitbull attack is that you are justified in despising and hating those that are responsible for what are obviously preventable attacks. And who is responsible? We can rightfully blame those who own and promote the breed and actively prevent society’s reasonable attempts to prevent such serious attacks occurring with appropriate legislation. Once the cause for your suffering has been identified, and the true feelings of how you feel expressed, you can then move onto a grieving process that will hopefully produce some level of acceptance. In the long process of healing, from hatred to acceptance, it is probably best to avoid those who promote pitbulls and ignore their abuse and hostility and see it for what it is, a manifestation of their own past hurts and sufferings that have nothing to do with you. If you have the strength, advocate for legislative protection, it is good for your self-esteem and shows you value yourself and others and that you have a healthy sense of self preservation.
If you allow the Pitbull advocates to shut you down, forcing you to repress, minimize or deny your true feelings of hurt, anger and rage about the injustice you have suffered, you run the risk of pushing such feelings into your unconscious and at a later date displacing your unconscious hurt feelings onto inappropriate targets. Just as pitbull advocates are currently doing. The difference being, the pitbull attack victim is expressing normal healthy emotions typical for anyone who experiences a serious injustice and directs their outrage at those who are collectively responsible. Whereas pitbull advocates outrage and anger is displaced, and the cause of such hostility is from injustices experienced long ago in childhood and long since pushed out of conscious awareness. No amount of raging and temper tantrums directed at pitbull attack victims will help them resolve their underlying issues until the rage is directed at those responsible for treating them poorly in the first place, in this instance, their parents or caregivers.
Pitbull advocates can argue all they like they aren’t responsible for these regular and now inevitable serious pitbull attacks, but it is only because of their determined efforts that society has yet to implement suitable legislation that at the very least could minimize these unnecessary attacks and possibly even eliminate them altogether. Just as driving while intoxicated is a behavior that increases the risk of innocent people being seriously harmed and killed and can’t be blamed on only those drunk drivers that do harm or kill others, but on anybody who participates in such reckless behavior. Society has labeled any such people who indulge in driving while intoxicated as ‘bloody idiots’, and rightly so. If certain behaviors, such as drunk driving or owning a fighting breed of dog exposes innocent people to unwanted and unacceptable levels of actuarial risk for the sole benefit of the person behaving in such a manner, then anyone who behaves in this way is complicit in any and all suffering caused by the collective of individuals acting in such a manner.
As for the pitbull advocates themselves, what would my advice be to them? I would suggest they seek psychiatric help to uncover what led them to use pitbulls as a physical manifestation of their unconscious childhood wounds that continue to remain unresolved. By treating the pitbull attack victims who are unwilling participants in the pitbull political drama as substitutes for the caregivers who long ago hurt you is futile. It is only likely to draw towards you more hatred and abuse and moving you further away from your goal of being loved and understood. I highly doubt this advice would ever be taken by pitbull advocates, but at the very least you should be willing to remain open to the idea that maybe you are drawn to pitbulls for more reasons other than the fact it is a dog. If it truly is dogs you love, a pitbull ban wouldn’t matter to you, because even if pitbulls were grandfathered out, there will always be a desperate mutt at the pound to rescue, such is the unfortunate nature of the pet industry.
There are many reasons people don’t look to childhood hurts inflicted on them by their parents or caregivers as being responsible for current dysfunctional behavior, some of these are religious and others cultural. It is easier to idealize one’s own parents and childhood than to risk losing the love and support of the only parents you have. Also to do so would cause a great deal of pain and suffering that many people aren’t prepared to bear. The alternative is though; to repeat the same old abusive patterns again and again, often on those who are too vulnerable to be able to do anything about it. As the old saying goes ‘Hurt people, hurt people”. The only way to overcome the hurt is to acknowledge it’s origins, express the long repressed emotions associated with the negative experience, eventually grieve the loss, heal the hurt and move to a point of acceptance. But this process can never start if the individual can’t even recognise the origins of their pain and suffering.
It is readily apparent to anyone who even moderately investigates the issue that the only way to repair the well-deserved reputation of the pitbull breed is to prevent the underlying causes that led to the reputation in the first place. Those causes are the all too frequent attacks that lead to serious injury and death on unsuspecting citizens. No amount of propaganda or good will stories can help the breed’s reputation now. Only evidence that the serious pitbull attacks have been drastically reduced or better yet, eliminated will repair the breeds damaged reputation and even this may not be enough. These types of results cannot come about under the current paradigm, and worse yet, the current efforts of pitbull advocates has only increased the frequency of these attacks and also increased the rate at which pitbulls are routinely destroyed. In effect, their advocacy has been bad for civilized communities and those concerned for its citizens welfare, it has been utterly detrimental for the pit bull breed itself, with more pitbulls destroyed each year than ever before, estimated at nearly a million a year, and it obviously isn’t helping those who have used the pitbull as a means to heal their wounded inner child.
In conclusion I think pitbull advocates are ‘Nutters’ aka ‘Crazy’ because they remain unaware that through their advocacy and promotion of pitbulls many innocent people and animals (including pitbulls) suffer unimaginably as a result. This can only lead me to conclude that the reason they persist with such efforts isn’t to do with the well-being of the pitbull breed itself, as their efforts have undeniably harmed the breed. There is obviously some other underlying cause leading them to continue to advocate for and promote pitbulls in the relentless manner they do. I hope this essay has shed some light on why I think it is certain people are drawn to own a breed of dog that is a physical manifestation of an antisocial attitude, and why it is difficult to convince those that promote or own pitbulls to consider a more suitable breed of dog as a companion animal.
To any reasonable human being, it would be considered crazy behavior to abuse and harass victims of serious pitbull attacks who advocate for sensible legislative protection from fighting breeds of dog. These victims have suffered serious and permanent injuries, some have lost limbs and appendages, others have lost precious children and loved ones, these are people that have experienced unimaginable and unspeakable horrors, and to attack and harass such people all because they react normally to having to experience such injustice, for me this is pushing the boundaries of even ‘Crazy’. To act more outraged than these victims because these people have hurt your feelings and criticized your obsessive need to own a pitbull is ‘crazy’. To be unwilling to choose any of hundreds of far more suitable breeds of dog as a companion animal is ‘crazy’. To claim to care about the breed and yet advocate in such a way that only harms the breed is ‘crazy’. To use an animal as a psychological prop is ‘crazy’. To want to own a breed of dog that has killed more people than all other breeds of dog combined is ‘crazy’. To want to own a breed of dog that kills someone every few weeks is ‘crazy’. To ignore, deny and minimize these regular serious attacks and fatalities is ‘crazy’. To try and use propaganda to cover up the fact pitbulls regularly maim, maul and kill innocent people is ’CRAZY’. And that’s my theory as to why pitbull advocates are ‘Nutters’.
Disclaimer: As the author of this article, I claim no expertise in either animal behavior or psychology. I am simply a victim who has chosen to have a voice. My goal is to develop an understanding of how it came to be that in modern day civilized society I could be seriously injured by fighting breeds of dog. A scenario, that prior to the attack, never occurred to me to be a possibility with the understanding I had at the time regarding the meaning of domestication in companion animals. I had always mistakenly assumed that domestication was the process of making animals safe to live together with humans, eliminating the fears that would normally accompany humans living in close proximity with wild animals. I believe developing an increased awareness of why such incidents happen, is for me, a path to healing.
There appears to be an aggressive minority defending the pitbull breed as a companion animal based on a claim of concern for animal welfare. This claim has never made sense to me. As humans slaughter 150 billion animals a year because they taste good. The majority of people seem content to destroy so many animals for what appears to be a reasonably trivial reason, animals that can claim to be truly innocent. Not only that, the pet industry destroys countless innocent animals because they are viewed as a commodity, therefore they are overbred, creating an excess that are simply destroyed. Many of these animals would be far more suited as companion animals in civilized communities as opposed to fighting breeds of dog such as pitbulls.
Considering this, I don’t believe animal welfare is the reason pitbulls attract such vociferous support, as there are countless opportunities for those wanting to protect animals rather than promoting fighting breeds of dog, dogs that have only created considerable discord in every society they have been allowed to be kept as a companion animal. This essay was my attempt to understand why I, as an outspoken victim of pitbull attack receive regular abuse and harassment, and why those who promote the breed do so in such an aggressive and excessively defensive manner. I believe there are several different types of people drawn to pitbulls, this essay was the exploration of only one of those types. For me, this type is particularly offensive, because not only are they complicit in supporting an unsuitable breed of dog for society leading to serious injuries and fatalities, they do it in good conscience, in such a way that they believe they are holy and righteous and everyone else who opposes them is evil and wicked.