Blame the humans


This little one had nothing to do with the reported incident. That’s just an awesome smile.

Someone in a pickup truck in Cedar Park reportedly commanded his two dogs, identified by KVUE as pit bulls, to attack a family at a park yesterday. The family was apparently going for a walk the morning of the 4th of July, when a man pulled up in a pickup truck and ordered his two dogs to “get ’em.”

Aundrick Richard told KVUE News around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, he, his wife, three daughters and pit bull, Cane, were walking at a nature trail off Arrow Point Drive in Cedar Park. He says it’s part of his family’s morning exercise.

Richard pointed to a grassy pathway and said a truck drove up close to the trail, off-road, toward his family. That’s when he says the driver of the truck let his two pit bull dogs out of the back of the pickup, and they came charging toward Richard’s children. Richard says his dog was on a leash but jumped in front of the baby stroller to fight off the dogs.

Richard says the dogs started fighting, the kids were screaming and his wife tried to kick the dog away.

“I’m telling the guy, ‘Hey come get ’em man, come get your dog. Your dog’s hurting my family man. Get your dog. Come get your dog. Please come here.’ The guy’s sitting there, he’s staring at me, and he goes, ‘Get ’em boy, get ,em. Get ’em boy, get ’em, antagonizing his dogs,'” said Aundrick Richard.

Richard says he grabbed a large tree branch and began hitting the man’s dog until it whimpered. Then he says the owner called the dogs back to the truck; they packed up and left.

“His dog screams. He says ‘Come on,’ clap, clap, calls them. They get in the truck. He burns out,” said Richard.

The full story is here (warning for somewhat graphic dog injury pictures).

Note that the only dog in this story that verifiably is a pit bull is the family’s dog, Cane, who by all accounts is a hero.

A friend posted this story to Facebook this morning, sparking one of the most thoughtful, least-combative combat threads in the history of my own Facebook use. Not all discussions of the incident have been so civil, apparently; one person said they were called a “one percenter” for defending pit bulls. Huh? Anyway, I’m re-posting my own comments from the thread here, for posterity or something. Please forgive the off-the-cuff writing style.

If pit bulls are guilty of anything, it is of being loyal to their owners. The man was clearly instructing them to behave aggressively, and they apparently retreated on command. If you read about what actually goes into preparing dog for fighting (not pleasant subject matter), pit bulls have to be compelled to fight most of the time. They have had this reputation since at least 1988, when Sports Illustrated published an article asking if pit bulls were a menace but not really proving the point. Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Dobermans have also had the reputation of “most dangerous dog” at various times. People who want a “badass” or aggressive dog often get pit bulls, and because of the way they treat them, the dog turns out troubled. Look at what happened to Michael Vick’s dogs–with rehabilitation and actual loving care, all but 1-2 of them became family dogs. Pit bulls once had a reputation as excellent family dogs (the Little Rascals dog, the RCA Victor mascot, and more), and that, much more deserved, reputation, is slowly returning. If cocker spaniels had a reputation as a “badass” dog like the pit bull does, we’d see far more people conditioning cocker spaniels that way or neglecting/abusing them. In just about every case of an alleged pitbull attack, the dog was unaltered and had either been trained to be aggressive or had been neglected/abused to the point of generalized aggression. The training for aggression demonstrates the dogs’ loyalty to their owner, not any inherent aggressive tendencies.

Also, don’t discount confirmation bias and selective reporting. “Pit bull” isn’t so much a breed as a type of dog. Non-pit bull dogs are misidentified all the time. Sometimes a dog involved in an attack is identified by the media as a pit bull even when it isn’t. Boxers, for example, are often mistaken for pit bulls or misrepresented. Attacks involving pit bulls or pit bull-type dogs are also much more likely to be reported by the media at all. A Papillon or Pomeranian that bites someone probably will not get reported, while a pit bull bite of any sort is much more likely to make the news. I can’t say that, in this specific case, the dogs were misidentified, but it is quite common. Also, the behavior of the dogs’ owner is actually more newsworthy here than the breed of the dogs.


Pine cones may fear this guy. People shouldn’t have to.

In response to the question “Are there not dogs who were bred to be more aggressive back in the old days when that was their job? Is that not set into their DNA? Please excuse my ignorance…”:

Short answer to your question, no. Slightly longer answer: you really can’t breed for temperament. Dogs can be bred for body shape and size, but temperament is much too conditional to consistently be a function of breeding (i.e. it depends largely on how the dog is treated. Not how it is raised, how it is treated.)

I then proceeded:

Assuming all the dogs here really were pit bulls (and we’ve only seen pictures of one of them), do not discount the actions of the family’s dog, who stepped in to defend them. Loyalty, I tells ya.

After that I tried to be productive for an hour or so, but inevitably picked up the thread again.

For an interesting example of how dogs can potentially be trained for highly improper purposes, check out this lawsuit filed by Nevada police officers against the state, alleging that drug dogs were trained to respond to cues from the handler, not to the actual presence of drugs:

In response to the comment “Pits are actually bred to be people-friendly and dog-aggressive”:

I’d say that pits are trained to be dog-aggressive, not bred. A common argument against the breed/type is that they were originally bred to fight (not exactly true) and therefore fighting is part of their DNA (not true at all), and therefore there is no reason to keep the breed around, especially as pets (utterly untrue). I’m hardly an expert in dog breeding or training (definitely not training!), but I know the distinction between a dog’s characteristics derived from breeding versus from training is a key one.

In response to the direct question “Did you ever deal with anything like this in your law practice, or are you (like me) just an animal lover/owner?”:

I’ve handled a couple cases of people injured in dog attacks and of dogs in “dangerous dog” proceedings. None of them were pit bulls. In injury cases, each state is a bit different, but Texas nominally doesn’t distinguish among breeds, but looks at the behavior of the particular dog. I know first-hand, though, that some judges apply one set of standards for pit bulls and another for other dogs. Injury cases typically also lead to “dangerous dog” proceedings, which should get their own comment.

Each city and county in the state has its own rules for dangerous dogs. Austin and Travis County are fairly lenient on first-time offenders. Williamson County is……not lenient at all.

A dangerous dog hearing is usually in front of city or county officials, not a judge. It takes a tremendous amount of lawyering to overcome the general presumption, IMHO, that it is far more politically expedient to declare the dog dangerous rather than risk something happening again. A dangerous dog owner has obligations under state law, to which cities and counties can add. This includes a heavy collar, extra liability insurance, and “Beware of Dog” signs. In Austin, dogs deemed dangerous cannot go to parks and other public spaces. Failure to abide by the conditions can lead to the dog’s status being revoked, which is a roundabout legalese way of saying animal control will come take your dog straight to the euthanasia room.

It is possible to have a municipal or county judge review an administrative “dangerous dog” finding. The last case I dealt with, in Williamson County, was mistakenly assigned to a criminal prosecutor in the county attorney’s office who had no idea where an appeal would be litigated. (Funny denouement to that story–Williamson County dropped all “charges” against the dogs when we told them the owners were moving them to Travis County. They wouldn’t agree to allow the dog’s go to at least one other Texas county, but for some reason they were fine with letting us Austin hippies have the dogs.)

I was going to link to the Sports Illustrated article I mentioned above, which is from 1987, not 1988, but I found enough material that it merits a separate post.

Photo credits: ‘Pitbullsmile’ By Kennethhung (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons; ‘Pineconeater’ by Edwin Luciano (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


2 thoughts on “Blame the humans

  1. Pingback: Where pit bull prejudice began | Cryptic Philosopher

  2. I hope this man is found and is punished under the full extent of the law. Most important, that those animals/anything else that is considered “living” (now and in the future) are removed from his custody. It is my sincere hope that these dogs can be rescued so that they learn to have new “jobs,” live in a healthy pack, and understand that not all people are like that guy.
    Cane’s job is to protect his family and he did just that….. For the sake of that beautiful family and those cute little humans, he did what any one of us would’ve done in a similar situation without a single ounce of hesitation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *