The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

17 December 2003

It's the pits

Ottumwa, Iowa, a picturesque town on the Des Moines River, does not like pit bull terriers: they are classified as a "dangerous animal" and are banned within the city limits.

This is not, in itself, particularly unusual. What's weird here is that the city seems to be extending the very definition of the breed. The promotional material for the Southeastern Iowa Kennel Club's February shows, to be held in Ottumwa, reprints what is represented as the pertinent city ordinance [requires Adobe Acrobat Reader], and this is what Ottumwa apparently considers to be a "pit bull":

An American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed of dog; a mixed breed of dog which contains as an element of its breeding the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier as to be identifiable as partially of the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier; or, a dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being an American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed or mixed breed of dog which contains as an element of its breeding the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier.

As far as the American Kennel Club is concerned, these are three separate breeds of dog. (The AKC does not register American Pit Bull Terriers.) More to the point, "Heinz 57" mutts are banned if they have any ancestors among these breeds, whether or not any breed characteristics can be discerned in an individual dog. The dog shows in Ottumwa will not accept any entries for any of these breeds.

In late summer, a lawsuit was filed against the city challenging the ordinance.

Terriers, by nature, have a certain amount of attitude: they do tend to push their envelope just a bit. This is part of what makes them terriers, and indeed a meek dog is likely to be marked down by a terrier judge at a show. But attitude does not equal viciousness, and ordinances such as Ottumwa's, I think, ignore the fact that any animal can become vicious if it is ill-treated, and this is is the fault, not of the dog, but of the dog's owner. I've known too many sweet-tempered Rottweilers to believe anything else.

Posted at 10:27 AM to Dyssynergy


I've owned a Pit Bull and saw no indication that he had a mean bone in his body. It -all- depends on how the dog is raised (as you said, this is is the fault, not of the dog, but of the dog's owner).

D'Artagnan was always a puppy at heart. He was raised with my daughter and never -ever- even attempted to bite anyone. If she fell on him while he was asleep, he'd simply lift his head to make sure that she was OK.

He -was- a bit boisterous and when he got that tail going, it felt like getting rapped on the shins with a broomstick. This is the closest he ever came to hurting anyone.

Posted by: Steve at 11:03 AM on 17 December 2003

Once upon a time the icon of canine viciousness was the English Bulldog.

But when I see a bulldog, I almost always see a friendly, ugly little mutt that just wants its belly scratched.

Remember the media fright, not too many decades past, about Doberman pinschers?

Even the pit bull madness is out of date -- Rottweilers have taken the center stage since then, and I'm betting something else will move in fairly soon.

Maybe at long last the wiener dog will be exposed for the monster it is.

Posted by: McGehee at 12:43 PM on 17 December 2003

Someone really needs to "out" the Chihuahua for the vicious animal IT is.

A tagline from the BBS days comes to mind: Chihuahua - Pit Bull Hamster from Hell.

Posted by: Steve at 3:50 AM on 18 December 2003

The shivering, the bulgy eyes, the running away holding up a hind leg as though it's injured.

Diabolical.

Posted by: McGehee at 7:55 AM on 18 December 2003