Monday, February 25, 2008

Should Pit Bulls Be Banned?

There is a movement in our country to implement the banning of a dog breed known as the Pitt Bull Terrier, due to claims by proponents of this policy that these dogs are innately dangerous to society. A recent web poll posted on the Web-DVM, polling visitors on whether these canines should be banned, yielded the following results:

Of 172 visitors that participated in the poll,
- 35% voted Yes
- 55% voted No
- 10% voted Not Sure

Having treated literally thousands of Pit Bulls in my career as a small animal practitioner, I find this trend to be unfair and disturbing. The vast majority of Pits that I have and continue to come across in my job are friendly and gentle. Raised with love and humanity, Pits have every potential to be loving family dogs as any other popular breeds we deem socially acceptable. They are not by nature mean and violent animals, but overwhelmingly seem quite the opposite.

Pitt Bulls become a danger to society when they are purposely tormented and brutalized into being violent animals by sociopathic individuals who view the dogs as a means to elevate their status by having vicious dogs protect their property, or to make them money by cruelly fighting these animals with one another. It is the despicable human element that creates monsters where there were once innocent animals with the potential to make loving pets. Even in a pro Pitt Bull banning article written by Brian C. Anderson, on, in the the third sentence of the article the author wrote this:

"Pit-bull owners had converted the little park in front of our apartment building into a dog-training ground, where they goaded their animals into attacking one another or taught them to hang from tree branches to strengthen their jaws and their tenacity. Not surprisingly, when the dogs were running wild, the neighborhood's young mothers gathered up their children and fled."

While the theme of this article is pro Pit Bull banning, this man clearly underscores my point that it is bad people that create the dangerous dogs.

Why must the dogs and the people that raise and love these dogs into being great family pets pay for the sins of the dregs of society that make a sport of cruelly transforming Pits into dangerous dogs? What happens to a family that absolutely loves their Pit Bull as a member of their family, when suddenly their municipality unjustly deems their dog dangerous and illegal? As heartbreaking and tragic as that may seem to those of us who love our dogs as important members of our families, that could be a reality in many towns in our country if this this trend continues.

Rather than blame the dogs for their irresponsible, often cruel treatment, we need to hold the people who mistreat them accountable for the consequences. Search and prosecution of these people needs to be more aggressive. Penalties need to be more severe, and the media needs to care more. Municipalities need to be more serious about licensing and microchipping of these dogs.

Make no mistake, if our local governments are successful in ridding our country of Pit Bulls altogether without dealing with the people that abuse these animals to do their violent bidding, the cruel people who were not ever held accountable will simply find another breed to terrorize.

Roger L. Welton, DVM
Founder, Web-DVM

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sweet Irma

Irma is an 8 year old Rottweiler who is as gentle, friendly, and calm as any dog can be. Unfortunately, up until the point when I first met Irma, she had lacked a stable/loving home for most of her life, having been given up and then passed around in foster care for a while. I first met Irma when her newest owner of one week, Barry, had brought her in for a swelling under her chin.

I had never met Barry before, but my staff members who had been here well before I took over as owner of my hospital 3 1/2 years ago, knew Barry well as one who regularly adopted and cared for abandoned senior age dogs. Unfortunately, Barry was also known for his bad luck in adopting older dogs that soon after adoption developed terminal illness. Irma was to be no different.

The firmness and unmoving nature of the mass had me thinking that the swelling was a tumor. My suspicion was confirmed after Barry had approved a biopsy on my recommendation. The identity of the tumor was hemangiopericytoma, a type of mass that does not act like cancer on one hand, as the tumor rarely metastasizes (seeds itself in other tissues via the bloodstream). On the other hand, however, hemangiopericytoma does behave in a cancerous fashion, in that it continues to grow and, as it does, destroys all underlying tissue in its path. In this case, this would mean gradual destruction of the muscles and bone of the lower jaw and, eventually, the dog's entire face.

In order to successfully eradicate the tumor, Irma needed a surgical procedure called a rostral mandibulectomy, a procedure that requires the technical expertise of a surgical specialist. While this procedure had a very favorable likelihood of saving Irma's life, specialty medicine of this kind does not come cheap. It was at this point that I was contacted by a member of the rescue group that was involved the Irma's rescue, foster care, and eventual adoption to Barry.

The wonderful person that I spoke with told me that through fund raising, her group could come up with $1000, but more than that, they could not do. Barry, the great soul that he is, agreed that he would match that amount from his own finances, but more than not, he could not do. When I contacted the referral clinic where I was to send Irma to have the procedure performed, they informed me that even with the $2000 to be provided by the rescue group and Barry, the cost of the procedure was $3000, leaving us $1000 short.

At this point, I was not willing to give up on Irma’s last chance to spend the twilight of her life in a loving, stable home. I asked the referral center if there were any services that my clinic could provide at cost that would make the surgery more affordable. To this, the referral center graciously itemized a substantial list of services (bloodwork, x-rays, post-op pathology, etc.) that we could perform to ease the cost burden. In addition, seeing the effort that all parties were making toward a peaceful future for this dog, the referral center agreed to kick in an additional 15% off their services, which brought the cost of the procedure into a manageable sum.

The surgeon who performed the surgery did an excellent job, removing the tumor while still maintaining a remarkably cosmetic result. The pathology report indicated that the margins of the excision clear of tumor cells, offering a good prognosis.

Irma came in last week for removal of sutures. The surgery had healed well, and Barry told us that Irma was back to normal, eating well and bright and alert. He was beaming with gratitude for the team effort that went into saving Irma's life. I told him that he should not forget to look to himself as one of Irma's saviors.

As I watched Irma happily trotting out the door after her owner as she and Barry exited the hospital, I too beamed with gratitude that I was able to play a role in such a wonderful outcome.