The Pit Pendulum

After a series of dog attacks, public opinion seems to be swinging against the pit bull. Are you on or off the swing? Take quiz, find out.

In recent weeks, the Bay Area has seen a spate of attacks by pit bulls, a dog type that was historically bred for the purposes of fighting but has since evolved into one of the most popular breeds in North America. Treasured for their ability as guard dogs, pit bulls exhibit the willingness to settle down as family-friendly pooches if raised appropriately and neutered, but have nonetheless retained a reputation as ferocious killers because not all owners are so eager to restrain their dogs' aggressive nature. Several recent attacks in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and San Jose -- one of which resulted in the death of a 12-year-old boy -- have renewed calls by parents, doctors, and lawmakers for statewide legislation that targets pit bulls specifically. Defenders of the breed, however, maintain that pit bulls are being held to a different, sensationalized standard than other dogs, and that San Francisco's panicky reaction to a few isolated incidents owes more to the high-profile mauling of Diane Whipple a few years ago (which did not involve pit bulls) than a realistic appraisal of the current dangers. Are you a pit bull apologist? Take our quiz and find out!

1) Increased attention began concentrating on the breed earlier this month, when a 12-year-old boy was mauled to death in his Sunset District home by one of the family's two pit bulls. His mother had left the boy alone in the basement with some video games and snacks while she ran errands for two hours, and she had secured the basement door against the dogs (the female appeared to be in heat) with a propped shovel. But when she returned, she found her dead son's body in a front bedroom, and she now faces felony child-endangerment charges. What does this tragic incident suggest to you about the need for greater awareness of pit bulls' potential for danger?

A) It makes me think, "What ever happened to having a nice cocker spaniel?"

B) Reminds me of my motto: Never mess with a pit bull in heat.

C) Nothing. I blame it on video games.

2) Just a few days after the Sunset mauling, an 8-year-old girl in Santa Rosa was attacked by a neighbor's unneutered, 70-pound pit bull, Smokey, who escaped and pounced on the girl while she was playing in her backyard. The girl survived the assault but received more than 50 wounds to her face, arms, chest, and neck, causing her mother and local doctors to call for political action. As one physician said: "You are not allowed to bring a lion into your backyard, and I think there has to be more concern and legislation for certain kinds of breeds." What's your response?

A) The doctor's right. I think politicians are just the people to solve our pit bull problems.

B) Oh, great. Now they're telling us we can't keep a lion in our backyard. I thought this was America, for Christ's sake!

C) But what's gonna happen to Smokey?!?

3) Although the Santa Rosa neighbor who was taking care of Smokey told reporters she doesn't blame anyone except "that damn dog," defenders of pit bulls argue that the breed is not inherently violent. Rather, they say, it is the owner -- and the owner's love and care -- that determines whether the dog behaves in an affectionate manner, along with the breeding conditions in which the dog was raised. What do you think is the safest, most reliable way to procure a pit bull?

A) From a humane, experienced, fully licensed dog breeder, who can give you the necessary advice to raise your pit bull to be nonviolent and loving.

B) Yeah, but I know this guy who could get you two for, like, halfthat price ....

C) Win it in a game of chance.

4) In the wake of the high-profile maulings, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom convened a Canine Response Working Group to address the issues surrounding pit bulls and has pledged to crack down on the breed. As he put it at a press conference: "I, for one, have had enough. I think it's time we get serious about pit bulls in this city, we get serious about pit bulls in this state, get serious about pit bulls across the United States of America." Do you agree?

A) Yes, but why stop there? I think it's time we get serious about pit bulls in Canada, we get serious about pit bulls on the moon, we get serious about pit bulls across the galaxy ....

B) The Canine Response Working Group? Maybe it's just me, but I don't think you should put a bunch of dogs in charge of crafting their own policy. (Bonus point for adding: "Only in San Francisco ....")

C) Look, I'm just glad that Newsom has finally (finally) found a controversial, intensely local issue that he can try to make into the rest of America's problem.

5) Some of the city's proposals include a ban on backyard breeding; a regulation mandating that all pit bulls be spayed or neutered; a policy of implanting microchips in dog breeds that are deemed dangerous so they can quickly be identified; and a school-based educational program to teach children how to interact with dogs. Which of these ideas do you think would be the most effective?

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