Friday, October 9, 2009

Dog fighting and daycares do not mix.

An article from the Chicago Tribune last week reported on a dog-fighting ring that was discovered in the same home as a daycare.  When officials raided the house, they rescued 4 pit bull puppies (some with bite marks and other injuries), and at least two other adult pit bulls, one with severe scarring on her face, the other apparently too aggressive to appear at the press conference.  At the time of the raid, 10 children were in the home, though not necessarily in the same area as the dogs.  

This story leaves me wondering, quite simply, what the hell is wrong with the world?  First, whatever your thoughts on pit bulls in general, it is no doubt dangerous to have children in the same vicinity as dogs who have been poorly or cruelly treated, especially ones who have been encouraged to act aggressively.  Second, if something were to happen to one of the children, the media would no doubt blame only the dog, and it would be one more blemish on the reputation of an already beleaguered breed.  Third, dog fighting, regardless of where it takes place, is a disgusting and depraved act of cruelty. 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, individuals involved in this level of animal cruelty should not be around children.  Research strongly suggests that people who perpetrate violence on animals are far more likely to engage in acts of violence towards people.  Related research shows that children who view acts of animal cruelty are more likely to see it as acceptable, and even engage in it themselves.  It is not clear in this case whether there were signs of interpersonal violence in the home, or even whether the officials involved in the raid knew to look.  What is clear is that every case of animal abuse has the potential to have more far reaching consequences than the injuries suffered by the poor rescued animal.  


Anne Kildare said...

If one of the pitbulls had killed a child at the daycare, the owners could face murder charges! That's what happened in Berry v. Superior Court, 208 Cal. App. 3d 783 (1989).

In that case, the defendant kept a "killer" pitbull chained to the side of his house. The family next door had several young children. One day, the neighbors' two-year-old son wandered too close to the pitbull and the dog attacked. The two-year-old died.

The California Court of Appeals held that the defendant could be tried for murder because there was a "high probability" that the defendant's conduct would result in the death of a human being. People should know better than to mix fighting dogs with toddlers!

Eve said...

This post raises an interesting problem of unregulated childcare and early education. As you indicate, violence is inculcated at a young age, and exposure to animal cruelty may increase the chances of children engaging in violent acts. So what can be done to better regulate childcare? The daycare at issue was a licensed home daycare, but clearly the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services failed to properly monitor the home. Home daycares tend to be more affordable and less competitive than other forms of daycare. If the licensure process becomes more regulated, then inevitably some low-income families could not find affordable daycare. Nonetheless, good early education is essential for children’s emotional and social success in school. The solution seems obvious: the government should be providing quality, affordable childcare.

Dog fighting also raises the issues of class and race. All of the alleged defendants in this story are Black men. Last month I listened to a program on NPR about dog fighting rings. The former dogfighter, Sean Moore, discussed how his family for generations had been involved in dog fighting. He explained that it was unsurprising that Michael Vick was a dogfighter because in his community it was considered a legitimate sport: “Even though [Michael Vick] was on the level of hundreds of millions of dollars, he still thought as a poor person in an urban community because we always thought that this was something, a sport or something that we could do.” Thus, there is a need for early education and community education programs if dog fighting is to be eradicated.