Critical Analysis: ASPCA Statement on Pit Bulls For the purpose of this assignment, I have chosen to analyze an online article on the official statement of the ASPCA on pit bulls and pit bull type breeds. The ASPCA is widely recognized as the first humane society formed in North America and today, one of the largest humane societies in the world (Zawistowski). As an experienced animal welfare group with a 150 year history, I felt this group would be able to provide unbiased and accurate information regarding pit bulls.
By using a mostly Rogerian argument, the author sets the groundwork or an informative essay on the pit bull breed by providing the breeding history on pit bulls, the theories of nature vs nurture in regards to the eventual outcome of a dog’s behavior and current animal rights legislation concering the breed. While the author attempts to provide an argument based on logos, his attempts are somewhat stymied by his own ethos and clear love of the breed by the conclusion of the article.
I will discuss both of these arguments in this critical analysis essay. On April 10, 1866 the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded in New York City by philanthropist and diplomat, Henry Berg. (History. com staff). Since the ASPCA’s inception, they have contributed to the welfare of animals in countless ways including opening veterinary facilities across the country, enacting animal cruelty legislation and educating the public on humane treatment of animals (Zawistowski).
The ASPCA’s web page contains many official statements and policies on controversial and other hot button topics such as cloning, mandatory spay/neuter practices and euthanasia. Among these positions includes a detailed statement on pit bulls and pit bull mix breeds. The article begins with a general overview of dog breeding histories and practices and does not focus directly on the pit bull but instead, on any dog breeding activies.
It delves into the history of dog breeding for sport, job or performance and what breeders commonly strive for in conformation (appearance), temperament and health. After the general overview on dog breeding, the article focuses into more detail on the breeding background specific to the pit bull as a breed of dog originally red to fight bulls, bears and other large animals for entertainment sport and then later, to fight others of its own kind once large animal baiting was outlawed.
The article continues with information regarding the theory of nurture vs nature in regards to pit bulls or any breed of dog. The source includes the theories that while behavior can indeed be influenced by breed and genetics, environment plays a far greater role in the outcome of any one dog’s personality. Early socialization, training, nutrition and even the health of the mother during pregnancy are cited as stronger indicators of a og’s future personality and behavior than any one genetic component.
The article also includes the idea that while genetics and environment can play major roles in the behavior of any breed of dog, that behavioral variation will exist among individuals even within the same breeding group. The piece concludes with the ASPCA’s position on breed bans and legislation that directly effects the pit bull breed and states they do not believe these laws achieve their desired results. The author of this article makes a generally Rogerian argument, at least in the beginning.
The article begins with general, non-bias information regarding dog breeding practices, the history of the pit bull and the physical characteristics of the breed. The argument is neither adversarial, persuasive nor argumentative and clearly is not trying to convince anyone of anything, rather just inform on the history of dog breeding and the pit bull breed itself. The author appears to approach this from a logos point of view by providing generally accepted facts on the breed and breeding history and does not bring his own ethos or emotion into the piece. The second half of the article trays a bit from its original intent however.
Once the article begins exploring the theories of nature vs nurture and how it may effect a dog’s behavior, the author’s own pathos begins to show. The author examines the effects of a dog’s environment in great detail citing no scientific sources or studies and gives nearly no evidence on the accuracy of this data. The author does not go on to give much information on how genetic make ups can affect the outcome of behavior leaving one to wonder if the conditions of a dog’s back ground are the sole contributor to heir personality or if genetics can indeed be measurably accounted for in the makeup of a dog’s character.
The article concludes with a clearly decisive stance on the part of the author and the ASPCA on where they stand with regards to breed laws and legislation. This final paragraph gives very little information on the negative outcomes of breed legislation, only stating their disagreement with such policies and gives no information whatsoever on any possible benefits to such lawmaking. The author even goes so far as to include an official statement from President Obama assessing breed specific egislation to further add credibility to their claims of the ineffectiveness of breed specific legislation.
While I believe the author of this article’s original intent was merely to inform a neutral or even resistant audience solely on the ASPCA’s view of the pit bull, by the concluding paragraphs I suspect the authors’ own emotions led them to an article decidedly more slanted towards that of a sympathetic audience. As an advocate for the pit bull breed and unquestionably a sympathetic reader, I of course agree with the ASPCA’s stance on this breed and what this article has to say. I only wonder if this article would be successful in persuading those of a different point of view.
To conclude, while I feel that the author of this piece was not completely successful in providing a full and unbiased piece on pit bulls and all of their positives and negatives to an uninformed audience, I can somewhat understand why. According to statistical data posted on Barkpost. com, pit bulls are the #1 shelter intake dog and the #1 most frequently euthanized dog in shelters for no other reason than overcrowding. Each year, 1. 2 million dogs are euthanized in this country and of those 1. million, approximately 40% of them are pit bulls (Moore).
Only 1 in every 600 pit bulls in this country will find a loving home (Prasad). Advocates, rescue groups, shelters and animal rights groups like the ASPCA are likely unable to be completely objective when it comes to these dogs who they often see abused, mistreated and dumped at their shelters only to ultimately die due to overcrowding. The emotional toll these workers must endure is unimaginable. However, as a pit bull owner myself, I worry when an uninformed or neutral audience is not given the full picture on something like the responsibility f caring for such a controversial pet.
I cringe when I see pit bull puppies intentionally misidentified as “easier” breeds such as Labrador retrievers or boxer mixes in an attempt to find homes for less adoptable puppies labeled as pit bulls. I myself, was led to believe by my rescue group that I was adopting a vizsla mix puppy. As the owner of a purebred vizsla, I thought I knew what I was in for. Little did I know, six months later I would have an 83 Ibs. pit bull on my hands. As someone very familiar with dogs, I was pretty much prepared to handle what she became but not all owners are.
I believe potential adopters should be fully aware of what breed they are adopting, especially in the case of pit bulls. Not because I believe they are aggressive or mean but because of the prejudice they face, pit bulls and their owners must be shining examples of the breed at all times and potential owners must be prepared to take on this extra responsibility. While I can understand the author’s reluctance to describe the negative aspects of the breed, I feel he does potential future owners an injustice as the breed is not for everyone.
The author provides adequate information on the istory, breeding and breed specific legislation but again, provides essentially no information on the less desirable aspects of the pit bull breed. As a respected source on dogs and dog breeds, I feel the ASPCA should have been able to provide a more unbiased and balanced account on this breed. I believe in the long run, rescue groups, shelters and distinguished groups such as the ASPCA would do better by this breed in disclosing all truths, both positive and negative in regards to pit bulls and in turn, and educating the public on their true natures and better preparing future owners.