You have to hand it to Charles Leerhsen. He is determined to get revenge for the mauling of his beloved Wheaten Terrier, Frankie, if he has to wipe out an entire dog breed and thousands of other people’s beloved pets to do it. To this end, the Daily Beast has, for some reason, decided to give him a second column to make the illogical, historically flawed, intellectually bigoted argument that pit bulls should be wiped off the face of the earth.
This time, he has abandoned any pretense of fair argument, and simply ridicules and insults his critics. Using the logic of his articles, this would be sufficient evidence to argue for sending writers to extinction. Astoundingly, he accuses critics of relying on “anecdotal evidence,” when his entire crusade was inspired by a single incident. His rebuttal of non-anecdotal evidence, such as studies showing that the supposed excessive viciousness of pit bulls over all other breeds is a myth? “Fabricated by pit bull lobbying groups, according to at least one commenter.” Well, I guess that settles it then!
Leerhsen doesn’t deign to address the most valid criticisms of his previous screed. He continued to rely on newspaper accounts of “pit bull” attacks, though the media typically lumps three to five breeds together as pit bulls, when they are, in fact, separate breeds. He does not distinguish between abused dogs and those illegally used in the dog fighting ring and properly bred and raised pets. He does not explain why thousands of gentle, loyal and reliable pit bulls deserve to be exterminated to satisfy his need to avenge Frankie.
He does, on the other hand, show an ignorance of the relative importance of genetics, environment and training in dogs. He does completely ignore the majority of canine experts, who do not regard the pit bull as a “killer” but only as a powerful dog that needs to be properly trained. His taste in analogies runs to the intellectually dishonest, making the false comparison, for example, that a cat is to a lion as a dog is to a pit bull. But a cat is to a lion as a dog is to a wolf. I agree that lions and wolves shouldn’t be pets. But that’s irrelevant to pit bulls.
Leerhsen, who talks as if he has only been exposed to one dog in his life, again argues that every member of a breed is essentially the same. If I had the time, I would track down a vicious Wheaten Terrier to teach him otherwise; I’m sure there are some out there. I once had a vicious Basset Hound. Jack Russell Terriers were bred to hunt small, furry rodents. Mine wags his tail at squirrels. Mastiffs were trained as guard dogs and battle dogs. Mine was afraid of Jack Russell Terriers. Leerhsen really believes that individual variations, training and environment don’t matter with pit bulls. Don’t confuse him with facts, just let him “get rid of them all.”
Finally, he takes umbrage at the comparison of his “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” attitude to racism, and even takes the position, echoed by a persistent Ethics Alarm commenter, that equating a breed to a race is racist, even though the dictionary defines them as the same. His argument? Dog breeds were engineered by humans, and thus are far more predictable than human races, which evolved through natural selection over hundreds of thousands of years. This is a questionable contention on its face. Notwithstanding that, Leerhsen emulates every bigot because he refuses to accept that whatever the proportion of predictable members of a group, breed or race, it is unfair, biased and illogical to pre-judge an individual based on assumptions about the group.
The odds may say, as Jesse Jackson once noted, that the young black man walking behind me in a dangerous section of Washington D.C. has criminal intent on his mind, but he still deserves to be treated as a law abiding citizen and respected as an individual. Any other approach is racial profiling, which is a technique to reduce risk by oppressing individuals based of group statistics. This is exactly what Leerhsen advocates, and his only defense is “people aren’t dogs.” My rebuttal is “unfairness is unfairness, bigotry is bigotry, profiling is profiling.” Ethics apply to animals, particularly when actions directed at animals affect people. Leerhsen was devastated when he nearly lost his beloved pet to violence, but he sneers at anyone who opposes his proposal to kill the animal companions of others.
A blatantly illogical, emotional, vindictive unfair and unethical argument doesn’t gain legitimacy just because it is directed at animals rather than human beings. I wonder how long it will be before The Daily Beast figures that out, and stops giving Frankie’s loyal friend a platform to preach canine genocide.