PetSmart’s Unethical And Harmful Breedism, And Why I’m Through With The Company

smiling-pit-bull-dog

For breedism read racism, for the illogic, bias and cruelty is the same. PetSmart, the nation’s predominant retailer of animal companion products, and one that has built its image, brand and success on being dog-friendly (customers can bring their furry pals on leashes into the stores), engages in the ignorant and deadly practice of anti-pit bull prejudice. Their customers should make it very clear to the company that its unethical and irresponsible stance will not be tolerated.

I’m not going to tolerate it, not because it will make a difference to PetSmart, but because I couldn’t look my dog in the eye again if I didn’t.

It has been about a year since the last Ethics Alarms post on this depressing topic. There have been some battles won in the effort to stop hysterics and journalists who can’t tell a pit bull from a toothbrush from miseducating the public, fearmongersing, and being a catalyst for cruel and needless ant-pit bull legislation. In July, South Dakota eliminated its laws that restrict the ownership of pit bulls, and Aurora, Colorado will vote  next week on whether to repeal that city’s pit bull ban. Also over the past year, about two million pit bulls, dogs that some people think are pit bulls, dogs that have the misfortune to resemble pit bulls, and ‘dogs that were declared pitbulls because the officials in charges were lazy and ignorant and what the hell, they’re just dogs’ were euthanized because PetSmart and others continue to endorse attitudes that enable breed bigotry….and that lay the foundation for human prejudice as well.

In the past year, I have also had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know more American Pit Bull Terriers and related breeds than before. Arlington, Virginia has wonderful, huge, well-maintained dog park where it is not unusual to have more than fifty dogs, sometimes twice that, large and small. all frolicking together along with their owners. I have been taking my intrepid Jack Russell, Rugby, there on weekends, usually with my sister, who brings her cute, timid, lovable and dumb Havanese. I asked my sister if she could pick out any one breed that could be called the “star” of the proceedings, and she immediately answered, “The pit bulls, clearly.”

Clearly. A list of the most lively, friendly, interactive, amusing, lovable, athletic dogs at the park would contain a disproportionate number of pit bulls, and that is because these are not just a good breed, but one of the very best breeds in existence. I don’t want to rehash what I and others have written on the topic already: by all means, educate yourself using the posts and links  here. It is not, however, a matter of debate. People who don’t know or understand a thing about dogs falsely believe the breed is dangerous because

1) it became the breed of choice for drug dealers, dog fighters and thugs a few decades ago, meaning that there were a lot of abused pit bulls that were trained to be vicious. You could train a dachshund to be vicious too; that wouldn’t mean that dachshunds are vicious dogs.

and…

2) Irresponsible journalists identify as pit bulls almost any dog involved in an attack on humans, whether it really is a pit bull or not, in part because witnesses and victims too often misidentify dog breeds. When my previous Jack Russell Terrier was a puppy and weighed about 10 pounds, a woman at the park with her toddler began screaming “Pit pull!!! Help!!! Pit pull!!” as my child-loving puppy (Dickens, R.I.P )began running toward them.”This isn’t a pit bull, you idiot, not that you would be in any danger from a pit bull puppy either,” I told her. “Learn about dogs, and stop making your child phobic. You are a silly, ignorant woman.” And indeed she was. She and people like her also get millions of innocent dogs killed.

OK, you can’t fix stupid, and there’s a lot of stupid out there where dogs are concerned. PetSmart, though, is obligated not to facilitate  stupidity and breedism, as it is trusted as an expert on dogs. There it is, though, right on its website:

  • PetSmart’s policy is to not allow Bully breeds, or any mix of, or any pets that exhibit aggressive behaviors to participate in our Doggie Day Campsm. We have received responses both for and against our policy, and can appreciate the sensitivities and deep emotions behind them.
  • Bully breeds are welcome in our grooming salons, training areas, PetsHotelssm and stores in general, but for the safety of our associates and other pets they are excluded from the off-leash, group play activities within our Doggie Day Camps.
  • We do our best to create an environment where our associates and pets feel safe and where pet parents have confidence that the pets they leave in our care will have a fun and safe experience…
  • When we developed our policy, it was with the deep knowledge and experience we’ve gained by associating with this breed of dogs in a variety of capacities and in understanding their history….

Here’s what we consider to be Bully Breeds:

Pit Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, American Bulldogs, or mixed breeds that have the appearance or characteristics of one of these breeds.

This is at best hypocritical and cowardly doubletalk that provides such a perfect example of lazy racist thinking and enabling that it could and perhaps should be used in textbooks on the topic. PetSmart begins by saying that it excludes pets that “exhibit aggressive behaviors,’ and by implication, that the “bully breeds”—meaning breeds that included bull dogs in the breed’s development, are assumed to be aggressive by PetSmart. That’s breedism…stereotyping and assuming negative characterizations of individuals based on group membership rather than demonstrated character. Or call it racism: the logic and result is exactly the same.

Then the (ridiculous) statement goes on to suggest that PetSmart acknowledges that the dogs aren’t really always aggressive, the equivalent of “Jews can be nice people too,” and “Some of our best friends are black.” The “feeling safe” language means nothing more than

“We are catering to bigotry, ignorance and irrational fear because a lot of our customers and employees are ignorant, and are willing to contribute to that fear by endorsing it, since that’s the path of least resistance and most profitable at this time. Sorry if it gets your dog killed. Bummer, man.”

This is all too typical corporate cowardice and principle-free management, except this is PetSmart, and it is supposed to be run by experts on the controversy at issue. It is like a hospital saying that it is banning vaccinations for children because a lot of its patron are afraid that they would make their kids autistic, but that it believes that vaccinations can be in the best interests of children under the right circumstances.

Equally outrageous is the definition of dogs PetSmart will consider so “aggressive” that they must be excluded from “off-leash, group play activities within its Doggie Day Camps”: not just pit bulls and breeds that are incorrectly mistaken as pit bulls (American Bull Dogs are a completely different breed, for example, and if anything even less aggressive than pit bulls), but any dog that somebody thinks looks like a pit bull! This is the same unconscionably vague standard that allows officials in many states and cities to mark a harmless pet for extermination based on its appearance and nothing else.

A company whose primary constituency is dogs is asserting this? If PetSmart doesn’t know its business better than that, if its management cares so little about the creatures they claim to care for, if the company is so pusillanimous, lazy and without principle, and if it so easily adopts the mindset—the exact mindset, complete with rationalizations, stereotypes and complicity—that nurtured all the great genocides and persecutions of human beings throughout world history, why would anyone, dog lover or not, trust or want to do business with such a company?

Many people are calling for a boycott to make PetSmart change its policies. I detest boycotts, and I don’t support this one. I am not, however, going to buy Rugby’s food and supplies from a company that advertises itself as knowing about dogs and caring about them, when it chooses to encourage ignorant beliefs that harm dogs, endorsing the logic of Jim Crow and the Third Reich in the process. The reasoning and conduct is indefensible, whether it is applied to people or dogs.

________________________

Pointer: Fred

Spark and Source: Huffington Post

23 thoughts on “PetSmart’s Unethical And Harmful Breedism, And Why I’m Through With The Company

  1. With the exception of those few genetic anomalies that eventually cause random and unpredictable bouts of aggressiveness, no dog is BORN vicious. They have to be taught how to be, or given no opportunity to learn any other kind of behavior. Doesn’t say a lot about the humans responsible, does it? Pete the Pup from Little Rascals looked a bit like a Pit Bull, but was extremely well trained and seemed friendly enough. Doberman’s went through this same thing several years ago, as have Rottweiler’s and several other breeds. With luck, this, too, shall pass.

  2. I love dogs! Dogs are the best. That said: I have to disagree with your assessment of the Pitt Bull. The breed is prone to extreme aggression and is unpredictable. Too many have been involved in unprovoked attacks. Countries have banned these dogs from import or further breeding. It pains me to support allowing them to become extinct. They are too dangerous!

    PS: I know you didn’t mean to minimize the seriousness of racism, but opposition to specific dog breeds is NOT equivalent to racism. As an African American, I find the comparison offensive.

    • “The breed is prone to extreme aggression and is unpredictable. Too many have been involved in unprovoked attacks. Countries have banned these dogs from import or further breeding. It pains me to support allowing them to become extinct. They are too dangerous!”

      Simply repeating false and demonstrably untrue assertions isn’t an argument, Coretta. All dog experts say you are dead wrong.

      You can find the comparison as offensive as you like, but it means you didn’t read the post, don’t comprehend racism, and don’t know what a breed is. If you support the stereotyping, flawed reasoning and bias that supports pitbull bans, then you support the unfair and irresponsible and cruel logic of racism. You just don’t like it when it is applied to you. That’s called hypocrisy.

      • And without being abused or trained to be aggressive, arguably less so. Pits score unusually high in empathy tests, which means that the distress of a human being bothers them more than most dogs. Exposing pit bulls to an actress weeping, for example, makes pit bulls very anxious—they try everything they can think of to make the woman feel better. Comments like Coretta’s drive me crazy. “Oh, no—I’ve read that these dogs are dangerous, so they must be.”

  3. I sometimes wonder about Pit Bulls. My wife has a theory, though, that I think is unassailable. She thinks Pit Bulls are fine animals. She also thinks that many Pit Bull owners are mental defectives with psychological issues who should be euthanized (well . . . I added the euthanasia part . . .). Her point is that the breed is very strong with the lock jaw and, if properly trained and treated, they are fine animals. However when in the hands of some idiot, they are mistreated, mishandled and abused. Any abused animal will become aggressive and dangerous. An abused Collie is going to be aggressive and will strike out at other animals or people. An rabbit abused and mistreated will be aggressive (except out Holland Lop – he likes Honey Nut Cheerios and blueberries because, well, he is terribly spoiled).

    jvb

    PS:: I still stand by the euthanized part for people who are cruel to animals.

  4. Jack, I can see that this issue is very important to you. We will have to agree to disagree. I feel the breed is dangerous. Not all Pitt Bulls, but overall I don’t trust the breed and would never own one. If entire countries have banned the breed….We won’t agree, so I’ll leave it. I don’t like using human abuses like racism to laws agains a dog breed. IIt’s offensive. It’s as bad as Peta comparing the Holocaust to killing chickens for food. Human dignity supercedes animals. That’s my view. Anyway, I still love Ethics Alarms.

    PS: Curious about your opinion of the nurse in Maine defying the Ebola quarantine.

  5. Jack, I can see that this issue is very important to you. We will have to agree to disagree. I feel the breed is dangerous. Not all Pitt Bulls, but overall I don’t trust the breed and would never own one. If entire countries have banned the breed….We won’t agree, so I’ll leave it. I don’t like using human abuses like racism to laws agains a dog breed. It’s offensive. It’s as bad as Peta comparing the Holocaust to killing chickens for food. Human dignity supercedes animals. That’s my view. Anyway, I still love Ethics Alarms.

    PS: Curious about your opinion of the nurse in Maine defying the Ebola quarantine.

    • Nope, we don’t agree to disagree when you are simply repeating a falsehood. The breed is NOT dangerous. Individual pit bulls can be be dangerous if they are trained to be so, abused, or if something is wrong with them. I had a Bassett Hound that was dangerous, but Bassett Hounds are not dangerous. The D.C. Snipers were dangerous, but that doesn’t mean that African American males are dangerous. Read the other articles linked. Watch the documentary. This is “the Earth isn’t flat, it’s round” stuff. The only people who maintain that the breed (and again, it is about six breeds people are really referring to) is inherently dangerous don’t know what they are talking about, and getting good dogs killed.

      Also—UGHHHHHH. This is NOTHING like the animal/human comparison PETA engages in. I am talking about the reasoning process. If you embrace the false logic of judging a group by individuals, it doesn’t matter whether you do it for dogs, chefs, Jews, police, Catholics, Muslims or pit bulls. The logic is still the logic of bigotry, and thus illogical and unfair.

      I’m working on the nurse.
      Short answer: she’s an arrogant jerk, and her conduct is unethical.

  6. I thought it was funny that you mentioned that a dachshund could also be trained to be vicious – I’ve heard that dachshunds tend to be far more aggressive than pit bulls by nature! I’m not sure if it’s true, but I’ve known plenty of pit bulls that were far more patient and laid-back than my beloved doxie mix. I’ll grant that aggression in larger breeds has the potential to do a lot more damage than aggression in smaller breeds, but plenty of people with big dogs have trained them to be gentle giants. I think pit bulls deserve extra credit for being playful and sweet-natured dogs, considering how some humans have tried to breed them to encourage a naturally aggressive temperament. It breaks my heart for those pit bulls who have been trained to be vicious, knowing just how far someone had to go to make such a lover into a fighter. I am very disappointed in PetSmart, and although there isn’t one in my area so this is pretty meaningless, I wouldn’t want to do business with them myself as long as this policy is in effect.

    P.S. Thanks for the illustration accompanying this post – seeing that big goofy dog grin made me feel very good!

  7. My pit bull could be a breed ambassador showing all the reasons why they are misunderstood. When we took him in at 18 months in 2008, he had been severely abused. We weren’t sure how he would respond, and worried that he would be aggressive. After six months of love, affection, and treats, he is by far one of the best dogs we’ve ever rescued. He plays nicely with others, people and animals alike, and I take him everywhere with me. People tell me they’re afraid of pit bulls, which is an over-generalization and over-simplification. Yes, we should be afraid of some individual dogs (all breeds), but not pit bulls in general.

    A pit bull fighting ring was broken up in our county. Sixty-four dogs were rescued, a few had to be euthanized NOT because they were aggressive, but because their health problems were so great they couldn’t be overcome. All of the dogs have responded to the care and love they’ve received and have found permanent homes where they have no more fear of bad owners trying to make them into bad dogs.

    Shame on PetSmart for branding the breed when they should be a champion for ALL animals.

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