On the Muzzling of Dogs
Brigette Bardot, famous actress and animal rights activist, is fighting a new Swiss dog muzzling law that would require all owners to muzzle their dogs when they are walking in Geneva’s parks.
I hate to say it, but initially, I was Switzerland on this one (heh, heh).
My reasoning? I recently took my Greyhounds, Violet Rays and Charles Hobson Booger, III, for a walk, wherein they encountered their friends, Gus and Oscar, who are at least 100 lbs. each. We were on a semi-enclosed path and they were all running and playing.
Charles got a bit nippy and caught the end of Oscar’s ear and there was blood all over the place. Now, Oscar is a Lab with floppy ears and he’s blonde-colored, so the blood looked a lot worse than the injury. Charles was wagging his tail the entire time, and the Greyhound people tell me nipping is a very Greyhound behavior, but I’m not sure if I believe that justifies it. Furthermore, Violet Rays doesn’t nip, and neither do her friends, Ivy and TK, so my experience tells me that nipping is the aberrant behavior, not the norm.
I think I’m in Cesar Millan’s camp here by saying that the nipping is MY problem, because I haven’t done anything to fix it (or my methods haven’t worked). So I ordered Charles a Greyhound-specific muzzle in a snazzy red color (see photo below). Luckily, he didn’t have a bad reaction to the muzzle, probably because he refused to race and was immediately "discarded," so he spent less time muzzled than many racers. Now, when he runs around with his friends, he’s not a danger to them, and I’m not going to get sued.
There is a very negative side effect of the muzzle, though. When I walk the dogs, people cross the street to avoid us; they automatically assume that Charles is vicious and would attack them or their dog. The muzzle creates the appearance of danger where there really is none.
Then there are the people who look at me like I’m abusing my dog my muzzling him (and for the record, I bring it with me, and put it on him only if another dog is coming who he’d like to play with or say Hi to). They say, "awwww, poor Charlie."
But regardless of my personal drama, the question remains: Should muzzling be required by law? I’m getting closer to a No now.
- If my dog injures your dog, that injury is my responsibility.
- But your dog’s still injured in this scenario, so you have a problem, too.
- And if there’s a law requiring muzzles, poor Violet, who does have a sleek black muzzle like Charles’, but who is terrified of it (probably because it gives her flashbacks from her years of racing, which were very hard on her), would have to wear it, and she’s never nipped anyone.
- The potential law, then, would sacrifice the rights of the many to prevent anticipated attacks.
- In addition, the potential law makes muzzling the first line of defense, when the first line should be humane training (of both human and dog). Muzzling is cheaper and easier.
- The problem of attacking or biting or barking, then, isn’t dealt with at its core; only the symptom is dealt with.
Net message? If you have a dog who manifests symptoms of some kind of anxiety, fear, or other imbalance, find out what the problem is and fix it. Because I failed miserably at training Charles myself, I’m getting a trainer/behaviorist/nipping consultant for us.
I’d be in favor of a law that says people are required to learn how to meet the needs of the animals they "own," otherwise that "property" will be taken away from them, and they will be fined.