Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Brian-Paul Welsh | Nature of the beast dog

Published:Monday | October 17, 2016 | 10:00 AM

If the horror story described in the cover story of last week's Sunday Observer is to be believed then it confirms what has long been suspected: that uptown suburbia, with all its fancy streets and well-heeled residents, is populated by a tribe of 'boasy' people with mucky characters.

This would explain the lapse in human decency effectively illustrated by the author of that particularly arresting article by describing, in vivid detail, the mauling of a young boy by neighbourhood dogs after he and his mother encountered them on their walk to school.

In the circumstances, as described, it seems the animals responsible for the attack were carelessly left loose along a public thoroughfare, and further, upon being alerted to the carnage taking place, the owner allegedly began berating the mother and her bleeding child for causing this ruckus on her 'stoosh' sidewalk, joining the pack of animals in attempting to chase these 'intruders' from her street.

And now, just as in times of yore, the villagers are incensed, determined to lynch and destroy the wily beasts and raze Frankenstein's castle to the ground for the terror unleashed on their community.

I won't join the chorus of condemnation for the canine animals since their sentience is limited because of genetic and familial programming. My grievance is instead with the human animal - the one in care, control, and influence of the dogs - for enabling the dysfunctional environment that led to this horrific encounter in which a child needlessly suffered grievous bodily and psychological harm.

 

THE QUEST TO DOMINATE

 

Nature doesn't create monsters. Everything has its purpose. It is man, in his quest for dominion over nature, that learnt how to manipulate it to suit his needs. Once man ate from the tree of knowledge and discovered the plasticity of genes, he immediately began creating infinite possibilities. The resulting plants and animals that surround us today are part of the very foundation upon which civilisation was built.

In his quest to domesticate planet Earth, man has continued this creative experimentation by identifying and exaggerating the natural traits he desires, then categorising similar offspring by type or 'breed' based on their utility.

The dog we call the pit bull terrier is a marvel of genetic engineering that was developed over centuries of natural and artificial selection in what is now the United Kingdom. People discovered that by combining the resilience and tenacity of the terrier with the loyalty and determination of the bulldog, the result was a strong breed suitable for both companionship and sport.

This new breed of bull and terrier crosses grew in popularity, eventually becoming known as the 'nanny dog' in British folklore because of their adoring nature with family and children; but they also came to be revered as the ultimate fighting machine in the animal-fighting pits, hence the development of the name pit bull terrier. Ownership of the breed for companionship, home security, and for use in the sport of dog fighting continues to enjoy popularity in the former British colony of Jamaica into the present day.

To see a good example of a pit bull terrier at work is a magnificent sight to behold. The awesome power contained in that relatively tiny frame can make even the most jaded of men weak in the knees; and a few minutes after that nuclear explosion, the dog will wag its tail and go play with the kids as if nothing happened. The breed has a remarkable tolerance for pain, is relatively low maintenance, and is generally very hardy and long-lived. They also have looks that will stop intruders in their tracks, plus a deadly reputation, arguably making them the perfect breed for Jamaica's harsh environment. All this makes pit bulls very attractive in the eyes of prospective dog owners, many of whom shouldn't have a pickney, much less a puppy.

We live in a country where personal security is paramount. In this state of perpetual insecurity, frankly, a bad dog is easier to come by than a licensed firearm; and given the contempt with which we treat those generally regarded as being of a lesser ilk, when a dog bites a t'ief, the consequence will surely be less than if the homeowner had shot him with an illegal gun.

So, many have caught on to the latest trends in bad-dog couture but have a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of the beasts over which they have stewardship.

They continue to endanger themselves and the public by refusing to have regard for basic principles of animal husbandry, such as containment. Basically, owners should keep their animals confined to their property, and if they cannot be properly accommodated, animals should not be kept.

• Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. He can be reached at brianpaul.welsh@gmail.com and on social media @islandcynic.