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Gauging a dog's temper

I refer to the letter by Simon Ellul Sullivan (September 24) entitled Pit Bull Possession Is Illegal In Malta.

Pit bull: What dog breed does this word refer to and what is the law's definition of it? Is the term referring to fighting-dog breeds or dogs trained for fighting purposes (there's a difference)?

Does the term refer to bull-dogs, dog-aggressive dogs, animal-aggressive dogs, human-aggressive dogs or some mutt which displays these behavioural qualities?

A clear line should be drawn but since this is impossible (mixed breeds, etc..) why not tackle the issue of aggression in canines as a whole instead? Dangerous dogs should be excluded from the social environment and this has to be followed up with required rehabilitation. By taking this route we shall be targeting the problem of unnecessary aggression.

The link www.atts.org/about.html will direct you to the American Temperament Test Society website. A test as found on this link could certainly be of help to structure a mature and responsible solution to the problem of such canine demons.

'The ATTS temperament test focuses on and measures different aspects of temperament such as stability, shyness, aggressiveness and friendliness as well as the dog's instinct for protectiveness towards its handler and/or self-preservation in the face of a threat.

The test simulates a casual walk through a park or neighbourhood where everyday life situations are encountered. During this walk, the dog experiences visual, auditory and tactile stimuli. Neutral, friendly and threatening situations are encountered, calling into play the dog's ability to distinguish between non-threatening situations and those calling for watchful and protective reactions.

What about implementing such a system in Malta and enforcing it as "law"? It is a more humane and problem-specific solution than the slaughter of an entire breed or weeding out a specific breed, both of which have been previous suggestions by ignorant members of the public.

Owners of dogs that fail the test may be penalised in some way while owners of dogs that pass the test could be awarded the equivalent of a good canine citizen award/certificate. This would signify a non-aggressive dog and, more importantly, a responsible owner.

Additionally, if all "pit bulls" are wiped out of the Maltese islands, will this move solve the problem of aggression in other dogs? Would it bring us closer to getting rid of aggressive personality types found in other breeds? Definitely not. If follows that after getting rid of the "pitbulls" we will continue on our mission for canine extermination.

Additional information: breed temperament statistics - ATTS website - www.atts.org/stats1.html - American pitbull terrier scores: 84.3 per cent (586 dogs tested); www.atts.org/stats3.html - Collie, aka Lassie scores 79.4 per cent (824 dogs tested); www.atts.org/stats4.html - German shepherd dog scores 83.5 per cent (2875 dogs tested); www.atts.org/stats4.html - golden retriever scores 84.2 per cent (703 dogs tested).

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