I think it's only appropriate that my New Year begins not only with a warm and sunny day and a twinge of a champagne-induced hangover, but also with a redemptive act on the part of an institution I have boycotted for the past twenty years.
Prior to the mid 1980s, few people in the United States, much less the world, had heard of the American Pit Bull Terrier. The breed that had enjoyed top dog status as a beloved family pet from the mid 1800s to the first few decades of the 1900s, was now for the most part quietly owned by either the very few "dog men" (i.e. those who kept tight control on the quality of their lines by matching their dogs in fights) left in America, or by responsible people throughout the country who still valued the pit bull as a quality working dog and family pet.
Then Sports Illustrated released this issue and all hell broke loose.
In fact, it is a widely held belief among dog enthusiasts and historians that this cover single-handedly sparked the ensuing firestorm of hysteria surrounding the breed, leading to hundreds of inflammatory media stories as well as legislation banning these dogs from municipalities throughout the country. Ironically, one of the nation's first pit bull bans was passed by the good citizens of my very own burg. It remains in existence today, as does the ban implemented around the same time in the Great City State of Denver, despite a 2004 law passed by the Colorado General Assembly prohibiting breed specific laws.
At any rate, back to Sports Illustrated. Last week, the magazine redeemed itself with this:
You can read the whole story here.
So what? You might ask. It's just a breed of dog. Well, think about this: it has long been my contention that the hysteria surrounding pit bulls is not about the dogs themselves, but about the "kind" of people who own them. This is not an animal rights issues. As a matter of fact, I don't believe in animal rights. But I do believe in human rights, including the right to own whatever you damn well please to improve the quality of your life, so long as you act responsibly with your property. In my ten years advocating for these dogs and their owners, I have confronted scores of gooberment officials and community organizers on this issue, all of whom respond to me with the same tired old refrain: they implement pit bull bans because they don't want "those kinds of people" living in their neighborhoods.
Hmmm. Now where have we heard that before?