A story from today’s Inquirer describes a badly injured pit bull named Radar, who had been used in dog fighting. He had sustained multiple injuries and was left for dead. While this dog is making a remarkable recovery, I’ve heard from SPCA volunteers that there’s an explosion of dog fighting in the Philadelphia area and a growing shelter population of unwanted pit bulls. Read the story here.
One place where I've been challenged by scientists is on the question of whether non-human animals such as Radar can feel pain. Evolutionary biologists tend to agree with me that of course they do, while some neuroscientists have voiced quite strong disagreement. Animal pain was among the many issues I raised with Richard Dawkins when I met with him last weekend. He told me that scientists who deny animal pain were "disgraceful" and added a few colorful British-isms that start with the letter B. It turns out he's thought deeply about this issue, so I'll have more on Dawkins and the status of non-human animals soon,
I've been collecting a file on dogs and dog fighting, thinking there might be a series of columns to be done about these creatures and the many misconceptions that surround them. Is fighting in their blood or in their “training”? And what happens when they’re adopted into loving homes?
There may be some insight they can give us into the nature/nurture question, and perhaps some insights science can give us about how to help them.
SPCA workers say pit bulls can be sweet-natured when interacting with humans. Fighting dogs are trained to attack other dogs, not people. Here’s a quote from Rich Britton – a spokesman for the Chester County SPCA:
"This dog and this breed are unfairly painted as monsters," Britton said. "It's the people who abuse these animals who are the real monsters."
Very well said Mr. Britton. Thank you.