We have all heard the expression: “In the 70s it was the Doberman, in the 80s it was the German Shepherd and in the 90’s it was the Rottweiler”. Of course now it is “pit bull’ type dogs being discriminated against.
But where did it all begin? Where did demonizing dogs start?
In the mid-19th century it was the bloodhound under scrutiny. These dogs had a keen sense of smell and were often used for tracking. After a novel called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was turned into a live action play and subsequently shown all over the United States, the demonization of this breed began. In the play, the dog was portrayed as “savage and bloodthirsty”. Of course, it didn’t help that they had been used to track fleeing prisoners towards the end of the century.
This led to fear mongering and an eventual breed ban. In 1886, the state of Massachusetts banned the Cuban and Siberian Bloodhounds and 3 other breeds:
“No person shall keep or have in his care or possession any dog of the species commonly known as bloodhound, or any dog which is or has been classed by dog fanciers or breeders as Cuban bloodhound, Siberian bloodhound, German Mastiff or Great Dane; boarhound or Ulmer Dog be said dog in whole or in part of said species; unless the same be kept for exhibition solely; in which case said dog shall at all times be kept securely enclosed or chained, and shall not be allowed at large, even though in charge of a keeper, unless properly and securely muzzled. (approved June 29, 1886)”
Sound like eerily familiar legislation?