Pit bulls, urban rage, and the unraveling of community


About four years ago a pack of six stray pit bulls showed up in our rear driveway trying to figure the best way to make something jump off. Why? Because they were pitbulls and they knew nobody was gonna try and question their intentions. They wanted to raise hell because somebody somewhere had taught them that this was what they were good at, and they probably liked being good at something, so they had their little canine minds set on raising as much hell as possible. Just ’cause they could.

It’s a pitbull thang.

One moment all was calm and well in the ‘hood. I’m in my easy chair kicked back in the living room watching some tube. The next moment sounded like somebody had unleashed the hounds of hell on a mission to destroy all flesh. I’m telling you this racket didn’t sound like a bunch of dogs barking and growling, but like something had torn its way through a breach in reality from the Other Side.

And Jam, our dog, was outside on the back porch snarling and snapping in a vain attempt to pretend he was every bit up to the task of defending the homefront against an entire tribe of beasts who specialized in destruction for sport. I was proud of Jam for standing up for the home team, but I quickly snatched him by the collar and dragged him inside to safety before the pack figured out how to burrow under the fence and tear him – and me – to pieces. Once safely behind the closed door, I watched the pack as they danced around deciding what to do next. While they did that I called Animal Control, but was promptly told that no one would be available until the next day.

“My guess is they won’t be hanging around that long,” I said. “Meanwhile, you might want to know that the house next door is loaded with small children, and some of them are retarded. There’s a good chance these dogs will rip them to shreds once that family gets home. Have a nice day.”

Animal Control never showed up, but 10 minutes later the police were right there. First one car, then two, then three. They were back there in the alley for nearly 45 minutes with some sort of long steel pole that had what looked like a noose at the end of it. Miraculously they actually snagged two or three of the dogs that way when they tried to rush the cops. More than once I watched as a police officer leaped on the hood of a car to dodge an attack. This was better than the Drive-In.

Once it was all over, I remember feeling angry. But not at the dogs. I was angry at the idiots who I knew had “raised” them, abused them, then cut them loose to the streets because they no longer wanted to be saddled with the responsibility. Maybe these pits weren’t vicious enough, although that would be hard to believe. Then again, maybe they were too much to handle.

Whatever the reason, these dogs had been abused and then abandoned. And then turned loose on the streets of Detroit. I read an article not long ago where dog fighting is growing at a rapid rate in the inner city, and the presence of  roaming, pissed-off pitbulls lets me know Detroit is definitely one of those inner cities.

It always gets on my nerves when I see these young kids strutting around walking their “pet” pitbulls on a chain, enjoying the spectacle of terrified neighbors jumping out of the way. It’s because of “pets” like these that I have to drive damned near all the way to Belle Isle to walk my dog without worrying that the both of us might be attacked just for taking a stroll in our own neighborhood.  The fact that these kids want to raise killers instead of companions is a serious indictment of what’s going on out here. The kids are abused and enraged, so they transfer that rage to a dog that risks being strung up or shot in the head if it’s not enraged enough to rip apart another dog.

Just like what we’re doing to ourselves.


~ by Keith A. Owens on July 24, 2007.

3 Responses to “Pit bulls, urban rage, and the unraveling of community”

  1. three pit bulls just moved into our quiet neighbourhood. The tenant is out there reinforcing and raising our fence. We have a poodle and children. The dogs apparently are in the house all day unless someone is home. I went out to meet the neighbour and all three dogs lunged at the fence. should I be very afraid, like i am?

  2. Hey Mar!

    Thanks for stopping by. And yeah, if you’ve got three angry pitbulls as neighbors, I would definitely be very, very careful. It’s nice of the neighbor to reinforce the fence, but that just lets you know that he knows what he’s got walking around over there…

  3. Hi — happened on your blog while working on something concerning the Mike Vick case. Well considered and well written — thank you.

    BTW, as I’m a dog owner too, I flip to the Animal Planet channel once in a while. Any chance you’ve seen their “Animal Cops” series? The film crew follows ASPCA staffers and animal cops around the country, but focuses particular attention to places where crimes against animals seems especially widespread. I’m sorry to report that one of these places is Detroit.

    The “animal cops” on the show, a diverse group made up of African-American, Latino and white men and women, do a great job of rescuing animals and trying to impart some wisdom about taking the needs and lives of animals seriously. What’s disturbing about the show, however, is the un-scrutinized aspect of race: almost all of those arrested or chastised for abusing animals on this show are African-Americans. Because no one on the show ever examines this seeming phenomenon, viewers are left to conclude whatever they will from what they see. My guess is that many viewers probably come to some pretty negative conclusions about the black community in terms of the way our dog “companions” are treated.

    Google as I might, I can’t find any experts talking about this nor any studies that report on the view of pets among different American cultural populations. But there sure is a lot of scary racist hot air. As I wade through all that crap, I’m hoping to find someone talking some sense. I’ll let you know if I find anything.

    In the meantime, keep the faith.

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