Perth woman Nikita Piil, 31, remains in hospital in a critical condition after she was mauled by her two rottweilers, Bronx and Harlem, at her home on Saturday afternoon. The pets, one of whom has since been euthanised, left Ms Piil with extensive injuries and has prompted calls for a total ban on the breed.
Leading the push is federal MP and former opposition leader Bill Shorten who described the dogs as "sharks on legs". “You should ban some of these breeds," he said of dogs, that he claimed are "dangerous". “It’s been proven that owners can’t control all of them.”
'Don't ban a breed because of the minority'
But furious rottweiler owners, behavioural experts, and animal rights advocates have all lashed the proposition, many of whom say the responsibility should be put back on the animal's owners, rather than demonising an entire breed based on a handful of instances relating to the minority.
Sonia Jackson, a Sydney-based rottweiler owner and dog trainer, said rottweiler depictions on-screen and in the media are to blame for their reputation. She said her beloved four-year-old pooch Caesar is the most "gentle and sweet" dog, who has "a natural ability to care".
"The thing is that rottweilers have always been portrayed as like this big, bad dog. Like look at, you know, The Omen from 1976 — they used them as hellhounds," Ms Jackson told Yahoo News Australia.
"They've always been used to spark fear, compared to say, golden retrievers who have been portrayed as a family dog. Look at films like Jaws — the divers involved in that movie even said afterwards they regretted it because of all the backlash toward sharks after."
Owning Caesar since he was just eight-weeks-old, Ms Jackson said she's been amazed at how intuitive, gentle and nurturing he has been throughout his life — though she warned rottweilers are "not a beginner dog".
"I don't think people understand how good a rottweiler is at being a family dog," she said. "You know, they've got that good guardian nature, but they will really latch on to your family too.
"Cesar is so gentle with children and with the elderly, it's like, he knows — that's something that's never been trained too — he'll even wait for someone to go through a door, if he knows that they are elderly.
"My uncle's just had surgery for cancer and normally Caesar would love to run up and greet him, but since his surgery, he hasn't jumped up once."
Ms Jackson added that Caesar even instinctively reacts to medical conditions. "When I fainted recently, due to pain, he stabilised me," she said. "He will literally lean against me if I start to get wavy. He will stand his ground if I need to get up and will just hold me. So little things like that."
The Sydneysider explained that "every dog has been bred for a reason" whether it be herding, hunting or guarding, but no breed is inherently "bad".
"I think there should be some level of competence before owning one. It's not a beginner dog. You know, if you want a beginner dog, I would be going for something smaller," she said.
Focussing on one breed 'perpetuates stereotypes'
Chantelle Taylor, another Aussie rottweiler owner, said that training is key and "focussing" on a specific breed when calling for bans only perpetuates stereotypes.
"My belief aligns with the understanding that dog behaviour and incidents of aggression are not inherently breed-specific but are more a result of factors like training, socialisation, and responsible ownership," she told Yahoo News Australia.
"Focusing on a specific breed when discussing these issues can perpetuate stereotypes and misunderstandings."
Another rottweiler owner, who did not wish to be named, told Yahoo the proposed ban is a "total double standard". "It's very unfortunate," she said of the idea. "I recently saw this girl with a giant out of control one-year-old labradoodle jumping on everyone and everyone's dogs — people thought it was cute.
"If a rottweiler did that, people would be running for the hills screaming."
Idea that rottweilers are 'dangerous's is misleading, expert warns
"Labelling an entire breed of dogs as 'dangerous' oversimplifies a complex and multifaceted issue," Glenn Cooke, Chief Training Officer for Canine Evolution and Pet Resorts Australia told Yahoo News Australia.
"While genetics may influence a dog's temperament, they don't predetermine behaviour; comprehensive training, social programs and attentive care can shape any dog, irrespective of its breed, into a safe and affectionate family member.
"Instead of implementing breed-specific bans, which can be both stigmatising and ineffective, a more constructive approach would be to promote responsible pet ownership and educational programs that focus on prevention and early intervention."
He said the "idea that Rottweilers are inherently dangerous is misleading".
"A dog's behaviour is largely shaped by its training, socialisation, and care," Mr Cooke said. Responsible ownership is key to ensuring that a Rottweiler — or any dog, (any domestic animal for that matter) —becomes a safe and well-adjusted family member.
"While public safety is a genuine concern, banning specific dog breeds is not an effective or ethical solution," he said. "A dog's behaviour is influenced by various factors not just its breed. Breed-specific bans also present practical challenges, like incorrect breed identification and resource misallocation."
Instead, Mr Cooke proposes a more effective approach would be "to focus on responsible pet ownership, public education, and early intervention programs" that "address the root causes of aggressive behaviour in dogs."
Do you have a story? Contact reporter Joe Attanasio at firstname.lastname@example.org
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