The Instigator
Dabete
Con (against)
The Contender
BertrandsTeapot
Pro (for)

Animals getting put down for "Aggressive Behavior"

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/12/2018 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 3 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 362 times Debate No: 115492
Debate Rounds (5)
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Dabete

Con

I am against putting animals down for "Aggressive Behavior" but I'd like to see other peoples views on it, too.

First round can be accepting the challenge, if you'd like.

Good luck
BertrandsTeapot

Pro

I think there are a few considerations to lay out before we begin. Feel free to let me know if you find any of my assumptions/definitions to run counter to your intention so that I can properly accommodate the viewpoint.
  • How are we defining "aggressive" in the context of the animal's behavior?
  • What is the aggressive behavior that has been demonstrated, in what context did it occur, and what is the risk of it recurring?
  • Are we talking about domesticated or wild animals?
  • To whom has this aggression been directed?
    • Based on the animal's daily routine, who (else) could potentially suffer from the behavior?
Defining "aggressive" - I will define aggressive behavior as that which has caused a person (or, potentially, another animal) to be injured or put at risk of injury.

Recurrence - To deal with perhaps the most common example in this realm, I will assume we are talking about a dog deliberately biting a person, whether it be out of defense or malice.

Domesticated vs. Wild - There may be different viewpoints and contentions should we be discussing a house cat versus a lion. In the latter case, that lion may be held in captivity (e.g. a zoo) or living in its natural habitat. For this debate, I will speak of the most controversial issue - that regarding domesticated dogs and cats.

Direction of aggression - Was this behavior directed at the animal's owner? If so, perhaps humans have a right to decide whether to risk injury in order to enjoy the company or protection afforded by a pet. On the contrary, perhaps an action directed at an owner could later be directed at a non-owner, in which case the incident was merely anecdotal. Let us assume, for the sake of this argument, that the aggressive behavior was directed toward a non-owner.

Routine - Does this pet spend 99% of its waking hours in the confines of its owner's home? Or, is it regularly walked and brought to parks where it would be free to interact with non-owners? Let's assume the latter.

--

Aggression is primarily triggered, particularly in animals, by a 'fight or flight' response. This response is a purely physiological, neurochemical, and thus unconscious reaction to the perception of threat. To 'fight' is to combat the threat with physical aggression,while 'flight' is to combat the threat via physical removal of fleeing.

More specifically, this response is a neurochemical process that beings in the amygdala which triggers the activation of the pituitary gland which, in turn, leads to a rapid release of catecholamines (e.g. cortisone and hormones (metabolites of cortisol), adrenaline, and nonadrenaline. The release of these chemicals causes actual, bona fide structural changes to the animal's neurophysiology. These changes are particularly designed to grant the animal with sufficient energy to resolve their situation and avert the threat (or perceived threat).

There are a number of factors that precipitate the decision between 'fight' and 'flight'. For example, genetic predisposition may cause an animal to be more likely to exhibit aggression. An animal who has just given birth and is caring for its young will also be more likely to respond with physical behavior.

Animals are unable to experience or comprehend complex emotions such as shame or guilt and, therefore, cannot understand the degree to which owners and/or non-owners find their behavior to be reprehensible. It is possible that animals can be conditioned to avoid some behaviors through infliction of pain or withholding of nutrients, but this is not tantamount to a conscious understanding of the implications of their aggression. Furthermore, in cases where dogs have bitten and severely injured humans, few remedies ranging from medication to kenneling to relocation have been shown effective.

If aggression in dogs and cats is primarily triggered by an unconscious chain of events AND the animal is unable to understand the negative externalities caused by this chain, it is between fairly and highly unlikely that they can effect instinctual change. This is all to say, once such a pet exhibits severe aggression, it is extremely likely to recur, especially should similar circumstances and environments arise.

There are a number of reasons why such an animal should be euthanized. Non-owners are, by definition, non-consenting agents who did not voluntarily submit themselves to be in the presence of aggressive animals. Thus, it would seem highly unfair to put such an agent at risk of physical and/or emotional harm when they were not given the opportunity to weigh the costs and benefits that come along with being in its company. Additionally, there is a legal risk carried by the owner in the event that another act of aggression occurs. There is, further, the emotional and financial penalties incurred should another person be placed in the hospital, disfigured, or worse. Even in the case where the owner is the victim of the aggression, they may not have the freedom and latitude to spend 10 months recovering from a debilitating bite to their leg that requires 400 stitches or surgery. There are even more hazards including loss of homeowners insurance and fear of future attacks/aggression.

Then there are factors that must be considered on behalf of the pet. If the pet's primary form of "leisure" or "exercise" is enjoying a day in the dog park, but they must avoid doing so for risk of aggression toward non-owners, is that a fair compromise to their quality of life? If the proposed course of action is in some way physically reprimanding the animal when behavior tends toward aggression, is it fair to cause them to live in "fear" pertaining to retribution for their unconscious (re)actions?

I have nothing but terrible sympathy for pet owners placed in a position where their dogs or cats must/should/could be euthanized. That said, given the potential compromise on quality of life for the owners, non-owners, and even pets themselves, it seems only humane and responsible to put down animals for "aggressive behavior".

Debate Round No. 1
Dabete

Con

I thank you for your well thought out response. I suppose I was quite unclear with what I meant. I meant aggressive as in, yes, biting, scratching, growling, etc. I am strictly talking about domesticated animals, particularly cats & dogs, but other animals, if brought up, are okay too.

A lot of people get animals without knowing how to properly take care of them. It's sad, but seen all the time. Most people think having an animal would be fun and carefree. They don't exactly think of all the work they have to put in, to not only make the animal socialized, but to also provide it with a good life. When an animal shows aggression, it's not their fault. They have a need that isn't being met. Whether it be a neurological need, a need for love, patience, food, water, etc there's still that need. If a need isn't being met, then yes, it may turn to aggression. The longer an owner leaves that need unmet, the more aggressive the animal may get. That is in no fault of the animal.

Each animal has a truly loving nature. Each "Aggressive" animal CAN be rehabilitated IF the owner takes the steps required. Sometimes all if takes is just some simple playtime to make your animal from a devil to an angel. It's up to the owner whether they want to take time out of their day or not. I mean, that IS what they signed up for when getting an animal. There are certainly boundaries for each individual pet, as there are boundaries for each individual person. Some pets just wont be lap pets. Do you then FORCE them to be on your lap? No. That's just asking for trouble. It's common sense to back off when an animal is giving you clear signs to do so. If you don't, then honestly, whatever damage the animal does is justified. Saying this, I do have to say, sometimes animals do not warn you. It still isn't their fault. If an animal decides to fight you instead of warning or fleeing, then there is probably a chemical issue in their head. Whether they're lacking certain chemicals, or that they have too many.

Watching "My Cat From Hell" can prove that any cat can be rehabilitated, and the feral ones can become more trusting. Cesar Millan can prove that any dog can be rehabilitated. It's truly amazing to see how doing simple things can make your animals life 10x better. Eg; walking them, playing with them, feeding them a balanced diet, routine.

I do believe that people who own "Aggressive" animals are the ones at fault. It is shown that given the proper care and attention, an animal can thrive and be sweet. So.. There's proof that animals can be rehabilitated IF the owner takes the time. So tell me this: Is it fair that animals get put down because their owner is lazy? Is it fair that an animal gets put down because the owner didn't want to commit to responsibility?
BertrandsTeapot

Pro

This. is definitely a well-thought-out, compassionate answer. However, it's one deeply rooted in logically fallacious argument. Specifically, it is a classic example of cherry picking. In fact, it's actually an example of what I'll call meta-cherry picking in that it not only selectively chooses evidence sources that support its point sources from a larger universe of available options, but within those sources, it selectively chooses anecdotal arguments claiming they are properly representative of the issue at large.

The crux of this argument is the contention that "Each 'Aggressive' animal CAN be rehabilitated," and that "Cesar Millan can prove that any dog can be rehabilitated." If the first contention is primarily based on the second (in addition to the "My Cat From Hell" example), surely contradicting or disproving the latter would cause the former to collapse. A further point you put forth is that owners of "aggressive" animals are the ones at fault and that "give the proper care and attention, an animal can thrive and be sweet." I will address this as well.

In short, I will provide scientific and scholarly evidence of the following:
    1. Dominance-based concepts, like those employed by Cesar Millan, are not nearly as effective as the public is led to believe and in fact are often counterproductive

    1. There is ample literature to suggest that many dogs are born aggressive through no fault of their owners


I think all logical readers would agree that sufficient evidence proving both of the above premises assuredly dismantles and sufficiently proves wrong your argument's claim(s).


Cesar Millan is nothing more than an entertainment figure masquerading as a visionary in behavioral veterinary medicine. He espouses the view that one can find "almost immediate success through basic dominance-based concepts any human can understand. These dominance-based concepts, however, have been proven to be patently ineffective in many cases:

    1. Dr. Patty Khuly has spoken on a scholarly article in The Journal of Applied Animal Behavior, stating how it "offers us the dark side of these Cesar-esque tricks far more scientifically than intuitively, helping highlight how simple corrective measures conveying dominance can be futile, misconstrued, prove counterproductive, and often result in bodily harm to humans."

    1. According to lead study author Dr. Meghan Herron of the University of Pennsylvania, "Nationwide, the number-one reason why dog owners take their dog to a veterinary behaviorist is to manage aggressive behavior. Our study demonstrated that many confrontational training methods, whether staring down dogs, striking them, or intimidating them with physical manipulation, do little to correct improper behavior and can elicit aggressive responses."

    1. Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist compiled a list of dominance-based approaches to canine aggression that fan the flames of these unwanted behaviors. The highest frequency of aggression occurred in response to aversive (or punishing) interventions, even when the intervention was indirect.

        • Hitting or kicking the dog (41% of owners reported aggression)

        • Growling at the dog (41%)

        • Forcing the dog to release an item from its mouth (38%)

        • “Alpha roll” (forcing the dog onto its back and holding it down) (31%)

        • “Dominance down” (forcing the dog onto its side) (29%)

        • Grabbing the jowls or scruff (26%)

        • Staring the dog down (staring at the dog until it looks away) (30%)

        • Spraying the dog with water pistol or spray bottle (20%)

        • Yelling “no” (15%)

        • Forced exposure (forcibly exposing the dog to a stimulus – such as tile floors, noise or people – that frightens the dog) (12%)



    1. Dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, has said once again that some of Cesar's methods — such as the alpha roll, in which he pins a dog on its back and holds it by the throat to exert dominance — are dangerous and counterproductive.

    1. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) agrees that Cesar's approach to dog training might be misguided. In a statement issued by the organization, the AVMA argued that “dominant-submissive relationships that do occur in nature are a means to allocate resources — a problem that rarely exists between dogs and their owners."


Now for the contention that owners are at fault for aggression and that pets cannot be born aggressive. Many scientists beg to differ:
    1. A recent study from the University of Arizona shows that oxytocin works to suppress the release of cortisol (the body’s main stress hormone) and works in opposition to vasopressin. These levels are dictated by genetics and present at birth. Vasopressin has been implicated as a trigger for what’s called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which enables the body’s “flight-or-fight” response. Psychologist and anthropologist Evan MacLean and his colleagues found that the presence of vasopressin was more strongly associated with aggressive behavior in dogs than oxytocin.

    1. In the well-renowned paper, "Aggression is Related to Frontal Serotonin-1A Receptor Distribution as Revealed by PET in Healthy Subjects" it was found that "serotonin regulates impulsivity and the inhibitory control of aggression. Aggression is also known to be modified by sex hormones, which exert influence on serotonergic neurotransmission." Given that these neurotransmitters and hormones are all present at birth, it is fair to conclude that the owner is not the only one at fault in cases of pet aggression.

    1. Colleen Safford, one of New York City’s most well-known dog trainers and the mother of three young kids, tells us that within each breed, and indeed, within each litter, there is a wide range of temperaments. Some breeds were certainly bred for specific tasks, some of which may require that they be more aggressive (and bred to be that way)

    1. PetMD states that "the causes for inappropriate or unwanted aggression can come from many sources. For example, in the same way that some people have serious and grumpy dispositions, cats, can be born with an aggressive personality type, too."


These are just a few of the seemingly-endless pieces of evidence discrediting your argument(s). Perhaps you may answer and say that this evidence is just one side of a two-sided coin and that there are other scholars who agree with you. That may be. However, I think it's clear beyond a reasonable doubt that I have provided enough evidence to suggest that at least some dogs are inherently aggressive AND that many of the popular rehabilitation techniques, including those you've cited, are not only ineffective (in many cases), but often counterproductive.
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