Bull Terriers and deafness

Bull Terrier
Originally uploaded by sindy

I spent most of today at the 6th Annual San Jose City College Street Rod & Classic Car Show and among other things, met this cute little Bull Terrier. Interestingly, the dog didn’t respond to calling her name (I think it was “Whetta”) because she’s deaf– factoid for the day: as many as 18% of Bull Terrier puppies are born with less than perfect hearing. Apparently, congenital deafness can appear in any breed, but is particularly prevalent in those with white pigmentation and there is a fair amount of information known about the genetics behind deafness in dogs. Deaf dogs and, in turn, their owners, live difficult lives– they require excessive care, are difficult to train, and because of the disability, are prone to problems such as being easily startled (and as a result biting) or dying from unfortunate accidents (cars, etc.). Some say to euthanise deaf puppies immediately, others say that such dogs can grow up to live happy, healthy lives, and still others say that they can be raised to live happy, healthy lives, but should not be allowed to breed.

My point in all of this: congenital deafness and how to handle these puppies raise interesting ethical questions, especially considering the fact that the problem may be of our own creation– the possible result of breeding habits over a hundred years (originally by cross breeding the now extinct Old English Bulldog and Old English Terrier breeds). On one hand, dogs are dogs– not people– but on the other hand, many pets become like parts of families, loved even more than some of our actual family members. Did you know that when you pet a dog, not only does the dog’s blood pressure drop, but so does yours, relieving stress almost immediately? So, what is our responsibility to these creatures?

For more: Another photo of the Bull Terrier

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