Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2011 Top Ten

This selection is listed chronologically, and does not reflect the number of page views. 

* * * * *

1/ Hall of Shame 
    February 17, 2011
    Shortly after launching SRUV we read an article in the Mint Hill (NC) Times; it was this article which provided our direction and purpose.  When you've read the article you'll know everything you need to know about pit bull journalism. It's a perfectly distilled example of a journalist responding to the mauling death of a child; he pivots and interviews an advocate of fighting breeds. All other examples of pit advocacy journalism, and there have been hundreds, pale in comparison to this.

2/ Letter to the Animals & Society Institute, Pt 2
    March 5, 2011
    It's really very simple, isn't it?

3/ First They Came - Pastor Niemöller
    March 15, 2011
    On the bastardization of the timeless anti-Nazi statement on the holocaust.

4/ The Future of the APBT
    March 29, 2011
    A pit bull canine homicide of an infant in Kalamazoo, home of the United Kennel Club, and our letter to the UKC.

5/ Letter to the ASI, Pt 4
    April 15, 2011
    Will they never give up?

6/ Good Neighbors
    April 16, 2011
    An unfortunate situation? During our first year SRUV published numerous accounts of attacks on our MVAC, a practice we have largely abandoned. This heartbreaking example is representative.

7/ Unsupported Rhetoric
    April 17, 2011
    Pit bulls and academia

8/ Equal Consideration
    May 1, 2011
    A spin-off of the landmark 2001 Slate magazine debate between Peter Singer and Richard Posner.

9/ Reasonable Doubt
    May 23, 2011
    Pit bulls in a bucolic Midwestern small town, home of Smucker jams.

10/ Natural Consequences
    June 23, 2011
    Examples of the pit bull advocacy juggernaught at work.

11/ The Madding Crowd
    August 18, 2011
    Comments from advocates of fighting breeds following the death of BadRap supporter Darla Napora.

12/ BSL Scholarship
     September 10, 2011
     Are they serious? Do they know what they sound like?

13/ Ax3 Redux
      September 13, 2011
      This needs no introduction or explanation.


Monday, December 24, 2012


Following our recent post on the death of two-year-old Savannah Mae Edwards (NOLA to Topeka) we received a response from a recipient of our email alerts. The exchange is copied in its entirety below:

* * * * *

On Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 5:00 PM, - - - - - -  wrote:
Reporting you for spam
From: Safe Island
Date: Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 5:10 PM
Hi - - - - - - - ,
SRUV does not spam anyone. All it takes is a simple request to remove your email address.
We've removed your address from our list, as requested.
On Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 5:18 PM, - - - - - - - wrote:
I would have never signed up for your sudden, random and unprovoked emails... reported none the less. End of chain.

* * * * *

All SRUV email alerts include the following note:
SRUV email alerts are currently mailed to over 2500 domestic and international humane and animal welfare professionals, scholars of animal law and human-animal studies, ethologists and bioethicists, attorneys, legislators and law enforcement, veterinarians, journalists with an interest in canines, and other individuals with a demonstrated interest in pit bulls.
Even though we have always posted a Contact page with our email address, we will now add the following line to our email alerts:
To subscribe or unsubscribe from SRUV email alerts contact safeisland911 [at] gmail.
We do not want to send mail to anyone who does not want to receive our alerts. If you would like your name removed from our mail list please tell us.

* * * * * 

Maintaining our email list is a time-consuming undertaking. We try to inform as many people as possible, without wasting our own most precious resource: time. So we are careful in building our list, choosing only  those whom we believe will want to be informed on this controversial problem. Following each mailing we carefully purge our list of undeliverable addresses, so we do not consume bandwidth needlessly and do not send unwanted mail.  Many of those on our list obviously disagree with our views on animal welfare; we suspect they read SRUV to stay informed. Nearly all of those who cancel are polite.

Rarely do we receive vitriolic letters. Since many advocates of fighting breeds are affiliated with university law departments, some of the letters we receive carry a cynical or superior tone. One such letter came from an animal law professor, author of significant work on animal law, at a prestigious university in the Washington DC area. That letter, and our reply, can be read in an earlier post, Unsupported Rhetoric.

It came as no surprise that our correspondent in the most recent exchange is a software developer with an address that indicated a Kansas connection. She is attractive, with above average education and income, and is the proud owner of three pit bulls. There is no formula to predict the demographic for advocates of fighting breeds. Nor is it possible to predict who among us hides an explosive anger under a veneer of civility.

* * * * *

2-year-old Topeka girl dies from dog attack
     (Topeka Capital-Journal, Dec 13, 2012)
Child, 2, Dies Of Injuries Suffered In Dog Attack
     (, Dec 14, 2012)
Dog Attack Victim Identified
     (, Dec 14, 2012)
** City approves animal ordinance
      (Topeka Capital-Journal, Nov 28, 2010)

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks in the US

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Local Trainer

Putting the dog in that situation can be harmful sometimes. But in this situation here, it could be any breed.
Mose Hugghis

* * * * *

We are banging our heads in frustration!

It is not true to claim that, in similar circumstances, a Golden Retriever or a Yorkshire Terrier would have killed Savannah Edwards. It's dishonest.

Here is the excerpt in its entirety:
A local trainer with 25 years of experience, Mose Hugghis, says this sort of thing could happen with any breed.

"Sometimes you need to know the health of the dog, if it's not feeling good, if it's not active around other kids," he said. "Putting the dog in that situation can be harmful sometimes. But in this situation here, it could be any breed."
Mr Hugghis' claim is a close cousin of the more commonly used phrase All dogs bite or Any dog can bite. Of all the hundred of versions we've seen in news accounts the most extraordinary example was uttered by Michael Linke, the CEO of RSPCA Act. His phrase is so unbelievably grandiose that we named it.

The phrase, and variations of it, have been repeated so often by people who should know better that it is  now treated as received wisdom. The purpose of the phrase, clearly, is to divert the attention away from the horror of the victim's death, in this case the death of two year old Savannah Edwards, while at the same time pretending that pit bulls are no more vicious than your Golden Retriever. This, if we stop to consider it, is obscene.

During the last thirty years 2,146 Americans have been disfigured by dog attacks; 1,350 of those by pit bulls. During the same period 495 humans have been killed by dog attacks; 244 of those by pit bulls.*  Though pit bulls have never comprised more than 5% of the U.S. dog population. they are responsible for half of the disfigurements and canine homicides.

If we are to believe his website, Mr Hugghis is a dedicated and serious dog trainer, having been successful with his own dogs in Schutzhund competitions. But he also raises Presa Canarios, the breed responsible for the notorious Diane Whipple killing. Mr Hugghis may train dogs for obedience, but he also openly trains Presa Canarios as attack dogs.

* * * * *

* Statistics are from Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here.

Dog Attack Victim Identified
     (, Dec 14, 2012)

Related Post: Helping Hands

See Also:
  MoKan Kennels
  IronHeart (formerly Vom Kaiserhofe Training Center; Lawrence, Kansas; )

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks in the US

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nationally Recognized

The committee also included University of Kansas law student Katie Bray Barnett, whom Hiller said is nationally recognized as an expert on animal control legislation.
City approves animal ordinance
(Topeka Capital-Journal, Nov 28, 2010)

* * * * * *

SRUV has not been able to confirm any other mention of Ms. Bray-Barnett as a nationally recognized expert on animal control legislation. Topeka city council member Karen Hiller, who apparently fabricated this claim from whole cloth, was also a proponent of repealing Topeka's Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).

Calling attention to this fact in the wake of Savannah Edwards' death may appear needlessly petty, but it is not. SRUV will remain vigilant when advocates of fighting breeds inflate their resumes or credentials. It has been a long-standing pattern of these advocates to inflate their own or their colleagues' reputations.

Usually, advocates of fighting breeds have little need to inflate their own credentials; journalists often do it for them. SRUV has previously drawn attention to journalists' propensity to inflate the reputations of pit bull advocates in our posts Delise's Dark Shadows and Pit Bulls Don't Exist.

* * * * *

2-year-old Topeka girl dies from dog attack
     (Topeka Capital-Journal, Dec 13, 2012)
Child, 2, Dies Of Injuries Suffered In Dog Attack
     (, Dec 14, 2012)
Dog Attack Victim Identified
     (, Dec 14, 2012)

Related Post: Helping Hands

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks in the US

Monday, December 17, 2012

NOLA to Topeka

In 2010, I worked with the City of Topeka to repeal its pit bull regulations of nearly 25 years.
Katie Bray Barnett

* * * * *
Revised: Dec 18, 2012; 16:24 GMT

On December 13th, 2012, 2-year-old Savannah Edwards of Topeka, Kansas, was attacked by a pit bull and died from her injuries.* A chain of events which began in late August 2005 and culminated with Savannah's death seven years later provides a fascinating study of causal relationships. A few of the links in the chain of events include:

  • In late August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the city of New Orleans.
  • Among the hundreds of volunteers who returned home with pit bulls was a young woman from Topeka named Katie Bray.
  • In 2007, I met Ledy VanKavage. The first time I spoke to Ledy she was giving a presentation on how to prevent cities from enacting breed-discriminatory laws. VanKavage encouraged Bray to attend law school.
  • 2008 - 2009 Bray interned at Best Friends Animal Society in Maryville IL for two summers and worked with VanKavage on several projects.
  • 2009 (Fall): Bray starts her first year at University of Kansas School of Law
  • 2009 (Oct): Bray registers a student chapter of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF)
  • 2009 (Winter) Bray co-authors (with Ledy VanKavage) “The Fiscal Impact of Breed Discriminatory Ordinances in the Era of DNA.”
  • In January of 2010 VanKavage is invited to address the SALDF; Bray also invites local politicians and humane society representatives. VanKavage's presentation on this occasion is titled “Due Process and Doggie Discrimination: The Current Climate of Breed Specific Legislation.” 
  • Following VanKavage's presentation, the city of Topeka forms a committee to write new animal legislation. The committee also included University of Kansas law student Katie Bray Barnett, nationally recognized as an expert on animal control legislation.**
  • 2010 (May) Bray receives the Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship from ALDF
  • In 2010, I worked with the City of Topeka to repeal its “pit bull” regulations of nearly 25 years.
  • 2011 (May): Bray graduates from law school

Ms Bray, along with her husband, manages GameDog Guardian, a pit bull rescue working in the Topeka-Lawrence area. She currently serves as the Program/Legislative analyst for Best Friends’ pit bull terrier initiatives.

Ms Bray has not been reluctant in posting details of her personal story; stories currently appear on StubbyDog, SeattleDogSpot, ALDF, as well as on GameDog. In her role as Adoption Director for GameDog she has "coordinated the successful adoption of hundreds of bully breed dogs."

Early reports indicate that the pit bull that killed Savannah on Dec 13 came from a shelter or rescue. Bill Acree, Director of Helping Hands Humane Society, reported that a check of their records "shows no one from the incident address adopted" a pit bull from Helping Hands. This bit of legalese is a non-denial: the tenant of the residence may have changed address. Helping Hands has yet to crosscheck the names of all those associated with the address as well as the family against the names of those who have adopted from Helping Hands.

It is not yet known which rescue provided the dog which killed Savannah. Regardless of which shelter or rescue adopted out the dog, Katie Bray’s career path, encouraged and mentored by Ledy VanKavage of Best Friends, has produced a climate of tolerance of fighting breeds. This climate, and the hundreds, perhaps thousands of pit bulls introduced into the region, led to Savannah's death.

Bray's role in the removal of Topeka's BSL, as well as her role in rescuing and adopting out fighting breeds, has resulted in the death of this child. Ms Bray and her mentor must now hold themselves accountable, even if the authorities do not.

Cities which have never adopted Breed Specific Legislation may bear less responsibility for pit bull attacks in their communities than cities which have had BSL but then abandoned it, as Topeka did. Cities which have enjoyed the protections of BSL, then grow indifferent and discard these protections for their citizens, are culpable. The leaders who voted to abandon BSL must also accept responsibility for attacks in their communities.

The leaders of Topeka must reinstate the former BSL provisions and halt the adoption of fighting breeds; they must restore the protections of BSL to the public they serve.

Savannah Mae Edwards

* * * * *

* SRUV has learned (here) that Savannah was killed in unincorporated Shawnee County, which includes Topeka.

2-year-old Topeka girl dies from dog attack
     (Topeka Capital-Journal, Dec 13, 2012)
Child, 2, Dies Of Injuries Suffered In Dog Attack
     (, Dec 14, 2012)
Dog Attack Victim Identified
     (, Dec 14, 2012)
** City approves animal ordinance
      (Topeka Capital-Journal, Nov 28, 2010)

Related Post: Helping Hands

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks in the US

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Zen and Pit Bulls

In that situation, nobody's negligent. Who bears the loss?
Sen. Brian Frosh

* * * * *

A kōan is a story, dialogue, question, or statement, which is used in Zen-practice to provoke the "great doubt" . . . .

* * * * *
Revised: Dec 15, 2012; 19:22 GMT

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it fall?

Who is dragging this corpse about?

Who bears the loss?

In the US we often hear these abbreviated versions of kōans, but most kōans are actually short parables or stories. Here's a recent example from real life:
A man is walking with his young daughter down the street.
Three dogs run from an open gate to attack them.
The man shields his young daughter from the attack, and holds her high while the dogs savage his legs, arms and torso.
A young man hears their cries for help and runs from his house; he too is savaged.
The attack continues, and after a period of time two teenagers come from the house where the dogs live and take them inside.*
     Who bears the loss?
* * * * *

Senator Frosh's koan-like riddle has been hovering over every pit bull attack this fall. But what loss is the Senator thinking of?

The Maryland Appeals Court issued their opinion, with the determination that pit bulls are inherently dangerous, on April 26, 2012. The media gave extensive coverage to the resulting explosion of fury from the HSUS and other animal advocacy groups.

The advocates of fighting breeds made all the initial noise but in reality they were simply a diversion. The clamor provided cover for the real opponents of the Court's opinion, the real estate developers and the insurance companies, who then quickly sent in the money, guns, and lawyers. State Farm Insurance, which paid out 21% more in dog bite claims in 2011 than during 2010, filed a motion asking the court to reconsider its ruling which holds them [State Farm Insurance] accountable.

On June 11 Delegate Heather Mizeur held a press conference to announce the stay on the Court's decision. As explained in a June 10 letter from the Office of the Attorney General, the stay would give the legislature time to write new legislation which, presumably, would nullify the finding that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.

When Senator Frosh asks Who bears the loss?, he isn't thinking of the owners of pit bulls or of the victims. We doubt the legislators are meditating for greater enlightenment, or wondering how to provide for all of the victim's losses. The legislators are trying desperately to protect Maryland's big money people from financial losses: real estate developers, insurance companies and the lobbyists who represent them.

The recent weeks have witnessed ongoing pit bull attacks in Maryland, including the following:

Oct 6
Max Cardenas, 10 yo
Puppy "Drake" killed
$5,000 + Veterinarian bills

Nov 22
Vanessa Feeheley, 89 yo
Mangled arm
Pit bull attacked over the fence as Ms Feeheley stood in her own front yard

Dec 1
Boy 7 yo and aunt who curled over him in fetal position while dog attacked
Child airlifted with extensive injuries

Dec 1
Three people attacked by 2 pit bulls
The owner was cited for license and vaccination violations as well as animals running at large, and fined a total of $100.

No other breed of dog has caused grievous injury resulting in disfigurement or hospitalization during this period in Maryland.

The legislature has been struggling without success for nearly a year and will take up the question again in the next session. Their struggle to determine who will bear the financial losses of a pit bull attack reveals their desire to protect Maryland real estate developers and insurance companies from catastrophic losses from pit bull attacks. As their struggle drags on it becomes clear that the legislature has forgotten the true victims.

The legislature's struggle to find an answer to the koan implies the following: 1/ the legislature acknowledges that the problems of potentially catastrophic attacks and financial losses will continue to occur as long as pit bulls are allowed in society, or they wouldn't be trying to protect the insurers, and b/ the legislature isn't trying to do anything to change the fact that these attacks will continue; they aren't trying to get rid of the problem which causes the catastrophic losses.

The legislature is avoiding the root issue: what to do about pit bulls and the advocates who defend them.

Who bears the loss? When pit bull owners, those who harbor pit bulls, and their insurers accept responsibility the pit bull problems will diminish and ultimately disappear. Only then will no one bear the loss.

* * * * *

Three pit bulls attack two people on Long Island (SF Chronicle, Dec 4 2012)
Maryland pit bull task force wrangles over liability

Resource: MD Court of Appeals establishes new liability rule in pit bull attack cases

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rolling Over in Sonoma

Revised: Dec 19, 2012; 00:14 GMT

On August 11, 2011 Darla Napora, a supporter of the pit bull advocacy group BadRap, was killed by her  pit bull. At a Sonoma city council meeting four days later Mayor pro-tem Joanne Sanders asked city council, staff, and police to review the existing ordinances regulating vicious dogs. The Mayor's request signaled the beginning of a year-long effort to update Sonoma's outdated animal legislation.

The Mayor's request and subsequent comments opened the floodgates for a barrage of vituperation from advocates of fighting breeds. The outrage directed at the Mayor and the city took the form of emails, phone calls, and the vandalism of the Mayor's FaceBook page. The comments (under news stories) of pit bull advocates exhibited a stunning arrogance. One advocate, also a BadRap volunteer, whose comment appeared in the Index-Tribune (Aug 22, 2011) felt her comments were profound enough that they deserved to be published a second time, several days later, as a stand-alone article.

If the citizens who wanted protections from fighting breeds had supported their mayor things might have turned out differently. But after an emotionally charged meeting on Wednesday September 7th, 2011 the Council declined to consider new dangerous dog legislation. Then, fifteen months after the initial uproar, at the October 15, 2012 meeting Council voted to accept revised dangerous dog legislation which is among the most lenient in the country toward pit bulls.

The legislation was written with the assistance of Bob Edwards of SVDOG and other local advocates of fighting breeds. The new legislation, rather than protecting the public, the livestock, and the more vulnerable animal companions, protects dangerous dogs. Thus, Sonoma has become one more community that has caved in to the demands of pit bull extremists and the public remains unprotected.

The city, in effect, heard the noise of a strident, vocal minority of extremists and rolled over, abandoning their responsibility to govern and their authority. The new legislation in Sonoma allows pit bulls, after attacking and even killing other animals multiple times, to return to the safety and comfort of their homes.

SRUV has published numerous posts illustrating the methods used by advocates of fighting breeds when  hijacking the public process. Rarely have pit bull advocates been as thuggish as they were in Sonoma.

* * * * *


Related Post: Protecting Dangerous Dogs

Dog lovers protest Sonoma councilwoman's pit-bull comments
     (Press-Democrat, Aug 23, 2011)
Council nixes dog doo, doggie park
      (Sonoma Index-Tribune, Oct 18, 2012)

See Also:
Sonoma Municipal Code Chap 18.12
Sonoma Passes On New Vicious Dog Laws
     (Sonoma Valley Patch, Sept 8, 2011)
Vicious Dogs Ordinance on Agenda 
     (, Oct 12, 2012)

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks in the US

Monday, December 3, 2012

Slander in Ukiah

You're dealing with animals, and . . . they can be unpredictable.
Sage Mountainfire
Mendocino County Animal Care Adoption Coordinator

* * * * *

To: Mendocino County Board of Supervisors

We are writing in response to the recent article in the Ukiah Daily Journal, which describes the attack on Mike Johnson and his canine companion by a dog recently adopted out from the Mendocino County Animal Care Services.

According to Ms Mountainfire, the attack happened because dogs "can be unpredictable." This claim misrepresents the true nature of our canine animal companions. Ms Mountainfire's claim that all dogs are unpredictable suggests that families should be wary of living with Golden Retrievers or Yorkshire Terriers.

Unfortunately, it is not at all unusual for animal welfare professionals, following an attack by a pit bull, to defend the attacking pit bull by claiming any dog might have done the same thing. Another recent example is a statement by the Director of the Rhode Island SPCA. Dr Finocchio is quoted as saying:
No animal should be trusted because they are unpredictable entities.
Dr. E.J. Finocchio, RI SPCA 
The unsupported assertion that all dogs are unpredictable is slanderous to the millions of reliable, gentle animal companions. Pit bulls, on the other hand, are subject to idiopathic aggression and thus are unpredictable. Thousands or tens of thousands of owners of pit bulls have expressed bewilderment after their well-cared for, previously well-behaved pit bull suddenly and for no apparent reason attacks a human or another animal. Idiopathic aggression has been acknowledged for several decades, but the subject has been buried.

When we began reading the news of pit bull attacks we were stunned by the similarity of the responses to pit bull attacks by animal welfare professionals; they are entirely predictable. Now that we are accustomed to these responses by these paid advocates of fighting breeds we are simply saddened. And disgusted.

* * * * *

We will also bring your attention to the blatant dishonesty currently on the home page of the Mendocino County Animal Services web page. The dog featured on your front page and offered for adoption, named Tracker, is described as a Border Collie mix.

Tracker is a pit bull mix. If Mendocino County Animal Care is this conniving in their efforts to adopt out pit bulls, it is easy to understand how the recent attack in downtown Ukiah occurred, and why MCAC should be held accountable.

* * * * *

Pit bull attack leads to shelter changes (Ukiah Daily Journal, Dec 01, 2012)

See Also: RISPCA vs Boston for SRUV's response to Dr Finocchio

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks in the US

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Questions for Animal Welfare Professionals to Ask of Themselves

We asked friends across the country what questions they would like to ask of the animal welfare organizations. This is the second post in the series, and we may print additional questions as we receive them from readers.

* * * * *

. . . . . A question from Merritt Clifton

Question: What I have been asking generations of animal welfare executives, beginning with the late John Kullberg in 1988, when he headed the American SPCA, is why they keep ignoring the overwhelming weight of evidence that pit bulls are disproportionately likely to kill or maim other humans and animals, disproportionately likely to be dumped at animal shelters at an early age, disproportionately likely to be killed after flunking behavioral screening, are the only breed ever used successfully by dogfighters, and exist exclusively because of deliberate breeding.

All of these trends were already glaringly evident by 1988, when pit bulls made up only 2% of the dogs entering animal shelters but were 5% of the dogs killed in animal shelters, & already accounted for half of all dog attack deaths & disfigurements.

Here we are, 25 years later, & the total numbers have soared in all categories. Pit bulls are now 30% of dog intake at shelters, 60% of the killing, & half of all pit bull-inflicted fatalities & disfigurements in the past 30 years have occurred just since the Michael Vick case broke in April 2007.

Meanwhile, the only U.S. city to have seen sharp drops in everything negative involving pit bulls in 30 years is San Francisco, which introduced a breed-specific sterilization requirement in 2006. The four cities that kill by far the fewest pit bulls per 1,000 humans are San Francisco, Denver, Miami, and New York City, all of which have breed-specific legislation in some form (NYC bans pit bulls from public housing.)

The real question is why the alleged leadership of the animal welfare cause continues to thrust its collective head ever farther into an anatomically, philosophically, and ultimately politically untenable position, in defense of pit bull breeders & dogfighters, at the expense of every authentic humane objective.

One possible answer is sphincter constriction of the flow of blood to the brain. Another is unrestrained group-think.

Yet another is Republicanism. What the alleged leaders in question keep doing is competing with each other to appeal to what they misperceive as their ideological base -- because the pit bull defenders are among the loudest & most politically organized elements in their perceived constituency.

If the alleged animal welfare leaders actually looked at their own donor data, though, surveys of pet-keepers and public opinion surveys stratified by age & gender suggest they would see something radically different. This type of data can be used to produce a composite quite similar to the known characteristics of the animal advocacy donor base, & indicates that these animal advocacy donors are likely to be only marginally more pro-pit bull than the U.S. population at large, about two-thirds of whom don't want to live next door to a pit bull, as the recent Miami vote demonstrated.

Supposedly the humane movement at the national level is driven by intense scrutiny of direct mail & online donation responses, but on the pit bull issue, I guarantee that it isn't.

Why not?

I guess there just isn't much light where their eyeballs are.

* * * * *

Google News Today's pit bull attacks

Sunday, November 25, 2012

State of Denial

. . . there is no legal definition of a pit bull.
Frank Branchini, Maryland Votes for Animals

* * * * *
Revised: Jan 31, 2012; 17:31 GMT

On August 28, 2012 an article about the Maryland pit bull quandary was published in the Washington Post.* The article included statements from Maryland "experts" claiming there is no legal definition of a pit bull and even, remarkably, that pit bulls don't exist.

In response SRUV published a blog post (Pit Bulls Don't Exist) which has remained among our most-viewed posts for over two months. Prior to that we published Jabberwocky, which includes examples of legal definitions as well as links to court precedents which include definitions.

After an attack by four pit bulls on November 10th, Maryland experts once again claimed there is no legal definition of a pit bull. Accounts of the attack included the comments of Frank Branchini of MVFA:
The problem with the ruling . . . . is that “there is no legal definition of a pit bull,” Mr. Branchini said.
Now there has been yet another attack, an over-the-fence attack on an 89-year old woman in her own front yard. The problem, as we see it, is not the definition of pit bulls, but that pit bulls kill a human being about every two weeks, on average, and attack humans, pets, and livestock on a daily basis. To ignore these attacks while quibbling over definitions demonstrates a depraved indifference.

To be fair, the Maryland deniers may have taken their cue from the NAIA,** which also claims There is no legal definition of “pit bull” in Maryland. To argue that the April 26 Court of Appeals ruling is flawed because it fails to include a definition of pit bulls is specious, deceitful reasoning. When a term (such as pit bull) enters the public vernacular there is no need to define it on every occasion. If we're reading a novel and are unsure of a definition, we look it up. Maryland advocates of fighting breeds could presumably do the same.

For the record, we have included yet another definition below. This definition is from Dias v. City & County of Denver, 567 F.3d 1169, 1173 (10th Cir. Colo. 2009)
A "pit bull" is defined as any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one (1) or more of the above breeds, or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of the above breeds.
Could anything be more clear, Mr Branchini?

* * * * *

Elderly Pasadena woman attacked by pit bull (Capitol Gazette, Nov 22)
Pit bulls attack woman in NE apartment (Washington Times, Nov 11)

* Experts say pit bulls don't exist
** National Animal Interest Alliance

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks in the US

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Questions for Journalists When Interviewing Animal Welfare Professionals, or for Animal Welfare Professionals to Ask of Themselves

Animal welfare institutions work on behalf of our animal companions, and on behalf of the public. It is not always apparent that the attorneys, lobbyists, and legislative analysts who represent these institutions may not have the same goals as the public they serve. Journalists have, to a large extent, given these animal welfare representatives a free-pass by declining to pose difficult questions about pit bulls.
We've asked friends across the country what questions they would like to ask of the animal welfare organizations, and we've added several questions of our own. We encourage  journalists to use these questions.
We may print additional questions as we receive them from readers. 
Revised: Nov 20 2012; 18:47 GMT
* * * * *

, , , , , from a reader in Florida:
Question: Why do you not advocate for the welfare of pit bulls by proposing legislation that would make them rare and inaccessible to dogfighters and only accessible to the few owners/breeders/advocates who truly know to maintain them safely for the welfare of both the dogs and the public?

* * * * *

, , , , ,  from a reader addressed to Wayne Pacelle of the HSUS:
Q:  Let's say that a mother whose child has been mauled by a pit bull has come to the HSUS to talk with you. How will you explain the HSUS advocacy of pit bulls to her?

* * * * *

, , , , , from SRUV:
Q:  Animal welfare representatives are fond of blaming pit bull attacks on irresponsible owners, when in fact many of the pit bull attacks which result in death or disfigurement are caused by well-cared for, much loved family pit bulls which have never before shown signs of aggression.  Now, will you act responsibly and accept responsibility for your organization's advocacy of pit bulls?

* * * * *

, , , , , from Kim Bartlett of Animal People:
Q:  A breed does not need to be preserved--especially dog breeds which for thousands of years were specially bred to kill other dogs and other animals (such as bears and bulls) in sadistic gambling spectacles. Why in God's name would a true animal advocate want to preserve the legacy of the people who bred them?

* * * * *

, , , , , from a reader, addressed to Ledy VanKavage:
Q:  My question to Ledy VanKavage is: Why do you continue to promote and promulgate false information about DNA testing when you know it is untrue and deceptive?

* * * * *

, , , , , from SRUV addressed to the American Veterinary Medical Association:
Q:  Are veterinarians prohibited from making statements which contradict AVMA policies or guidelines? Does the AVMA limit the public speech of veterinarians in any way?

* * * * *

, , , , , from an anonymous reader in Denver, addressed to Ledy VanKavage:
Q:  You are known for visiting college campuses to speak to law students with the goal of recruiting new attorneys into the practice of animal law. A number of your recruits now specialize in defending pit bulls and attempting to overturn existing BSL. Could you comment on the ethics of defending and advocating for pit bulls vis-à-vis advocating for the victims of pit bull attacks?

* * * * *

, , , , , from a reader addressed to any animal welfare association:
Q: Can you explain why you're against BSL which would require neutering of pit bulls when it's clear that the San Francisco model is effective?

* * * * *

, , , , , from SRUV for any pit bull advocate:
Q:  A human has been killed by a pit bull every 21 days, on average over the last several years. No animal welfare spokesperson has publicly acknowledged these deaths, as far as we know, and the public sees this refusal as denial. If you were in a room with the door closed, could you acknowledge these deaths privately, to yourself?

* * * * *

Google News Today's pit bull attacks

Send comments and corrections to safeisland911 [@]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Spud and Misty

Revised: Nov 11, 2012; 06:06 GMT
Revised: Nov 11, 2012; 17:06 GMT

On Monday November 5th two pit bulls attacked a horse in Yuma County, Arizona. The horse was subsequently euthanized. We have copied below the entire news story as it first appeared on the KSWT news web site:
YUMA, AZ- A horse is dead after a pit bull attack. The Yuma County Sheriff's Office says it happened Monday afternoon in Foothills.

YCSO says the two pit bulls got out of the house while the owner was helping his son who was stuck in the desert. They say the pit bulls attacked the neighbor's horse during that time. The horse was seriously injured to it's legs. A vet had to euthanize the horse.

Yuma County Animal Control cited the pit bull owner for dogs at large but allowed the owner to keep the dogs.
Subsequent news revealed that the horse, named Spud, was a 29-year old quarter horse, and suffered attacks to the legs, stomach, and nose. After his working career was over he became a 4-H horse and a favorite among the local children.

Spud's caretaker, Carolyn Knowlton, said the pit bulls had previously attacked another horse, which survived the attack. On Monday, after their attack on Spud, the pit bulls also attacked a dog. Knowlton's husband, who witnessed the attack and drove the dogs away, said
. . . . there wasn't even excitement, the dogs weren't wired, they weren't angry, or in a frenzy. It was just eating the horse and that's what freaks my husband out. It was just there . . . eating the horse.

Less than a week later, on November 11 in DeSoto County, MS, three family pit bulls attacked and killed Misty, the family's seven-year old horse while the children looked on in horror. The pit bulls had previously attacked a different family horse. According to Alexis Amorose, the executive director of the Memphis and Shelby County Humane Society:
This can and does happen regardless of breed. . . . it is difficult to offer any insight into what led to this happening.
Ms Amorose's first thoughts are not sorrow, or of the horrible death of Misty, or of the children who witnessed their horse being slaughtered, or of negligence or child endangerment; her thoughts are of defending the pit bulls that killed Misty. She pivots the discourse by claiming any dog could have done the same. Blame the deed, not the breed. Ms Amorose should be informed that canine homicides are breed related, and if anyone has information of Golden Retrievers or Black Labs or Yorkshire Terriers killing horses please forward the information to SRUV.

These needless deaths need not have happened. Dangerous dog laws which allow dogs to kill a horse, then return to the safety and comfort of their home as happened in Yuma County, and which offer no recourse to the victim, are disgraceful. They protect vicious dogs and fail to protect the public safety.

To explain away the murder of a horse by pit bulls, as Ms Amorose did, borders on lunacy. Unfortunately, this response to tragedy has been institutionalized by animal welfare executives.

* * * * *

News Sources:
Yuma horse pit bull attack aftermath (KSWT)
Horse caretaker reacts to pit bull attack (KSWT)
Family Horse Dies after attack from pit bulls (KAIT8)

Google News Today's pit bull attacks

Send comments and corrections to safeisland911 [@]

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I'm A Good Dog

The following book review was originally published by Animal People on November 1, 2012.
* * * * *

I'm a good dog: Pit Bulls, America's Most Beautiful (and most Misunderstood) Pet
by Ken Foster
Viking Studio
(c/o Penguin USA, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014), 2012.
143 pages, paperback. $25.00.

The major question in assessing I'm a good dog, by Ken Foster, is deciding whether Foster sincerely believes his many misrepresentations, most of which occur by omission.

For example, Foster mentions one of the most notorious bloodlines in the annals of dogfighting without mentioning the dogfighting connection. Later Foster mentions the high prices paid for some dogs of fighting lineage, again without mentioning fighting. Foster quotes the late pit bull advocate Vicki Hearne's assertion that a pit bull who had attacked several people might be any of eight purportedly different breeds without mentioning that all eight are pit bull variants. Foster also recites that pit bulls were featured in the "Buster Brown" and "Our Gang" film shorts without mentioning that the dogs' roles included chasing and attacking people, and that some of the dogs who played those roles were biters in real life, too.

Foster mentions that some pit bulls were mascots of troops during the U.S. Civil War, but not that pit bulls and pit bull derivatives, such as "Cuban bloodhounds", were extensively used to track and dismember fugitive slaves, as a warning to other slaves who might think of escaping. Neither does Foster acknowledge the use of pit bulls by the Ku Klux Klan in connection with lynchings, as described--for example--by Cayton's Weekly for August 2, 1919, easily accessible online.

Foster asserts that "The term 'pit bull' is used to describe 10-to-20% of the dogs found in the U.S." Reality is that the entire molosser class of dogs, including pit bulls, Rottweilers, mastiffs, boxers, and many other breeds, comes to barely 9%, according to surveys of classified ads offering dogs for sale or adoption. Pit bulls, by all of the names commonly used for them, amount to no more than 5.5%.

Promoting the acquisition of pit bulls as family pets, Foster claims that "The pit bull has been a family dog for more than a century--in short, for as long as the dogs have been known to exist." But there are scant historical references to pit bulls being commonly kept for any purpose other than fighting until the past two decades. Even early 20th century breeders John P. Colby and Charles Werner, who sold pit bulls as pets, continued to breed fighting dogs.

Denying the relationship of form with function, Foster asserts that "Pit bulls do not attack like sharks. Or do anything like sharks do." But the dismembering wounds inflicted by pit bulls have been likened to shark bites by, among others, the authors of medical journal articles about how to try to repair the damage.

"Pit bulls seem particularly suited for life with kids," alleges Foster, offering photos of children engaging in behavior around pit bulls that would be ill-advised with any dog.

Pit bulls, at this writing, have killed eight Americans in 34 days; Rottweilers, sharing molosser ancestry with pit bulls, have killed one more. Two pit bull rescuers have been killed by the dogs in their care within 54 days. The number of known animal victims is about 10 times higher.

Of the 241 fatalities and 1,302 disfigurements inflicted by pit bulls on humans during the past 30 years, 126 fatalities and 640 disfigurements have come since the April 2007 impoundment of football player and convicted dogfighter Michael Vick's dogs escalated the popularity of pit bull rescue. Pit bulls had already accounted for just about half of all the dog attack fatalities and disfigurements inflicted by dogs of any sort during the preceding 25 years.
--Merritt Clifton


Monday, October 29, 2012

Who bears the loss?

Who bears the loss? In that situation, nobody's negligent.
Sen. Brian Frosh

* * * * *
Revised: Oct 29, 2012; 14:16 GMT
Revised: Jan 29, 2013; 22:20 GMT
To: MD Task Force on Pit Bulls
Re: Comments of Oct 26, 2012

Who bears the loss? The answer is simple, but we'll return to that in a moment.

The Maryland task force on pit bulls has been charged by the Attorney General to consider the April decision of the Court of Appeals in Tracey v. Solesky.
Further, the Task Force will study the viability and definition of breed-specific standards in Maryland law and local prohibitions, as well as any issues concerning property insurance arising from the Court decision. Finally, the Task Force will make recommendations for potential legislation.
MD State Archives
Senator Frosh explains that the mission of the task force is complicated by the consideration of attacks by dogs previously thought to be nonviolent, in which there is no apparent negligence.
The task force is particularly struggling over the liability in a scenario where a previously nonviolent dog bites without being intentionally provoked. "Who bears the loss?" Frosh said. "In that situation, nobody's negligent."
So far in the calender year 2012 there have been 29 canine homicides; 24 of them by pit bulls and close mixes. There have been 147 reported maulings, 125 of them by pit bulls.* A death or a mauling by a pit bull every other day, and we don't know how many go unreported. Of those few canine homicides and maulings that were committed by dogs other than pit bulls, it's a safe bet that the attacking dogs had previously shown aggression.

It is practically unheard of for a previously nonviolent dog to initiate an unprovoked attack causing grievous bodily harm, unless it is a pit bull or pit bull cross. On the other hand, the majority of unprovoked attacks resulting in death or grave injury are initiated by pit bulls and pit bull crosses, many of which had been previously considered nonviolent.

The struggles of the task force would come to an abrupt end if they simply took a closer look at the Court's finding that pit bulls are inherently dangerous. It appears the task force has determined that the Court's finding lacks credibility, but the record speaks.

Who bears the loss after a pit bull attack? There have been a few sensational settlements, some of which hold municipal or county governments liable for six- or seven-figure sums. But after most pit bull attacks the victims are left to bear not only the extraordinary emotional burdens but the financial burdens as well.  Those who should bear the cost, those who own or harbor fighting breeds, are rarely held accountable.

To resolve the issue the task force must travel full circle and acknowledge that the Court's finding was correct. If the finding stands, insurance companies and landowners will quickly adapt, as they always have,  and pet owners will make wiser choices. If people do the right thing the cost of pit bull attacks will diminish over time -- a relatively short period of time.

Across the country, again and again, legislatures have confronted the same issues the Maryland task force now faces, only to be confused and intimidated by the barrage from the highly-paid career advocates of fighting breeds: lobbyists, attorneys, and legislative analysts working for radical advocates of fighting breeds. This seems to be a problem legislatures are unsuited for, and unable to resolve. And thus pit bulls will remain a menace to public safety until the courts step in.

The Maryland court has provided enlightened leadership on this intractable problem.  Responsible animal welfare activists from across the country welcomed the Court's findings. Cities across the country are looking to the Maryland task force: the challenge now is whether the Maryland legislature will join the court in this courageous stand.

* * * * *

* Statistics are from Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here.

Resource: MD Court of Appeals establishes new liability rule in pit bull attack cases

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fighting Breeds

The belief that pit bulls show no more aggressive tendencies than Golden Retrievers is widely accepted among advocates of fighting breeds.

The School of Veterinary Medicine at Hannover, Germany (TiHo) has been instrumental in promoting this belief.
See this index for a complete list of posts on TiHo and on the belief that pit bulls exhibit no more aggressive tendencies than Golden Retrievers.
* * * * *
Revised: Oct 24, 2012; 22:57 GMT
Revised: Oct 26, 2012; 15:32 GMT
Revised: Apr 28, 2013; 19:08 GMT
Revised: March 10, 2014; 13:07 GMT

On June 26th, 2000, six-year old Volkan Kaya was attacked by two dogs, an American Staffordshire terrier and a pit bull. Volkan had been playing soccer with schoolmates in the schoolyard, and was killed while his schoolmates looked on in horror.

In July of 2000 the state of Lower Saxony passed a Dangerous Dogs Act; provisions of the law placed restrictions on specific breeds of dogs. In August the Veterinary School at the University of Hannover began testing restricted dogs under provisions of the law, and collecting data from the tests.

The following year (March 2001) TiHo was established at Hannover, and the first dissertation on dangerous dogs was published in May, 2002. In the following years the TiHo faculty and students have been closely associated with the study of canine aggression, and have an extensive history of publications on the subject. The dissertations have been carefully directed, primarily by the long-time director of the program Prof. Dr. Hansjoachim Hackbarth. TiHo publications have exerted a strong influence on the animal legislation in Germany, and on the advocates of fighting breeds in the US.

In our series SRUV has focused on the papers which assert that pit bulls and other fighting breeds show no more aggressive tendencies than Golden Retrievers. We have yet to comment on the very first paper published by TiHo in their series on dangerous dogs, Fighting dogs: history, use, and behaviour problems, by Andrea Steinfeldt (May 2002). In the paper Ms Steinfeldt arrives at the following conclusion:1
However, to use the term „fighting dog“ for all members of certain species must be rejected for many reasons. Forms of increased aggressive behaviour of dogs can be caused by various endogenetic and exogenetic factors,2  regardless of the species a dog belongs to. From a veterinarian point of view, a dog should be assessed by its individual behaviour and the term „fighting dog“ must by all means be avoided, as it is of historical origin and referred to dog species, which were especially reared for dog fights and which do not exist anymore.
Ms Steinfeldt claims that fighting breeds no longer exist, which observation and common sense tell us is false. If we interpret this passage as leniently as possible, perhaps Ms Steinfeldt may be claiming that dogs are no longer bred to fight, which is nonetheless false. No matter how we choose to interpret Ms Steinfeldt's assertions, the fact remains that she is wrong on all counts. Dogs are still being bred to fight, and dog fights are still being held. Backyard breeders continue to overproduce pit bulls with all the characteristics of authentic pit fighters. Fighting breeds do exist.

This dissertation, the first from TiHo on dangerous dogs, clearly attempts to lay the groundwork for subsequent TiHo papers on fighting breeds. It is instrumental in establishing the core belief of advocates of fighting breeds: that all dogs are individuals and should not be considered as members of a breed. This hypothesis, if carried to its logical extreme, would erase the concept of dog breeds altogether.

* * * * *


1  This excerpt is from the English version of the dissertation summary.
2 This translation into English (which is copied exactly from the TiHo web site) incorrectly translates endogene und exogene, the terms used in the German version. The mistranslated terms endogenetic and exogenetic appear to apply solely or primarily to geomorphology. Based on the definitions in Aggressive behaviours in dogs: a new descriptive-contextual classification (Dehasse, 2004), as well as on the author's intent, we believe the correct usage in English is endogenous and exogenous.

Fighting dogs: history, use, and behaviour problems. Bully Species: a study of the literature.
Andrea Steinfeldt. Hannover, Tierärztliche Hochschule (TiHo), Dissertation, 2002

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks in the US

Monday, October 22, 2012

The End of BSL

Yes, there are pit bulls that bite, but there are Chihuahuas that bite.
Chris Charbonneau, MSPCA

* * * * *

To: Julie Cohen
Re: Views Clash on the end of the pit bull ordinance

We are writing to correct a number of misrepresentations in your recent article.

Your article features several images of Nia, an elderly pit bull who probably likes nothing more than a good  nap after lunch. Nia, of course, is wearing the de rigueur lighthearted scarf, as recommended by advocacy groups. We are shown only the feet of the anonymous and obviously demure lady owner. A disproportionate amount of your lengthy article is given over to this owner's travail's with owning a stigmatized dog.

Nia is hardly a representative pit bull, and the interview is an early indicator of the bias throughout your article. This bias is reinforced by extensive comments from Kara Holmquist, an architect of the legislation to invalidate Boston's Responsible Pit Bull Ownership ordinance.

You fail to mention that the new law in Massachusetts was pushed through on the last day of the legislative session, with the rules suspended. You fail to mention that the law was marshaled through the legislature without consulting important stakeholders: the men and women who are charged with protecting the public safety.

You failed to interview any responsible animal welfare expert who holds opposing opinions.  You failed to point out that pit bulls have killed, on average, 25 people a year over the last three years (2009-2011), more than all other breeds combined.* You failed to mention the countless horses, ponies, llamas, alpacas, and other animals that have been attacked, many of them killed. You failed to mention that the number of disfiguring attacks on humans has soared in the last two years.*

You also failed to mention one of the unintended consequences of removing Breed Specific Legislation (BSL): within a short period the animal shelters in Boston will experience what many shelters across the country already deal with every day -- an explosion of the pit bull population. The average population in most shelters consist of 40-60% pit bulls, which results in increased pressure to adopt out dangerous dogs, or increased euthanasia rates, or both.

Journalists who advocate for fighting breeds as you have are expressing the opinions of a strident minority of society, while putting the public safety of the rest of us at risk. You are performing a disservice to the majority of your readers; your article therefore merits recognition in the SRUV Journalism Hall of Shame.

* * * * *

* Statistics are from Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada. The report is continuously updated; to request a copy of the current report click here. 

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

Postscript to readers:
We are baffled by the comment of Chris Charbonneau (top of page). Of course Chihuahuas bite, as do fleas. But do Chihuahua bites bear any relationship to pit bull bites? or to BSL? We think not. For a discussion of how advocates of fighting breeds attempt to blur the distinction between breeds see Chihuahuas aren’t dangerous, just small, yappy and annoying (National Post, Oct 18)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Terrible Accident

No one knows what happened, It was a terrible accident.
Robert Rios

* * * * *

To: US DHHS, Administration for Children and Families
      Region 1: Mary Ann Higgins
      Region 2: Joyce Thomas
      Region 3: David Lett
      Region 4: Carlis Williams
      Region 5: Kent Wilcox
      Region 6: Leon R McCowan
      Region 7: Patricia Brown
      Region 8: Thomas Sullivan
      Region 9: Sharon Fujii
      Region 10: Steve Henigson
      Child Welfare League of America, American Humane Association, and dozens of state Child Protective Services officials, and others

On Friday Sept 11, 2011, 20-month old Neveah Bryant of West Haven CT was killed by her aunt's three pit bulls. Thirteen months later, on Oct 11, 2012 Neveah's aunt, Erica Hobdy, pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge and received a suspended sentence of one year of jail and three years of probation.

For those unfamiliar with the case we've listed the relevant details:
  • Hobdy had left the child in the house alone with her three pit bulls while she went to the store for drinks for her son and a friend, who were outside the house;
  • Police and neighbors confirmed that the dogs had previously demonstrated aggression;
  • Hobdy was arrested after the attack, in December of 2011 and released on bail. She was soon taken into custody again because the arrest violated probation conditions of her past criminal cases.
  • Local rescue groups claimed that the tragedy was an isolated case. 
  • According to news reports (see below), Hobdy's  previous dogs attacked a mailman and children years ago in another city.
This was not an accident, nor was it an isolated incident, as advocates of fighting breeds often claim. Earlier this month Tarilyn Bowles (MI), less than a year old, was killed in a similar incident. In September Rayden Bruce (TX), also less than a year old, was killed by a family pit bull, as was James Hudson (NC), also less than a year old. In June Tyzhel Latella McWilliams (CA) was killed before her first birthday. In May Makayla Darnell (OH), less than a year old, was killed during the same week Ohio pit bull advocates were celebrating the dismissal of Ohio's Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Also in May, Jazilyn Mesa (NM), who had recently celebrated her first birthday, was killed by the family pit bull. In January Jace Valdez (TX), a year old, was killed by the family pit bull.*

There is wide disparity in how these cases are prosecuted. Hobdy was charged but plea bargained her way to a suspended sentence. Three members of the Mesa family were recently charged. SRUV previously reported on the death of a 10-day old infant in Kalamazoo, MI, after an attack by a recently adopted pit bull. In that case detectives sought involuntary manslaughter charges against the child's mother but the county prosecutor's office declined to press charges. Kalamazoo is the home of the United Kennel Club, the official registry for the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Law enforcement officials are often unwilling or unable to bring charges after an attack by a dog which results in the death of a family member. Many of these deaths, and hundreds of tragic disfigurements, could  be avoided if Child Protective Services and other social welfare agencies were to recognize the inherent danger of accepting fighting breeds as family pets.

* * * * *

* For details of these attacks, as well as the attacks on adults, see Fatal Pit Bull Attacks

News sources:
Aunt of toddler killed in West Haven pit bull attack claims the dogs had no history of aggression (Oct 1, 2011)
Autopsy Complete on Toddler Attacked by Pit Bulls (Oct 3, 2011)
Pit bulls' killing of Fairfield toddler an accident (Oct 4, 2011)
West Haven pit bull owner gets no jail time in fatal mauling of toddler (Oct 17, 2012)

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Responsible Advocacy: II

. . . we need to embrace a comprehensive
dangerous-dog law that will actually work.

Kara Holmquist, MSPCA

* * * * *

It took us a moment to realize why this line is funny. Then we remembered that we're deep in the political season, and the word comprehensive, when it appears in the same sentence as plan, law, bill, etc, takes on a whole new meaning.

For those who are addicted to the news (as we are), the following terms are as common as air:
  • Comprehensive tax bill
  • Comprehensive energy legislation
  • Comprehensive immigration reform
  • Comprehensive health care reform
And now we have comprehensive dangerous dog laws. News junkies understand that when a politician uses the word comprehensive, it's his promise that nothing, absolutely nothing, will happen. (We may have come close with health care reform, but close only counts in horseshoes.) The speaker adopts a principled manner  and promises that any interim or inferior bill will not be tolerated (bills which, however imperfect, might actually accomplish something).

Advocates of fighting breeds rarely make original statements so we checked the web and sure enough, "comprehensive dog laws" has become a favorite of those wanting to torpedo Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).
  • The ASPCA’s Government Relations department has a strong history of helping to create and promote comprehensive, breed-neutral dangerous dog laws. (ASPCA)
  • . . . urges all state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and governmental agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws  (ABA TIPS)
  • Comprehensive "dog bite" legislation . . . would do far more to protect communities than banning a specific breed. (HSUS)
  • etc, etc, etc.
Needless to say, many of these advocacy organizations make kind offers of assistance to states and municipalities, offering to help them write their animal legislation. Boston already had dog laws which worked just fine, thank you very much, and Ms Holmquist helped mightily to send them to the trash bin.

Ms Holmquist also indulges in additional silliness in her letter to The Boston Herald. Her Logic 101 lesson in the first sentence:
Using the recent dog bite incident in East Boston — which occurred while the pit bull ordinance was in place and didn't prevent it — to argue the ordinance is needed is flawed logic.
. . . is itself an example of the fallacy of cause and effect or final consequences, take your pick (not to mention an example of obtuse syntax).  Remember, Ms Holmquist is referring here to an attack in which two pit bulls burst out of a house and went on a rampage; no law other than a strict ban could have stopped such an attack.

It is disingenuous of Ms Holmquist (and Dr Finocchio) to pretend that BSL is ineffective if it doesn't stop every single pit bull attack -- neither do conventional, comprehensive dangerous dog laws. The primary goal of BSL has always been:
. . . to reduce dog attack fatalities and disfigurements, and to reduce shelter killing. These goals have been fulfilled wherever breed-specific laws have been brought into force.
Animal People, Oct 2011
BSL has been effective in Boston. The advocates of fighting breeds must come up with relevant, honest, responsible arguments, rather than the tired, frivolous, borrowed arguments they habitually use.

* * * * *

News source: Law lacks bite, Boston Herald
Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

Sunday, October 14, 2012

RISPCA vs Boston: II

No animal should be trusted because they are unpredictable entities.
Dr. E.J. Finocchio, RI SPCA

* * * * *
Revised: Oct 15, 2012; 00:13 GMT
Revised: Oct 15, 2012; 15:44 GMT

The furor over the new Massachusetts animal control law continues to generate headlines. Among the recent stories:
  • Oct 5th; two pit bulls pushed through a window screen and escaped. They then terrorized the Sumner Street neighborhood in East Boston, killing a cat and biting a youth before they were captured. In the aftermath of the attack Mayor Menino called for continued Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) aimed at muzzling pit bulls.
  • Oct 8th; In an effort to neutralize news of the attack, the advocates of fighting breeds responded with their own news. WPRO talk radio published the online version of an interview with Dr Finocchio, which included the comment on the banner at the top of this page, as well as a rebuttal of the Mayor's comments.
  • Oct 11th; the East Boston Times-Free Press published a story with comments from Councilor Sal LaMattina and John Guilfoil, a spokesman for the Mayor.
  • Oct 11th; The Boston Herald ran a brief, incomprehensible note from Kara Holmquist, a supporter of the legislation. (We will return to her article in our next post.) Ms Holmquist and her co-author fail to comment on the ongoing pit bull attacks, other than to say that the city's laws failed to stop them.
  • Oct 12th, The Herald publishes an account of an attack in Dalton, in which two pit bulls rushed out of an apartment and mauled a man outside his home.
Dr Finocchio holds a far more nuanced opinion of pit bulls than most SPCA directors, but his Oct 8th comment continues to trouble us. Then, while reading the Oct 11 East Boston Times-Free Press we noticed the following comment from a reader:
. . . since the media only focuses on what they hope are pit bull attacks we never get a fair representation of the reality of having at least 75 million dogs (carnivores) in the US.
Carnivores? The word carnivores evokes images of wolves stalking their prey, which loops back to Dr Finocchio's insinuation that domestic dogs retain a bit of feral unpredictability. The comment was posted by an individual identified as 123tl78. (123tl78's profile indicates that he (or she)  has posted 1113 comments, all of them in defense of pit bulls.)

It's not uncommon to read accounts of pit bull attacks in which the dog's owner explains that his dog has a "high prey drive;" this is sometimes offered as an explanation for the attack. The phrase also appears in chat rooms, as well as in classified ads for pit bulls. The phrase is a euphemism indicating that the dog has aggressive tendencies. While some owners exhibit pride in their dog's "high prey drive," others can't bring themselves to admit that their pit bull is more aggressive than other breeds; they'd rather believe that all dogs still retain a bit of canis lupis. Dr Finocchio and millions of others  may have succumbed to this belief because we've become accustomed to the havoc of fighting breeds living in our midst.

Fortunately we have someone with the good sense of Alexandra Semyonova, who reminds us (in Myth 29) that the domestic dog is not a naturally aggressive species. Dr Finocchio may choose to reconsider his remarks after reading Ms Semyonova.

* * * * *

News sources:
RISPCA says muzzling pit bulls in public will not prevent attacks
** City officials seek restrictions on pit bulls following attack

Other news sources:
Law bans breed-specific dog regulation, SouthCoast Today
Brockton police shoot charging pit bull, Enterprise News
State law trumps Worcester pit bull regs, Worcester Telegram
New state law could maul Lowell's pit bull ordinance, Lowell Sun
Mayor Menino: Animal-rights law . . . ., Boston Herald
Violent MA pit bulls now Schenectady's problem, Albany Times Union
Hundreds of pit bull attacks listed in Boston, Boston Herald
City Leaders Outraged, WBZ CBS

MA Legal Blogs:
Pit Bull Ordinances Nullified Under New State Law
The Law and Pit Bull Attacks and Pit Bull Ordinances

Research: Effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in decreasing the incidence of dog-bite injury hospitalisations in people in the Canadian province of Manitoba

Google News Today's pit bull attacks

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

RISPCA vs Boston

No animal should be trusted because they are unpredictable entities.
Dr. E.J. Finocchio, RI SPCA

* * * * *

Dear Dr Finocchio,

We beg to differ. Canines and humans have evolved together precisely because dogs can be trusted. For the director of the RISPCA to suggest otherwise is to undermine the relationship that millions of children, families, farmers, hunters, herders, and disabled individuals enjoy and depend on.


* * * * *

Advocates of fighting breeds would have it both ways. Sometimes they claim that pit bulls are no different (and no more dangerous) than Golden Retrievers; in short, all dogs are as safe as lambs.

On other occasions the advocates of fighting breeds claim, as Dr Finocchio has, that all dogs are unpredictable and can't be trusted. They claim that even chihuahuas and dachshunds are as aggressive as pit bulls; in short, all dogs are wolves in sheepskin.

The goal, with either argument, is to blur the distinction between pit bulls and other breeds, so we will come to believe that pit bulls are no different from any other dog. A look at today's news proves otherwise.

SRUV has written extensively about both arguments. The "safe as lambs" argument is discussed in nearly twenty posts concerning pit bulls and Golden Retrievers. The "wolves in sheepskin" argument has also been covered, notably in RSPCA ACT and All Dogs Bite.

Dr Finocchio has chosen the second (wolves in sheepskin) approach. He is certainly aware that pit bulls have killed, on average, 25 people a year over the last three years.  Why would a highly-paid career animal welfare executive imply that all other dog breeds are as unstable as pit bulls?

* * * * *

News sources:
RISPCA says muzzling pit bulls in public will not prevent attacks
Funds for Animal Control Bill Secured by Sen Montigny

Other news sources:
Law bans breed-specific dog regulation, SouthCoast Today
Brockton police shoot charging pit bull, Enterprise News
State law trumps Worcester pit bull regs, Worcester Telegram
New state law could maul Lowell's pit bull ordinance, Lowell Sun
Mayor Menino: Animal-rights law . . . ., Boston Herald
Violent MA pit bulls now Schenectady's problem, Albany Times Union
Hundreds of pit bull attacks listed in Boston, Boston Herald
City Leaders Outraged, WBZ CBS

MA Legal Blogs:
Pit Bull Ordinances Nullified Under New State Law
The Law and Pit Bull Attacks and Pit Bull Ordinances

Research: Effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in decreasing the incidence of dog-bite injury hospitalisations in people in the Canadian province of Manitoba

Statistics on SRUV are from the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here. This page may also include information from Dogsbite and Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Information on euthanasia rates is from Pit bulls and Political Recklessness, by Merritt Clifton. Shelter  intake and euthanasia rates are published annually in the July/August edition of Animal People.

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks