Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Personal Communication

Revised: Nov 30, 2012; 17:21 GMT
Revised: Dec 01, 2012; 17:34 GMT
Revised: Dec 02, 2012; 16:00 GMT

This post is one of a series of posts on TiHo. For a complete listing of the posts in this series see the TiHo Index.

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On July 7, 2000, the state of Lower Saxony passed the Dangerous Dogs Act (Niedersaechsische Gefahrtierverordnung GefTVO), which mandated testing of specific dog breeds and types. Angela Mittmann refers to the development of the mandated canine temperament test three times in her 2002 doctoral dissertation. Her first reference credits an earlier canine temperament test:
For the development of the test, a test [developed by] the Dutch scientists Netto and Planta (1997) was used and was modified for this purpose (SCHALKE 2002).*
Mittmann later refers to the development of the test in her list of appendices:
4. Appendix: Development of the Lower Saxony temperament tests **
During the 5-week interval when the new law was passed and testing began, the test mandated by the new law was conceived, developed, and implemented.

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We have few clues to how the TiHo test was actually developed. Were there trials for the proposed test situations? Were objective canine behaviorists consulted? On what grounds were the final situations selected, and who made the final decisions? We have the reference to the original test (Netto and Planta, 1997) on which the Lower Saxony test was based, but no explanation of the changes which were made. SRUV has commented briefly about the corruption of the Netto test by TiHo and will discuss it in greater detail in a forthcoming post.

We also have a passing reference to the development in Appendix 4: Development of the Lower Saxony temperament tests. This appendix consists of nothing more than a list of the nine members of the mandated committee, two of whom represent bull terrier breeder groups. This committee will also be discussed in a forthcoming post.

The final and most cryptic clue to the development of the TiHo canine temperament test is the reference to Schalke (2002),***  which is mentioned briefly and only in passing. When we turn to Mittmann's list of references we discover that the citation refers to a "private communication" from Dr Schalke to Mittmann. The text of the "private communication" is not included in the dissertation, and we are left to assume that the "private communication" Dr Schalke handed off to Mittmann is the actual final form of the test instrument  which became so critical to German dog laws.

How could a doctoral dissertation for veterinary medicine which includes an unexplained citation be accepted and published? This is what we are left with: a test instrument cobbled together in a smoke-filled room, metaphorically speaking. We have previously mentioned that the TiHo test was an inadequate, poorly conceived test for canine aggression. In fact, the argument can be made that it did not test for aggression, but disguised it. It is the test which effectively absolved the breed-listed dogs in Lower Saxony in 2002, and which was used to malign Golden Retrievers in 2004.

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* Für die Entwicklung des Wesenstests wurde ein Test der niederländischen Wissenschaftler NETTO und PLANTA (1997) herangezogen und für diesen Zweck modifiziert (SCHALKE 2002).

** 4. Anhang: Entwicklung des Niedersächsischen Wesenstests

*** SCHALKE, E. (2002)
       Persönliche Mitteilung. Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
       Dr. Esther Schalke
       Tierärztin; Institut für Tierschutz und Verhalten
       der Tierärztlichen Hochschule Hannover

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