Sunday, October 14, 2012

RISPCA vs Boston: II

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

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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.

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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