Monday, October 22, 2012

The End of BSL

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

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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.

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* 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)