Friday, August 30, 2013

The AVA on Dangerous Dogs

Revised: Aug 30, 2013; 22:33 GMT
Revised: Sept 01, 2013; 23:54 GMT
Revised: Sept 03, 2013; 15:33 GMT
Revised: Dec 12, 2013; 22:19 GMT
Revised: Dec 13, 2013; 17:59 GMT
Revised: May 23, 2014; 18:17 GMT

On July 3, 2012, SRUV wrote to the Australian Veterinary Association, requesting a review of their policy on Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).  The following month (August 2012) the AVA issued a 48 page document: Dangerous Dogs, A Sensible Solution.

Among the many misrepresentations in Dangerous Dogs (DD) is the claim that pit bulls demonstrate no more aggressive tendencies than Golden Retrievers. SRUV has written extensively about this monstrous deception (here and here). Pretending that Golden Retrievers are as aggressive as pit bulls is an outrage to reason.

DD refers to the C-BARQ test, in which pit bulls apparently scored fourth in stranger aggression (after Dachshunds and Chihuahuas). The C-BARQ is an online questionnaire in which dog owners evaluate their own dogs. If the authors of Dangerous Dogs believe that owners of pit bulls are credible sources to a discussion of fatal and disfiguring dog attacks then they've been drinking too much Fosters.

DD mentions the 25,000 dogs which were "tested by the Georgia-based American Temperament Test Society." Mention of the ATTS test is a colossal blunder on the part of the AVA. The ATTS was originally designed to test Schutzhund dogs and is not an accurate indicator of explosive aggression. The ATTS study referred to is very likely the results of thousands of field tests which were compiled into a "study" by Scot Dowd, who, as it happens, is a breeder of pit bulls. Dr Dowd also offers online courses (example: Hugs O' Steel) through the online APBT Network University.

Is Dr Dowd's "study" what passes for science among veterinarians?

DD also repeats the unsupported claim that BSL is not effective. In 1989 Miami-Dade county passed legislation restricting pit bulls, and remains the only county in Florida with BSL. Since that time Miami-Dade has experienced no fatal pit bull attacks, while 18 people have been killed by pit bulls elsewhere in Florida. Other municipalities with BSL report similar declines in pit bull attacks.

So why does the AVA continue to insist that BSL is ineffective?

We do not claim that the AVA would lie about BSL, only that they choose to remain uninformed in the face of overwhelming evidence that BSL works in jurisdictions where good legislation is properly enforced. BSL has never been intended to reduce the number of casual bites. There is no doubt that BSL is profoundly effective in reducing or eliminating pit bull attacks which cause death or grievous injury;

The AVA has bundled together many of the arguments which are ubiquitous on pit bull advocacy sites in the US. These arguments are not convincing but they are accepted as universal wisdom by the advocates of fighting breeds.

SRUV is not the venue for an exhaustive review of Dangerous Dogs; it is clear, however, that the AVA has invested their significant resources, and their credibility, in a gigantic but failed defense of Policy 6.15. It appears that Dangerous Dogs was written to explain and defend their existing policy rather than to find an honest solution to the pit bull problem.

* * * * *

Deeon Higgins,  d August 4, 2013

On August 4th, 2013, in southwestern NSW, two-year-old Deeon Higgins was attacked and killed in his grandmother's yard by a dog owned by his 24-year old cousin.
After the recent mauling death of 84-year Lillian Bunsee in Trinidad's capital city, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan was asked about Trinidad and Tobago's new animal legislation. At the close of his comments he added the following:
I would like those persons who argue that there should be no legislation to control these dangerous dogs to pay a visit to the relatives of victims to explain their position and to offer some condolence . . . and compensation.1

Lillian Bunsee, d. August 25, 2013

* * * * * 

It is time for the AVA to explain their advocacy of fighting breeds to the family of Deeon Higgins.

SRUV has repeatedly called upon those who campaign against BSL to explain their views to the victims of pit bull attacks. The AVA responded to our previous appeal with a 48-page white paper in defense of pit bulls. Veterinarians and animal welfare executives who refuse to acknowledge these deaths or who explain them away with misrepresentations are simply not credible. And they are destroying the credibility of all veterinarians.

It is time for the AVA to acknowledge the toll of grief and misery caused by pit bulls; if they fail to confront this issue directly the institutions of veterinary care will lose credibility and the respect of those it serves.

* * * * *
1 Pit bull belonging to breeder kills 82-year old grandmother
   (Denise Justin, Opposing Views, August 29, 2013)

Dangerous Dogs, A Sensible Solution (AVA, August 2012)

Pitbull attack victim 'literally a dog's breakfast'
   (New Zealand Herald, August 29, 2013)
Mum attacked by dogs after saving toddler in pram
   (Daily Telegraph, August 24, 2013)
Two dogs attack students, teacher
   (Daily Telegraph, August 16, 2013)
How did I end up in a race war over dogs, Miranda Devine
   (Daily Telegraph, August 10, 2013)
Time's up for deady dogs, Miranda Devine
   (Daily Telegraph, August 6, 2013)
Dog that killed toddler 'Not Dangerous'
   (Daily Telegraph, August 05, 2013)

See Also:
Previous post:  AVA Policy 6.15 (posted July 3, 2012)

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

* * * * *

AVA Policy 6.15
Breed-specific legislation

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) does not support breed-specific legislation for dog bite prevention, because experience in other countries has shown that such legislation has failed to reduce the frequency of dog bites.

The AVA shares community concern about aggressive dogs.


Friday, August 9, 2013

LA Times Opinion

or, The LA Times Unopinion  *
Revised: August 9, 2013, 22:53 GMT
Revised: August 10, 2013; 21:17 GMT
Revised: August 11, 2013; 15:09 GMT
Revised: February 24, 2014; 17:53 GMT

On August 25, 1987, the Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times published an opinion suggesting that the traditional one-bite rule does not provide adequate protection for the public from pit bulls. In essence, the Times called for Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) before the term existed.**

On May 9, 2013, Pamela Marie Devitt was attacked and killed by four pit bulls 65 miles outside of LA in the Antelope Valley. On the following day, in an act of journalistic contempt, the Times published an article on the editorial page in defense of pit bulls. The same writer published a second article promoting pit bulls on May 16th and a third on July 10th.

The Times' journalists have provided stellar coverage of the attack on Ms Devitt and on the subsequent arrest of Alex Donald Jackson, the pit bulls' owner. Mr Jackson pleaded Not Guilty to the charge of second degree murder on August 8th. But the editorial writers have ignored the articles their colleagues in the newsroom published.

The Times Op-Ed page has now come full circle. In an editorial timed to coincide with Mr Jackson's August 8th arraignment and signed by The Times Editorial Board, the Times has fully repudiated the 1987 warnings against pit bulls.

The Times (and other advocates) are fond of mentioning that many pit bulls live without incident as gentle pets. These advocates ignore more salient facts. 321 humans have been killed or disfigured by dogs thus far during calendar year 2013; 316 of those attacks were by pit bulls. 16 of the attacks have caused human fatalities, 15 of those deaths were caused by pit bulls.***

California leads the nation in fatal pit bull attacks with 25% of the nation's total. To omit this essential information in an editorial opinion on pit bulls is tantamount to a lie of omission.

What does the Times suggest as a remedy? The editors of the editorial page urge stronger punishment for careless owners of aggressive dogs. This ex post facto approach to stopping pit bull attacks has been recommended by pit bull advocates for three decades, and the attacks have only accelerated. The intent is to focus attention away from the offending animal by implying that the owners are to blame.

The editors go on to say there are other ways, through guidelines and local ordinances, to identify and restrict potentially dangerous dogs of any breed. Have the editors forgotten that counties already have these dangerous dog laws (with various gradations of potentially dangerous, dangerous, and vicious dogs), and these laws haven't stopped the attacks? The only effect seems to be to delay and clog the courts before ultimately returning the offending pit bull to the safety and comfort of its home.

Finally, the editors note that the Department of Animal Care and Control performs "temperament tests" on all dominant dogs — pit bulls, Dobermans, chows and a few others — to determine how aggressive they are, as if these "tests" (observations are often by shelter workers, many of whom are pit bull advocates) would eliminate the danger. The editors ignore that such tests are unable to reveal the particular type of idiopathic rage that pit bulls are subject to. Nearly half of the people killed by pit bulls this year were killed by their own much-loved family pets, which had not previously shown aggression.

The editors claim that pit bulls, In the past, . . . have sometimes been bred for dogfighting. This statement would surprise the HSUS,  the ASPCA, and other animal welfare groups that struggle against dogfighting. Nearly everyone who has two arms and a nose is aware that dogfighting continues to plague the nation. Those who follow animal welfare news are surely aware of the recent and ongoing FBI dogfighting efforts, some of which result in arrests of extensive dogfighting rings. Nearly every pit bull that exists and is adopted out is one, two, or at most three generations from a fighting bloodline. This dogfighting statement from the editors demonstrates a blinding, willful ignorance.

For a lesson in courageous journalism the current editors could look to their predecessors of 26 years ago, who had the foresight to write:
Control animals and remove those that threaten public safety before they attack, not after. 

* * * * *

* We have been advised by the editors of LanguageLog that unopinion is acceptable usage. With thanks to Laurence Horn of Yale University.
** The 1987 opinion was published during the tenure of Anthony Day, who as editor of the editorial page led the Times to excellence. Among other encomiums in his 2007 obituary was the observation that he produced works of courage and unswerving honesty.

Are pit bulls a menace?
   (Opinion by the LA Times Editorial Board, August 8, 2013)
Biting back at pit bulls
  (Opinion by the LA Times Editorial Board, August 25, 1987)

Other Recent LA Times Opinions:
Michael Vick's prize pit bull, and how he became a loving pet
   LA Times, Carla Hall, July 10, 2013
Where my dog's at
   LA Times, Jessica Naziri, May 19, 2013
Hey haters, people love dogs
   LA Times, Alexandra Le Tellier, May 17, 2013
LA County's Dilemma
   LA Times, Carla Hall, May 16, 2013
The Gift of a great dog
   LA Times, Meghan Daum, May 16, 2013
Pit bulls in trouble again
    LA Times, Carla Hall, May 10, 2013

LA County beefs up response to vicious dogs
    LA Times, June 25, 2013

Related Posts:
Into the Wormhole (SRUV, May 20th, 2013)
Hotel California (Index of SRUV posts on California)
California Timeline (Recent pit bull attacks in California)

Related Material:
Animal People. Pg 9
Overview of "breed specific" laws, Kenneth Phillips, Dog Bite Law

*** Statistics quoted 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