Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Emory at Risk

To: Pamela Scully, Director, Emory University
          Center for Faculty Development and Excellence
      CFDE Executive Board
      James W. Wagner, President, and the President's Cabinet
      Stephen D Sencer, Emory University General Counsel and staff
      Kevin Riley, Editor, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
      Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia (PACGA)
      and members of the animal welfare community

During the Fall Quarter of the current academic year Emory University offered a course which placed the University at risk of significant financial loss. Furthermore, the University acted in a manner which jeopardized its standing as a good community member.

The course in question1 placed Emory University students, staff, and community members in close proximity to dogs known to cause a disproportionate number of disfiguring and fatal attacks. While there has been controversy among members of the animal welfare and public safety communities about the reasons for these attacks, the fact that pit bulls are involved in more attacks causing grievous bodily harm than all other breeds combined is undisputed.

Many of the attacks which resulted in large payouts, some in the millions of dollars, have been facial disfigurement attacks on children. There are known factors which lead to facial disfigurement attacks. Children are lower, almost at the level of the dog's face. Children (as well as adults) often show affection for the dog by placing their faces in close proximity to the dog. These can be perceived as provocative gestures by any dog, and especially must be avoided with any fighting breed. To encourage such behavior with a pit bull is to challenge the odds.

For an adult to sanction such behavior, and even to encourage it, is irresponsible. For a University to tolerate such high-risk behavior, or even to give tacit approval through vetting the course and offering funding, is to accept the resultant risk. Whether or not Emory determined that the risk this class presents is acceptable, the University should cancel the course for ethical reasons.

The public support for pit bulls is vast, for unaccountable reasons. Pit bull advocacy is unlike conventional animal welfare advocacy. In the words of well-known Canadian journalist Barbara Kay,
. . . this is the first time in the history of human-animal relations that a movement – the pit bull advocacy movement - has formed, not to promote the well-known virtues of a beloved breed, but to promote denial of a beloved breed’s well-known vices
Malcolme Gladwell and others have written about the stigma associated with owning a pit bull. Usually when an individual volunteers to become stigmatized, as pit bull owners do, there is good reason for it. It may be decades before we fully understand the cultural madness of pit bull advocacy.2 When we finally gain the collective courage to confront pit bull advocacy, we'll understand and overcome it.

For a University to take part in this advocacy, whether the support is indirect, inferred, or simply tolerated, is a high-risk strategy and it is questionable policy on many levels.

The Editors

* * * * *

Verdicts and Settlements:

$2.2 Million settlement in pit bull attack upheld by WA State Court of Appeals
   News-Tribune (Tacoma), August 13, 2013

Boy mauled in PA pit bull attack settles for more than $500,000
   Insurance & Financial Adviser; Oct 12, 2012

Forida Woman Vicki Bentley Awarded $643K for Pit Bull Attack
    Opposing Views, June 4, 2012

Jury returns $7,000,000 Verdict After Fatal Pit Bull Mauling

$1,124,093 – A five-year-old boy who was attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull while the neighbors were babysitting the boy. A portion of the boy’s cheek was torn off in the attack.

* * * * * 

Photo associated with Emory University
Fall 2013 Engaged-learning undergraduate course

Denver CO, Feb 8, 2012

Interactive map of Georgia fatal pit bull attacks

For full screen map and complete details, view
Georgia Fatal Pit Bull Maulings - DogsBite.org

* * * * *
1  American Studies/Interdisciplinary Studies 385
   The Dividing Lines: Pit bulls, Identity, and Community
    Fall 2013- Tu/Th 10:00 a.m.-11:15 a.m

2  Another manifestation of this madness recently occurred in Georgia when 36-year old Crystal Gale Fessler slipped into the grounds of the the animal shelter in Macon after hours and released at least 13 fighting breeds from their cages. In the resulting chaos three of the dogs were killed and many others wounded.   (Macon Telegraph)

Sources -- Emory University:
Pit bulls offer a lesson in community, identity
    Emory News Center, Dec 19, 2013
The Dividing Lines: Pit bulls, Identity, and Community
    Scholarblog for course taught by Donna Troka, Ph.D.
Course Syllabus
Pit bull discussion at Emory University, Atlanta, GA. Sept 2013

Recent Fulton County Pit Bull Attacks:

Woman remains hospitalized after pit bull attack
    MyFoxAtlanta.com, Oct 25, 2013
Medics airlifted Maria Ines Matta to Atlanta Medical Center after two dogs mauled her as she walked her own dogs. Henry County police had to shoot the dogs to save Mrs Ines.

Student bitten in face by dogs at Carver High School
    Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oct 8, 2013
Animal control officers were able to trap another dog accused of attacking a 13-year-old on Monday, Hudson said. That animal, however, is not related to the Carver incident.

8-year-old family dog kills 2-yo toddler 
    USA Today, April 26, 2013
A family dog who had never shown aggression before attacked and killed a 2-year-old boy Wednesday in a subdivision near here about 15 miles southwest of Atlanta, police said.

News Archive: 
Nine deaths in past 18 months blamed on pit bulls
   Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 29, 1986 (pg. A1)

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 in the US


Friday, December 27, 2013

Locking Jaws: II

Revised: Dec 28, 2013; 20:45 GMT
Revised: Dec 28, 2013; 21:55 GMT

To Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin,

We understand that you have studied the jaw mechanism of the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), and are considered by many to be an expert on this subject. Numerous animal welfare institutions, pit bull rescues, and other pit bull advocacy groups often refer to your research in their materials. In one excerpt, which is widely available on the internet, you state that pit bulls display no evidence of a locking mechanism:
The studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that , in proportion to their size, their jaw structure, and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any other breed of dog of comparable size and build. Further, there is no evidence for the existence of any kind of "locking mechanism" unique to the structure of the jaws and / or teeth of pit bulls.1
We would like to bring to your attention a recently published account of a pit bull attack on a 3-year old champion horse. The article summarizes the efforts of a neighbor to stop the attack:
[Zamora] picked up a nearby semi-rotted piece of plywood laying on the side of Gladiola Ave. and smashed the board across the body of one of the biting dogs, but to no avail, he said.

After I hit them, they didn’t budge,” Zamora said. “They would not release (the horse)."

[He] then grabbed several four-inch thick dry fire logs stacked in his front yard and wielded them at the pit bulls, but the dogs would not release their mouths, jaws tightly clenched around the horse’s legs and mouth.

[He] then ran to retrieve a child’s pink BB gun from his nearby garage, and whacked one of the canines with the butt of the children’s rifle, but the weapon only cracked in two places, and the stubborn pit bulls only continued their assault.

[He then] grabbed another piece of random side-of-the-road scrap wood, and struck one of the dogs across the skull.

The horse was so panicked that . . . ran over to the driver’s side of the vehicle, and as the driver opened the cab and attempted to exit the vehicle, the horse stuck its head inside and front hooves into the vehicle in an attempt to get away.

[Zamora] believes one of the two dogs that he struck across the skull died as a result of his injuries.
* * * * * 

This account describes in unembellished terms the tenacity pit bulls are known for. You might agree that dogmen (ie, traditional dogfighters) would refer to this trait as gameness. Journalists describing attacks, as well as victims of attacks, have sometimes used the expression "locking jaws" while describing such attacks. I think we can all agree it would be churlish to quibble over terminology in the face of such attacks.

The trait itself is undisputed, whatever we might chose to call it. I assume this trait is one of the reasons you use pit bulls to hunt hogs.

* * * * * 

Your record of service as an expert witness in judicial proceedings has earned a certain renown for you, both among advocates of pit bulls, as well as among those who would impose restrictions on them. And as you have made your services as an expert witness publicly available,2 you may therefore have valuable insights to offer on the recent attack on the horse in Montgomery County, Texas.

We therefore offer to meet with you to discuss this attack. To guarantee that the outcome of our discussion will not end in dispute we propose that our exchange be held before members of the press.

In addition, Miguel Zamora, the good Samaritan who saved the horse, should be present, so we can understand more clearly the behavior of the attacking pit bulls and Mr Zamora's efforts to save the horse. And finally, we will request the presence of the owner of the horse, who will doubtless be able to comment on the relevance of the term locking jaws.

* * * * *
1 The American Pit Bull Terrier
2 American Canine Federation Expert Witness List

Neighbor fights off dogs' brutal attack on horse
   The Courier (Montgomery Cty, TX); December 21, 2013
Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin offers expert testimony in defense of dogfighting videos

Related Post:
Locking Jaws: I

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


Friday, December 20, 2013

November Outreach

[This page is archived and no longer supported.]

Revised: June 3, 2014; 13:47 GMT

On November 11, 2013, 56-year old Anne Murray of Wilton Connecticut was attacked by her 2-year old pit bull. During the attack Mrs. Murray lost one arm at the shoulder and her other arm below the elbow, and her entire body was covered with bites. News accounts which claim that Mrs Murray is recovering are an outrage: Ms Murray will not recover from a mauling which caused the amputation of both arms.

Within days the pit bull outreach effort was underway. The first article (by John Burgeson of the Connecticut Post) appeared five days after the attack, and included 33 glamour shots of pit bulls. Localized versions of the article appeared in Hearst newspapers across Connecticut through the remaining weeks of November.

While these articles were being published Burgeson and Eileen Fitzgerald (of the Danbury News-Times) were preparing for the big time. On December 7 the Associated Press released a version which was picked up by hundreds of newspapers across the country.

National Pit Bull Awareness Day was launched in 2007 by Jodi Preis of Bless the Bullys, a Tennessee pit bull rescue group. October was designated as National Pit Bull Awareness Month in 2011 and has already become an institution, now used primarily as a means of promoting the adoption of pit bulls. During the October outreach campaign animal shelters and humane organizations prevail upon malleable journalists to help promote their pit bull marketing campaign, as happened recently in Boston and elsewhere.1

It now appears that November is the month when those same shelters explain to the public that their facilities remain crowded with surplus pit bulls, despite the October campaigns.

* * * * * 

On December 5th the Chicago Tribune published a feature article by Robert McCoppin. The article gave extensive coverage to the problems of sheltering and adopting out the extraordinary number of surplus pit bulls in the Chicago area. Two days after McCoppin's article appeared two-year old Jah'niyah White died on Chicago's south side after she was attacked by her grandfather's two pit bulls.

The conjunction of Jah'niyah's death with McCoppin's article (as with the Burgeson/Fitzgerald article and the attack in Wilton) illustrates the complexity of writing about pit bulls. Inevitably there will be another attack, and it may happen while your article is going to press.

* * * * *

The Connecticut articles, for the most part, attempted to present the issue fairly. Burgeson and Fitzgerald interviewed Colleen Lynn (of Dogsbite) at length, but they inevitably segued to comments by pit bull advocates gushing about the sweetness of pit bulls: She's the nicest, sweetest dog you could ever know. It must be next to impossible for journalists to avoid this honey trap.

McCoppin, on the other hand, makes no effort to present both sides of the issue, simply describing at length the efforts to adopt out pit bulls. The article ends with an account of plans by PAWS Chicago founder Paula Fasseas to build a new adoption center in Highland Park, due to open next spring. And closes, inevitably, with Fasseas saying, yes, and they're really sweet dogs.

 All of these recent articles explain only that our shelters are overcrowded, largely with pit bulls, which we've known for decades. (See Shelter Crowding, below.)

Neither McCoppin nor Burgeson and Fitzgerald explain how we arrived at this situation, nor do they suggest what we might do to alleviate the problem. The suggestion seems to be to build more shelters and adopt out more pit bulls. But the First Law of pit bull accounting, as we know from hard experience, holds that the more pit bulls we adopt out, the more pit bulls shelters will be compelled to take in. We could build adoption shelters on every street corner and we would only continue to make the problem worse.

There is a solution. First, we must recognize and accept that we cannot adopt our way out of the problem. An article written in 2011 sets out the problem:
. . . an effective response to pit bull overpopulation must target breeding, and must be legislatively mandated,  since pit bull breeders have proved intransigently resistant to any and all forms of gentle persuasion. . . . . 

“Anything that just brings a heap of dead dogs is another tragic failure – and is basically where we already are,”  ANIMAL PEOPLE editorialized in December 2005.  It is profoundly disappointing that six years later the heap of dead pit bulls is many times higher, while much of the animal advocacy community continues to promote the same policies and practice the same denial that for 25 years have contributed to manufacturing the pit bull crisis.

More adoptions will not end shelter killing of pit bulls;
Animal People, October 2011
Then we must apply the workable, realistic solution we've been avoiding:
Overwhelmed by the pit bull influx at the same time that public expectations have risen that shelters should be “no kill,” the humane community has made unprecedented efforts to avoid killing pit bulls, including promoting the very myths –– such as the fiction that pit bulls were ever used as “nanny dogs” –– that tend to lead to fatal and disfiguring accidents.

Mandatory pit bull sterilization, in effect in San Francisco since 2006, could prevent the impoundment and subsequent deaths of more than 900,000 pit bulls per year nationwide [and] end the desperation of shelter management to avoid killing pit bulls . . .

Stop dogfighting by addressing supply-side economics;
Animal People, November 20, 2013
* * * * * * * * *

Interactive map of Illinois fatal pit bull attacks, with supporting data,
courtesy of Dogsbite.org:

For full details and larger map go to 
Illinois Fatal Pit Bull Maulings - DogsBite.org

* * * * *
1 Rising Pit Bull Adoptions Reflect Breed's Changing Image 
   Boston Globe, October 7, 2013

We are grateful to Dogsbite.org for use of the interactive map of Illinois pit bull attacks. To view other interactive state maps go to Dogsbite's State Pit Bull Fatality Maps.

Sources: Wilton, CT
Woman loses both hands during pit bull attack
   WTNH News 8, November 12, 2013
Pit bulls dominate shelters
   Connecticut Post, November 16, 2013 (by John Burgeson)
   with 33 glamour photos of pit bulls
Pit bulls dominate shelters
   Stamford Advocate, November 22, 2013 (by John Burgeson)
   also with 33 photographs
   Norwich Bulletin, November 23, 2013 (By John Barry)
   NBC Connecticut, November 25, 2013
   Danbury News-Times, November 30, 2013
   By John Burgeson and Eileen FitzGerald
   Associated Press, December 7, 2013
   By Eileen FitzGerald and John Burgeson

Sources: Chicago:
A painful Christmas for family of child killed by dog
   Chicago Tribune, December 9, 2013
Pit bull overload floods shelters, strains rescuers
   Chicago Tribune, December 5, 2013
What about proposed animal control changes?
   Galesburg Register-Mail, November 22, 2013
Pit bull mix is euthanized after attacking pound worker
   Chicago Tribune, November 3, 2013
Animal Control Worker Seriously Injured In Pit Bull Attack
   CBS2 Chicago, November 2, 2013
64-year-old Chicago woman attacked by 3 pit bulls, may lose leg
   Allvoices, October 20, 2013
Woman, Chihuahua Attacked By Three Pit Bulls
   CBS2 Chicago, October 18, 2013
Man Critically Injured After Pit Bulls Attack
   NBC5 Chicago, September 1, 2013
Peorian recounts terror of pit bull attack
   Peoria Journal-Star, March 23, 2013

Shelter Crowding:
   American Statesman, May 14, 2012
   Animal Medical Center of Southern California
   Miami Herald, July 25, 2013
   Kansas City Star, June 26, 2012

Related Posts:
Pimping pit bulls
Index of Illinois Posts
Timeline of pit bull attacks in Illinois

Other Resources:
Pit Bull Attacks and Dogfighting in Illinois
Pit bull attacks: Chicago

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 in the US


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dog Laundering

The following letter is reprinted by permission of the author1 and by permission of Animal People,2 where it first appeared.
* * * * *

To the Editors of Animal People,

I believe animal shelters have a moral and legal duty to investigate, record and report about the behavior of every dog put up for adoption.  I have created materials for them to do it, including written policies and procedures, as well as forms.  The kit is called Avoiding Liability When You Train, Shelter or Adopt Out a Dog,  available via <www.dogbitelaw.com>.

I coined the term “dog laundering” to describe the intentional breach of an animal shelter’s duties that takes place when a vicious dog is transferred from one group to another for the purpose of disguising its history and placing it in an unsuspecting new home.  I believe that such conduct on the part of the groups is both a tort and a crime.  Just as bad,  it is harmful to the honest adoption/shelter groups and to good dogs who need homes,  because as the public becomes aware of the practice of dog laundering,  people will return to the pet stores.

Kenneth M. Phillips
Attorney at Law
kphillips {@] dogbitelaw dot com

* * * * *
1 Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips, the author of Dog Bite Law, dogbitelaw.com
2 Animal People, October 2013, p6 (Web page no longer available)

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

2014 Year-end report of dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; January 3, 2015
32 years of logging fatal & disfiguring dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; September 27, 2014
How many other animals did pit bulls kill in 2014?
   Animals 24-7; January 27, 2015

This page may also include information from Dogsbite &Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

2014 Dog Bite Related Fatalities on Daxton's Friends
Index of canine fatalities on Daxton's Friends

SRUV uses the definition of "pit bull" as found in the Omaha Municipal Code Section 6-163. As pit bulls are increasingly crossed with exotic mastiffs, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and other breeds, the vernacular definition of "pit bull" must be made even more inclusive.

Sources cited by news media sometimes refer to "Animal Advocates" or sometimes "Experts." In many cases these words are used to refer to single-purpose pit bull advocates who have never advocated for any other breeds or species of animals. Media would be more accurate to refer to these pit bull advocates as advocates of fighting breeds.

Similarly, in many cases pit bull advocates refer to themselves as "dog lovers" or "canine advocates" and media often accepts this usage. The majority of these pit bull advocates are single-purpose advocates of fighting breeds.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

To the Editor

The following letter is reprinted by permission of the author and by Animal People, where it first appeared.1

* * * * *
To the Editors of Animal People,

I enclose a donation in memory of my old dog Penny, whose last year of life was very difficult after a pit bull attack. I lost a finger while trying to rescue her.

Yours is the only publication I know where one can read the truth about pit bulls. I appreciate your courage.

I hope your readers will stop donations to all six animal charities listed in Jeff Borchardt's letter "Who killed Daxton Borchardt?,"2 published in your September 2013 edition. I phoned three of those charities after my dog and I were attacked and told them I was removing them from my will because they are pushing the adoption of pit bulls, while wonderful, friendly dogs of other breeds are being euthanized.

I have volunteered for animals for 43 years, including at county shelters and humane societies. I took many abused and neglected dogs into my home. Yet, while walking Penny on a leash in a park, we were attacked by three pit bulls who were up for adoption! These same dogs were being taken into classrooms full of small children. I stopped than.

In memory of 14-month old Daxton Borchardt, I encourage Animal People readers to write letters to their local newspapers and contact the staff of their local schools to make sure they are not brainwashed into believing that pit bulls are "nanny dogs." Perhaps we can prevent another precious life from being taken from us.

Hazel Mortensen
Solvang, California

* * * * *

The six animal charities listed in Jeff Borchardt's letter and referred to by Ms. Mortensen are:
  • Best Friends Animal Society
  • National Canine Research Council
  • Animal Farm Foundation
  • HSUS (Humane Society of the U.S )

* * * * *

1 Animal People, October 2013, p6
2 Animal People, September 2013, p7

Related Source:
Father of child killed by babysitter's pit bulls speaks out;
   Dogsbite, July 26, 2013

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 in the US