Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Future of the APBT

To:   Wayne R. Cavanaugh, President, United Kennel Club
        American Kennel Club
        National Kennel Club
        Canadian Kennel Club
        National American Pit Bull Terrier Association
        American Dog Breeders Association
        and many dog behaviorists and animal welfare specialists

A ten-day old infant was killed on February 19th, 2011 by the family's pit bull in Kalamazoo, which presents a terrible irony. Kalamazoo, as it happens, is the home of the United Kennel Club, the largest purebred registry for American Pit Bull Terriers. In fact, the UKC was originally founded, in 1898, specifically to register fighting dogs.

The UKC has mostly outlived the legacy of it's dogfighting days and provides valuable services to breeders and owners of over 300 dog breeds. The UKC justly prides itself on its family-oriented, friendly, educational events, of which there are over 15,000 annually.

The UKC divides dogs into eight breed groups. The terrier group currently lists 44 breeds, two of which no longer belong in this category.

The American Pit Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier are no more related to the  the Skye, the Cairn, the Irish or the Jack Russell Terrier than an ostrich is to a wren. Trying to shoehorn fighting breeds into this family portrait is an impossibility.

Many breeders have ignored the breed standards and produced individuals with gigantic domes of 26 inches and larger. The highest priced dogs, in sharp contrast to the published standards, have small, narrow eyes and small ears on the back of their heads. Breeders are selecting for lower and wider dogs, as wide as they are tall, and weighing two to three times the published standard. In fact, breeders have developed a new, superior gladiator dog that bears no resemblance to the published conformation standards. Yet these dogs are registered as American Pit Bull Terriers (APBT) by the UKC.

What category do these fighting dogs properly belong in? Perhaps they deserve their own category: Fighting Dogs or Pit Dogs. A more radical option would be to transfer registration policies and rights entirely to the American Dog Breeders Association, which does not deny the dogfighting legacy.

With the escalating level of pit bull attacks on humans we are entering a new era of increased financial liability for owners, shelters, the humane movement, and others who misrepresent the true nature of fighting breeds. It is incumbent on the UKC, as the authority on breed standards, to clearly and honestly define the true characteristics of the APBT.

We strongly urge the UKC to adopt the following changes:   
  • draft a revised set of the APBT breed standards which reflect the current reality;
  • remove all references in UKC illustrations and publications to the APBT as a family pet;
  • recommend that the APBT is NOT suitable as a service, therapy, or  Ambassador Dog, and must not be used in programs such as reading therapy dogs for children;
  • acknowledge the volatile, unpredictable nature of the breed, and the record of attacks on humans, pets, and livestock. 
Millions of pet owners and tens of  thousands of attack victims, and their families, look to the UKC for responsible leadership on this issue.

* * * * *

32 years of logging fatal & disfiguring dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; September 27, 2014

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

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

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Family pets

One of the myths of pit bull advocacy is that only unsocialized, abused pit bulls are aggressive, and that well-treated family pets do not attack their family.

The facts tell a different story; at least one of the five human deaths attributed to pit bulls this year has been from a family pit bull. In addition, many of the people who suffer pit bull maulings are attacked by their family pet, as the record shows.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

ASI: Response from Kenneth Shapiro

On March 1st SRUV wrote an Open Letter to the Animals and Society Institute. Kenneth Shapiro, the Executive Director of ASI, sends the following reply.

* * * * *

The Animals and Society Institute solicits authors who are experts with academic and on-the-ground experience in a relevant policy area. Authors use existing scientific and theoretical literature to present the pros and cons of particular practices involving our treatment of nonhuman animals, framing their scientifically and theoretically grounded analysis and commentary in terms of changes in practice through regulation and legislation. All papers are vetted by two independent scholars. Dog Bites, one of 6 titles in our Policy Paper Series, meets these well-established academic standards. Although the ASI recognizes that the topics are subject to debate, it is our intent to provide the most comprehensive and factual information available at the time of publication, as noted in the Works Cited section of each paper.

The literature on the role of pit bulls in dog bites and dog fatalities is considerable and, in toto, provides a strong critique of the policy of breed-specific legislation (e. g., Voith, Ingram, Mitsouras, & Irizarry, Comparison of Adoption Agency Breed Identification and DNA Breed Identification of Dogs, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2009, 12, 3, 253-263).

Kenneth Shapiro * Executive Director
Animals and Society Institute, Inc. * (hdqtr Ann Arbor MI)
t/f 301-963-4751

403 McCauley Street * Washington Grove MD 20880 * USA

* * * * *

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First They Came - Pastor Niemöller

To: Harold Marcuse, University of CA, Santa Barbara
      and over a hundred holocaust scholars     

Thank you for your research on Pastor Martin Niemöller's enduring quotation which begins, First they came. Your work provides a valuable tool to understanding how this meditation on the Holocaust has been appropriated in the 65 years since it was written.

There is one contemporary version which is not included on your page. Google returns nearly 11,000 hits for the phrase  First they came for the pit bulls . . . . . . Here is the complete stanza:

     First they came for the Pit Bulls
     and they banned them and killed them
     their owners cried out in horror but I did not object
     because I did not own pit bulls.

Scholars of the Holocaust may question why pit bull advocates have appropriated the Niemöller meditation in their defense of a breed which is responsible for the death of dozens of people every year,  and attacks countless other humans and animals, many of which die.

The majority of Americans have little reason to stay abreast of the BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) controversy, and may be unaware of the contentious dialogue between pit bull advocates on one hand, and those who, in the interest of public safety, favor some form of BSL.

BSL can range from stronger leash laws, mandated spay/neuter programs, and microchipping to outright bans. No one, as far as I know, has called for mass executions of pit bulls. But pit bull advocates commonly reject even the mildest forms of BSL, and often describe it as a form of persecution.

The use of Niemöller's quotation is only one of several ways in which pit bull advocates characterize the breed, and themselves, as victims of society. On blogs and pit bull advocacy sites there are repeated warnings of a pit bull genocide, or to a canine holocaust if BSL is accepted. This self-pity on the part of pit bull owners and advocates may seem bizarre, but there is more. The advocates have, incredibly, compared the suffering of pit bulls to the suffering of Christ. These appropriations have been documented here and here.

In their fight against BSL pit bull advocates are as fiercely aggressive as the breed they defend. Small communities considering BSL are often surprised by the massive, highly orchestrated, national response from pit bull advocates. This advocacy at times conveys different levels of threat, which makes their appropriation of the Niemöller quotation a disgrace.

* * * * *

The text of the original First They Came (below) and biographical information on this page are from Wikipedia.

Martin Niemöller was a German pastor and theologian born in Lippstadt, Germany, in 1892. Niemöller was an anti-Communist and at first supported Hitler's rise to power. Niemöller eventually became disillusioned and became the leader of a group of German clergymen opposed to Hitler.

In 1937 Niemöller was arrested and confined in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps and remained there until the liberation. He continued his career in Germany as a clergyman and as a leading voice of penance and reconciliation for the German people.

* * * * *

First They Came
       by Pastor Martin Niemöller

First they came for the communists,
     and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
     and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
     and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
     and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Breeders' Hall of Shame

If you're unfamiliar with pit bull breeding, a quick glance at the sites listed below will be informative. It should be assumed that these breeders are among the more reputable breeders, are probably licensed, and many of their dogs have papers. Stud fees reach stratospheric figures; we've seen figures of $4,000 for puppies.

* * * * * *

Take a moment to reflect on these names; do they sound like good sources for the family pet?  A Google search for "pit bull breeders" returns over 843,000 similar results.

These known breeders are the tip of the iceberg  Many of the pit bulls used as status or weapons dogs are under the radar, bred by backyard breeders, and it is these dogs that are filling humane shelters and draining their resources.

Shelters are then faced with the unenviable task of euthanizing these dogs or adopting them out as family pets. Ironically, few shelters or humane agencies have shown any interest in passing legislation to limit backyard breeding.

If you know of a backyard breeder report it to your local law enforcement agency. If you have reason to suspect that the local Sheriff will be unresponsive, report the backyard breeder to your town or county council or to the responsible state authority. If you have difficulty finding the appropriate authority contact SRUV for assistance, as they vary from state to state.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Letter to ASI: Part 2

Revised: Jan 7, 2013; 00:44 GMT

Subsequent to posting our open letter to ASI (Animals & Society Institute), SRUV engaged in an email conversation with a prominent scholar of international environmental and animal law. That conversation is reproduced here. Full disclosure: SRUV has slightly expanded our portion of the discussion while the correspondent has not had the opportunity to do so.

* * * * *

CORRESPONDENT: I have received and read your letter, but I do not understand what you are seeking to happen??

SRUV: That's a question we hadn't anticipated. Would it be too presumptuous to say we'd like to "start a national conversation" about BSL (Breed Specific Legislation).

We'd like to put Dr Shapiro and other scholars on notice that they're part of what is essentially a public health issue. Dr Shapiro and others may be acting morally, in their view. But we think they're mistaken in their position against BSL.

The resistance to BSL runs throughout society, from top to bottom. Some of us see this resistance as damaging to the humane movement, to human-animal relations, and to society at large.

We hope that our initiative will, over time, generate enough interest that scholars and policy-makers will question what has come to be a received opinion about BSL. At some point institutions such as ASI may break away from these beliefs and help forge new and different attitudes about BSL.
Thank you for writing,

CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, I would say public safety rather than public health, but clearly an important topic. I think that many of us oppose BSL because of its basic unfairness, in that, most of the risk to the public arises from the human treatment of the dog rather than the inherent traits of the dog itself. If all pit bulls were removed from the US, then those humans who intentionally or un-intentionally create bad pit bulls will just find another dog breed to use, and the risk of harm to the public will remain at about the same level.

SRUV:  There are many who would disagree with you on this matter. Owners of retrievers know that their dogs jump into the water to retrieve a stick or ball, practically from birth, while my blue heeler walked around puddles on the sidewalk when possible. The skill of Border Collies to herd, from birth, is not questioned; in fact generations have come to depend on it. Anyone who has watched field trials in Wales or Scotland comes away from the experience awestruck. We know that ratters, pointers, and other breeds each have their own unique calling.

Why then should we ignore, or deny, the fact that pit bulls retain the specific traits they've been selected for, for centuries? It's unreasonable to accept genetic imprinting for other breeds, but to insist that pit bulls are not subject to genetic imprinting.

The argument that another breed would become the dog of choice for fighters and criminals is often used by pit bull advocates. This belief has percolated through society and become received opinion, strongly reinforced by the pit bull advocacy groups. I recently asked Merritt Clifton for his response to this argument. His reply:
  • Dogfighters have been trying to breed more successful fighting dogs for centuries & have never yet come up with any that can beat pit bulls, or even be induced to fight to the death the same way. Note that the non-lethal traditional Central Asian style of dogfighting is quite different from Cajun Rules of dogfighting.
  • All of the other fighting breeds are essentially just pit bulls crossed with big breeds, mostly mastiffs:  Dogo Argentino, Presa Canario, Cane Corso, Fila Basiero, et al.
The lesson in all of this is that to win in the pit, it is necessary to breed back to the pit bull behavior & body type.

If all the pit bulls were removed from the US, dogmen and criminals might indeed find other breeds to train, but the end result would not be the same. Other breeds may be trained to be fierce, but it is not in them to fight to the death, or to tear out a human infant's esophagus, or worse. The actuarial risk factor of pit bull attacks is exponentially greater than the attacks of any other breed.

Some pit bull owners are fortunate enough to enjoy their animals for life without ever experiencing an attack. But "the risk to the public" is clearly, demonstrably far greater from pit bulls than from any other dog.

All best wishes,

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Letter to Oregon Dept of Child Services

To: Roxann Jones, Senior Project Coordinator, Jackson County,
      Oregon Commission on Children & Families
      Mike Winters, Jackson County Sheriff
      Colleen Macuk, Manager, Jackson County Animal Control
      Chris Conrad, Mail Tribune

I read with interest the news accounts of the attack on Ashtin Hedges by pit bulls in Central Point on February 23, 2011.

Early accounts reported that the father owned five pit bulls, three of which were involved in the attack. A large section of Ashtin's scalp was removed during the attack. In comparison to other recent pit bull attacks Ashtin can be considered fortunate.

According to the Sheriff's department charges will not likely be filed against the father. "The only way we will step in is if someone purposefully causes dogs to attack someone,"  according to Sheriff's department spokeswoman Andrea Carlson.

Jackson County Animal Control officers will collect the pit bulls and quarantine them for 10 days; generally dogs are returned to the owner after quarantine. In dozens of similar cases nationwide the parents have, like Ashtin's father, claimed they no longer want the dogs around their children. But in many if not most of the cases the dogs are later discovered to remain with the family.

I will note that there have been at least four deaths caused by pit bulls in the first seven weeks of 2011. There have been dozens of other attacks on humans and animals. You may be aware of the recent death of an infant in Michigan, who was also attacked by the family's pit bull, inside the family home.

In the view of many people the act of keeping fighting dogs in the same home as children is in itself an act of child endangerment. There is even greater cause to consider the environment dangerous when the father keeps two or more fighting dogs in a home with a child.

In view of the fact that neither the Sheriff nor Animal Control appear prepared to resolve the situation, we urge the Oregon Children's Protective Services to insure the safety of Ashtin and any other children in the household.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Open Letter to ASI

Revised: January 28, 2015; 18:54 GMT

To: Ken Shapiro, Executive Director, ASI (Animals & Society Institute)
      ASI Board of Directors
      ASI Executive Committee
      HAS USA scholars
      HAS European scholars
      A Potts, A Beck, J Serpell, K Weil, L Gruen, P Armstrong,
      Merritt Clifton, and many others

ASI has positioned itself as an organization poised and capable of being a “major player in the new stage of development” of the animal advocacy movement.

            In order to transform these commercial, religious, academic,
           and other interests, the movement must put forward credible
           economic, political, legal, philosophical, and scientific

 Few would argue that the animal advocacy movement is, as ASI points out, at a turning point. Perhaps the most critical legislative issue we'll face over the next decade is (for many) how we will deal with the proliferation of fighting dogs in our daily life.

Your web site notes that the advocacy movement began in 1975 with the publication of Peter Singer's book Animal Liberation. There is a harsh irony in this, because 1975 is the year that pit bull terriers began emerging from the fighting pits,  into the mainstream pet population. It was entirely natural that the emerging advocacy movement would come to the defense of these dogs who were,  to advocates,  refugees from a harsh history. Many of us at the time thought pit bulls were, at heart, like any other dog.

The animal advocacy movement has been so successful in sustained defense of pit bulls that the belief that pit bulls are like any other dog persists despite the preponderance of evidence amassed for more than 35 years that in some significant respects they are behaviorally quite different.  Much of the humane movement unequivocally continues to fight any form of breed-specific legislation,  even leash laws which would only require heavier leashes for pit bulls. Meanwhile,  four people have died  from pit bull attacks in the first seven weeks of 2011; dozens have been seriously mauled. Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.

Animal shelters in urban areas have at times been overwhelmed with dogs; at least 25% of whom are abandoned and abused pit bulls. Dogs are transferred by the truckload out of Los Angeles up the coast to Seattle and into Canada. Dogs (of all breeds) are moved from Florida to Maine, from Georgia to New England, and from San Francisco to New York.  Chartered airplanes routinely fly dogs across the country in an effort to avoid euthanasia. Vast human and financial resources have been exhausted in the process and there is little or no assurance that the dogs will avoid euthanasia in the end. The rescue groups and the humane movement are on a hamster wheel, desperately trying to keep ahead of the backyard breeders. Yet these are the same animal advocates who fight common-sense legislation to ban backyard breeders of pit bulls.

The ASI's Animals' Platform page continues: There are significant lessons to be learned from the U.K. animal protection movement, which since 1976 has used the opportunity of general elections to form coalitions and advance a “manifesto for animals.”  There is indeed much to learn from the UK, which formed the first SPCA. Need we point out that one of the accomplishments since 1976 has been the passage of the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, which imposes some limitations on specific breeds? US humane agencies have parted ways with their brethern in the UK and other commonwealth countries since 1976. Perhaps that's because the British have a greater historical understanding of pit bulls and the genetics of fighting dogs.

Finally, we would take issue with ASI's claim that it is an “independent think tank.” Your policy paper Dog Bites: Problems and Solutions, was written with the assistance of Animal Farm, a vocal advocate in the increasingly contentious BSL quandary. This book is not a serious piece of work.  A truly independent body would decline such assistance and influence, and we urge ASI to renounce this book and refuse all such support in the future.

With this letter we are launching a campaign, requesting the humane movement, the advocacy groups, and legislators to engage in a reappraisal of our collective views toward pit bulls and BSL. ASI is one of the few institutions capable of helping us achieve this goal, but it would require a radical realignment of your priorities. Yet we am optimistic enough to hope that within a few years ASI will commission research to study why humans defend so tenaciously these dogs, when clearly such devotion is not beneficial to the humane movement, to the animal kingdom, or to humankind.

In the coming weeks we will address similar challenges to the AVMA and all their state affiliates, the newly established American Society of Veterinary Journalists, to the Humane Societies, to Guide Dog Associations, to State and local law enforcement associations, to state and federal Child Protection Services, to corporate and individual charitable donors, and to newspapers and responsible journalists.

Perhaps ASI will serve as a beacon in this forthcoming discussion and lead all of us to a new perspective on public safety. Perhaps ASI will lead us to the realization that as animal advocates, we can fulfill our moral and ethical responsibilities as animal stewards by a wiser use of our resources, by directing our compassionate care to the animals who are often the victims of pit bull attacks, and by finally acting to diminish the number of those attacks.

Next post in ASI thread

* * * * * 
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

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

This page may also include information fromDogsbite and 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