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