Friday, April 15, 2011

Letter to ASI: Pt 4

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.

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Dear Mr Shapiro,

The scope of this study (Voith, Ingram, et al) is narrow and does not consider dog bites, dog fatalities, or Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), as you suggest.

The purported subject of the paper, breed identification, is a gloss, and contains false logic and inconsequential arguments. The paper is a scant eleven pages, only half of which is explication. The sample base consisted of only twenty mixed breed shelter-adopted dogs, not one of which was predominantly a pit bull. The paper suggests there is confusion about the genetic makeup of (non-pit bull) mutts; well, so what?

In most academic fields scholars would refrain from citing such a paper, but that seems to be of little consequence to pit bull advocates. Voith, Ingram is cited by VanKavage (Fiscal Bite & Breed Discrimination: Utilizing Scientific Advances & Economic Tools in Lobbying, Mid Atlantic Animal Law) and is featured on this page at, a primary resource page for challenges to BSL.

The paper (or a version of it) is also cited by the ASPCA, the Animal Law Coalition, and the NCRC. It's heavily cited among less reputable web pages including,, as well as hundreds of similar sites. In fact, this paper is dredged up to lend academic credentials to pit bull advocates in almost any situation. It's therefore understandable that you would cite it, even though your use of it seems misplaced in the context of your reply.

What the paper in question does not say may be far more revealing than what it says. Mars Veterinary, the company that conducted the DNA analysis for this study (Voith, et al), responded to an unrelated inquiry as follows:
Due to the genetic diversity of this group, we cannot build a DNA profile for the Pitbull [sic]. Any Pitbull type breed tested using Wisdom Panel™ MX Mixed Breed Analysis is likely to reveal a combination of several breeds.
--- letter to the American Pit Bull Terrier Assoc. Inc. (NZ)

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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.