Monday, May 30, 2011

A Prayer

As we have noted elsewhere in these pages, there are a limited number of arguments for advocates to rely on, which we hear over and over.

  • Judge the deed, not the breed
  • Punish the deed, not the breed
  • It's not the dog, it's the owner
  • There are no bad dogs; only bad owners
  • It's all how they're raised
  • and above all, All dogs bite

These phrases are so common that even those who have no interest in dogs are aware of them; they resonate through the collective conscience like advertising jingles, which is what they are. The speakers believe these phrases carry content, but they are bled of all meaning and they are sometimes uttered in the most inappropriate circumstances. They fill a verbal vacuum much the way auto-complete fills in the blanks in your email program.

The use of these phrases has interested SRUV because the speakers believe they still have the power to alter opinion. We have arrived at a point in the pit bull controversy when this kind of speech, consisting almost entirely of phrases plucked from a reservoir of belief, takes the place of original thought. The phrases are repeated until they assume an incantatory, ritualized meaning, and work in the same way a prayer or magic spell is believed to work.

* * * * * * * * * * 

Just after 9pm on Friday, May 27th,  "Honey" Jubeark ran from her house screaming “Help! He ate my baby! He ate my baby!”

Within minutes after news of Jayelin Graham's death was posted,  pit bull advocates were flooding the internet with comments. Many of the posters seemed disinterested in the child's death and used the occasion to defend their breed of obsession.

I have copied below a comment, and below that, a response to the first comment. (Note: the comment on the Golden Retriever has taken on aspects of an urban myth and is recounted using a variety of breeds including dachshunds.)

no such thing as a bad dog just bad owners.. Pitbulls are beautiful
dogs and a great breed. It takes assholes like this guy to make the
breed look bad. I say we just put him in a cage with a bear and
let the bear rip his head off. Poor child never had a chance with
a monster parent like that.

Corey Hackett • Burlington, Vermont
it's all about how they're raised/trained. Some of the smartest/
gentlest dogs I know (known) have been Pits and Rotty's...
I work with a woman who was just attacked by a vicious
golden retriver... it's all on their environment...

* * * * * * * * * * 

These comments were posted in response to a news story about the death of a human child. Nearly every thought in these two comments is a variation of the five statements at the top of this post. Literally thousands of additional posts echo these two.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Find the Pit Bull

Revised: November 03. 2013; 17:51 GMT
Revised: January 13, 2014; 18:33 GMT
Revised: May 16, 2014; 15:17 GMT
Revised: May 11, 2015; 12:33 GMT

Introducing the SRUV version of the ubiquitous Find the Pit Bull test.

Previous versions of the test were meant to obfuscate; SRUV will clarify. We present only five images, each very distinct; you find the real pit bull.

A. Red Nose Stubby

B. Blue Nose Stubby

C. Medium Brindle

D. Tall Brindle

E. Generic Fawn

Which is the real pit bull?

Answer: All of the above, knucklehead. (The generic fawn is a traditional fighting pit bull. This strain shows possible crossbreeding with the Blackmouth cur and/or perhaps other breeds.

Airedales, King Charles Spaniels, Skye Terriers --  in fact with every breed of dog -- conformity to established breed standards is the defining characteristic. Each member of a breed is similar in appearance to other members of its own group.

But champion pit bulls present a vast array of colors, shapes, and sizes. The reason they vary? Pit bulls are not so much a standard conformation as they are a set of abstract skills. Champion pit bulls have been bred for centuries not for conformation but for intangible qualities such as gameness. Their championships are not won in the show ring.

Despite that ambiguity, the average Joe on the street would quickly identify each of the above dogs as a pit bull. In fact, the United Kennel Club agrees, and registers dogs similar to each of those above as American Pit Bull Terriers.

Pit bull advocates have posted numerous "Pick the Pit" or "Find the Pit Bull" tests on the web. Posters have become popular sale items. The objective of these tests is to hide a presumed pit bull among 15 - 25 similar images, making it nearly impossible to single out one true pit bull, and thereby confuse the public. It's a pointless exercise. The UKC registers a broad spectrum of types, and calls all of them registered American Pit Bull Terriers.

The strategy of disguising one dog among 15 - 25 similar images, many of which have been crossbred to form the Breed of Obsession, is dishonest, and is intended to sew confusion.

* * * * *

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.

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


Monday, May 23, 2011

Reasonable doubt

[This post is archival material and is not supported. 07/06/15]

 There's a reasonable doubt as to whether this dog was a pit bull.
        Judge Mark K. Wiest

The only thing the paper got right was it was a pit bull.
        Nate Gray

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The attack on Kamaria Simpson was not unusual. The dog attacked for no known  reason, caused extensive injuries to a number of people, and continued berserking after the victims escaped into a home. The dog held the victims hostage while attempting to break through doors and windows to continue the attack. When the police arrived it was tazered but bit off the probe, continued to attack a police officer, was shot and continued to attack until it was shot two more times, after which it ran off to die.

"For about 10 minutes the dog went from one window and door to the next, looking inside and hurling its body against the openings. It already had a lot of blood dripping from its mouth from Kamaria. It kept looking in at us and trying to get in. It was like he was possessed. It was like a nightmare."

And Kamaria's injuries were hardly unusual for a pit bull attack. Hundreds of stitches were required to close the wounds on her face and scalp, from which the dog had also torn chunks of her hair. Her cheek was nearly ripped off. Kamaria escaped with minor injuries, considering it was a pit bull attack. It's likely that her thick hair protected her from being scalped, which is not uncommon for pit bull attacks on children.

None of this is unexpected for those who follow pit bull attacks. What happened afterwards is far more interesting and has all the ingredients for a segment of CSI: Orrville. Lovely small towns in a bucolic countryside setting; a dynamic, ambitious, female prosecuting attorney; crafty defense attorneys; a dynamic, vivacious veterinarian on whom the case turned; hints of arson and dogfighting and special favors, a courageous, moral small town cop with enemies and small time criminals with friends.

* * * * *

In the aftermath of the attack the community experienced a convulsive reaction, with those defending the Grays and the dog far outweighing those who expressed concern over the attack. Orrville Police Chief Dino Carozza  said some people need to express less remorse about the fate of the dog and more interest in the welfare of the victims.

 * * * * *

Nate and Dainyelle Gray have since been divorced,  but at the time lived in the house Kamaria visited and where the attack occurred, and while they own a pit bull, it is not the dog blamed in the attack.

Jump ahead a few months and Dainyelle Gray, 29, and Lester Bullard, 31, both of 206 E. Water St., are standing trial, charged with failure to confine or restrain a vicious dog. Dainyelle is familiar with the courthouse, having been in and out nearly a dozen times in the last decade, and so is Lester. SRUV is unable to find Wayne County property records for a residence at 206 E Water Street,  but we will ignore that as a likely reporting error. The testimonies of both Gray and Bullard were presented in court on DVD video recordings and the prosecutor did not question the defendants in court.

There are conflicting reports about the dog that attacked Kamaria. The dog may have been dropped off near the Gray home a couple days prior to the attack, or according to Nate Gray, on the day of the attack while the Grays were in Marietta, a two hour drive away. Dainyelle and the children had returned home by the time of the attack.

There are also conflicting reports about who dropped it off, and why. Nate Gray claims he doesn't know who dropped the dog off, and that the dog was roaming. Shagala Simpson, Kamaria's mother, claims it ran out of the east door of the house. Lester Bullard, a Facebook friend of Nate's, told the Orrville police he dropped the dog off on Saturday, the day before the incident, and left the dog in the basement. The claims that the dog belonged to a friend of Nate's brother, who died two days previous to the attack, strain credulity.

* * * * * *

Defense attorneys Clarke Owens and Beverly Wire built their case by questioning the breed of dog that mounted the attack, an important point under Ohio law. The outcome of the trial was an anti-climax; the two defendants were released. The reason: there is reasonable doubt that the dog was a pit bull.

The judge's finding rests on the post-mortem performed by Dr. Kristen Scrafford of Ark Veterinary Clinic in Wooster. Dr Scrafford graduated from the OSU school of veterinary medicine in June of 2010 and performed the evaluation of the dog a little over a month later.

She could not say for sure whether the dog was a pit bull or a breed of pit bull, but the dog did have some physical features resembling a pit bull.

* * * * * * *

Here is a bit of wisdom for the Judge and the novice veterinarian:
  1. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. If a dog has physical features of a pit bull, and it tries to break through doors and windows to prosecute an attack, it's a pit bull. No other breed of dog will continue to attack until it dies, unless it is rabid.
  2. Nate Gray admits it was a pit bull. Let's take his word for it.

* * * * * * * * * * *

News coverage of the berserking attack on Kamaria and the subsequent trial appeared in The Daily Record September 1, 2010 and on May 10, 2011.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dr Kelly Gebhardt: II

Revised: August 2, 2012, 15:03 GMT

In a previous post SRUV reviewed a TV newscast in which Dr Gebhardt was asked to comment following a pit bull attack. You will find our previous post here.

There are a limited number of pit bull advocate talking points.  Advocates draw on the same few rhetorical gestures whether they are in front of the TV camera or addressing a city council meeting. This is what makes academics and scientists so interesting when they're defending pit bulls: they may be poised and articulate, as Dr Gebhardt was in her television appearance, but the arguments are identical to those used by dogmen, criminals, and advocates of fighting breeds.

To be fair, Dr Gebhardt was arguing the policy which has been endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), so perhaps SRUV is unfair to take exception to her comments. We have been in contact with Adrian Hochstadt, JD, the Assistant Director for State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs of the AVMA.  Mr Hochstadt advised SRUV of the AVMA policy regarding dangerous animals.

The AVMA policy is reprinted in its entirety below.

* * * * * * * *

American Veterinary Medical Association Policy 
Dangerous Animal Legislation
(Oversight: CHAB; EB 03/88; Revised 11/01; Reaffirmed 11/05, 04/2010) 
The AVMA supports dangerous animal legislation by state, county, or municipal governments provided that legislation does not refer to specific breeds or classes of animals. This legislation should be directed at fostering safety and protection of the general public from animals classified as dangerous.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Like Birds Flying

That’s how (pit bulls) are bred.  That’s how they’re designed.
 It’s like birds flying.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Discredited Sources

Pit Bull Advocates have extensive resources for advocacy and for defending their breed of obsession. Advocacy organizations offer web resources, anti-BSL "Tool Kits," and "training camps." They employ attorneys and staff to monitor legislation. These vast resources constitute both a strength and a weakness for the advocates.

The resource pages are a strength because they give pit bull owners and advocates immediate access to off-the-shelf arguments. Advocates come to public meetings prepared with an extensive library of references and handouts which enable them to appear authoritative, and which often carry the day with town councils seeking solid data.

On the other hand, the resource pages are a weakness because most of the arguments are transparent and easily refuted.  Pit bull advocates too often depend on these resources rather than on their own original ideas. When faced with sound arguments they often flounder or resort to effusive, emotional praise of dogs they have known.

Some of the discredited sources listed below require no countervailing argument; for others SRUV has provided a source which refutes the advocates' canned arguments.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

American Temperament Testing Society

This test is cited at nearly every opportunity to prove, according to pit bull advocates, that the pit bull has a better temperament than a chihuahua. The advocates must believe this is a convincing approach because they continue to use it.

The ATTS as a reliable test of pit bull temperament is effectively dismantled on the extraordinary single-purpose web page The Pit Bull Hoax: The ATTS

* * * * * *

Can you find the pit bull?

Pit bull advocates have posted a number of faux identi-kit puzzles on the web, apparently hiding a pit bull among a host of dogs with more-or-less similar appearance.

The advocates are laboring under the misapprehension that if they confuse the opponent they have won the argument.

This tactic has been addressed several times, most recently (and decisively) on this exhaustive blog post.

* * * * * *

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.

As noted elsewhere on these pages, pit bull advocates routinely cite this paper to awe readers and as a means of establishing their academic credentials. See the Letter to Animals & Society Institute pt 4.

* * * * * * *

BSL Cost Calculators

Advocates make the argument that BSL (breed specific legislation) is cost prohibitive for communities. Best Friends has posted an online calculator which cooks the books for pit advocates, so they can scare the bejezus out of communities considering the heresy of bsl.

This fanciful diversion has been dismantled here and here.

* * * * * * *

Pit bulls can be rehabilitated

If you are still in doubt on this matter, simply take a look at Google's news accounts of recent attacks.  Take your own count of how many of the attacks are by pit bulls which were believed to be well-treated family pets. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Pit bull advocates are advised that reliance on these arguments and citations are not credible.

SRUV welcomes additional information and will update this page as necessary.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hall of Shame: II

We see plenty of dog bites: golden retrievers, labradors, chihuahuas, boston terriers, just as much as pit bulls.

You can take a perfectly docile animal and create a very aggressive animal if you put it in the proper environment. Once these behaviors are learned . . . . there are traumatic experiences, psychological damages, behavioral changes that happen that are very difficult to reverse.

Any dog put in that situation, not just a pit bull but any dog, can be aggressive.

     Dr Kelly Gebhardt
     Happy Tails Emergency Vet Clinic

* * * * * * *
Revised: April 28, 2013; 19:30 GMT

Ron Phillips was walking his 11-year-old Chinese Shar-Pei named Alfey at 8:30 Thursday night when Alfey was attacked by two pit bulls.

The two pit bulls are owned by Laura Rhynehardt, who says the attack was a big mistake.

After the attack Dr Gebhardt was asked to comment. Those comments are recorded at the top of this post. In a brief TV interview consisting of 81 words Dr Gebhardt manages to avoid a single attribution of responsibility to the pit bulls.

In the first paragraph Dr Gebhardt associates pit bull bites with the bites of chihuahuas. Most listeners would gasp in disbelief at this, had we not head this monstrous deceit so often before. To those who hear it for the first time the association seems otherworldly.

The second, longer paragraph is a litany of canine psycho-babble. Are we to believe that Laura Rhynehardt's pit bulls were formerly docile animals? They then suffered traumatic experiences and behavior changes? Only after they suffered did they attack Alfey? Are we to sympathize with the pit bulls?

In her third, one-line paragraph she expresses, in scientific terms, the classic pit bull defense. Expressed in the vernacular the argument is simply: All dogs bite. This is another mind-manipulating attempt to equate chihuahuas with pit bulls.

What is significant in Dr Gebhardt's TV interview is that her response is undiluted pit bull advocacy shrouded in scientific language. She is therefore nominated to SRUV's Pit Bull Hall of Shame for this brief, shameful, 81-word pit bull defense.

* * * * *


Statistics in SRUV are from Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here. Also including information from Dogsbite and Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.


Google News: Today's pit bull attacks


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Equal Consideration

Revised: Jan 8, 2014; 13:24 GMT

An important exchange on the subject of human-animal relations occurred on the pages of Slate magazine in 2001, when Peter Singer and Richard Posner engaged in a lively debate.

The animal rights movement is often considered a corollary of the women's rights and human rights movements. A subset of these movements was the acknowledgement of victim's rights.

Now that animal rights are (in varying degrees) established, it is time to raise the issue of victim's rights in canine-on-canine attacks.

Much has changed since the 2001 debate. The escalating number of canine on canine attacks suggests that it is incumbent on us, as human guardians, to establish a corollary system of justice and victim's rights, to protect our animal companions.

The letter below is an invitation to a tenth anniversary, return engagement of the first debate.

* * * * *

Dear Mr Posner, Dear Mr Singer,

A premise of the exchange in Slate magazine is that humans, inadvertently or by intention, are liable to cause pain to animals. Or that we may cause pain by omission, by neglect or by a failure of compassion when it would alleviate the animal's pain had we acted.

We will abandon the premise of human cruelty for our current discussion and discuss an issue that was left untouched ten years ago. Let us assume that animals are deserving of equal consideration. Furthermore, we accept that we are caretakers or guardians, and not owners of pets.

The question before us now is this: how should a human, who has the power and, as caretaker, the obligation to intervene, act when one dog causes pain to another dog? Or even worse, kills another dog?

This debate will not consider dog fights, which are engineered by humans for their own pleasure and are considered a crime in nearly all states. We are considering only those dogs which, without provocation, attack and kill another dog.

This issue is germane given the numbers of dogs that are killed annually by other dogs. The attacking dogs are very often released back to their owners/caretakers without prejudice, while the human companion of the victim dog is left without recourse.

There are also near daily cases of dogs attacking horses, llamas, other livestock, and of course, humans. A number of these attacks result in death. Are the attacking dogs guilty of a crime? -- or are they absolved of guilt (and punishment) by virtue of being a dog?

If we are committed to equal consideration of interests, is it not a corollary that canine on canine (or canine on human) aggression should also be considered a crime, and punished as such?

Thank you gentlemen. In 2001 we began with Mr Singer; Judge Posner, you'll go first please.

The Editors

* * * * *

Philosopher Forums: Posner vs. Singer

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.