Monday, April 30, 2012

Where is Johann?

Revised: Dec 04, 2012; 20:08 GMT
Revised: July 01, 2014; 14:27 GMT

This post is one of a series of posts on TiHo. For a complete listing of the posts in this series see the TiHo Index.

* * * * *

On June 26, 2000,  six-year old Volkan Kaya was savaged and killed by two pit bulls while playing soccer in the schoolyard. On July 7th the state of Lower Saxony passed a breed specific ordinance which mandated the testing of a proscribed list of breeds. Two years later Angela Mittmann published her dissertation on the testing of dogs banned by the state of Lower Saxony, Germany in 2002. Tina Johann's dissertation was accepted two years later, in November 2004.1  In her research Johann evaluated 70 Golden Retrievers, using the same test and methods used by Mittmann two years before on dangerous dogs.

Six years after Mittmann and four years after Johann, Stefanie Ott published Is there a difference? Comparison of golden retrievers and dogs affected by breed specific legislation regarding aggressive behaviour (2008). Dr Ott's findings are based on her review of the research already conducted by Mittmann in 2002 on dangerous dogs and by Johann in 2004 on Golden Retrievers.

Dr Ott refers to Johann's research, the critical component of her [Ott's] research, as "a consecutive study" -- this enigmatic mention is the most direct reference she makes to Johann's work. In her seven page paper, much of which is taken up with lists and charts, Dr Ott mentions Mittmann's work 17 times, but fails to acknowledge Johann a single time. Ott has virtually airbrushed Johann out of existence.

Dr Ott found the Golden Retriever comparison essential to her defense of fighting breeds; Johann's work is used but not cited. Why would Dr Ott, a faculty member of a prestigious University, publish a paper which makes her vulnerable to charges of ethics violations?

Dr Ott's paper has become a key component of pit bull and fighting breeds advocacy. The influence the paper has exerted on legislation regarding fighting breeds may never be fully realized. Nor do we know how significant a role her conclusions may have had on public tolerance of fighting breeds.

Dr Ott's paper is deeply flawed and careful readers will question how it reached publication. We therefore urge the following remedial actions:
  • SRUV calls upon Dr Ott to make a full apology to Tina Johann and to the global animal welfare community, especially to owners and breeders of Golden Retrievers.
  • The Danish pit bull and fighting dog advocacy website, www fairdog dk, currently hosts Ott's paper on its website: we urge that it be removed immediately. A statement explaining the reasons the paper has been removed should be posted.
  • We urge the Journal of Veterinary Behavior,2 which published Dr Ott's paper, to issue a statement explaining the circumstances of the paper's acceptance and publication. We will examine the journal's role in a future SRUV post.
  • Dr Ott's paper is currently hosted and distributed by www elsevier com. The paper must be withdrawn from circulation to researchers.

* * * * *
1 See the Annotated Timeline of Publications and Events Associated with the Faculty of TiHo for a chronological list of TiHo dissertations.

2  Journal of Veterinary Behavior; Clinical Applications and Research, is published by the Australian Veterinary Behaviour Interest Group: a special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association.

Tina Johann, Hannover, Tierärztliche Hochschule, 2004
Dissertation, Abstract

Eng. Title:
Assessment of the behaviour of Golden Retrievers in comparison to the behaviour of dogs considered dangerous according to the Dangerous Animals Act of Lower Saxony, Germany (GefTVO) of 5th of July 2000

Ger. Title:
Untersuchung des Verhaltens von Golden Retrievern im Vergleich zu den als gefährlich eingestuften Hunden im Wesenstest nach der Niedersächsischen Gefahrtierverordnung vom 05.07.2000

* * * * *

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


Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Is there a difference? Comparison of golden retrievers and dogs affected by breed specific legislation regarding aggressive behaviour. (2008)
S.A. Ott, E. Schalke, A.M. von Gaertner, H. Hackbarth. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 3: 134-140.

* * * * * *
Revised: April 25, 2012; 18:08 EST
Note 1:
At that time the authorities assumed that certain breeds of dogs were especially dangerous without just cause.
The law insinuated, without just cause, that particular breeds were especially dangerous. . .
The first example above appears as the second sentence of Ott (2008); the second example appears as the fifth sentence of Schalke (2008). These two papers appeared in the same issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.
The repetition of the phrase without just cause announces that the authors have abandoned all pretense of scientific objectivity. These papers, and others from TiHo, are written not as scientific papers but as amicus briefs. Many of the TiHo papers on dog aggression show similar indiscretions.
Note 2:
All the papers on dangerous dogs published by TiHo are based on data collected by Mittman (2002) and by Johann (2004). It appears that all subsequent TiHo publications on the subject of aggression in Golden Retrievers, including Ott (2008) and Schalke (2008), while not always explicit on this matter, use the existing data sets compiled years previously by Mittmann and Johann.
Note 3: The Test Instrument
The papers published by TiHo faculty all refer to the aggression test designed by Netto and Planta (1997). Stefanie Ott, in the paper currently under consideration, claims the test used to test for aggression in Lower Saxony was based on a temperament test by Netto and Planta (1997). Any connection between the Netto test and the test used in Lower Saxony is tenuous at best.
Netto's test is comprised of 43 subtests, or situations. The test accepted by the state of Lower Saxony and used by Mittman (2002) and Johann (2004) uses 35 situations. One situation was omitted during testing, resulting in a test of 34 situations.
Netto (1997) Section 5.1 The Test Design: If only a small number of subtests are performed, there is less chance of detecting aggression. . . .  It is therefore not advisable to reduce the number of subtests. 
Furthermore, the ratings scale for aggressive behavior was increased from five (in Netto) to seven (in Mittmann), thereby diluting the range of possible aggressive responses. 
Note 4:
A careful examination of the Netto test and the test used in Lower Saxony reveals more troubling discrepancies. Of the 44 situations in the Netto test, Mittmann dropped 27 which dealt with known triggers such as removal of the food bowl, and territoriality inside a car or associated with the dog's bed. Significantly, Mittmann (2002) and Johann (2004) also omitted all test situations which tested for obedience and dog/dog aggression.
TiHo took the remaining 16 situations and bulked them back up to 35 situations, often by inventing near replicas. In fact, the Mittmann/Johann test used in Lower Saxony to evaluate listed breeds bears little resemblance to the Netto test.
Netto's test is explicitly designed to find aggressive individuals, with the intent of excluding them from breeding.  It can be argued that the test adapted by TiHo and first used by Mittmann (2002) is designed to achieve the opposite: to prove that no dog, including the dogs on the Lower Saxony list of dangerous breeds, is inherently aggressive.
The commentary will be continued in a subsequent post.

* * * * *


See TiHo Index (above) for complete list of posts on TiHo.

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Canine Aggression

This post is one of a series of posts on TiHo. For a complete listing of the posts in this series see the TiHo Index.

* * * * *

. . . the level of aggression in individuals may be so high that it is unacceptable to the direct environment or to society in general. As in all types of behaviour, both genetic and environmental factors play a role. Important for the goal of this study is the fact that aggression has a genetic component. Selection for guard and police dog functions has resulted in breeds with a lower threshold for aggressive behaviour (Beaver, 1981). Other authors report that biting incidents are more frequent in certain breeds (e.g. van Gorp et al., 1990)  Males are more often involved in biting incidents than are females (e.g. Beck et al., 1975; Borchelt, 1983; Wright, 1991). Clearly there is a genetic basis for aggressive behaviours with an originally biological function.

Behavioural Testing for Aggression in the Domestic Dog.
Willem J Netto, Doreen J U Planta.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science 52 (1997) 243 - 263

* * * * *


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

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Annotated timeline of publications
and events associated with faculty at TiHo

* * * * *

Institute of Animal Welfare and Behavior
University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover (TiHo)

Institut für Tierschutz und Verhalten
der Tierärztlichen Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

* * * * *

Revised: April 21, 2012  03:04 EST
Revised: April 24, 2012  02:46 EST
Revised: April 27, 2012  11:53 EST
Revised: May 04, 2012 00:59 EST
Revised May 14, 2012 22:27 EST
Revised June 02, 2012 20:06 EST
Revised Nov 10, 2012 22:58 GMT
Behavioural testing for aggression in the domestic dog.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science 52:243-263. Netto WJ, Planta DJU.
"Aggressive behaviour in dogs is an increasing problem in The Netherlands. In an attempt to find a solution to this problem the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Conservation and Fisheries has financially supported a study aimed at developing an aggression test for dogs. The primary goal is to use the test as an instrument for excluding very aggressive individuals of certain breeds from breeding."

June 26, 2000
Six year-old Volkan Kaja of Hamburg, Germany is savaged by two dogs, a pit bull and an American Staffordshire Terrier.

July 7, 2000
Lower Saxony passes the Dangerous Dogs Act (Niedersaechsische Gefahrtierverordnung GefTVO); this law included provisions of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) directed at a proscribed list of dangerous dogs.

August 14, 2000 -- May 16, 2001
The Veterinary School at Hannover conducts the original study which yields data from 415 listed dogs and their owners (dog-owner teams) for statistical analysis.

March 3, 2001
TiHo established at the Veterinary School, Hannover.

May 28, 2002
Fighting Dogs: History, application, attitude problems, "Bull Races" -- a literature study.
Andrea Steinfeldt (dissertation).

June 6 (July 3), 2002
Provisions of the Dangerous Dogs Act of Lower Saxony are annulled by the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) in Berlin.

November 20, 2002
Untersuchung des Verhaltens von 5 Hunderassen und einem Hundetypus im Wesenstest nach den Richtlinien der Niedersächsischen Gefahrtierverordnung.
Angela Mittmann publishes her doctoral thesis, a report on the testing of dogs restricted by the state of Lower Saxony, Germany. The test used by the faculty of the Veterinary School at Hannover was based on the earlier test developed by Netto and Planta (1997).

Dec 26, 2002
This discussion page (on a German pit bull discussion forum) makes several references to aggression testing of Golden Retrievers. "Andreas" refers to Johann's dissertation testing Golden Retrievers (see below, 2004) using the exact title, two years before its publication date, and three weeks before testing begins (see next entry).

January 17, 2003 -- November 18, 2003
70 Golden Retrievers were evaluated. These dogs served as a comparison group to the 415 listed dogs which were tested earlier.

May 27, 2003
Temperament Testing According to the guidelines of the Dangerous Animals Act of Lower Saxony, Germany (GefTVO) of 5th of July 2000 of five breeds of dogs and the pit bull type. Differences between biting and non-biting dogs.
Sandra Bruns (dissertation).

September, 2003
Behavior genetics of canine aggression: behavioral phenotyping of golden retrievers by means of an aggression test.
L. van den Berg. Behavior Genetics 2003; 33:469-83.

November 27, 2003
Specific intra-aggressive behavior of five breeds of dogs and the pitbull-type temperament during the testing according to the guidelines of the Dangerous Animals Act of Lower Saxony, Germany (GefTVO) of 07.06.2000.
Andrea Böttjer (dissertation).

November, 2004
Assessment of the behaviour of Golden Retrievers in comparison to the behaviour of dogs considered dangerous according to the Dangerous Animals Act of Lower Saxony, Germany (GefTVO) of 5th of July 2000.
Tina Johann (dissertation).

May 25, 2005
Untersuchung einer Bullterrier-Zuchtlinie auf Hypertrophie des Aggressionsverhaltens.
Assessment of a Bull Terrier breed line regarding the possible occurrence of hypertrophic aggressive behavior.
Jennifer Hirschfeld (dissertation).

May 2008
Is there a difference? Comparison of golden retrievers and dogs affected by breed specific legislation regarding aggressive behaviour.
S.A. Ott, E. Schalke, A.M. von Gaertner, H. Hackbarth. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 3: 134-140.
(NOTE: Stefanie Ott reexamines existing data from Mittmann (2002) and Johann (2004). This paper is currently available on

May 2008
Is breed specific legislation justified? Evaluation of the temperament test of Lower Saxony.
E. Schalke, S.A. Ott, A.M. von Gaertner, A. Mittmann. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research  3: 97-103.
(NOTE: This paper is also currently available

April, 2009
Assessment of a Bullterrier bloodline in the temperament test of Lower Saxony: comparison with six dog breeds affected by breed specific legislation and a control group of Golden Retrievers.
Ott S, Schalke E, Hirschfeld J, Hackbarth H.
Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr. 2009 Apr;116(4):132-7.

October 19, 2009
Aggression and Dogs: No significant difference found between breeds. E Schalke.
(NOTE: This document appears to be a pastiche. It appears on the Animal Farm Foundation website [click here], and Dr Schalke is presented as the author. SRUV has asked Dr Schalke to confirm that she is indeed the author and we are awaiting a reply.)

May, 2010
Assessment of a Bull Terrier bloodline regarding possible hypertrophic aggressive behaviour in situations of dog-dog contact of the temperament test of Lower Saxony.
Esther E Schalke, Stefanie S Ott, Jennifer J Hirschfield and Hansjoachim H Hackbarth.
Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr. 2010 May-Jun;123(5-6):192-7.
"In conclusion, there were no indications for inadequate or disturbed aggressive behaviour in this Bull Terrier breed line. Furthermore, the broad majority of dogs proved to possess excellent social skills as well as the ability to communicate competently and to solve conflicts appropriately."

May 22, 2010
Four dogs savage a three-year old infant in Oldisleben-Sachsenburg, Germany. News coverage in the UK describe the dogs only as attack dogs but in German accounts they are clearly identified as four Staffordshire bull terriers.
Thuringia Interior Minister Peter Huber claims that dog lists (BSL) do not prevent attacks. On March 31, 2011, the owner received a suspended sentence of one year plus 80 hours of community service.

September 22, 2010
Development of a specific behaviour test to evaluate the impact of dog-owner relationship and dog-owner attachment on the behaviour of the dog.
Stefanie Ott (dissertation).

* * * * *


See TiHo Index for a complete list of posts on TiHo.

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Irreparable Harm

This post is one of a series of posts on TiHo. For a complete listing of the posts in this series see the TiHo Index.
* * * * *
Irreparable Harm
. . . a type of harm which no monetary compensation can cure or put conditions back the way they were. --Wikipedia
* * * * *
Revised: April 17, 2012  00:25 EST
Revised: Sept 10, 2012; 01:12 GMT
Golden Retriever Club UK
Golden Retriever Club Scotland
Golden Retriever Club e.V.
Retriever Club de France
NGRC, Australia
Karen Mills, Golden Retriever Breeders Directory (US)
John Cotter, President, Golden Retriever Club of America
   and hundreds of breeders and aficionados of Golden Retrievers

On June 26, 2000 six year-old Volkan Kaja of Hamburg, Germany was savaged by two dogs, a pit bull and an American Staffordshire Terrier. In July of the same year, the authorities of Lower Saxony passed the Dangerous Dogs Act (Niedersaechsische Gefahrtierverordnung GefTVO); this law included various provisions of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) directed at a proscribed list of dogs.

Provisions of the new law allowed owners of some proscribed dogs to keep those dogs if they passed a temperament test, which was administered by veterinary behaviorists at the University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo) in Hannover, Germany.

The new law and the cycle of testing led to the publication of a number of papers by members of the TiHo faculty. Several papers mention Golden Retrievers, which were used as a comparison group when testing the proscribed dogs. SRUV will discuss these papers in greater detail in forthcoming posts.

A number of these papers were evidently written in English and appeared in English language journals. A number are currently available for download on US and European sites which advocate for fighting breeds including pit bulls, and against Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). These sites include Animal Farm Foundation, Best Friends, Fairdog (Denmark), and others. Pit bull advocates in the US have made extensive use of the research from TiHo, cherry-picking information and quotations for their arguments against BSL.

Among the most popular statements used by pit bull advocates in the US are those which claim that pit bulls show no more aggression than Golden Retrievers. These findings are highly suspect, but pit bull advocates have latched onto them with an obsessive fervor. In making this claim pit bull advocates are apparently blind to the fact that this comparison could be viewed by owners and lovers of Golden Retrievers as libelous.

This pit bull/Golden Retriever equation is repeated by advocacy attorneys, legislative analysts, lobbyists, politicians, and others who should demonstrate more caution. The assertion that Golden Retrievers are as dangerous as pit bulls has become so firmly entrenched among advocates of fighting breeds that it appears repeatedly in the comment sections under the news coverage of pit bull attacks. It has become universal wisdom.

SRUV is not prepared to address the dangerous dog situation in Germany. But in the 30 year period from 1982 through 2012 in the US and Canada, two canine homicides were attributed to Golden Retrievers, one of which was caused by rabies and the second by a bizarre strangling accident. During the same period in the US, pit bulls and close pit bull mixes accounted for at least 217 deaths, nearly 50% of the total canine homicides.*

The claim that there is no discernible difference in aggressive tendencies between pit bulls and Golden Retrievers is an egregious, unethical distortion. The continued use of this assertion by the advocates of fighting breeds would alter the public perception of a breed that is presently considered one of the gentlest, kindest breeds known to man.  The false claim made by pit bull advocates has already caused substantial harm to the reputation of the Golden Retriever, as well as to breeders of these lovely dogs.

* * * * *


* One Golden Retriever responsible for an attack was rabid. The second accidentally strangled Kaitlyn Hassard, 6, of Manorville, Long Island, on 1/24/06, by tugging at her scarf. Statistics are from Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here.

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

    Friday, April 6, 2012


    Pit bulls which are adopted out to families by SPCAs and shelters continue to make the news. In the short time since SRUV first addressed the NH SPCA earlier this week, more incidents involving these dogs have come to our attention. We've listed several below.
    An 18-year old Elizabeth woman was bitten more than 20 times today by her dog, which then turned on a police officer who shot and killed it. . . . . The woman was first attacked by the dog, a pit bull rescue, inside her home.
    The Star-Ledger, New Jersey
    A 6-year-old Rochester Hills girl was hospitalized Saturday night after a pit bull bit her in the face and thigh. The homeowner told sheriff's deputies the pit bull is a rescue dog.
    Rochester Hills Patch
    And from a news story posted on April 5th:
    Three year old Ryland Moody was in critical condition after undergoing surgery at Arkansas Children's Hospital, a spokeswoman said. The child was attacked by a pit bull his mother adopted less than a month ago, and is being treated for severe trauma to the face and head.
    Arkansas News
    Finally, also on April 5th:
    I saw the dog throw the kid around, one neighbor said. It was clamped so tight on him you couldn’t get him free. If we hadn't managed to finally free him the dog could have grabbed his neck and he would have been done for. The pit bull was adopted from the Humane League of Lancaster County in February., CBS21
    What the headlines fail to tell us is the extent of the injuries in these attacks. An attack to a child's face is nearly always a disfiguring attack, with long term economic and human costs. Amaya Hess, who suffered a facial disfigurement attack as an infant in 2006, recently endured her 57th reconstructive surgery.

    * * * * *

    NH woman, dog, recover from pit bull attack
    Girl attacked by pit bull to have 57th surgery

    NH SPCA pit bull promotions:
    Film showing follows pit bull attacks in N.H. (March 30)
    Beware of pit bull bias, handlers say (March 4)

    See Also: Today's pit bull attacks in the US

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    LALA Land

    She was telling him to restrain his dog and he was doing a balancing act trying not to spill the vodka out of his bottle.

    * * * * * 

    We'll assume the following scenario:

    • A police officer attempts to arrest a suspect for public intoxication and is attacked by the suspect's dog. The officer shoots the dog.
    • The dog recovers and there is a court hearing. 
    • Adam Laflin, the owner of the dog, accepts county mediation, and the dog is returned to him.
    • Under terms of the agreement the dog, a pit bull, is declared a "Potentially dangerous animal" (a lower designation than either a "Dangerous animal" or "Vicious animal"). The agreement was set to expire next month.
    • The police have "repeated run-ins" with the dog and its owner and have pepper-sprayed the dog on more than one occasion. Terms of the agreement are apparently ignored.
    • Three years after the original encounter, the police are called to remove a suspect from a local little-league game for public intoxication.
    • The same dog again attacks an officer, as well as injuring a parent who comes to her assistance.
    • Additional police and humane society officers arrive and restrain the dog.
    • The dog is currently under a 10-day bite quarantine.

    This is a sublimely ridiculous scenario, but it is, in fact, not hypothetical. The pit bull advocates who argue vehemently for Dangerous Dog Laws (DDL) as opposed to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) can take satisfaction in knowing that the laws work better than they could have hoped.

    In our view, the purpose of DDL is to slow the legal process down to an interminable crawl, adding layers of court hearings, pleadings, appeals, record keeping, and bureaucratic categories: anything to keep the process grinding along in a Kafkaesque charade. The dog will in all probability be returned to the comfort and safety of his home again.

    "Sadly, it is the guardian who has subjected the dog to these unpleasant situations and it is the guardian who is ultimately responsible for the dog and his actions," said spokesman John Reese of the Marin Humane Society.

    John, you're in LaLa Land. This was an "unpleasant" situation for the officer and the Little League parents, more so than for the dog, who apparently relishes attacking police officers. And as far as who was responsible: it was the dog who was chewing on the cops.

    * * * * *

    Pit bull attacks Fairfax cop and Little League Parent
    Pit bull attacks officer, parent in Fairfax

    Related Post: Dangerous Dog Laws

    See Also: Today's pit bull attacks in the US