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.
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Irreparable Harm
. . . a type of harm which no monetary compensation can cure or put conditions back the way they were. --Wikipedia
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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.

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* 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