Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Delise's Dark Shadows

Revised: January 9, 2014; 12:48 GMT

Any dog that is labeled a pit bull lives in the dark shadow
of the manufactured villainy of a classic folk devil.

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Ginny Sohn, Publisher, The New Mexican
Mike Cosgrove, Rob Dean, Editors
NM State Senate
Doña Ana County Commissioners
Las Cruces City Council
The Board of Directors, Animal Humane NM
Peggy Weigle, Executive Director, Animal Humane NM

The quotation above begins a newspaper article by Julie Ann Grimm which appeared on May 4th. The story appeared in The New Mexican in response to the mauling death of Clifford Wright two days before.

The quotation has become a battle cry for the advocates of fighting breeds. The sentence would have been red-lined by most English professors for its flowery, overwrought, Edwardian, hysterical prose, but it apparently appeals to the advocates of fighting breeds. Google currently returns over 2,500 hits for a search of the sentence, and it is most often hauled out following a pit bull attack.

The headlines of these stories often refer to the author of the quotation, Karen Delise, as an expert.  Ms Delise is not a veterinarian or an animal behaviorist. Nor is she a bioethicist, an ethologist, nor a scholar of human-animal studies. Ms Delise is simply one of the country's most prominent advocates of fighting breeds. She is considered an expert primarily by other advocates of fighting breeds.

SRUV has previously questioned (in The War Room)  how advocates of fighting breeds respond so quickly to tragedy with such similar quotations. The Infinite Monkey Theorem claims that given an infinite amount of time a monkey sitting in a room will tap out Hamlet.  We'll never know, but SRUV doubts that journalists all over the country (2,500 of them!) independently quote Ms Delise.

It's far more likely that following a mauling, the pit bull advocacy War Room emails an information packet to the local newspaper, perhaps with a suggestion that the newspaper will also tell the other side of the story about these misunderstood dogs. The packet may include ready-made quotes, and offer access to an "expert" such as Ms Delise.

It is difficult to imagine any other scenario in which a newspaper would publish such a tasteless article. SRUV asks why the New Mexican would publish an article which advocates for fighting breeds on the heels of a canine homicide so gruesome that the police were unwilling to describe it. SRUV will not spare the details of such an attack: other victims of similar attacks have been dismembered, decapitated, and extensively eaten. By their family pets.

Does the New Mexican really want to defend man-made aberrations so violent they would destroy their own human companions?

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Santa Fe New Mexican: Experts warn not to demonize dog breed

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.