Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Twenty Years Ago

. . . pit bull breeds made up 1.53 per cent of New Zealand's dog population but the dogs were responsible for 18 per cent of all attacks.
The Daily Post

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Revised July 11, 2012, 11:01 AM EST

On July 3rd SRUV posted an appeal to the AVA.  As if to provide an exclamation point, on July 4th the Daily Post published an account of a pit bull attack on a seven year old child, and on July 9th the Northern Advocate published an account of a horrifying night-time attack on the victim of a car crash.

Rotorua animal control supervisor Kevin Coutts revealed startling statistics when he spoke with the media:
He said american pitbull breeds made up 1.53 per cent of New Zealand's dog population but the dogs were responsible for 18 per cent of all attacks.
"They are totally misrepresented as far as statistics go."
He said between 50 and 60 people a year reported being attacked by dogs in Rotorua and the city followed the national average with about 18 to 20 per cent of those attacks being caused by pitbull breeds.
Mr Coutts also said only about 20 per cent of all dog attacks were being reported.
Readers familiar with dog bite statistics will recognize the eerie correspondence between the numbers Mr Coutts quotes and the dog attack statistics in the US of twenty years ago. In the ensuing decades the advocates for fighting breeds have lobbied against Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in America, and today we face an explosive growth of the pit bull population and a catastrophic public safety menace. Since 2009 pit bulls have killed, on average, 25 humans a year in the US. Put another way, that's one pit bull homicide every two weeks.
Now Australia confronts a similar future, with advocates of fighting breeds using arguments lifted directly from the US. The AVA Policy 6.15 guilelessly admits to this borrowing:  the brief, 34 word policy defers to experience in other countries.

Why would any country want to share our experience? 

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   Seven-year-old mauled by neighbour's dog; Daily Post
   Pitbull attacks car crash victim;  Northern Advocate

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

AVA Policy 6.15

. . . . because experience in other countries has shown that such legislation has failed to reduce the frequency of dog bites. . . 
Australian Veterinarian Assoc. Policy 6.15

Revised: May 23, 2014: 19:41 GMT

Dr Ben Gardiner, President, AVA Board of Directors
AVA Policy Advisory Council

European College of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine
World Veterinary Association
Australian Small Animal Veterinary Association
Australian Veterinary Behaviour Interest Group
Australian Companion Animal Council

SRUV is an animal welfare blog originating in the US, with a special interest in our MVAC. We respectfully ask that you consider our comments on AVA Policy 6.15, Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).

At a point early in the public discussion about BSL the advocates of fighting breeds managed to peg the success or failure of BSL to the frequency of dog bites. This was a highly effective strategy because the frequency of dog bites continues to climb. According to the ACAC the canine population in Australia is in decline.1 But in the US, where many of the BSL arguments originate, the number of dogs has soared from 54 million to 74 million in two decades, and the number of dog bites has increased accordingly.2  This growth in the canine population makes the frequency argument a meaningless diversion.

The number of dog bites may rise with the number of dogs, but what is more germane to the issue of BSL is the severity of dog bites, and the actuarial value of those bites. According to the Insurance Information Institute, US insurers paid out nearly $479 million to settle dog bite claims in 2011, a 16% increase over the previous year.
State Farm Insurance, believed to be the largest U.S. home insurer that does not enforce breed-specific restrictions on what dogs it will cover, in 2011 paid 9% more dog bite claims than in 2010, and paid out 21% more money to settle the claims,  spokesperson Eddie Martinez told media on May 16, 2012. -- Animal People, June 2012. p15
State Farm is still working to determine reasons for the spike, according to the article. The answer is before their eyes: there are more bites which caused grievous harm: deaths, maimings, and prolonged hospital stays.

A comprehensive record of dog attacks causing grievous harm has been maintained for thirty years. The data reveals an increasing number of serious attacks that mirrors the increase in the number of pit bulls living in our midst. The number of attacks by pit bulls nearly trebled from 2002 to 2011. Nearly a third of all pit bull attacks causing permanent disfigurements during the last three decades have occurred in the last two years.3

Attacks on our companion animals are also increasing. A look at the Google news link below reveals that our cities and suburbs have become killing fields. In the West Midlands (UK) the increase in dog attacks on horses, both in fields and while out riding, have caused police to seek additional legislation. Attacks on other livestock, including cattle and llamas, are common.

The animal welfare movement has been slow to acknowledge that fighting breeds were bred differently, and they remain different. The US humane and animal welfare movements refuse to acknowledge the economic and human cost of pit bull attacks. No member of a humane organization has acknowledged the 23 human deaths attributed to pit bulls in 2011.

We have addressed our proposal to the AVA with the hope that there is still an opportunity for rational discourse in Australia, where the subject of BSL may not be as polarizing as it is in the US. We ask that you give your careful consideration to the following proposals:
  • That the AVA rescind Policy 6.15;
  • the AVA cease all lobbying against BSL, including legislative lobbying;
  • the AVA withdraw all anti-BSL position papers from their website and other media;
  • the AVA insure that all AVA SIGs (Special Interest Groups) and other affiliated organizations follow suit;
  • the AVA establish a policy of neutrality on BSL;
  • and the AVA use its influence and good will to encourage a similar strategy throughout Australia and the global animal welfare community.
While the frequency of dog attacks may have increased overall, the simple fact is that BSL actually does reduce the number of attacks which cause disfigurement, amputations, or death, where BSL has been adopted and enforced.

The AVA can lead the way toward acceptance of this simple fact, and toward a rational approach to animal welfare. Common-sense BSL would serve to protect our MVAC, improve the public safety, and improve our bond with our animal companions.

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AVA Policy 6.15 Breed-specific legislation

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) does not support breed-specific legislation for dog bite prevention, because experience in other countries has shown that such legislation has failed to reduce the frequency of dog bites.

The AVA shares community concern about aggressive dogs.

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1 "Yet despite a 22% increase in the population between 1994 and 2009, there has been a 10% decrease in the number of pet dogs . . . . "
-- Australian Companion Animal Council 2011 White Paper

2 U.S. dog population:
1955:  32 million; under 1% of which were pit bulls; >1 fatal dog attack per year
1985:  54 million
2007:  72 million; approx. 4% of which are pit bulls; 23 fatal pit bull attacks in 2011

3 Thirty years of US & Canadian dog attack and disfigurement data. Email Animals 24/7 for a free PDF ( Animals24.7 at frontier dot com )

Concern over rising number of dog attacks; Horse and Hound (UK)

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