Monday, April 15, 2013

HSUS Factsheet

Deconstructing the
HSUS Pit Bull Factsheet

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Revised: December 23, 2013; 01:35 GMT

On January 14, 2013, legislation was introduced into the Maryland General Assembly which would have abrogated the Court of Appeal's April 26, 2012 ruling that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.

Four days later (on January 18, 2013) the HSUS posted a Factsheet to their website, authored by HSUS Maryland state director Tami Santelli. This 1½ page document provides valuable insights into HSUS's abortive attempt to pass breed neutral legislation in Maryland.

The document is replete with errors and misrepresentations. SRUV has selected a few of the most egregious examples and offer our commentary below.

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This misguided ruling is contrary to all available scientific evidence about dogs, which tells us that breed is not predictive of behavior.
Experience proves otherwise. By the 13th of April there has been 9 fatal dog attacks during calendar year 2013, all of them by pit bulls. There has been a total of 99 reported fatal and disfiguring attacks, 91 of which have been by pit bulls (see below). Fatal and disfiguring dog attacks on humans would be statistically insignificant were it not for pit bulls.
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According to a recent study by the Maddie’s Fund Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida, shelter staff identified 55 of 120 dogs as “pit bulls,” but only 25 were actually confirmed through DNA testing as having either APBT, AS or ST heritage; the others just had an appearance that made staff mistakenly believe they did. The staff also misidentified 20 percent of the dogs as non-pit bull type dogs when they actually did have APBT, AS or ST blood. This study underscores how even experts can be misled by appearances.
This Factsheet argument borrows language from a May 2, 2012 blog post by Mark Markarian (President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund). Mr Markarian's post was published within a week of the Court's ruling and was an early indicator of the arguments the HSUS would use during the Maryland campaign.

The University of Florida "study" does not qualify as academic research. There is no published work other than a poster. All five citations on the poster refer to pit bull advocacy individuals or groups. The Florida study is similar to an earlier study by Victoria Voith, which we evaluated here.

The vulnerabilities in both the Voith and the Florida studies are too numerous to discuss here. Most important of these vulnerabilities is the canine DNA test itself, which pit bull advocates are fixated on for unknown reasons: it doesn't help them. Mars Wisdom Panel, the inventor of canine DNA testing, offers the following disclaimer:  ". . . we cannot build a DNA profile for the Pitbull. Any Pitbull type breed tested using Wisdom Panel™ MX Mixed Breed Analysis is likely to reveal a combination of several breeds."*  Results of DNA testing are ambiguous and reveal little. The fact is that a dog can carry markers of a number of different breeds and still be a pit bull; they've been cross-bred since fighting dogs were invented.

SRUV has published numerous posts on pit bull identification and definitions, as well as on the deniers. Some of these posts can be found on the "Identifying Pit Bulls" sidebar.
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Scientific evidence presented by nationally recognized sources (including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and other independent entities) reliably demonstrates that dog breed is not a key predicative [sic] factor in dog bites.
It's still false. See our first comment above.
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Moreover, there is no truth to the myth that certain types of dogs have locking jaws or other sinister traits.
False. A pit bull bite is unlike any other dog bite and to quibble over word choice is disingenuous. The term "gripping" may be more accurate than "locking" in this application. When pit bulls bite they remain attached and the resulting wound looks as if a Berkel meat cutter had removed tissue down to the bone. We hesitate to suggest that anyone should look at images of these wounds, as it requires a level of voyeurism. But for those who require proof we host several images on this page.
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While all domesticated dogs have been selectively bred to enhance characteristics like hunting and herding ability, they share the same basic physical structure and communicate with the same signals and language.
ABSOLUTELY, UNEQUIVOCALLY FALSE. Pit bulls DO NOT signal their intent to attack; such signaling would be disadvantageous in the pit. Pit bulls are unique among all dogs in initiating an attack without revealing any sign of intent. Is it possible that HSUS is the only group that hasn't recognized this?
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For these reasons, efforts aimed at increasing public safety by singling out one breed/type of dog have never been successful.
Patently, blatantly false. Exceedingly, gratuitously false. Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is effective wherever it has been carefully written and enforced (see this post).
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 . . . efforts to protect the public from dog bites must be preventative and comprehensive in nature, and extended across the board to the owners of all dogs.
Wrong. We must not impose the same restrictions on Yorkshire Terriers and their owners that should reasonably be imposed on fighting breeds, for reasons too obvious to explain. This blind "breed neutral" approach has obvious, inherent, irreconcilable contradictions. These conceptual flaws led to the year-long debacle in Maryland.
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The HSUS has been one of our most respected animal welfare institutions, but they have become obsessive in their advocacy of pit bulls. As the Maryland pit bull Factsheet demonstrates, the HSUS has chosen to distort the facts to defend and promote an unpredictable, dangerous category of dog. This radical advocacy appeals only to a fraction of their donors and is incomprehensible to the rest of us. The HSUS has put itself in danger of losing the credibility they have established with the American people.

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Document Details
  • Author: T Santelli
  • Posted: Jan 18, 2013
  • Accessed: April 10, 2013
  • URL: Factsheet
This post is one of a series on the Maryland pit bull conundrum. To view the index of all Maryland posts click here.

Statistics are from Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here.

* Letter to the American Pit Bull Terrier Assoc. Inc. (NZ)

Pit Bull Compromise Fails
   (Marta H. Mossburg, The Baltimore Sun, April 9, 2013)
Bill to address court ruling . . .  fails to pass
   (Washington Post, April 9, 2013)
Votes weren't there for pit bull compromise
   (Baltimore Sun, April 9, 2013)
Fur flies as pit bull compromise fails in Maryland
   (WTOP 103.5 FM, April 9, 2013)
Negotiators Reach Deal on Pit Bull Bill
   (Baltimore Sun, April 8, 2013)

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks