Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In Trouble Again

Revised: May 14, 2013; 16:22 GMT
Revised: May 17, 2013; 13:40 GMT
To: The Editorial Board of the LA Times

We take great exception to the editorial of May 10, 2013. titled Pit bulls in trouble again.*  There are a number of misrepresentations which we will bring to your attention.

SRUV has previously noted that after particularly horrific pit bull attacks there inevitably follows a stream of articles defending pit bulls; your editorial follows in that tradition. There are other articles currently in the news which also shift the focus from pit bull attacks in an effort to generate sympathy for pit bulls. An appeal for sympathy for the killer, rather than an expression of sorrow, grief, or condolence for the victim, demonstrates a callous disregard for the victims of pit bull attacks. Advocating for fighting breeds is questionable; following a canine homicide it is repugnant.

The opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times followed by one day the death of 63-year-old Pamela Maria Devitt, who was dragged 50 yards by four pit bulls, scalped, and dismembered. Your editor mentions the death of Ms Devitt in the first sentence, then in the second sentence callously pivots to defending pit bulls for the remainder of her opinion piece. The death is all but forgotten.

There have been fifteen fatal dog attacks in calendar year 2013, twelve of them by pit bulls. There have been at least 130 attacks which resulted in permanent disfigurement or dismemberment, 114 of them by pit bulls. It is estimated that attacks on our more vulnerable animal companions are on the order of 10x the attacks on humans.

Most pit bull advocacy articles are authored by self-acknowledged advocates of fighting breeds. We have never before seen this kind of pit bull advocacy, coming on the heels of a canine homicide, from an opinion editor of a major newspaper.

There are a number of flaws in your editorial. First, you mention that many pit bulls involved in attacks are abused, or are presumably dogs associated with the drug and crime culture. This is far from true. Of the canine homicides this year at least half were caused by family pets. Many had been with their family since they were puppies.

Furthermore, you make the fallacy of unwarranted generalization: you've known a few nice pit bulls and generalize that all pit bulls must therefore be nice.

You ignore the behavioral trait known as Idiopathic Aggression, which cannot be tested for and which causes pit bulls that have not previously shown aggression to launch unprovoked attacks. Idiopathic aggression has been known and written about by animal behaviorists for decades, but is something pit bull advocates refuse to acknowledge.

You have published misleading information advocating for fighting breeds.  You have performed a  grave disservice to the many victims of pit bull attacks. We urge The Times to publish a correction  and offer an apology to your readers.

The Times could do even more, and become a leader in the movement for protecting the public from fighting breeds. Over 500 communities currently protect their citizens with some form of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), including mandated spay/neutering, microchipping, or requiring insurance for designated breeds. The need for BSL is being recognized across California and the Nation. The Los Angeles Times, as well as responsible owners, should welcome and advocate for these public safety measures.

* * * * *

Related posts:
Timeline of California pit bull attacks
Index of California posts
The Natural History of Fighting Breeds

Statistics 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.

Pit bulls in trouble again
    LA Times, May 10, 2013
Attack leaves beloved pet dead
   Lodi News, April 23, 2013
Thomasville Search & Rescue Dog Dies After Attack
   Greensboro News & Record, April 26, 2013

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

* SRUV notes that the article in question (Pit Bulls in Trouble Again) does not represent the views of the editorial board of the LA Times. The opinion piece was written by Carla Hall, a member of the editorial board, and was published in the Opinion L.A. blog section of the Op-Ed pages. This blog includes signed blog posts which represent only the opinions of the authors.