Friday, August 30, 2013

The AVA on Dangerous Dogs

Revised: Aug 30, 2013; 22:33 GMT
Revised: Sept 01, 2013; 23:54 GMT
Revised: Sept 03, 2013; 15:33 GMT
Revised: Dec 12, 2013; 22:19 GMT
Revised: Dec 13, 2013; 17:59 GMT
Revised: May 23, 2014; 18:17 GMT

On July 3, 2012, SRUV wrote to the Australian Veterinary Association, requesting a review of their policy on Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).  The following month (August 2012) the AVA issued a 48 page document: Dangerous Dogs, A Sensible Solution.

Among the many misrepresentations in Dangerous Dogs (DD) is the claim that pit bulls demonstrate no more aggressive tendencies than Golden Retrievers. SRUV has written extensively about this monstrous deception (here and here). Pretending that Golden Retrievers are as aggressive as pit bulls is an outrage to reason.

DD refers to the C-BARQ test, in which pit bulls apparently scored fourth in stranger aggression (after Dachshunds and Chihuahuas). The C-BARQ is an online questionnaire in which dog owners evaluate their own dogs. If the authors of Dangerous Dogs believe that owners of pit bulls are credible sources to a discussion of fatal and disfiguring dog attacks then they've been drinking too much Fosters.

DD mentions the 25,000 dogs which were "tested by the Georgia-based American Temperament Test Society." Mention of the ATTS test is a colossal blunder on the part of the AVA. The ATTS was originally designed to test Schutzhund dogs and is not an accurate indicator of explosive aggression. The ATTS study referred to is very likely the results of thousands of field tests which were compiled into a "study" by Scot Dowd, who, as it happens, is a breeder of pit bulls. Dr Dowd also offers online courses (example: Hugs O' Steel) through the online APBT Network University.

Is Dr Dowd's "study" what passes for science among veterinarians?

DD also repeats the unsupported claim that BSL is not effective. In 1989 Miami-Dade county passed legislation restricting pit bulls, and remains the only county in Florida with BSL. Since that time Miami-Dade has experienced no fatal pit bull attacks, while 18 people have been killed by pit bulls elsewhere in Florida. Other municipalities with BSL report similar declines in pit bull attacks.

So why does the AVA continue to insist that BSL is ineffective?

We do not claim that the AVA would lie about BSL, only that they choose to remain uninformed in the face of overwhelming evidence that BSL works in jurisdictions where good legislation is properly enforced. BSL has never been intended to reduce the number of casual bites. There is no doubt that BSL is profoundly effective in reducing or eliminating pit bull attacks which cause death or grievous injury;

The AVA has bundled together many of the arguments which are ubiquitous on pit bull advocacy sites in the US. These arguments are not convincing but they are accepted as universal wisdom by the advocates of fighting breeds.

SRUV is not the venue for an exhaustive review of Dangerous Dogs; it is clear, however, that the AVA has invested their significant resources, and their credibility, in a gigantic but failed defense of Policy 6.15. It appears that Dangerous Dogs was written to explain and defend their existing policy rather than to find an honest solution to the pit bull problem.

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Deeon Higgins,  d August 4, 2013

On August 4th, 2013, in southwestern NSW, two-year-old Deeon Higgins was attacked and killed in his grandmother's yard by a dog owned by his 24-year old cousin.
After the recent mauling death of 84-year Lillian Bunsee in Trinidad's capital city, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan was asked about Trinidad and Tobago's new animal legislation. At the close of his comments he added the following:
I would like those persons who argue that there should be no legislation to control these dangerous dogs to pay a visit to the relatives of victims to explain their position and to offer some condolence . . . and compensation.1

Lillian Bunsee, d. August 25, 2013

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It is time for the AVA to explain their advocacy of fighting breeds to the family of Deeon Higgins.

SRUV has repeatedly called upon those who campaign against BSL to explain their views to the victims of pit bull attacks. The AVA responded to our previous appeal with a 48-page white paper in defense of pit bulls. Veterinarians and animal welfare executives who refuse to acknowledge these deaths or who explain them away with misrepresentations are simply not credible. And they are destroying the credibility of all veterinarians.

It is time for the AVA to acknowledge the toll of grief and misery caused by pit bulls; if they fail to confront this issue directly the institutions of veterinary care will lose credibility and the respect of those it serves.

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1 Pit bull belonging to breeder kills 82-year old grandmother
   (Denise Justin, Opposing Views, August 29, 2013)

Dangerous Dogs, A Sensible Solution (AVA, August 2012)

Pitbull attack victim 'literally a dog's breakfast'
   (New Zealand Herald, August 29, 2013)
Mum attacked by dogs after saving toddler in pram
   (Daily Telegraph, August 24, 2013)
Two dogs attack students, teacher
   (Daily Telegraph, August 16, 2013)
How did I end up in a race war over dogs, Miranda Devine
   (Daily Telegraph, August 10, 2013)
Time's up for deady dogs, Miranda Devine
   (Daily Telegraph, August 6, 2013)
Dog that killed toddler 'Not Dangerous'
   (Daily Telegraph, August 05, 2013)

See Also:
Previous post:  AVA Policy 6.15 (posted July 3, 2012)

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

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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.