Friday, November 1, 2013

Importing Pit Bulls

In recent years the US has exported their pit bull problems to Canada. It's impossible to know which problem is worse: exporting the culture of pit bull advocacy, or exporting the actual dogs.

START,1  a company that transports animals for animal rescues, lists over a dozen animal rescue organizations, on a page titled Our Partners Up North.  START is a Los Angeles area company, and the partners on this page are located in Oregon and Washington. 2

START is one of a number of companies established to move surplus shelter dogs, many of which are pit bulls, around the country. Here is a rough outline of the way START and other transporters operate:
  • The shelters (in Southern California for this example) have surplus dogs they can no longer keep, and which they are unwilling to euthanize.
  • Local "Rescue" organizations come to the shelters and assume responsibility for the dogs.
  • The "Rescue" organizations arrange for many of these dogs to be transported out of the area, in this case to the Pacific NW.
  • When they reach their interim destinations the dogs are handed off to local "Rescue" organizations, while they are awaiting shipment to their final destinations.
  • Arrangements are made for many of these dogs to be shipped across the border into British Columbia.
  • When they arrive in Canada they are once again delivered to "Rescue" organizations or foster homes. Ultimately some of the dogs are sold to unwitting new owners in the parking lots of shipping centers. The less fortunate dogs are taken by illicit dog breeders and dog fighters.
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An incident last spring offers graphic testimony to the hazards a dog may encounter on this voyage. I-5 is the artery which carries these dogs north to Canada. The final 150 miles of the route, from Olympia to Bellingham, offers numerous stopover points for pit bulls before they cross over into Canada.

On May 12, 2013, Keith Eckert of Edmonds, a half hour north of Seattle, filmed a dog fight in his neighbor's back yard. Within days the video went viral.

As a result of the video police descended on the house of Rose Marie Adams-Beutler and removed fourteen pit bulls. Neighbors claimed that Adams had been fostering or keeping pit bulls for at least three years in filthy conditions.

It's difficult if not impossible to verify the number of pit bulls that are moved into Canada. But there is no more authoritative source than Cindy Marabito3 of Reunion Rescue. Marabito responded to the video with justifiable outrage. What is interesting in her article is the open acknowledgement that these dogs were part of a rescue operation (as opposed to simple animal hoarding), and were likely on their way to Canada.
Sadie, the dog being tortured in the video is reported to have come from a California shelter, perhaps on one of the many transports bringing high-kill death row shelter dogs to 'safe refuge' and 'sanctuary' in the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

Reading Marabito's account, the account of Rose Adams' son, and the earlier, bitter internecine intrigues of other rescue bloggers (here) paints a tawdry portrait of a dysfunctional band of pit bull advocates, some of whom are in need of rescue themselves.

* * * * *

The Burnaby council recently responded with courage to the growing pit bull menace by reinforcing their dangerous dog bylaws. According to an account in the Burnaby NewsLeader the belief persists that irresponsible owners are at the root of the problem.

There have been twenty fatal dog attacks on humans so far in 2013; pit bulls have accounted for nineteen of those attacks. There have been four hundred twenty-one disfiguring attacks on humans this year, three hundred seventy-seven of them by pit bulls.

Pit bulls undoubtedly attract irresponsible owners; is there any question that fighting breeds would be the weapon of choice for these people? But this alone doesn't account for the astonishing fact that pit bulls are responsible for 96% of the fatal dog attacks, when they comprise only 5-6% of the canine population. Too many of these attacks occurred in the homes of those who have unwittingly adopted pit bulls, and the victim is often a family member who has loved the dog until the moment of the attack.

Strengthening local bylaws is a good beginning to the control of this public safety menace. But strengthening the provincial laws which allow unregulated entry of these dogs into Canada is the surest way to control the long-term effects of a burgeoning pit bull problem.

* * * * *

1 Shelter Transport Animal Rescue Team
2 A similar pattern exists on the east coast with dogs that are shipped from southern states (and Puerto Rico) to the northern states.
3 Marabito is the author of Pit Bull Nation, hosts a pit bull blog, and is the director of two pit bull rescue organizations. She is also known for her account of the mauling death of Darlene Napora (see here).

US Sources:
California pit bull ripped apart at Washington state "rescue"
   Examiner; May 15, 2013
Dog owner investigated for animal cruelty
   Komo news; May 14, 2013
Animal abuse and filthy conditions caught on tape
   Animal Law News and and Abuse; March 24, 2013
'She Fell Off a Ladder' is PR Spin
   Pacifica Patch; August 18, 2011

Canadian Sources:
Pregnant cows attacked by pit bulls
   CBC News, October 14, 2013
Burnaby stands by pit bull 'vicious dog' bylaw, increases fines
   The Province, October 2, 2013
Council approves new pit bull fines
   Burnaby NewsLeader, October 2, 2013
Farwell pit bull victims shocked by lack of city action
   Revelstoke Times Review, October 1, 2013
Problem pit bulls are relocated
   Chilliwack Times, September 24, 2013
Pit bulls terrorizing neighborhood
   CBC News, September 16, 2013
Pit bull attacks raise call for tough restrictions
   Huffington Post B.C., September 13, 2013
Burnaby council looks at new rules and higher fees for owners of ‘vicious dogs’
   Global News, September 10, 2013
Dog trainer defends pit bulls after attacks on children
   CBC News (audio file), August 28, 2013
Two four-year-old children in B.C. have been mauled by pit bulls in the past week. Dog trainer Shelagh Begg says the media is to blame for the breed's bad reputation.
It's time to ban pit bulls in B.C.
   The Province, August 30, 2012

US: Three fatal pit bull attacks in one week:
Kindergartner dies after pit bull attack
   KTVB, September 27, 2013
Pit bulls kill toddler; Grandmother, uncle arrested
   The Sun (San Bernardino, CA), Sept 24, 2013
Little boy mauled by pit bulls in Gilbert, AZ, September 22, 2013

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.
Google News: Today's pit bull attacks