Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Emory at Risk

To: Pamela Scully, Director, Emory University
          Center for Faculty Development and Excellence
      CFDE Executive Board
      James W. Wagner, President, and the President's Cabinet
      Stephen D Sencer, Emory University General Counsel and staff
      Kevin Riley, Editor, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
      Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia (PACGA)
      and members of the animal welfare community

During the Fall Quarter of the current academic year Emory University offered a course which placed the University at risk of significant financial loss. Furthermore, the University acted in a manner which jeopardized its standing as a good community member.

The course in question1 placed Emory University students, staff, and community members in close proximity to dogs known to cause a disproportionate number of disfiguring and fatal attacks. While there has been controversy among members of the animal welfare and public safety communities about the reasons for these attacks, the fact that pit bulls are involved in more attacks causing grievous bodily harm than all other breeds combined is undisputed.

Many of the attacks which resulted in large payouts, some in the millions of dollars, have been facial disfigurement attacks on children. There are known factors which lead to facial disfigurement attacks. Children are lower, almost at the level of the dog's face. Children (as well as adults) often show affection for the dog by placing their faces in close proximity to the dog. These can be perceived as provocative gestures by any dog, and especially must be avoided with any fighting breed. To encourage such behavior with a pit bull is to challenge the odds.

For an adult to sanction such behavior, and even to encourage it, is irresponsible. For a University to tolerate such high-risk behavior, or even to give tacit approval through vetting the course and offering funding, is to accept the resultant risk. Whether or not Emory determined that the risk this class presents is acceptable, the University should cancel the course for ethical reasons.

The public support for pit bulls is vast, for unaccountable reasons. Pit bull advocacy is unlike conventional animal welfare advocacy. In the words of well-known Canadian journalist Barbara Kay,
. . . this is the first time in the history of human-animal relations that a movement – the pit bull advocacy movement - has formed, not to promote the well-known virtues of a beloved breed, but to promote denial of a beloved breed’s well-known vices
Malcolme Gladwell and others have written about the stigma associated with owning a pit bull. Usually when an individual volunteers to become stigmatized, as pit bull owners do, there is good reason for it. It may be decades before we fully understand the cultural madness of pit bull advocacy.2 When we finally gain the collective courage to confront pit bull advocacy, we'll understand and overcome it.

For a University to take part in this advocacy, whether the support is indirect, inferred, or simply tolerated, is a high-risk strategy and it is questionable policy on many levels.

The Editors

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Verdicts and Settlements:

$2.2 Million settlement in pit bull attack upheld by WA State Court of Appeals
   News-Tribune (Tacoma), August 13, 2013

Boy mauled in PA pit bull attack settles for more than $500,000
   Insurance & Financial Adviser; Oct 12, 2012

Forida Woman Vicki Bentley Awarded $643K for Pit Bull Attack
    Opposing Views, June 4, 2012

Jury returns $7,000,000 Verdict After Fatal Pit Bull Mauling

$1,124,093 – A five-year-old boy who was attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull while the neighbors were babysitting the boy. A portion of the boy’s cheek was torn off in the attack.

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Photo associated with Emory University
Fall 2013 Engaged-learning undergraduate course

Denver CO, Feb 8, 2012

Interactive map of Georgia fatal pit bull attacks

For full screen map and complete details, view
Georgia Fatal Pit Bull Maulings - DogsBite.org

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1  American Studies/Interdisciplinary Studies 385
   The Dividing Lines: Pit bulls, Identity, and Community
    Fall 2013- Tu/Th 10:00 a.m.-11:15 a.m

2  Another manifestation of this madness recently occurred in Georgia when 36-year old Crystal Gale Fessler slipped into the grounds of the the animal shelter in Macon after hours and released at least 13 fighting breeds from their cages. In the resulting chaos three of the dogs were killed and many others wounded.   (Macon Telegraph)

Sources -- Emory University:
Pit bulls offer a lesson in community, identity
    Emory News Center, Dec 19, 2013
The Dividing Lines: Pit bulls, Identity, and Community
    Scholarblog for course taught by Donna Troka, Ph.D.
Course Syllabus
Pit bull discussion at Emory University, Atlanta, GA. Sept 2013

Recent Fulton County Pit Bull Attacks:

Woman remains hospitalized after pit bull attack
    MyFoxAtlanta.com, Oct 25, 2013
Medics airlifted Maria Ines Matta to Atlanta Medical Center after two dogs mauled her as she walked her own dogs. Henry County police had to shoot the dogs to save Mrs Ines.

Student bitten in face by dogs at Carver High School
    Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oct 8, 2013
Animal control officers were able to trap another dog accused of attacking a 13-year-old on Monday, Hudson said. That animal, however, is not related to the Carver incident.

8-year-old family dog kills 2-yo toddler 
    USA Today, April 26, 2013
A family dog who had never shown aggression before attacked and killed a 2-year-old boy Wednesday in a subdivision near here about 15 miles southwest of Atlanta, police said.

News Archive: 
Nine deaths in past 18 months blamed on pit bulls
   Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 29, 1986 (pg. A1)

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 in the US