Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Humane Contradiction

Revised: Jan 31, 2014; 19:52 GMT
Revised: October 23, 2014; 15:32 GMT

Any dog in the wrong hands can be dangerous.
Scott Beckstead, Humane Society of the US

* * * * * 

To: Grady Singletary, Publisher, The Mail Tribune

The Mail Tribune is to be commended for their coverage of Medford's current pit bull conundrum. But despite the thorough coverage the public has been left with misconceptions. We are writing to correct several statements made by the advocates of fighting breeds.

Mr Beckstead's statement (above) that any dog can be dangerous is irresponsible. It was not a Yorkshire Terrier that attacked and killed Anne Ziegler's Simon. It was not a Dachshund that attacked Kathleen Olmstead's companion Halee.

Mr Beckstead is wrong but his motives are obvious. When representatives of animal shelters and humane organizations are asked to comment they all too often resort to their advocacy talking points. Common sense tells us that a Yorkie is not going to attack an Anatolian Shepherd; it's plain crazy to think so. If Mr Beckstead were talking with Ms Ziegler or Ms Olmstead privately would he have the chutzpah to insist that any dog would have attacked Simon or Halee?

It is bizarre for Mr Beckstead to insist that the canine companions which share our homes and lives are potentially dangerous and may attack us at any moment. And yet this is the position the Humane Society has taken: all dogs are potentially as dangerous as pit bulls. This is a corruption of the human-animal bond. This belief is incompatible with humane work and Mr Beckstead should quit his job if he truly believes all dogs are as dangerous as pit bulls. He is misleading the public and performing a disservice to our animal companions.

Simon, d. December 27, 2013

* * * * *

It would be difficult to offer an adequate response to Ms Frost's opinion piece (Jan 19), because every one of her twelve paragraphs contains misrepresentations. Commenter GeeWhiz responded to Ms Frost with appropriate irony:
All the above is correct except where it is just plain wrong.
In her editorial Ms Frost offers a catalog of pit bull advocacy, including the claim that Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is costly and ineffective. This unsupported assertion is patently false. Both Denver and Miami-Dade passed BSL in 1989, and they may be the only remaining major US cities which have not experienced a fatal pit bull attack. Since 1989 Miami-Dade has had no fatal attacks while there have been 18 fatal pit bull attacks elsewhere in Florida.

Neither Mr Beckstead nor Ms Frost acknowledge the painful legacy of pit bull attacks. There were at least 25 fatal pit bull attacks in calendar year 2013 -- a human death every two weeks -- and 407 attacks which caused permanent disfigurement -- an average of more than one a day. Thousands of our more vulnerable animal companions and other domestic animals were attacked, and hundreds of them killed. Advocates of fighting breeds who are unwilling to respond to this legacy of grief in a meaningful way are not credible.

* * * * *

Councilor Daniel Bunn acknowledges there is a problem, but has been quoted saying it's not the pit bulls' fault. Councilor Bunn is wrong: these attacks are the dog's fault. Nearly half of the people who were killed by pit bulls in calendar year 2013 were killed by their own much loved pet pit bulls, many of which had not previously demonstrated aggression. Pit bull advocates have convinced a large part of the public that pit bulls are essentially the same as other dogs, and only those which have been abused or poorly socialized become vicious. This is demonstrably false.

Mayor Gary Wheeler has gone on record saying that BSL is not on the table. Doubtless this is because he fears potential blowback from pit bull advocates. Burnaby BC recently found itself in a similar position, when the Council considered strengthening their already existing BSL. The Burnaby Council demonstrated their fortitude by withstanding the barrage of pit bull advocacy and passing the new, stronger legislation:
I'll call it the vocal minority that's been addressing us, . . . passionate about their pit bull dog. But we have a very silent majority out there that is in support of what the council is doing and they want us to not change our mind about restraining vicious dogs in the public.

    ~ Coun. Pietro Calendino, The Province, October 2013
The citizens of Medford will be grateful if their own council acts with similar fortitude.

* * * * *
Medford looks at possible pit bull ban
   Mail Tribune, Jan 9, 2014
Police push for pit bull restrictions
   Mail Tribune, Jan 10, 2014
A Breed Apart; Residents are divided over pit bull issue
   Mail Tribune, Jan 11, 2014
Medford will seek law aimed at problem canines
   Mail Tribune, Jan 15, 2014
   Mail Tribune, Jan 16, 2014
Council seems split over pit bull ban
   Mail Tribune, Jan 17, 2014
Breed-specific dog laws are ineffective, discriminatory
   Mail Tribune, Jan 19, 2014; guest opinion by Lisa Frost
Pit bull seized after attack on pigs
   Mail Tribune, Jan 21, 2014
Pit bull supporters rally against breed ban
   Mail Tribune, Jan 22, 2014
Dog fight involving four pit bulls injures owner and rescuer
   KOBI NBC5, Jan 25, 2014
Dogged by Doubt
   Mail Tribune, Jan 26, 2014
Pit bulls attack other dogs, two women
   Mail Tribune, Jan 28, 2014

ALSO in area news:
Baker City 5-yo dies after pit bull attack
   KGW, Sept 28, 2013
Pit bull mauls woman, 89, in Castle Rock
   KOIN, Nov 11, 2013
Pit bull attacks, kills Shetland Sheepdog
   KATU, Dec 31, 2013

32 years of logging fatal & disfiguring dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; September 27, 2014

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

This page may also include information from Dogsbite and Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Genius of Dogs

Revised: September 23, 2014; 22:03 GMT

Dear Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods,

Thank you for writing The Genius of Dogs (GOD). A previous SRUV post, Canine Cognition, expressed our admiration for your book. That post references only a brief passage in GOD. Now we would like to address a part of your book we previously ignored.

In Genius of Dogs you make a number of statements we question; these statements all fall between pages 208 and 213, in the section titled "The Aggressive Breed Myth." We recoil from the word "myth" and never use it in SRUV. We believe the pit bull advocacy movement has full ownership of the word, and its use evokes advocacy; that's exactly what transpires in your book. We bring your attention to specific passages below.

* * * * *

Pit bulls are not a specific breed, but the general name given to three breeds -- the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, and the American pit bull terrier (although the AKC does not recognize the American pit bull terrier as a breed).
GOD, p209
SRUV: This is not correct. According to Pit Bull Rescue Central (PBRC):

These breeds are essentially the same dogs but have been bred for different purposes and/or size standards since the mid 1930's. Some are even dual registered (i.e., registered as an American Pit Bull Terrier with the UKC and as an American Staffordshire Terrier with the AKC). . . . . How can we tell the difference? We can't, really.1

In addition, the different names are apparently irrelevant to the kennel clubs when it's a matter of getting more registration fees. This dog, for example,2 is cross-registered as both an APBT and AmStaff:

You will find numerous examples of cross-registration for yourself by simply browsing through pit bull breeder sites.

"Pit bull" also refers to a range of other pit bull/mastiff cross breeds and all the mixes that result from interbreeding. Legal definitions of pit bull which include a wide range of breeds and cross-breeds have withstood court challenges in many states. (View or download Omaha's legal definition.)

Many advocacy organizations continue to intentionally confuse the issue of breed identity; one senior executive of HSUS went so far as to claim there is no such thing as a pit bull (here and here). More reasonable pit bull advocates admit there is little or no distinction, and many fighting breeds and pit bull-mastiff crossbreeds are aptly called pit bulls. Your joining in this chorus of misinformation seriously undermines the credibility of your excellent work in GOD.
* * * * *

Occasionally, there is such a horrific attack that the public outcry leads to a push for quick-fix legislation.
GOD, p210
SRUV: Pit bull attacks on humans (as well as on more vulnerable animal companions) are not occasional. A human was killed by a pit bull every two weeks during calendar year 2013. Last year 407 pit bull attacks caused disfigurement or loss of limbs. That's more than one a day and twice as many disfiguring attacks as the previous year. The term quick-fix legislation is a pejorative term, on a par with panic policy making or knee-jerk reaction, all of which are used derisively when referring to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). The "Panic Policy-making" argument has been around since Moses, despite the years and years of work that legislators have invested in designing effective public safety legislation. Your words are an insult to the many animal welfare advocates who work for public safety legislation that protects our more vulnerable animal companions.
* * * * * *

The problem is that it is unclear if the pit bulls involved in the attacks are actually pit bulls.
GOD. p211
SRUV: People know pit bulls when they see them. This was confirmed by a recent ASPCA study conducted by Dr Emily Weiss, where the staff at the Richmond SPCA . . . were quite good at breed identification — correctly identifying 96% of the dogs in the study.3 This new report is in direct contradiction with the Voith study, which is endlessly cited by pit bull advocates. The Weiss study, a larger and more rigorous study, included both pit bulls and non-pit bull mutts. Voith, with her small sample of 20 mixed breeds, did not include any pit bull type dogs. While it may be difficult to distinguish between different kinds of mutts, people can distinguish between mutts and pit bulls. Voith's study was designed to achieve the desired results and consequently she's a hero of the advocates. 

* * * * *

Any dog with short hair, medium build, and a broad face might be called a pit bull.
GOD, p212
SRUV:  This is an unsubstantiated claim. Pit bull advocates may claim that mutts are often mis-identified as pit bulls, but there is no study showing that this has happened. Much of the time the opposite happens: following an attack pit bulls are intentionally misidentified as mixed breed or unknown breed. Many attacks that should be attributed to pit bulls are instead attributed to "mixed breed" when they are easily identifiable pit bull crosses.
* * * * *

In a 2009 study, researchers looked at how seventeen different adoption agencies classified breeds. Two-thirds of the time, the adoption agency said the dog was predominantly a breed that was nowhere in the dog's ancestry.
GOD, p211
SRUV: Back to the Voith study again. GOD provides citations for nearly every study you refer to, except the Voith study which you neglect to cite, and with good reason. See Letter to ASI Pt 4.
* * * * *

. . . the most aggressive dog toward strangers and other dogs was the dachshund.
GOD, p213
SRUV: This is just pure silliness, and beside the point. We responded to this in our response to Alexandra Horowitz (see Canine Cognition). For yet another perspective on the ATTS test see here and here. Talking about dachshunds is, well . . . , absurd when we're considering fatal attacks on humans.
* * * * *

The rate of deaths from these bites is very low, and only 1 in 3.9 million dogs ever kills anyone.
GOD, p213

SRUV: This argument has begun to show up on pit bull advocacy sites and it demonstrates a depraved indifference to the victims who have been fatally mauled. (See Animal Ethics)  When tossing about numbers in this manner you are diminishing the significance of those deaths. Here is one for your consideration:

Jordyn is one of at the 25 human fatalities caused by pit bulls in calendar year 2013 which you dismiss. If we had twenty five people die from any other animal attack, the country would be outraged and put an end to it immediately. Your use of the "fewness" argument is an example of how pit bull advocacy leads our culture into uncharted ethical waters.
"The Aggressive Breed Myth" is an anomaly in Genius of Dogs. The material in this section consists of a compressed catalog of pit bull advocacy memes that have been available on the internet for years, and appears to be the only section of the book that is not original, as if it were written by someone else and dropped into the book. The arbitrary nature of this section is so conspicuous that it feels alien to the rest of your material. There is no obvious reason why a section advocating for pit bulls would be considered compatible with Genius of Dogs. The information in this section is misinformed and the decision to include it must be considered an error.

The Editors

* * * * *

On January 14, 2014, SRUV sent a draft copy of this post to Drs Hare and Woods, requesting comment. We are herewith publishing the letter with minor changes.

1   PBRC: Is a Staffordshire Terrier the same as a Pit Bull?
    See also FAHS Amstaff mix or Pit Bull mix.

2  This image is from Diane Jessup's page What is a 'real' pit bull?

3  Bully This—The Results Are In, ASPCA Professional Blog
   See also: ASPCA Professional Blog If it looks like a duck

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

This page may also include information from Dogsbite and Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

See also: 
Canine Cognition


Friday, January 17, 2014

1987 - 1989

The Annotated Cultural Bibliography of Pit Bull Journalism

In six sections:

Argumentum ad misericordiam (forthcoming)

* * * * *
Revised: March 21, 2014; 15:09 GMT
Revised: March 27, 2014; 16:29 GMT

1983: Two months after 11-year-old Marcellus Hampton was killed by his parents' two pit bulls in June, the Cincinnati City Council passes an ordinance banning the sale or purchase of pit bulls. A proposal to ban pit bulls outright failed to pass. This early legislation may have been the country's first Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in a major city.

1984: Tijeras, NM pit bull ban goes into effect

The New Breed of Municipal Dog Control Laws, Are They Constitutional?
   by Lynn Marmer
   53 U. Cin. L. Rev. 1067 (1984)

Part Terrier, Part Terror
   by Leon Daniel, United Press International
   appeared in the Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1985

1986: City of South Miami pit bull ban goes into effect on January 1

Communities Consider Bans on Pit Bull Breed
   Associated Press (Fred Bayles); January 4, 1986

1986: Cincinnati votes to ban pit bulls (but does not enforce the law until August 1995, after a pit bull mauls an officer)

July 17, 1986; Tufts CAAP 1

City Bites Dog: Regulating Vicious Dogs/Pit Bull Terriers
   by Michael E. Weight, Assistant City Attorney of Everett, WA
   Legal Notes No. 444, Fall 1986 (Document Date: 10/15/1986)

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

Kansas Cities Take Action to Ban Pit Bulls
   Hutchinson News (Archived), March 2, 1986

First local BSL ordinance in California is enacted in the Central Valley town of Livingston
   March, 1987 (View or download PDF)

A Boy and His Dog in Hell, by Mike Sager
   Rolling Stone Magazine, July 1987
   Included in Sager's 2008 collection Wounded Warriors

Ohio governor receives bill defining pit bulls as vicious
  Toledo Blade, July 1, 1987 2

Canine Racism? Attacks by pit bulls prompt vicious dog laws
   Christian Science Monitor, July 3, 1987

An Instinct for the Kill
   by Michelle Green, People, July 6, 1987
   A remarkable article from an unlikely source, People magazine.

Series of Pit Bull Attacks Stirs a Clamor for Laws
   by Peter Applebome, New York Times. July 12, 1987

Pit Bulls: Born Killers Or Trustworthy Pets? by Jill Young Miller
   Orlando Sun-Sentinel, July 19, 1987

Foes, Fanciers Agree Pit Bulls Are a Breed Apart, by Gary Wilkes
   The Mesa Tribune, July 26, 1987

Beware of This Dog
   Sports Illustrated, July 27, 1987

Time Bomb on Legs
   Time Magazine, July 27, 1987

July 28, 1987: Yakima, WA enacts pit bull ban

Biting Back at Pit Bulls
   Los Angeles Times; August 25, 1987
   This editorial opinion called for Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), before the term existed. The opinion stood for 26 years, until it was repudiated by a new opinion on August 8, 2013. The Times wrote the revised opinion, against BSL, following a string of pit bull attacks in the LA area. (See LA Times Unopinion)

Sept 21, 1987: Overland Park, KS enacts pit bull ban

October 15, 1987:  By this date 44 cities in Kansas had enacted partial bans and 34 cities had enacted complete bans on pit bulls. See League of Kansas Municipalities, Pit Bull Dog Ordinances in Kansas
Cities (Oct. 15, 1987). The constitutionality of bans in Pittsburg, Kansas, and Shawnee, Kansas, were upheld by their respective municipal courts.

1988; Ft Thomas, KY adopts BSL; ban also declares pit bulls to have “inherently vicious and dangerous propensities”

What About Pit Bulls?  by Don W. Ownby, 1988
   Municipal Technical Advisory Service
   Exhaustive 75-page analysis by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (of the University of Tennessee) in cooperation with the Tennessee Municipal League

Banning the Pit Bull: Why Breed-Specific Legislation Is Constitutional
   by Sullivan, Sallyanne K.
   13 U. Dayton L. Rev. 279 (1987-1988)
   This issue of the Dayton L Review includes a special section titled
   "Vicious-Dog Legislation—Controlling the ‘Pit Bull'

March 17, 1989: South Milwaukee, WI enacts pit bull ban

Dog bite-related fatalities from 1979 through 1988.
   Sacks, et al; Journal of the American Medical Association
   [Note: During the period of this study pit bull breeds were involved in over 40% of DBRF (dog bite related fatalities); the proportion of deaths attributable to pit bulls increased from 20% at the beginning of the study to 62% at the end, nine years later. The current figure remains near the 60% mark.]

1989: Miami-Dade County, FL and Denver, CO enact pit bull bans.

* * * * *

1 The Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University organized a workshop in 1986 and a conference in 1987. Andrew N. Rowan, director of the Tufts Center for Animals at the time, edited and published the proceedings. Rowan eventually moved to the HSUS where he currently holds at least five titles.
    Dog Aggression and the Pit Bull Terrier
       Workshop; July 17, 1986
   The Pit Bull Terrier Revisited: How To Break The Vicious Circle
       Conference; September 19, 1987

2 Ohio's BSL was rescinded 25 years later, in 2012. Lucas County state representative Barbara Sears marshaled the repeal effort through the legislature, with the support of The Toledo Blade. The week the repeal took effect in May 2012, 3-day old Makayla Darnell was killed by the family pit bull in Monroe Township and pronounced dead by the Lucas County Coroner.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Carnival of Madness

2013 may go down as the craziest year in US pit bull history since the dogmen went underground. Here are the highlights.
* * * * *

Feb 20:
Vegas woman arrested for sex with pit bull, in her yard.
See "Crimes Against Nature" below

May 12:
Keith Eckert of Edmonds WA filmed a dog fight in his neighbor's back yard; within days the video went viral. This was the signal for pit bull advocates and rescuers to act out. Cindy Marabito of Reunion Rescue waded into the fray. So did Rose Marie's son, against his mother. Blogger Brandia Taamu,1 apparently a supporter of the Washington State Militia, launched a furious assault on -- everybody?
See SRUV post: Importing Pit Bulls

June 6:
RI woman sics pit bulls on TV reporter
New York Magazine

August 8:
After an escalating series of pit bull attacks in Southern California, including two fatal pit bull attacks, the LA Times responded with a series of editorial page articles advocating in behalf of pit bulls.

After the third fatal pit bull attack in Southern California, in which 2-year old Samuel Eli Zamudio was killed in San Bernardino County, the Times doubled down and issued a formal Editorial Page Opinion AGAINST Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Yes, you read that right.
See SRUV post: Doubling Down

October 17
Sometime in the middle of the night Crystal Gale Fessler crawled through security fencing at All About Animals shelter in Macon GA and released dozens of dogs, many of them pit bulls and bulldog mixes. A massive dogfight ensued, leaving dead and wounded dogs scattered around the yard. Is Fessler a dogfighter or an advocate? No one knows.
The Macon Telegraph
Crystal Gayle Fessler

November 14
Pit bull chews through Toyota Yaris, trying to get to cat
WPLG Channel 10 Miami

December 6: Dogs Going North
Massive airlift in private airplanes takes 400+ dogs from shelters in Southern California, and flies them to cities in the Pacific NW. Cost of flights, 400 travel kennels, collars, leashes, food, shots, logistics at receiving end, etc. (all of which were donated) easily runs to six figures.

This was the 3rd annual airlift.
San Bernardino Sun

December 19
From the Emory News Center: Professor Donna Troka of Emory University offers a fall quarter credit course on pit bulls in which class members introduce Atlanta inner-city children to pit bulls.2
See SRUV post: Emory at Risk

December 28: Dogs Going South
Steve Markwell loaded his 124 "Sanctuary of Sorrow" dogs into a 53-foot tractor trailer in the dead of night. Markwell, founder and director of no-kill Olympic Animal Sanctuary in Forks on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, was under investigation by local authorities for animal abuse and left town with his animals and his cellphone, and with no destination in mind.

Most of the dogs had been turned over to Markwell's no-kill sanctuary after they were determined to be dangerous, and most have a history of attacking or biting other animals or people. Many of the dogs are considered unadoptable.

Guardians of Rescue, a Smithtown, NY  rescue organization, headlined the intervention and guided Markwell to a soft landing in Arizona. Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue, is a producer for the upcoming TV reality show “The Diamond Collar,” about a mobster-turned-dog groomer. Misseri's previous reality show was about a group of tender-hearted outlaw bikers who rescue pit bulls.

RUFF, an Arizona rescue sanctuary, volunteered to take Markwell's dogs but doesn't have resources to care for them. On Dec. 11 the shelter had appealed for donations to cover $15,000 in back payments on the property where the kennel is located.

Dog Spot, a Seattle-based rescue, then helped rescue all the other rescues.

Opposing Views; Guardians of Rescue, Komo News, Peninsula Daily News, Peninsula Daily News
See SRUV post: Dog Laundering

And that's the way it was . . . . .

* * * * *

1  Brandia blogs about animals on Animal Law News & Abuse. When she isn't blogging about animal abuse she's blogging about who, Adams-Beutler or herself, has the most eviction notices, who has had their children removed  more often, and who has the most police citations.

2  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

Crimes Against Nature:
Feb 20: Vegas woman arrested for sex with pit bull
Mar 28: Man arrested for rape of employer's pit bull
Jun 03: Man arrested for having sex with pit bull at city pound
Sep 01: Kurtis Peterson gets 15 years for sexually assaulting pit bull
Dec 03: Chesterfield teen sexually abused pit bull
Xxx ??: Georgia teen arrested for raping employer's pit bulls
Xxx ??: Florida man arrested for raping girlfriend's pit bull

See also: A brief look at cynophilia, Dr Mark Griffiths
See also: American zoophiles take on the language of equality, The Telegraph

2014 Dog Bite Related Fatalities on Daxton's Friends
Index of canine fatalities on Daxton's Friends

32 years of logging fatal & disfiguring dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; September 27, 2014

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

This page may also include information from Dogsbite and Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Animal Ethics

Revised: Jan 13, 2014; 16:24 GMT
Revised: Jan 15, 2014; 17:26 GMT
Revised: Jan 16, 2014; 16:16 GMT
Revised: Apr 09, 2014; 04:54 GMT
Revised: May 31, 2014; 15:54 GMT
Revised: Nov 18, 2014; 17:07 GMT

The two-sentence excerpt below constitutes the opening paragraph of a paper presented to the American Bar Association symposium on breed-specific laws (BSL) held at NYU Law school in December 2007:
   By way of orientation: This paper is not intended to assault the reader with a barrage of facts showing breed-specific legislation is ill-conceived, though it would not be hard to adduce such facts: For example, there are five times more people killed by lightning per year (100) or by falling coconuts (150) or by hot tap water (150 in Japan alone) than by dog bites (18 per year). Death by bug bite (54 per year) is three times more likely than dog bite; death in virtue of being struck by a cow also three times more likely (65 per year).

   Since I am a philosopher, the paper is conceptual . . . .

Animal Ethics and Breed-Specific Legislation
Bernard E. Rollin, Ph.D. (HomeWikipedia)
5 J Animal L. 1 (2009)
* * * * * 

Anyone who has seen the 1989 miniseries Lonesome Dove1 will remember Clara Allen, the fictional character played by Anjelica Huston. Clara is married to a comatose husband who lingers interminably. He has been injured in a farm accident (in this case by a horse), leaving the future of the farm in doubt.

Dr Rollin promises not to assault the reader with facts, then does just that. The facts he regales us with minimize the number of deaths attributed to dogs by noting that cows killed three times as many people as did dogs. Bugs and falling coconuts killed even more humans than did cows. These figures roll around like dice in a shaker: 18, 65; such small numbers are meaningless, are they not? Dr Rollin makes these deaths sound ridiculous.

Clara Allen was a fictional character but farm-related injuries often have a devastating impact on real-life families.2, 3 A philosopher may speak conceptually about these deaths but they are life-altering disasters for the families involved. Fortunately our institutions recognize the impact of these individual tragedies. Significant financial and human resources have been committed, by state and federal agencies and by agricultural universities, to studying the causes of farm accidents and learning how to avoid them.

Dr Rollin's goal in this paper is to establish a moral-conceptual flaw underlying breed-specific legislation, because, if such a flaw can be found to exist there is no need to assemble supporting facts in the fight against BSL. This is a sound strategy for Dr Rollin, because the supporting data does in fact show that BSL works.

* * * * *

Dr Rollin's paper includes one of the loveliest paeans to dogs we've come across; it bears reading again and again. But then he undercuts the beauty of it by making an appeal to emotion, based on the passage:
Are we as a society going to accept, even endorse, laws that cavalierly can rip an object of love and attention — sometimes the only such object for an old person or a street person — from a person’s bosom without their having done anything wrong, merely because they belong to a certain arbitrarily determined class?5
But this is not a compelling argument against BSL, which need not deny anyone the succor of a canine companion. Even with BSL anyone can have a lovely dog. There are over 175 breeds from which to chose, and an infinite number of mutts -- surely there is a dog in the world to please anyone of reasonable disposition.

Dr Rollin writes passionately of the
tendency of urban life to erode community, to create what the Germans called "Gesellshaft" rather than "Gemeinschaft," mixtures rather than compounds, as it were, further established solitude and loneliness as widespread modes of being.
Our lives may be fragmented, Dr Rollin continues, but our canine companions return a sense of wholeness and community to each of us.

* * * * *

Despite his hope to discover a moral-conceptual flaw Dr Rollin doesn't hesitate to fall back on the received wisdom against BSL, harvested from pit bull advocacy pages on the web. He inevitably refers to the ATTS, which purportedly proves that dachshunds are more aggressive than pit bulls; this is an outrage to reason. The ATTS was designed to test Schutzhund dogs and was intended as a breed suitability test for the German Shepherd. As the ATTS website states, the test simulates a casual walk through a park or neighborhood where everyday life situations are encountered.

There were 29 fatal pit bull attacks on humans in calendar year 2013; there were 407 pit bull attacks which left humans maimed or permanently disfigured. Do Dr Rollin and other advocates consider these figures acceptable to a moral community? These attacks did not occur on a casual walk in the park. About half of the 2013 fatal pit bull attacks occurred in the homes of those who have unwittingly adopted a pit bull, and the victim is often a family member who has loved the dog until the moment of the attack. The ATTS is not an accurate predictor of unprovoked pit bull attacks. Advocates have long been aware of this but stubbornly insist that dachshunds or chihuahuas are more aggressive than pit bulls, which experience clearly tells us isn't the case. It's simply bizarre to say so. SRUV appeals to honorable people to debate BSL honestly, with integrity, and to not make outrageous claims that credulous people will repeat.

* * * * * 

There are other lapses. When introducing the concept of "canine racism," for example, he states
And if one is of the post-modernist mind to deconstruct the concept of race as meaningless, the issue is mooted, since there are then no breeds to ban! We shall shortly see that “pit-bull” is far more amorphous than a breed.
We have all graduated beyond the point where we believe pit bulls constitute a "breed." Yet we require a common language with which to discuss these ideas and so are stuck with the inherited terms pit bull and Breed-specific legislation.6 It's easy to see where Dr Rollin is headed with this quibble on the term pit bull. Dr Rollin returns to the matter of breed for his conclusion, which is the weakest part of the paper. In the process he falls for the ubiquitous "Find the Pit Bull Test."7

Dr Rollin suggests that any dog which falls into a targeted group could be
singled out, extirpated from family, and euthanized simply by virtue of membership in that group.
This is shameful fear-mongering, unworthy of a dignified argument. Perhaps we have difficulty instituting public safety measures simply because our legal philosophers are not clear how such measures can be gracefully implemented. Most new BSL legislation does not even include a total ban on pit bulls; it imposes other, lesser measures such as neutering and requirements for insurance. BSL that does include banning nearly always grandfathers in existing pit bulls and allows the numbers of pit bulls to gradually decline over time, as the existing family dogs age and die natural deaths within the bosom of their families. Dr Rollin makes no allowance for these distinctions.

* * * * * 

The core of Dr Rollin's argument appears to be that as society has moved increasingly toward judging beings as individuals, the individual animals in our moral circle will also be judged as individuals:
In sum, then, the creation of breed-specific legislation aimed at certain types of animals is incompatible with the thrust of social ethics towards including individual animals in the moral circle, as well as with the dominant 20th century moral theory of judging beings in the scope of moral concern as individuals.
This is an elegant construction, and a point worthy of consideration. But after stripping away the conventional pit bull advocacy memes in Dr Rollin's paper there isn't enough left to support this finding.

The takeaway? It appears to be the anecdotal first paragraph minimizing the fewness of human deaths caused by pit bulls. Professor Rollin's data now appears on pit bull advocacy sites and in the comment sections under news accounts of pit bull attacks, where it is used to diminish the gravity of the attack. It shows up as a canker in Brian Hare's book The Genius of Dogs. It has gone viral.

Dr Rollin bases his argument against BSL on our increasing concern for the individual, both human and canine, over the good of the community.8 Unaccountably, Dr Rollin contributes to the fracturing of society that he descries. He makes an oblique, dismissive reference in his opening paragraph to the numbers killed by pit bulls, but then renders those numbers meaningless. Dr Rollin makes his own argument absurd, because the "fewness" of deaths is not sufficient justification for a moral community, one that values the individual, to ignore them.

Dr Rollin's arguments against BSL are also wrong from a humane standpoint. Our collective social will has to protect our members from senseless deaths, regardless of how few they are. We do not allow advocates of potentially dangerous behaviors to decide the arbitrary hypothetical number of deaths that would justify a regulatory response. We as the endangered members of a moral community must define what that number is.

It has always been that way, every time there has been social reform. We could not let meat packing companies in Chicago define what social costs were allowable in getting meat to the table. It was the collective will of society that had to decide which abuses were not allowable. Dr Rollin has not demonstrated that BSL would impose undue hardship on the moral community, and he has not demonstrated that 25 fatal pit bull attacks a year is a number we should tolerate.

With thanks to Renranguangyin      

* * * * *
1 Based on the 1985 Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Larry McMurtry.
2 Review of Farm Accident Data Sources, National Agriculture Safety Database
3 Livestock Handling Related Injuries and Deaths
4 Dairy Farmer Dies from Crushing Injuries Sustained while Loading Cows (Case Report: 03NY040)
5 We will not discuss the use of the word arbitrary in this context, other than to say Dr Rollin's use of manipulative language throughout the paper is unusual for a philosopher. While blogs can get away with such usage, law journals should refrain.
6 The term pit bull has withstood court challenges up to the Supreme Court of the US. Pit bull does not signify only three breeds of dogs, as Dr Rollin claims. View or download the legal definition of a pit bull as defined in Omaha, NE
7 The reason it's so difficult to find the one true pit bull on these posters is because it's a fool's game. Many of the dogs represented on these posters are pit bull type dogs, and these have been cross- and inter-bred to arrive at today's pit bull. Try the alternate and honest Find the Pit Bull test.
8 Dr Rollin chronicles the drift from Gemeinschaft to Gesellshaft, beginning with our change from an agricultural society to an urban/automobile-based society. This drift became a torrent after WWII, and "with egocentricity and self-actualization encouraged as positive values beginning in the highly individualistic 1960s, even the nuclear family concept was eroded." Many would argue that the children of the 60s were already alienated and were seeking community. It could also be argued that that the final blows to our cohesiveness as a society were struck in the 80s and later, when successive conservative governments sanctioned and encouraged individual rights and interests over the commonweal.

SRUV uses the definition of "pit bull" as found in the Omaha Municipal Code Section 6-163. As pit bulls are increasingly crossed with exotic mastiffs, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and other breeds, the vernacular definition of "pit bull" should be made even more inclusive.

Sources cited by news media sometimes refer to "Animal Advocates" or sometimes "Experts." In many cases these words are used to refer to single-purpose pit bull advocates who have never advocated for any other breeds or species of animals. Media would be more accurate to refer to these pit bull advocates as advocates of fighting breeds.

Similarly, in many cases pit bull advocates refer to themselves as "dog lovers" or "canine advocates" and media often accepts this usage. The majority of these pit bull advocates are single-purpose advocates of fighting breeds.

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

2014 Year-end report of dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; January 3, 2015
32 years of logging fatal & disfiguring dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; September 27, 2014
How many other animals did pit bulls kill in 2014?
   Animals 24-7; January 27, 2015

This page may also include information from Dogsbite &Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

2014 Dog Bite Related Fatalities on Daxton's Friends
Index of canine fatalities on Daxton's Friends

Scientists calculate odd ways to die
   Daily Mirror, May 30, 2008


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Canine Cognition

Revised: Jan 5, 2014; 14:15 GMT
Revised: Jan 6, 2014; 01:45 GMT
Revised: Jan 6, 2014; 14:38 GMT
Revised: March 13, 2014: 16:29 GMT
Revised: September 23, 2014: 18:02 GMT

"We have learned more about how dogs think in the past decade than we have in the previous century," write Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods in the opening pages of their book The Genius of Dogs. This is an auspicious beginning, one certain to make inquiring readers continue. The three books mentioned on this page are examples of the new learning. They illustrate not only the genius of our baffling, always surprising canine companions but the genius of some of those now writing about them.

The authors of all three books do their best to avoid the quagmire of canine aggression, but fail. Inevitably, each of the authors are pulled into the vortex of the most troubling issue facing those who study dogs today.

* * * * * * * * * *
What is considered aggressive is culturally and generationally relative. German shepherds were on the top of the list after World War II; in the 1990s Rottweilers and Dobermans were scorned; the American Staffordshire terrier (also known as the pit bull) is the current bĂȘte noire. Their classification has more to do with recent events and public perception than with their intrinsic nature. Recent research found that of all breeds, dachshunds were the most aggressive to both their own owners and to strangers. Perhaps this is underreported because a snarling dachshund can be picked up and stashed away in a tote bag.
   ~ Horowitz,1 footnote pg 53
Ms Horowitz is the most wary of the three authors on the subject of aggression. She refers to the subject only once, a passing reference in a footnote.

It appears that the point of this incidental footnote is to go on record with (not one but) two of the most tiresome pit bull advocacy arguments. The first is that thugs will always chose the dog that's currently thought to be the most ferocious, and pit bulls are merely the unfortunate recipients of this unwelcome attention.

This popular argument begs the question of which breed really is more dangerous. Dobermans enjoyed their moment as most feared canine, as have GSDs and Rottweilers. All the fear and publicity and posturing aside, which dog really is more dangerous? It isn't even close. While Dobermans may be intimidating they've killed only 7 humans in the last 30 years while pit bulls have killed 257; Dobermans just weren't bred for killing. GSDs have killed 15 humans in 30 years (in the low 20s if counting crossbred GSDs) and Rottweilers have killed in the low 80s in the last thirty years. This isn't an argument worth having.

Her second argument, the aggressive dachshund argument, is a cartoonish way of addressing pit bull aggression, as if we can compare the aggression of pit bulls to that of a dachshund. Yet the ATTS results (which Ms Horowitz refers to) are one of most common arguments of pit bull advocates. When talking about pit bull aggression we aren't comparing the number of snarls and nips; we're considering the actuarial value of attacks which cause disfigurement and human fatalities. And we're talking about the individual lives lost and ruined. This too is an argument we shouldn't be wasting our time on. We hesitate to say this because, excepting this single lapse, the rest of Ms Horowitz's book is uniformly intelligent.

* * * * *
Breed specific laws based on appearance as opposed to bad behavior are doomed to fail in protecting the public because it is difficult to judge a dog by her cover. What breeds contributed to the genetic makeup of this dog? Because of his facial markings, most people think this dog is the offspring of the female Rottweiler he shares a backyard with. He is actually the son of Mystique and another village dog -- both of whom look nothing like Rottweilers.
   ~ Hare and Woods,2 photo caption facing pg 179
Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods have written a book that justifies our love of dogs. We have yet to discover a book that holds more promise for the next ten years of canine studies, or is more of a pleasure to read.

But Hare and Woods also fall prey to one of the great canards of pit bull advocacy: that Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is unenforceable because pit bulls are difficult to identify. Pit bull advocates presumably are able to identify the dogs they advocate for.

All the happy crossbreeding going on has produced millions of mutts of unknown provenance. It is impossible to know the genetic composition of every mutt, but when the dog in question is a pit bull we do know it's a pit bull.

Well written legislation based on legal definitions of physical appearance effectively limits pit bull attacks. Denver and Miami-Dade both passed ordinances restricting pit bulls in 1989; neither city has experienced a pit bull fatality since their bans took effect. In fact they may be the only major cities to avoid pit bull fatalities in the last 25 years. During the same period 18 people were killed by pit bulls elsewhere in Florida and over 250 humans were killed by pit bulls in the US. Is further proof required that BSL is effective?

* * * * *
. . . the existence of 70 million dogs inevitably means: politics. The politics were vicarious -- it was people who are arguing about dogs and making decisions and judgments about them -- but that rendered them, if anything, even more intense. . . .

The dog world is aflame with conflict. Breeders battle humane organizations. Pit bulls, the most common dogs in urban animal shelters and also in dog maul statistics, are the subject of a long-running debate and legal struggle as to whether nature or nurture produced their problems . . . . And no one knows just how dogs will be produced in the future, what the rules will be, and who should be in charge.

The fierceness and impacted rage in some of these disputes suggested to me they were about something else, and they are: the politics of dogs are a reflection, distilled and distorted, of the politics of people. They're surrogates for our own conflicts, being fought by conservatives and radicals of many stripes, all trying desperately to put their own ideological stamp on the future of dog.

   ~ Homans,3 pp. 16-17

Pit bulls no doubt get a very bad rap -- raised properly, they are as sweet as any other dog.
   ~ Homans, p. 220
Homans tries in vain to avoid the issue of aggression but he too is drawn into the vortex; he claims, indirectly, in a single sentence on page 220, that pit bull aggression is the result of bad owners rather than an inherent trait. Mr Homans, like so many others before him, cannot avoid the nature/nurture quagmire.

It's difficult to fault the author when he has written such an engaging book. All three of our authors appear to have made their advocacy claims in a perfunctory, off-hand manner, as if they were obliged to say something about pit bulls: a footnote, a photo caption, a sentence slipped in out of context at the end of a book. For all three authors, their pit bull advocacy moments are all drawn from the canon, and in each case it is virtually the only time in their respective books that their creative genius has failed them.

We can be grateful to Mr. Homans for confronting the larger issue; in the early pages he notes that pit bulls are a political issue. This is an insight of great moral courage. We have suffered through four great conflicts during our cultural wars: abortion, gun rights, immigration, and gay rights. Now we may be embarking on our fifth. The politics of dogs are a reflection, distilled and distorted, of the politics of people. Like our previous cultural wars the problem of pit bulls is intractable because it crosses social, economic, gender, and educational boundaries, and because our convictions are based on faith. Which means that, much like the previous culture wars, the pit bull wars, at least for the moment, seem impossible to resolve.

* * * * *

1 Inside of a Dog
by Alexandra Horowitz
Simon & Schuster, Inc; 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020, 2009

2 The Genius of Dogs
How dogs are smarter than you think
by Brian Hare, Vanessa Woods
Penguin Group; 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014, 2013

3 What's a Dog For?
The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man’s Best Friend
by John Homans
The Penguin Press; 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014, 2012

How Dogs Love Us
A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain
by Gregory Berns
New Harvest
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 222 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116; 2013
(not reviewed but recommended)

The authors with their dogs:

* * * * *

SRUV uses the definition of "pit bull" as found in the Omaha Municipal Code Section 6-163. As pit bulls are increasingly crossed with exotic mastiffs, Catahoula Leopard Dogs, black mouth curs and other breeds, the vernacular definition of "pit bull" must be made even more inclusive.

Sources cited by news media sometimes refer to "Animal Advocates" or sometimes "Experts." In many cases these words are used to refer to single-purpose pit bull advocates who have never advocated for any other breeds or species of animals. Media would be more accurate to refer to these pit bull advocates as advocates of fighting breeds.

Similarly, in many cases pit bull advocates refer to themselves as "dog lovers" or "canine advocates" and media often accepts this usage. The majority of these pit bull advocates are single-purpose advocates of fighting breeds.

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

2014 Year-end report of dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; January 3, 2015
32 years of logging fatal & disfiguring dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; September 27, 2014
How many other animals did pit bulls kill in 2014?
   Animals 24-7; January 27, 2015

This page may also include information from Dogsbite &Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks

2014 Dog Bite Related Fatalities on Daxton's Friends
Index of canine fatalities on Daxton's Friends


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Top Ten

This selection is listed chronologically, and does not reflect the number of page views. The list is subject to change.

* * * * *

1/  Mint Hill Update
     Feb 18, 2013
It's now known that the owner of the two pit bulls in the 2013 attack on Joker is the same man who owned the two pit bulls -- two different pit bulls -- that attacked the Appaloosa in 2011.

     March 10, 2013

3/  Dogs Being Dogs
     April 23, 2013

4/  By Donald Cleary
     May 31, 2013

5/  Florida Hell Week
     June 6, 2013

6/  Preemption
     June 19, 2013
But what have these groups achieved with their opposition to BSL? It is difficult to imagine how the AKC and the breeders have benefited; registrations of purebred dogs have been dropping for the last decade, while pit bulls, nearly all of them bred by back-yard breeders, continue to proliferate and displace other dogs in family homes.

7/  Preemption and Insurance
     July 18, 2013

8/  LA Times Opinion
     August 9, 2013

9/  The AVA on Dangerous Dogs
     August 30, 2013

10/ I used to Think That Way
      September 13, 2013
The coverage of Steven Hayashi's trial and the death of Nephi Selu by Henry K Lee in the SF Chronicle is what journalism aspires to. Lee scooped the hometown journalists on their own turf by conducting a jailhouse interview with Hayashi the day after Jacob's death. During the interview Lee elicited the quotation . . .

11/ Doubling Down
      October 23, 2013

12/ Puppycide
      November 18, 2013

13/ November Outreach
      December 20, 2013