Monday, February 3, 2014

Like a Dog

Revised, links corrected:  April 27, 2014; 15:06 GMT
Revised: October 25, 2014; 20:25 GMT

Debra Statz, Director
   The McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, Stanford University1
Deborah Chasman, Joshua Cohen; Editors
   The Boston Review

On July 1, 2011, the Boston Review published Like a Dog by Colin Dayan. The article begins with a review of Serge Avedikian’s short film Barking Island, which won the 2010 Palme d’Or in the short film category.

The film depicts the 1910 effort by the new Turkish government to rid the city of street dogs. After listening to proposals offered by European experts (including the Pasteur Institute in Paris) the government simply rounded up 30,000 dogs and abandoned them on Oxia, an island in the Marmara.

by Thomas Azuélos, from the film Barking Island

Ms Dayan devotes two sentences in the middle of her article to the Armenian genocide, the subject at the heart of Avedikian's film. She then pivots to the subject closest to her heart: a catalog of sorrows about recent and, according to her, ongoing canine slaughters.

She mentions the March 2011 shooting of 10 dogs at the Chesterfield County Animal Shelter (SC).2 She mentions the killing of a hundred sled dogs in Whistler Canada, after the 2010 Olympics. She saves the pièce de résistance for last:
And now, an estimated 40,000 dogs on the streets of the Romanian capital Bucharest face extermination if the country’s Chamber of Deputies approves a proposal to allow the euthanasia of stray dogs wandering in the city. Euthanasia is only one option. Marcela Pisla, president of the animal rights organization Cutu-Cutu, warns, “We have seen photographs as well as videos showing dogs being killed with metal bars, electrocuted and having their throats slashed.”
Ms Dayan was apparently unaware of Larry Portis's essay on Avedikian's film, which was published six months before her own essay. Portis writes eloquently about the art (by a young artist, Thomas Azuélos) and the cinematography (by Frédéric Tribolet); he also writes about the larger issue of human genocide the film is meant to evoke. Ms Dayan also neglects to inform the reader that Turkey has passed some of the world's most enlightened animal welfare legislation on a federal level, including a prohibition against killing homeless dogs. In 2004 Turkey passed additional federal legislation which mandates the use of neuter/return to control homeless dog populations. Local jurisdictions often fail to adhere to the legislation but animal advocates have been vigilant in reporting abuses.

The shooting at the Chesterfield County Animal Shelter occurred in March 2011, after the Chesterfield gas chamber was decommissioned and staff balked at using phenobarbital.

The 100 dogs killed in Whistler were raised as part of a tourist sledding business for the Olympics and were killed by the owner of the business. This was not a shelter or government sanctioned euthanasia. Ms Dayan fails to make the distinction.

The proposal to euthanize stray dogs in Bucharest was approved by the Chamber of Deputies in November 2013, but the European Union standards for euthanization apply.3, 4 Shock images have been released by animal activists from many countries, including the United States. Relatively few such images have been associated with Romania, where dogs were last purged on a large scale in 2001.

* * * * * 

It was different before, but now when we talk about euthanasia, especially in the US, we are talking about pit bulls.5 Shelter pit bull intake has soared from less than 1% of the dogs received to 37% in 2013, and from less than 2% of the dogs killed in shelters to nearly 60% of dogs killed.  Since the year 2000 shelters have received more than a million pit bulls per year and kill over 90% of them. Pit bull advocates were quiet on the subject of shelter killing until the majority of dogs killed were pit bulls.

We have allowed the number of surplus pit bulls to increase; we have even encouraged this growth. We have saturated the market of potential adopters, and the number of pit bull attacks on humans and on our companion animals continues to climb. In calendar year 2013 there was a fatal pit bull attack on a human every two weeks. Pit bulls maimed or permanently disfigured over 400 people. It's estimated that 31,000 domestic and companion animals were killed by dogs in 2013; 30,000 of those were killed by pit bulls.

There's a remedy for the slaughter of dogs in shelters, and for the pit bull attacks on humans and companion animals, but the advocates of fighting breeds and many in the humane movement steadfastly refuse to implement the remedy. In fact they often do their best to throw up obstacles to reform. The advocates for pit bulls are willing to spend (hold your breath, for this will sound fantastical to the uninitiated) millions of dollars to fight legislation which would mandate the neutering of pit bulls.

If we were to stop the breeding of surplus pit bulls the mass euthanasia of pit bulls would also stop. Shelter overcrowding and the pressure to adopt out pit bulls would disappear. There would be shelter space available for all the remaining dogs in need of it. Money spent on warehousing and euthanizing surplus pit bulls could be directed to other animal welfare needs.

Ms Dayan's article fails to inform us about the related problems of shelter crowding and euthanasia. She fails to mention the humane movement's self-inflicted tragedy of the mass euthanasia of dogs in shelters, most of which are pit bulls. The Boston Review has accomplished little by publishing Ms Dayan's article other than to raise the level of angry, often incomprehensible rhetoric on this already contentious issue.

The Editors

* * * * *
1 The Boston Review and The McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society share a publishing partnership.
2 Ms Dayan's article was published before the County Sheriff ultimately fired four employees in August.
3 Stray Animal Control Practices (Europe)
4 The welfare basis for euthanasia of dogs and cats and policy development, by the International Fund for Animal Welfare
5 Pit bulls are the inescapable subtext of Ms Dayan's article. See image below.

Resources on Euthanasia & Sheltering:

Pit bulls and shelter bankruptcy
   by Alexandra Semyonova;  June 20, 2012 (published in 17 Barks)
Pit bulls were 32% of US shelter inventory in June 2014
   Animals 24-7, July 5, 2014
Stamford shelter manager is first in U.S. to be charged with reckless endangerment for rehoming dangerous dogs
   Animals 24-7, June 23, 2014
Fitchburg (MA) becomes third public shelter to suspend operations due to liability concerns about pit bulls
   Animals 24-7, June 18, 2014
Why do shelters with empty cages kill animals at night?
   Animals 24-7, June 13, 2014
Shelters sued for attacks by rehomed pit bulls
   Animals 24-7; May 15, 2014
We cannot adopt our way out of shelter killing
   Animals 24-7, March 12, 2014
Pit bulls and political recklessness
   Animals 24-7; September 16, 2012

Sources (Barking Island):
Serge Avedikian’s "Barking Island": Dog Slaughter as Overture to the Armenian Genocide
by Larry Portis
Divergences: Revue Libertaire Internationale en ligne, Jan 29, 2011

Chienne d'Histoire (BARKING ISLAND)
Festival de Cannes

Collaborating to Save 'Garbage Dogs' in Turkey
by Garo Alexanian
Animal People, Nov/Dec 2008; p4

Castaway dogs trouble Malaysian conscience (p 1)
Marooned dogs' howls echo in Turkey (p 16)
Animal People, June 2009

By Colin Dayan
(published in The Boston Review):

Dead Dogs: Breed bans, euthanasia, and preemptive justice
   Boston Review, March 01, 2010

Like a Dog
   Boston Review, July 01, 2011

Exterminate the Brutes
   Boston Review, May 8, 2012

Dogs are Not People
   Boston Review, Jan 23, 2014

Sources for Chesterfield County, SC:
[Notes:  SLED = State Law Enforcement Dept. The pages below are no longer available. SRUV will send text versions upon request]
SLED to look closer at Chesterfield dog shelter reports
   April 1, 2011; Charlotte Observer (NC)
Witness describes abuse and cruelty at Chesterfield animal shelter
   April 2, 2011; Charlotte Observer (NC)
County urged to help with animal issues
   April 4, 2011; Cheraw Chronicle & Advertiser (SC)
Animal Shelter probe near closure
   July 20, 2011; Cheraw Chronicle & Advertiser (SC)
Sheriff fires four animal control officers
   Aug 3, 2011; Cheraw Chronicle & Advertiser (SC)
South Carolina, Chesterfield County settle dog shootings
   Aug 3, 2011; The Associated Press
Attorney General: No criminal charges brought in shelter killings
   Aug 12, 2011; Cheraw Chronicle & Advertiser (SC)

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

Colin Dayan (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Accessed Jan 15, 2014