Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Collective Wrath: Pt 1

Revised: September 10, 2014; 17:25 GMT
Revised: September 11, 2014; 14:42 GMT
Revised: September 15, 2014; 15:57 GMT
Revised: September 23, 2014; 20:05 GMT

An extraordinary dialogue was published in the pages of the Star-Democrat (Easton, MD) between June 22nd and August 13th, 2014. The exchange consisted of two letters written by Dr Ellicott McConnell, to which Susan Sarubin responded. The dialogue ended with a bitter attack by Ms Sarubin on one of animal welfare's most respected figures.

Collective Wrath Part 1 responds to Ms Sarubin's attack on Merritt Clifton; Part 2 responds to two charges of a more general nature.

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1. Susan Sarubin: The statistics Dr. McConnell refers to are compiled by Merritt Clifton (Dog Attack Deaths and Maimings, U.S and Canada, 1982 – 2013, updated yearly)
"Dog Attack Deaths and Maimings" is updated as often as the attacks occur, daily if necessary. The most recent report is available at the link below. (Annual summaries are also available.)
2. Susan Sarubin: . . .[it] is more of a flawed, incomplete tally of severe dog bites than a study, relying entirely on news media, a particularly unreliable source of information about dog attacks.
The Clifton report is multi-sourced from police reports, animal control reports, witness and victim accounts, hospital reports, and Social Security death records, among other sources.
3. Susan Sarubin: If one takes the time to read the actual “study” and analysis by Clifton, it is fraught with dozens of additional flaws in methodology and interpretation of data.
Ms Sarubin's unsupported claim of flawed methodology is often repeated but never explained. If Ms Sarubin has taken the time to read the report perhaps she would kindly inform us of the dozens of additional flaws with which the report is fraught.
4. Susan Sarubin: . . . There is a reason Mr. Clifton’s “study” is self-published . . . .
Clifton began compiling data as a cub reporter for the Sherbrooke Record in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in 1979. He initially investigated exotic animal traffic, then expanded his investigations to include fatal and disfiguring attacks by exotic pets including wolf hybrids. A column for dog attacks was later included to provide a standard for comparison of relative risk. Later he became the lead investigative journalist for the venerable Animals Agenda, where he continued to collect and refine his data. Clifton eventually became a founding partner of Animal People and in early 2014 founded Animals 24-7. Dog Attack Deaths and Maimings appeared one time in its entirety in either publication (in Animal People in the early 1990s); otherwise the report is available by mail or from other sources and excerpts are widely cited by major media. In recent weeks Animals 24-7 has reported on subjects as disparate as bear bile farms in China, wildebeast migration routes in the Serengeti, and livestock slaughter in Denmark. The attempt to discredit Clifton's data and the publications he helped found and for which he writes is a calculated deception.
5. Susan Sarubin: The most recent research on dog bite-related fatalities in the United States was published in December 2013, in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association.1 Results show that breed is specifically found not to be a factor in the likelihood of a fatal dog bite.
Ms Sarubin claims that the JAVMA paper,2 is the "most recent research." The paper in question refers to a limited sample of dog attacks gathered by Karen Delise3 over a period of ten years and is focused on the factors contributing to those specific attacks. It does not pretend to be a statistical analysis of dog attacks and is neither comparable to nor relevant to a more thorough, independent, and unbiased database like Clifton's.

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It is an article of faith among pit bull advocates that Clifton's data is wrong. An entire genre of the advocacy movement has developed based not on evaluating the data but on character assassination. Thousands of advocates believe that the way to save pit bulls is to savage Merritt Clifton.

The campaign to diminish the impact of Clifton's data reached its nadir this summer when Joshua Liddy ambushed Clifton at the Animal Rights 2014 National Conference in Los Angeles on July 12th, 2014. Liddy, assisted by his wing gunners Jeff Theman and Kim Wolf,4 beleaguered Clifton for 40 minutes, then posted the video to YouTube. Wolf achieved the impossible by appearing both patronizing and obsequious at the same time, while Liddy pestered Clifton interminably for a face-to-face interview. Liddy proudly posted a minute-by-minute deconstruction of the ambush to his web site, without realizing that he had shamed himself irrevocably.5

Many pit bull advocates are not, in conventional terms, animal welfare advocates; they are single-purpose pit bull advocates indifferent to other animal welfare issues. Yet many of them make it their business to vent their collective wrath on a man who advocates for all animals, and whose data underscores the failure of the humane community to confront the problem of pit bull attacks.

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See also: Collective Wrath: Part 2

1  There is no publication by this title. Ms Sarubin incorrectly refers to JAVMA, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
2  Co-occurrence of potentially preventable factors in 256 dog bite-related fatalities in the United States (2000-2009), J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2013 Dec 15;243(12):1726-36. doi: 10.2460/javma.243.12.1726.
3  Ms Delise founded the National Canine Research Council, the country's premier pit bull advocacy organization, and later sold it to Jane Berkey, the nation's most influential deep-pocket pit bull benefactor. Ms Delise's co-authors are also associated with pit bull advocacy organizations.
   Ms Delise has somehow found an academic who was willing to sponsor her paper and give it the imprimatur of academic respectability. Dr. Gary Patronek, to his lasting shame, has signed on as lead author of a paper which is co-authored by a group of non-academic pit bull advocates. To represent this paper as scholarly research is grossly misleading.
4  All three are founders of pit bull advocacy organizations. Liddy is the founder of Swaylove; Wolf is the founder of Beyond Breed; and Theman is a "documentary film maker" who makes pit bull advocacy movies.
5  Commenter Gabriel Barros: LOL, idiots trying to argue with Meritt Clifton about genetics.  They are too ignorant to know they got educated.


Don't confuse me with the facts
   Star-Democrat; Easton, MD; August 13, 2014
   by Susan Sarubin

Temperament vs. Teachings
   Star-Democrat; Easton, MD; July 27, 2014
   by Dr. Ellicot McConnell

Prejudice against pit bulls unfounded
   Star-Democrat; Easton, MD; July 1, 2014
   by Susan Sarubin

Blame the owner?
   Star-Democrat; Easton, MD; June 22, 2014
   by Dr. Ellicot McConnell

Taxpayers should only fund animal control
   Star-Democrat; Easton, MD; June 3, 2014
   by Dr. Ellicot McConnell

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's only 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.