Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Survey of Wisconsin Bullies

Revised: March 19, 2015; 17:54 GMT

On November 4th, 2014 the citizens of Aurora, Colorado voted in a landslide election to retain their Breed Specific Legislation regulating pit bulls. The result was similar to an earlier citizen referendum in Miami-Dade, Florida, and to virtually every other survey of citizen response to pit bull legislation. By a margin of two-to-one people do not want to live next door to a pit bull.

On November 5th, burning with indignation at their loss in Aurora, advocates of fighting breeds launched an attack against one of our country's leading animal welfare journalists, Merritt Clifton, for his coverage of the vote in Aurora. Among the advocacy groups that urged their devotees to boycott Clifton's internet magazine, Animals 24-7, was Wisconsin Voters for Companion Animals.1, 2

The attack on Clifton included attacks on advertisers in his magazine. Among the groups targeted by Wisconsin Voters For Companion Animals were the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, California, the Home 4 the Holidays international adoption program it sponsors, and Blue Buffalo, a pet food maker whose only involvement was that it sponsors Home 4 the Holidays. The boycott revealed the ugly, vindictive nature of radical pit bull advocacy. The boycott also showed how bungling and misguided pit bull advocates can be.

* * * * * 

On July 6, 2013, Lois Mogensen took her 9 year old Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Tanner, for a walk in her Kenosha neighborhood. Two pit bulls spotted Tanner and pushed their way through a gate. In the ensuing attack Tanner was killed and 79 year old Lois Morgenson, her son, and a neighbor who also tried to intercede were all injured.

Tanner; d. July 6, 2013

In the days leading up to the attack on Tanner Wisconsin had experienced an explosion of pit bull attacks. Four days before the July 6th attack that killed Tanner a pit bull attacked a parking enforcement officer in Madison; two weeks before that (June 12) six therapy horses were injured at Free Spirit Ranch in Fond du Lac county; a week before that a 15-month old infant was attacked in Caledonia, resulting in severe facial disfigurement; a week before that (May 30) a 6-yo child was attacked in Douglas County resulting in facial disfigurement; two weeks earlier (May 12) a child was attacked in Marathon County, resulting in facial disfigurement. Two months earlier 14-mo Daxton Borchardt was killed by a pit bull in Walworth.3

Despite this drumroll of attacks, on the day after the attack on Tanner the Racine Journal-Times published Defending the pit bull: Experts say animals no more aggressive or prone to attack than other breeds, by Luke Feurherm.4 The article follows in the tradition of exculpatory pit bull articles, which are often published close on the heels of a series of devastating pit bull attacks.5 It is the position of SRUV that these articles would not be published without intense outreach to media from pit bull advocacy groups, which includes talking points and perhaps even specific text.

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By the end of 2013 nearly half of the dogs abandoned in Madison were pit bulls; more than half of the dogs euthanized by the Dane County Humane Society were pit bulls.

In January, 2014, Alderman John Stasser of Madison introduced legislation aimed at alleviating the high euthanasia rate. The bill required the mandatory spaying or neutering of pit bulls, and also required pit bull breeders to register with the city, thereby reducing back-yard breeding.
"We’re not going after the pit bulls and making ownership of a pit bull prohibitive,” said Strasser. “What we’re trying to do is cut down on the population so that we can devote more shelter and rescue efforts to other animals, and not just to the overly bred pit bulls.”
Stasser's bill was intended to reduce the number of surplus pit bulls in Madison shelters, and the number of pit bulls euthanized at those shelters. Many advocates of fighting breeds claim to abhor the euthanasia of pit bulls, but peculiarly, they will not tolerate legislation intended to reduce the number of surplus pit bulls.

On March 14th, 2014 the Madison Common Council received an extraordinary letter from Brent Toellner, in which he argued vehemently against the mandated spay/neuter of pit bulls.6  Support for Stasser's spay/neuter legislation faltered. Four days after the Toellner letter, on this date last year (March 18, 2014), Alderman Stasser withdrew his legislation.

Madison subsequently passed several pieces of animal legislation, none of which mentioned pit bulls. Alderman Stasser and his colleagues continue to seek a solution to the surplus pit bull problem, which, without the proper tools, is a fool's errand.7

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On June 19, 2014 Cindy Ryder of Wausau and her Chihuahua Bartok were on their daily walk when a pit bull ran out of a neighboring house. What happened next was typical of many pit bull attacks: Ms Ryder scooped Bartok into her arms; the pit bull bit Ms Ryder's left arm twice, dragging her to the ground, and then bit her head. When Ryder fell she released Bartok, who was taken by the pit bull and killed.

Since the death of Bartok nine months ago Ms Ryder has been steadfast in her resolve to bring public safety regulations to Wausau; her efforts have fallen on deaf ears. Wausau Public Health and Safety Committee chairwoman Lisa Rasmussen dismissed Ms Ryder's efforts with the advocacy maxim We can't create public policy as a knee-jerk reaction.

Breed Specific Legislation has been in use for over thirty years; in one form or another BSL is currently in effect in over 500 US communities and in numerous foreign countries. In 2012 Miami-Dade voted overwhelmingly to keep their BSL, first passed in 1987; in 2014, in a bitter campaign, the citizens of Aurora voted overwhelmingly to keep their BSL, in effect since 2005. In recent weeks dozens of US communities have voted down challenges to their BSL. To dismiss BSL as a knee-jerk reaction is an act of political lethargy and an insult to Ms Ryder and the thousands of victims of fighting breeds. Wausau Council, like Madison's Council, has abrogated their responsibility to the community. Wisconsin's politicians are averting their eyes from a slow-motion public safety debacle.

Advocates of fighting breeds realize that exerting a suffocating pressure on town councils, county commissions, and state legislatures is more effective for them than allowing citizens to vote. Ms Ryder has led a courageous, often lonely effort to bring direct legislation by petition to regulate pit bulls and other fighting breeds, but after nine months has retreated from the effort.

Recent council votes in Kansas City and Newark, Ohio should strengthen the resolve of the Wisconsin politicians. Council members in Kansas City, Newark, and dozens of other cities have endured aggressive, often angry challenges to their BSL, and successfully rebuffed the challenges. Advocates of fighting breeds smothered their council meetings for months, intimidating council members and threatening them with political reprisals. Yet in many cases the councils voted courageously to keep their BSL.

Wausau and other Wisconsin city council members should do no less for their own citizens.

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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.

1  See also Advocacy Bullies
2  Wisconsin Voters for Companion Animals is a misnomer; the group appears to be a single-purpose group to advocate for fighting breeds.
3  The listed attacks comprise only a partial list of attacks during this period. More attacks are documented in the Journal Sentinel archives at
4  Mr Feurherm no longer appears on the Journal Times list of journalists.
5  See A Softer, Safer Pit Bull; Imagining the Perfect Pit Bull
6  The Toellner letter will be discussed in a subsequent SRUV post.
7  For more information see also Resources on Euthanasia, Sheltering, Rescue, & No-Kill

Pit Bulls Could Be Banned In Platteville
   March 11, 2015; SWNews4U
Not guilty plea entered in donkey attack
   March 11, 2015; Beloit Daily News
Pit bull fans sound off on breed-ban petition
   March 8, 2015; Wausau Daily Herald
Fall River 'Ban' on Pit Bulls Draws Federal Suit
   March 2, 2015; Courthouse News Service
Victim to collect signatures for pit bull ban in Wausau
   February 21, 2015; Wausau Daily Herald
Town of Turtle donkey dies after pit bull attack
   February 12, 2015; GazettExtra
Hannewall said she hired a lawyer after the donkey was attacked in the early morning hours of Jan. 31. She found out that a municipality cannot even try to have an animal put to death until the animal has caused damage at least twice. "He was a very sweet little donkey," said Hannewall.
Madison Alderman plans to continue tweaks to pet ordinances
   January 15, 2015; Wisconsin State Journal
Merrill girl, 2, recovering days after pit bull attack
   December 16, 2014; Wausau Daily Herald
Madison will consider major animal control changes
   October 17, 2014; Wisconsin State Journal
Pit bull attack brings plea for tighter controls
   September 13, 2014;
Committee votes to end Pitbull ban in Cambridge
   September 5, 2014. WKOW
3 Pit Bulls Attack 5 Children, 1 Adult in 2 Days in Racine
   August 27, 2014; Wide Awake America
In Cambridge, a pit bull named Sherlock triggers a rancorous showdown
   August 17, 2014; Wisconsin State Journal
'Dangerous animal' ban not enough for dog attack victim
   August 7, 2014; Wausau Daily Herald
1-yo girl seriously injured in attack by grandparents' dog in Racine
   August 6, 2014; Journal-Sentinel
70-Year-Old Uses Revolver to stop Pit Bull Attack
   July 24, 2014;
3 pit bulls attack; Richfield neighbor responds with baseball bats, gun
   July 23, 2014; Journal-Sentinel
Pit-bull owners defend the breed amid talk of ban
   July 22, 2014; Wausau Daily Herald
Pit bull ban worth considering (Editorial Opinion)
   July 20, 2014; Wausau Daily Herald
Pit-bull bans controversial, but they work
   July 20, 2014; Wausau Daily Herald
Victim in pit bull attack wants breed banned
   July 10, 2014; Wausau Daily Herald
La Crosse woman cited after pit bull attacks
   July 7, 2014; LaCrosse Tribune
Wausau police ban pit bull that injured woman, killed small dog
   June 20, 2014; Wausau Daily Herald
Madison drops proposed mandatory pit bull neuter/spay law
   March 21, 2014. Wisconsin State Journal
Madison pit bull proposal off the table
   March 21, 2014; WMTV NBC15
Sponsors pull controversial Madison pit bull ordinance
   March 21, 2014;
Sheboygan police officer attacked by pit bull
   March 13, 2014; Journal-Sentinel
Mount Pleasant girl, 9, attacked by pit bull puppy
   March 5, 2014; Journal-Sentinel
City hopes to take a bite out of pit bull overpopulation
   February 3, 2014; Wisconsin State Journal
Madison alderman wants to curb pit bull population
   February 3, 2014; WKOW Madison
Boy seriously hurt by pit bull in Racine
   November 23, 2013; Journal Sentinel
Three people injured, dog killed in pit bull attack
   July 8, 2013; TMJ4 News radio 620
Experts say animals no more aggressive or prone to attack than other breeds
  July 7, 2013; Journal Times
Wausau homeowner shoots pit bull
   May 27, 2013; Journal Sentinel
Pit bull attacks child in Wausau
   May 13, 2013; Journal Sentinel
Walworth County toddler dies after pit bull attack
  March 6, 2013; WISN
Flying pit bull attack leaves Wisconsin man with serious injuries
   June 18, 2012; Minneapolis City Pages
Cassville teen attacked by 3 pit bulls
  June 6, 2012; Journal Sentinel
Pit Bull Attacks Boy in Madison
  August 18, 2011; Waukesha Patch

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