Sunday, November 8, 2015

October Op-Ed Pieces

Kelly Ranasinghe
Merritt Clifton

During the final ten days of National Pit Bull Awareness Month, from October 20 through October 30, pit bull aficionados and detractors were treated to an exchange of views from across the spectrum. Our brief review follows the list of seven articles we've selected:
Pit Bulls Deserve Breed-Specific Protection
   by Ingrid Newkirk, PETA
   October 20, 2015; Huffington Post

Pit Bull Lovers: Think Before You Click
   by Chris White, Bikers Against BSL
   October 20, 2015; Huffington Post

Op-Ed: PETA's pit bull stance favors shock value over ethics
   by Kelly Ranasinghe
   October 21, 2015; Reno Gazette-Journal

Opinion: How we can ‘fix’ the pit bull problem
   By Daphna Nachminovitch
   Senior Vice-President of the Cruelty Investigations, PETA
   October 26, 2015; Reno Gazette-Journal

Animal experts: Don't blame pit bulls; training curbs dog attacks
   By Frank S. Abderholden
   October 27, 2015; Chicago Tribune

Dog attacks are not normal
   By Merritt Clifton
   Editor, Animals 24-7
   October 30, 2015; Reno Gazette-Journal

What I learned about pit bulls woke me up
   By Alexandra Phillips
   Social Media Assistant, PETA
   October 30, 2015; The News Tribune
* * * * * 

The Huffington Post article by Chris White is a conventional HuffPo pit bull article. Meaning it is excruciatingly, mind-numbingly l-o-n-g. Many pit bull authors suffer from prolixity, perhaps because they lack confidence in their arguments. HuffPo pit bull authors go beyond mere wordiness: they write as if they're paid by the word, like the authors of pulp fiction.

Second, the article follows advocacy convention by attacking Merritt Clifton and Colleen Lynn, in the mistaken belief that a good defense of pit bulls is a strong offense. Need we say more?

But there are also two things that set Mr White's article apart from the run-of-the-mill advocacy article. The level of spite directed at his opponents is disgraceful, even for advocates of fighting breeds, even for Huffington Post authors. And secondly, Mr White actually comes out and suggests that his readers self-censor, by not exposing themselves to arguments other than his own. We know this happens in the world of pit bull advocacy, but has it ever been stated so baldly?

* * * * *

A solution to the BSL contretemps is as remote as ever, so Ingrid Newkirk's valiant effort to reframe the debate is welcome. The suggestion that BSL would protect living family pit bull pets is not new. Nonetheless, pit bull advocates were apoplectic with fury, acting as if Ms Newkirk had suggested the sacrifice of the kingdom's first-born sons.

Among those who were most outraged by Ms Newkirk's proposal was Kelly Ranasinghe, who suggested that and Animals 24-7 were extremist and marginal groups. Mr Ranasinghe seems unaware of the irony that his words, published in the Reno Gazette-Journal, will garner only a fraction of the page-views of his opponents, making his essay even more marginal. Mr Ranasinghe's rancor was inspired by PETA's presumed affiliation with Victims' Advocacy Groups, but Mr Ranasinghe declines to mention victims of pit bull attacks a single time in his diatribe. The refusal to acknowledge the victims has been a defining characteristic of pit bull advocacy

There was the obligatory "Blame the Deed, Not the Breed" argument, coming this time from Frank S. Abderholden in the Chicago Tribune. The obligatory "experts" (see Definitions, below) testified that well-trained pit bulls do not attack. (Ahem!)

* * * * *

Two additional articles were by PETA staffers. The first (by Daphna Nachminovitch) appears to be a clarification of Ms Newkirk's incendiary piece, while also serving as a counterpoint to Mr Ranasinghe's bitter diatribe. More effective is the boots-on-the-ground report by PETA staffer and volunteer field worker Alexandra Phillips. Ms Phillips' 1st-person account of a pit bull attack is a Heart-of-Darkness moment.

Merritt Clifton has previously noted that our culture has become inured to pit bull behavior, that we have come to see pit bull attacks as acceptable canine behavior and a corollary of pet ownership.1 Clifton's short essay, Dog Attacks Are Not Normal, was published as a letter in the Gazette-Journal. We reprint it here (in its entirety) to give it the coverage it deserves:
Young people tend to imagine that dog attack violence is normal, because they never knew a time when it was not.

From 1930 to 1960, the U.S. averaged fewer than one fatal dog attack per year, yet almost all dogs ran free, less than 1 percent were fixed, and males far outnumbered females because of the common practice of drowning female pups to prevent surplus litters. Pit bulls during that entire 30-year span killed nine people. Dobermans killed two, one in 1955, one in 1960, and that created the lasting image of the Doberman as a dangerous breed.

Since 2010, we have averaged more than 30 fatalities per year from pit bulls alone.

What changed?

In 1960 pit bulls were under 1 percent of the U.S. dog population. By 2000, they were about 3.5 percent, and now they are 7 percent of dog births, though still only about 3.5 percent of the dog population due to excessively high mortality, mostly through shelter surrenders and impoundments.

PETA is right: It is time to stop breeding pit pulls and time to mandate sterilizing them, since only about 20 percent are sterilized now, compared to 70 percent-plus for all other dogs.

* * * * * *
1   See Inured to Pit Bull Behavior, included in How behavior testing fails adopters, dogs, volunteers & shelter staff.

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 32+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

Dog Bite Studies Index

Today's pit bull attacks
   Google News

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

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" 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.