Thursday, November 12, 2015

St. Louis Public Radio

Ledy VanKavage; Photo by Kelly Moffitt, St Louis Public Radio

On November 4, 2015, St Louis Public Radio (KWMU 90.7) aired a 21-minute segment featuring Ledy VanKavage of Best Friends Animal Society. Don Marsh hosted the show.

Ms VanKavage timed her on-air appearance to coincide with the local showing of the film The Champions, in which she appears.

An earlier version of this post was sent as an email letter to the KWMU producers.

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Dear Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, Kelly Moffitt, and Don Marsh,

Re: Pit bulls and breed-discriminatory laws: Following Vick's dog-fighting conviction, what has changed?  (Aired November 4, 2015)

We can tell you what has changed: in the eight years since Vick's arrest and conviction there have been 174 fatal pit bull attacks on humans, an increase of 180% over the preceding eight year period.

The number of pit bulls involved in fatal and disfiguring attacks rose from 78 in 2007 to 603 by 2014; the number of child victims rose from 30 to 264.

You will not hear these facts from Ledy VanKavage, the guest on your program. Advocates of fighting breeds do not acknowledge the victims of pit bull attacks.

Ms VanKavage's behavior during the segment, including laughing dismissively at times, is an insult to the memory of the victims, to the enduring agonies of those who have been disfigured or maimed, and to those who have lost a companion animal. It is because of performances like Ms VanKavage's and Mr Marsh's that the victims' movement has burgeoned in the last two years.1

Your use of the word "discriminatory" in the title of the segment is inflammatory and provocative, especially in view of the fact that your state has been in the news for over a year and especially during this week, for human racial discrimination. To imply that distinguishing between canine breeds is similar to human racial discrimination is an insult to those who are impacted by real discrimination. Yes; some laws apply only to certain breeds of dogs, which makes sense, if you bother to think about it. We discriminate every time we acknowledge that one breed is different from another, otherwise we might expect a retriever to herd sheep. This kind of "discrimination" is inherent in the concept of breed; it is why man bred dogs. All dog people know this.

We are dismayed that St Louis Public Radio, which presumably is supported by the public and works in the public interest, should devote such a significant block of time to the advocacy of fighting breeds. You will note from the comments that many of your listeners and readers vehemently disagree with Ms VanKavage.

Further, we are astonished that advocates of fighting breeds continue to gain access to public media, which often fails to provide equal access to those who advocate for victims or for public safety measures. As KWMU is a public, not-for-profit, subsidized news organization, the public has every right to know how this story came to be aired. Did Best Friends Animal Society call and suggest that Ms VanKavage would be available for an interview? Did Ms VanKavage (or Best Friends) provide the "talking points" for Mr Marsh?

The softball questions Mr Marsh lobbed to Ms VanKavage are an embarrassment. In her next appearance at KWMU Ms VanKavage should be made to answer questions from the victims of pit bull attacks. She would have to significantly adjust her demeanor.

Ms VanKavage's misstatements of fact are too numerous to mention, but one in particular must be addressed. The following comment was emphasized in bold type in a sidebar on your web page:
There’s always a dangerous dog du jour. Back in the ‘70s, it was the German Shepard, then the Rottweiler, then the Doberman, and then the pit bull terrier. I think it is the popularity—the more dogs there are of a breed, the more bites you’re going to see.
This is utter nonsense! If the number of bites depended on the number of dogs then Golden Retrievers would be among the biggest biters. A more effective rebuttal is found among the comments:

Ledy you are the one that spewed lots of silly myths. Myth 1: In the past 30 years, pit bulls have killed 350 people, Rottweilers 86, German Shepherds 15, Huskies 26, Dobermans 8... Even Dalmations, who are known for being not good with kids have killed zero.
Yet the idiotic dog du jour jingle persists and can be found on the internet just about any day of the week.2  It must now be put to rest, along with the free advertising by public radio for advocates of fighting breeds.

KWMU could provide a valuable service to listeners of pubic radio by offering equal time to an expert who is more interested in protecting our citizens, our domestic animals,  and our More Vulnerable Animal Companions than in promoting fighting breeds.

The Editors

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1   National Pit Bull Victim Awareness: Web page, FaceBook; Daxton's Friends, Ban Pit Bulls, and many others.
2   See also First X, Then Y, Then Z

Pit bulls and breed-discriminatory laws: Following Vick’s dog-fighting conviction, what has changed?
    November 4, 2015; 90.7 KWMU

Hours before The Champions premiered at the St Louis International Film Festival 9-year old Amiyah Dunston was killed by a pit bull on Long Island. She became the 21st victim this year.

Amiyah Dunston, 9 yo; d. Nov 8, 2015

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.



  1. If pit bulls are so innocent, why do so many people against being killed by...I mean having them in our neighborhoods? Almost all of us working to ban pit bulls have a negative encounter, many of them severe and life changing.

    If you are reading this and you haven't been attacked by a pit bull, please think about it. Use caution around these dogs, especially for children, small dogs, the elderly and anyone who is vulnerable.

    These dogs attack swiftly, randomly and viciously. Afterwards, they often look relaxed and happy. They are true canine psychopaths.

  2. I'm afraid that despite Ledy VanKavage's efforts the truth is slowly leaking out. The average person is starting to doubt the propaganda put out by the pit bull advocacy movement, which is that pit bulls are just like any other dogs and that if they are aggressive, it's the fault of the owner. There is a pit bull "incident" practically every day. The carnage caused by these dogs is horrific. It is very wrong that so many people - and animals - lose their lives or are appallingly maimed because a certain section of the population wants to keep a killer breed of dog as a pet.

  3. The media continues to give a free pass to those pushing against sensible restrictions on pit bulls. I think it is an unfortunate case of projection: we have decided as a society to no longer discriminate against people due to their genetics, so many of us have taken the next step and decided that all dogs are created equal, too. Well, it's not so. Dogs are not people and do not deserve the same considerations as humans. In the case of pit bulls, the facts should speak for themselves. Most importantly we need to recognize that while most pit bulls are not dangerous most of the time, they are statistically more likely to attack, due to their breeding; and when they do attack, the results are horrific. We need to stop breeding them.

  4. Ledy VanKavage is the problem. She has changed laws in my state of Illinois that PROTECT PIT BULLS. Whenever there is a serious pit bull attack in my COUNTY, I hear, "We will not enact BSL. WHY? It would be so easy, and who cares what happens to pit bulls? It's not like pit bulls are being randomly killed or maimed on a daily basis. That reality is happening to people and animals everywhere. The protection of pit bulls has got to stop, from no kill shelters, to not allowing BSL.

    It is astonishing that no other breed of dog has the kill rate pit bulls do, and Ledy VanKavage and her cohorts constantly say that pit bulls have an undeserved reputation. REALLY? I guess when you don't read the news about pit bulls killing people, it's easy to overlook that problem. I choose not to ignore reality. With each death this year, I've thought how many more times are we going to go through this? Pit bull advocates spread their lies, and discredit the truth about pit bulls killing on a regular basis.

    One person should not have the power to create laws that negatively affect the rest of the population. Pit bull rights do not protect anyone. Breed Specific Legislation is OUR RIGHT, and will solve the pit bull problem, including Ledy VanKavage.

  5. Pit bulls kill twice as many people as all other 300+ breeds combined, and also kill 15,000 pet dogs a year in the U.S. Every year, 1:20 pit bulls sends a person or pet for medical attention (or kills them), compared to 1:3000 for other breeds. Pit bulls are FIFTEEN THOUSAND PERCENT more likely to send you or your pet to the hospital than other breeds.

    When one car model is about 20% or so more likely to kill you than a typical car model, the government forces the company to spend millions recalling the faulty product. A pit bull recall would be much simpler--existing pits would be spayed/neutered and live out the rest of their natural lives with their owners. No changes at all, except that in about 14 years, we will no longer have a pit bull problems, and thousands of humans and pets can live without being permanently disfigured or killed by a pit bull.

    As I mentioned, pits are 15,000% more likely to attack than other breeds, yet the government won't take steps to do a "genetic recall" when they would spend millions recalling cars that are only marginally more dangerous than other cars. On the contrary, they let pro-fighting-breed advocates like Ledy force through legislation making it illegal to require any requirements whatsoever for these exponentially-more-dangerous-dogs... from spay/neuter to leashes to mandatory liability insurance.

    I'm a big supporter of public radio, and supported MO public radio during my many years in Columbia. I'm currently a sustaining member of WI public radio. I'm appalled that St. Louis public radio station did this one-sided piece with a woman who has no valid credentials regarding aggressive dogs, and has a known financial agenda centered around promoting pit bulls and covering up attacks. Just follow the money trail...

    If public radio wants an actual EXPERT to interview, I have an M.S. in Zoology/Animal Behavior (U-WI), 38 years of national and international dog competition experience, and worked for many years as a dog behavior consultant specializing in aggression. In fact, I was interviewed several times on public radio in the past on other dog topics (long before pits began being commonly kept as "pets," so before pets and people started being mauled on a daily basis). I actually quit and moved into an unrelated field so that I could feel free to spread the truth, which is that pit bulls are NOT like other dogs... and it's NOT "how they're raised." Pits have been bred for 500+ years to grip, shake and kill without warning or provocation, and needn't be angry or have any aggressive history at all to act on their genetic mandate and kill somebody on their first ever bite.

  6. These are the causalities that Best Friend Animal Society find acceptable on the deluded altar of the 'pit bull'. Pit "advocates", shelters, and rescues are all complicit in the carnage caused by this breed when they promote pit bulls as safe family pets. From 2005-2015, 226 people killed by pit bull type dogs.


Please do not cut and paste comments or include extensive linking. Comments are moderated but we will post all comments which do not include profanity or ad hominem attacks. Play nice. The SRUV comment section is not a forum for the advocacy of fighting breeds.