There's No Problem with Pit Bulls: Misinformation A Problem

There's No Problem with Pit Bulls: Misinformation A Problem

"The Problem with Pit Bulls" was the headline of a Time magazine story (June 20, 2014) by Charlotte Alter. My problem is with the story, not with the dogs referred to as pit bulls. The story, filled with inaccurate characterizations, called for breed-specific mandated sterilization, and ultimately vilified dogs referred to as pit bulls.

Whenever anti-pit bull frenzy is stirred up, it typically follows a tragic incident. This instance follows the pattern. A 3-year-old girl named Victoria was mauled in Simpson County, MS, by her grandfather's three dogs, referred to in the media as "pit bulls."

It's difficult to discern exactly what happened this past April. According to Victoria, she was alone playing with some cats before the dogs broke through the back door and attacked her. News reports made no mention of the dogs' temperament or previous history.

Donald Mullin, Victoria's grandfather, shot and killed the dogs. Mullins and his girlfriend, Rita Tompkins, were charged with child endangerment.

Victoria is the same little girl who made national news earlier this month when a Jackson, MS, Kentucky Fried Chicken employee supposedly asked her to leave the eatery because her scarred, disfigured face was "disrupting customers." The incident made national news. Interestingly, recent reports now suggest the episode was a hoax, all to raise money for the child's treatment.

According the Time story, a study in the Annals of Surgery in 2011 found that one person is killed by a pit bull every 14 days.

That data is absurd. Do the math; there are about 30 fatal dog attacks a year, so the numbers don't work. Besides, in such cases, the dog breed is not identified. Over a decade ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which tracks fatal dog attacks, stopped keeping tabs on the breeds involved because in the end what matters is what causes an attack -- not the typically inaccurate guess targeting the breed responsible.

Dog attacks which result in a fatality make news because they're rare events and therefore newsworthy.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are nearly 70 million dogs in America, and as it turns out, dogs are less violent toward people than people are to people. Over 1,500 children died of child abuse and/or neglect within their own families in 2010 (according to the Administration for Children and Families), and there were over 16,000 homicides in the U.S. in 2010 (according to the CDC).

When a dog attack results in a fatality (or serious injury), other factors supplant the alleged breed responsible, according to the National Canine Research Council. (Sadly, it seems some of these factors may be relevant to what happened to little Victoria):

--A victim's compromised ability, whether based on age (such as children) or physical condition, to manage their interactions with the dog(s).

--No able-bodied person being present to intervene (children should have adult supervision when interacting with any animal).

--Dogs not spayed/neutered. There's no data to suggest intact dogs are inherently more dangerous, but intact males are determined to roam in search of a female, and when they're off-leash without supervision, anything can happen.

--The owner keeping what are called ‘resident dog(s), primarily outdoors, often poorly socialized and with little or no training, rather than as family pet(s).

--The victim having no familiar relationship with the dog(s).

--The owner's prior mismanagement of the dog(s). Often, concerned family members or neighbors previously contacted officials about dangerous dogs, but no action was taken.

Dogs of any breed or mix who are abused and unsocialized may be fundamentally damaged as a result. However, the problem in these instances has nothing to do with “breed,” but instead has everything to do with people.

At a very practical level, identifying pit bulls is nearly impossible in the first place. What a dog looks like doesn't necessarily match the animal's genetic makeup. Modern genetic testing has shown that dogs most people identify as "pits" are, in fact, almost always mixes.

The Time story sourced PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) as an expert source, and presumably in the corner of canines. That's hardly the truth. A long list of organizations that truly are in the business of animal welfare are actually opposed to legislation directed at a specific breed, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), American Veterinary Medical Association, American Farm Foundation, Best Friends Animal Society, Humane Society of the United States and many others.

In July, experts from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior will release a position statement documenting why breed-specific restrictions and bans fail (in full disclosure, I co-authored this document).

At the end of the day, the vast majority of dogs we call pit bulls, based on a general 'look', are wonderful family pets. Many serve without incident as therapy dogs or in programs where children read to dogs; others are service dogs, some assisting wounded soldiers.

Blaming a dog breed and placing unenforceable restrictions on those dogs only distracts from addressing why any dog bites in the first place. For starters, we need sensible enforcement of current dangerous dog laws. If dogs are spay/neutered and kept as well-socialized, loving members of the family, and are supervised around young children, the number of serious dog bites would drop significantly.

©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC; Tribune Content Agency

 

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    Time Magazine has taken a credibility king hit in publishing such a biased and badly researched load of rubbish. I imagine this will have an impact on their bottom line as people perceive the publication as unreliable and unprofessional.

    Perhaps now they will take the subject of disseminating propaganda and their responsibility to the public and their publication a lot more seriously.

  • In reply to Karen Batchelor:

    I don't know that people will know it's rubbish - therefore not only not take a hit on their bottom line, but also worse - believe what is written....which is why I hope my counter piece is spread far and wide. It appears in newspapers all over - but still to catch up to time - I need your help.

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    In reply to Karen Batchelor:

    Time Magazine is published in the United States. You are in New Zealand. @hat happens in the US and what is published in the US is really none of your business.

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    In reply to Jane Clarke:

    As a citizen of the United States, I politely request that you stop making us look like a-holes. As someone not her boss, relative, mate, or otherwise responsible for care/upkeep, what publications she reads, what articles she writes, and what breeds she decides to advocate for are really none of YOUR business. Smooches.

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    In reply to Jane Clarke:

    If it is publicly published, why would it NOT be anyone's specific business?????? Advocates are everywhere because what affects us here, may affect someone elsewhere... as in the UK right now with BSL and vice versa.

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    In reply to Karen Batchelor:

    Forgive the ugly American comment previously made, sheesh. I guess pit bulls are only an American thing as well as being able to read articles in magazines...but we know they aren't. Your dog looks fabulous and I can't wait to hear about New Zealand from my college daughter who is traveling there for a course this summer. (She is a nice American :))

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    ...And let's not forget that Time Magazine's brilliant writer also quoted Colleen Lynn of Dogsbite.org as a source in her article. Anyone with a lick of common sense would know that referring to that vile individual would cause a hailstorm of controversy.

    I certainly hope that Time Magazine would have the common sense to retract this article and offer some apologies in light of the fact that the incident that triggered it's publishing has been found to be a hoax.

    Shame on Time, and hopefully they will see fit to quit adding to the media hype and ignorance.

  • In reply to Debbi Wilt:

    Far as I know they are not retracting....people who know dogs understand their sources aren't credible - others do not. Write Time, send them my piece

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    The following individuals would agree that when it comes to pit bulls, there's a "misinformation problem": Gerald Adelmund, Ronnel Brown, Frank Camis, Tina Marie Canterbury, Dorothy Carter, Kelli Chapman, Rebecca Carey, Kelli Chapman, Brandon Coleman, Michael Cook, Mattie Daugherty, Terry Douglass, Jennie Erquaia, Elsie Grace, David Haigler, Joseph Hines, Mary Jo Hunt, Justin Lane, Linda Leal, Edward Mitchell, Darla Napora, Michal Nelson, Bonnie Paige, Tonia Parks, Rebecca Puckett, Lorinze Reddings, Amber Strode, Mary Stiles, Cora Lee Suehead, Raymond Tomco, Mary Watson, Johnny Wilson, Debra Renee Wilson-Roberts and Michael Winters -- all of whom were once “proud” owners of pit bulls and staunch defenders of the “breed.” Unfortunately, they no longer own or defend pit bulls because THEY'RE ALL DEAD – torn apart by their sweet, gentle, wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly “pitties!”

  • In reply to Jane Clarke:

    When you consider the absolute hell so many of these dogs live (and die) in, people should be amazed that there isn't a human death every second in retaliation by these dogs -- but no -- they are overwhelmingly harmless to human beings. The miniscule iota of issues that do arise are statistically astounding by their LACK. Anyone who knows statistics and has a thinking brain would be in awe of these dogs' ability take the unending horror without the kind of retaliation that SHOULD come from such a torturous existence. They are instead, inexplicably loving and kind in SPITE of the hell unleashed upon them by human beings.

  • In reply to Jane Clarke:

    It's awful - but if you read why fatal or for that matter serious dog attacks occur - read the bullet points --- also what are pit bulls anyway? Mixed bred dogs vastly were involved. And how do you know they are pit bulls - who identified them? And for reasons noted in my piece, not the CDC. They and the AVMA agree breed identification matters little.

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    "That data is absurd. Do the math; there are about 30 fatal dog attacks a year, so the numbers don't work. Besides, in such cases, the dog breed is not identified. Over a decade ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which tracks fatal dog attacks, stopped keeping tabs on the breeds involved because in the end what matters is what causes an attack -- not the typically inaccurate guess targeting the breed responsible."

    This is untrue. For the past few years, i.e., since people started trying to turn pit bulls into lapdogs, there have been more than "about 30 fatal dog attacks a year." In 2010, there were 37 deaths (23 by pit bulls), 2011 - 31 deaths (23 by pit bulls), 2012 - 39 deaths (24 by pit bulls), 2013 - 33 deaths (28 by pit bulls). So far this year (and the year isn't even half over), there have already been 23 deaths-by-dog in the United States and pit bulls were responsible for 18 (possibly 19) of the deaths. Furthermore, in EVERY case during recent years, the "breed" has been identified!

    Christopher P. DeMas, M.D., Director of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at New York's Staten Island University Hospital, says: "Bites from pit bulls inflict much more damage, multiple deep bites and ripping of flesh and are unlike any other domestic animal I've encountered. Their bites are devastating – close to what a wildcat or shark would do."

    Back in the 1980s, before people started anthropomorphizing dogs, pretending they were "a member of the family" and other nonsense, there were an average of 1.2 fatal dog attacks in the United States every year. In the 1990s, when a few people didn't have any better sense than to listen to the dog freaks, the average increased to 2 fatal attacks per year. From 2000 to 2009 -- as dog freaks and pit bull advocates infiltrated animal control departments, etc. throughout the United States, dangerous dogs were no longer destroyed and the pit bull craze was starting -- the average killed by dogs increased dramatically to 20 per year.

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    In reply to Jane Clarke:

    Perhaps, Jane, that there are more dog attacks now because there are more people whom do not properly care for their dogs. There is more child sexual abuse now, too. Whom will you blame for that?

  • In reply to Emily Vecere:

    thank you

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    In reply to Jane Clarke:

    Where do you get your statistics? Dogsbite? You would be better off and more informed if you went to the National Canine Research Council, which exhaustively investigates every dog bite related fatality every year. I'd love to know exactly WHO identified the breeds? For instance, in 2010 the NCRC Final Report for that year states there were 33 deaths (not 37) and 11 dogs were identified by either documentation or other reasonable evidence. A headline in the paper calling it a pit bull is not evidence. Also, 8 different breeds were represented in those 11 dogs. Also detailed in these reports are the circumstances of the bite, the reproductive status of the dog, what type of surroundings it was kept in, and other details that are more relevant than breed. NCRC has a wealth of information and are a vastly more reliable source than Merritt Clifton or Colleen Lynn from dogsbite.

  • In reply to Jane Clarke:

    Your are simply wrong...the CDC DOES NOT identify breed for the reasons described. Your numbers? Where are they from? Who said they were pits? What are pits? These dogs are generally mixes - breed has been identified??? By whom? No matter, while 30 fatalities is too many - we today (not the 1980's as you describe) have 70 million dogs. FAR more than in 1980, so of course, more bites. That's pretty obvious.

    Fact is we know why dogs do become dangerous, it's not because of anthropomorphizing (though I am the first to say - a dog is not a human)....it's because - according to various sources - including the one I listed of the various bullet points I listed. In fact, the lack of love, if you will....animal abuse and a lack of socialization, using dogs as fighting dogs can play a role...Too much love doesn't cause dogs to attack.

    You say, "As dog freaks and pit bull advocates infiltrated animal control departments." Yes, of course, it's all a conspiracy theory.

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    In reply to Jane Clarke:

    AGAIN, as stated above... who determined them to be pit bulls???????????? Any "bully" looking dog is determined a pit bull whether they are or are not. The APBT org is the best place to go to determine what is and what isn't. You should truly educate your ignorant self. You are a media sheepling... nothing more.

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    Thank you for writing this, Steve Dale. It's time we held the people in charge of the dogs responsible not only for the bites, but also their absolute neglect in raising and or caring for their dogs properly. Dogs, pit bulls, et al, cannot be classified without humans, they are just dogs. We ultimately decide what kind of dogs they turn out to be. I have 3 pit bulls. I take them out with me whenever possible, and expose people to them. The more people whom see what wonderful, friendly dogs they are, I think the more people will realize that people like Charlotte what's her name have no credible "information" about dogs.

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    “There's No Problem with Pit Bulls: Misinformation A Problem”

    Snappy title Steve Dale, lets see what you've written.

    “My problem is with the story, not with the dogs referred to as pit bulls.”

    Really Steve Dale? Lets move on.

    “The story, filled with inaccurate characterizations, called for breed-specific mandated sterilization, and ultimately vilified dogs referred to as pit bulls.”

    What inaccurate characterizations? Many will say the pit bull fighting dog's reputation is well deserved. Ask John Colby.
    Yes Steve Dale, pit bulls are vilified. Not only by the violent acts they inflict on their victims, both dog and human, but the way they are portrayed by THEIR OWNERS.
    Come on Steve Dale, when is the last time someone threatened you with a Golden Retriever? Get real Steve Dale.

    “Whenever anti-pit bull frenzy is stirred up, it typically follows a tragic incident.”

    Yes Steve Dale, the more victims of pit bull attacks, the more people stand up to your "pets", your "nanny dogs".

    “This instance follows the pattern.”

    Yes, Steve Dale, people become outraged a little girl's face is ripped apart by someone's pit bull dog. In this case, grand daddy's pit bull dogs.

    “It's difficult to discern exactly what happened this past April. According to Victoria, she was alone playing with some cats before the dogs broke through the back door and attacked her. News reports made no mention of the dogs' temperament or previous history.”

    It might be difficult for YOU to discern exactly what happened BUT there is a POLICE REPORT Steve Dale. GO READ IT!

    “Donald Mullin, Victoria's grandfather, shot and killed the dogs.”

    Wouldn't you Steve Dale? Or would you attempt to rehome them? Rehabilitate them?

    “The incident made national news. Interestingly, recent reports now suggest the episode was a hoax, all to raise money for the child's treatment.”

    Now finally you refer to the KFC incident. I can halfheartedly agree but I would be careful calling it a hoax. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

    “According the Time story, a study in the Annals of Surgery in 2011 found that one person is killed by a pit bull every 14 days.

    That data is absurd. Do the math; there are about 30 fatal dog attacks a year, so the numbers don't work.”

    Now Steve Dale, how does the math not work? Let me help you. 365 days in a year divided by 14 = 26.071. I think "30 fatal dog attacks" is close enough, don't you?
    Enjoy your math lesson Steve Dale.

    “Dog attacks which result in a fatality make news because they're rare events and therefore newsworthy.”

    Sure, I'd consider it rare, but you know what's more rare? Being killed by the neighbor's Golden Retriever.
    Steve Dale, it's absurd to be killed by someone's pet unless your neighbor's pet is a pit bull, a fighting breed dog, a dog bred to kill another dog in a pit in the most inhumane way possible.
    What you fail to mention are the many many many dog on dog attacks initiated by pit bulls which usually result in the death or disfigurement of someone's beloved non pit bull dog.

    “According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are nearly 70 million dogs in America, and as it turns out, dogs are less violent toward people than people are to people.”

    Lets hope it stays that way Steve Dale, it's a pit bull dog eat non pit dog world out there.

    “When a dog attack results in a fatality (or serious injury), other factors supplant the alleged breed responsible, according to the National Canine Research Council. (Sadly, it seems some of these factors may be relevant to what happened to little Victoria)”

    Come on Steve Dale, your "other factors" is a feeble attempt to hide the fact that behind many "dog attack results" there is almost always at least one pit bull dog, sometimes more.
    National Canine Research Council? Come on Steve Dale, even you should know the NCRC researches nothing, they are a pit bull propaganda machine doing exactly what you're doing, obfuscating the facts.
    Had those pit bull dogs been Golden Retrievers, the outcome would have been much less severe don't you think? And Golden Retrievers are big powerful dogs.

    “At a very practical level, identifying pit bulls is nearly impossible in the first place. What a dog looks like doesn't necessarily match the animal's genetic makeup. Modern genetic testing has shown that dogs most people identify as "pits" are, in fact, almost always mixes.”

    Way to go Steve Dale! Way to make a fool of your own title. The misinformation is from YOU. While I haven't seen photos of the maulers, the scenario and results all point to pit bull dogs. If you dare, provide photos of the three maulers. I can guarantee you they are not any form of Golden Retriever, Chihuahua, Standard Poodle, GSD, or Pomeranian. It's almost always pit bulls doing this sort of thing.

    So Steve Dale, who's the one misinforming people? Go find that police report and educate yourself.

  • In reply to Gabriel Barros:

    Glad I had a snappy title....by the way, I would shoot the dogs too - you are taking my words and making assumptions. I won't even argue all of your comments - STEVE DALE - boy you like to write my name.

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    In reply to Gabriel Barros:

    You seriously don't know what you're talking about.

    My sister and I were both bitten by Black Labs.

    A neighbor's hamstring was literally mutilated by a Weimeraner (spelling?) being walked by a six year old boy, leaving her unable to walk for six months.

    I was bitten years ago by a Beagle.

    My friend was attacked by his own German Shepard.

    My brother in law's Hound bit him in the face, requiring multiple surgeries.

    Basically, ANY dog can bite, not just the one 'breed' (it's multiple breeds, really) you're choosing to vilify. Pretty pathetic....

  • fb_avatar

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    Again, the amount of people (including children, including family members) killed by people so far exceeds the amount of people killed by pit bulls it's laughable. If it weren't so serious. So why then are we not seriously rallying to ban the "breed" called humans? Oh that's right because we are the self entitled owners of the earth. This childlike, knee-jerk reaction is born out of pure ignorance. "A black man raped my sister, thus all Black men rape." A white woman killed my nephew, thus all white women kill." "A teenage boy went on a fatal shooting spree at his high school thus all teenage boys will kill their peers at school with a gun." There is no logic here. Every pitbull is different I can vouch for that. I've worked with hundreds of them, everyone with their own personality and temperament. I have pitbulls that are scared of cats and will scream and run if they see one. I have pit bulls that hang out with chickens. I have pitbulls that if attacked by a 5 pound Chihuahua will power and skulk off in the other direction with its tail between its legs. I think both relentlessly taunted and abused and hugged and pulled off my children without ever lifting a lip (they were once touted as the Nanny Breed). So all you pitbull haters are saying that the sweet gentle souls should be killed because of what they look like!? Uhm, can anyone say KKK. There are endless stories of pit bulls being killed trying to protect their owners from harm.Why are these stories not making front page headlines!? Hmmmmm. The media feeds the public what it wants, and it would seem the public prefers negativity on the menu to positivity. People love a good train wreck.

  • You know I think that since it is now politically incorrect to target a color of human being, that vitriol is being turned upon dogs. The blind hatred, ignorance and violence projected toward these dogs is really unfathomable. I have actually encountered a person who had to first ask, "what kind of dog is that?" Before being scolded for walking such a dangerous beast. This person didn't even KNOW WHAT A "PIT BULL" LOOKED LIKE, but she was confident that she knew they were all vicious baby eaters. People are amazingly stupid and cruel.

  • In reply to chicagogig:

    Ignorance - yes, perfect word. And so many, many, many stories regarding dogs being misidentified as pits - easy thing to do - and then euthanized. . . even though the individual dog have NO history of causing any problem...apparently death without cause is ok with some here.

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    As the owner of a pit mix, I can tell you she is the sweetest, most loving and the least aggressive dog I have owned. I watch her stand there and let the awful white fluffy thing that she shares a yard with attack her time and time again. Occasionally she will swat the dog away but never attack in a brutal way. Pits were not bred to fight and kill, they have been adopted as the dogs used to fight and kill. Yes, they are strong as hell but no stronger then a rotweiler, german shepard or any other of about 20 breeds.
    The reality is, the morons who fight dogs will just move to another breed if pits are outlawed and they will then through years of abuse and bad breeding create another dog that society reacted harshly to. Shall we save ourselves the time and just ban all dogs right now?
    We sadly live in a society where people who are convicted of dog fighting and abuse, such as Michael Vick are rewarded by companies such as Nike with multi million dollar contracts upon release from prison. Now theres a great message.
    By nature, all dogs are sweet, loving creatures, its us who creates the monsters.

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    Steve, thank you for writing an article that desperately needed to be written. You covered all the bases with accuracy and class.

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