Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Debunking Dogsbite - Thank you KuttersKru!

Please feel free to crosspost (written by KuttersKru)

After finding, reading, and admittedly laughing at what I found on Dogsbite.org, I decided to sit down on one Mountain Dew fueled night and debunk everything I found within. Enjoy. Everything from Dogsbite will be Italicized. Important points in bold shall be addressed first.

1. It's the owner not the breed

Poor ownership of a pit bull may exacerbate aggressive tendencies, but the pit bull is still an innately aggressive breed. Pit bulls have been selectively bred since the 1800s for the purposes of fighting and continue to be bred for fighting today. US courts agree that the following breed characteristics of pit bulls are not in dispute: robust strength, unpredictability, tenaciousness (the refusal to give up a fight) and high pain tolerance.

Perpetuators of this myth also cannot account for the many instances in which responsible pit bull owners are victimized by their dogs. In 2007, pit bull type dogs were responsible for 60% of attacks that led to fatality. Half of these attacks involved a family member and the family pit bull.

First off, the "pit bull" is not a breed. Rather, it is a grouping of several dogs that occurred because certain people could not tell them apart. Secondly, there is no solid evidence that any dog labeled as a "pit bull" is actually human aggressive. When checking the standards and descriptions of said breeds, it is usually a fault to display human aggression. For instance, take the average description of the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Terrier, and the Bull Terrier. The average description of the dogs and discussion of temperament will often state that while these dogs may not enjoy the company of other dogs, they should tolerate and enjoy human company. And being bred for fighting puts another notch in the belt of these dogs and another noose in the gallows for you, Dogsbite. Why? Because it's common knowledge that the fate of man biters was often death. Seeing as a dogman had to hold a dog themselves in the pit, it's obvious that a dog making very enthusiastic attempts to bite it's handler would not be tolerated.

2. Pit bulls are animal-aggressive, not people-aggressive

Historically, it is believed that dogfighters removed people-aggressive dogs from the gene pool. If this is true, there is no indication that these same selective pressures are still in operation. Fatality statistics over the past 20-years continue to reflect a high number of pit bulls killing people. News stories flourish about pit bulls breaking free of their property and attacking children and the elderly. These victims did not have pets with them, nor were they provoking the dog before the attack.

Pit bull advocates who propagate this myth refuse to admit that both traits are unacceptable. It is not "okay" that pit bulls are animal-aggressive. Due to this genetic trait, pit bulls frequently maim and kill our pets. In many instances, owners of these pets get injured trying to stop the attack. While some attacks might start from animal aggression, they can quickly lead to human aggression.

This is false, as many a modern dog man will tell you. And provided that you know what you are doing with your animals, yes, it is perfectly fine that a dog is animal aggressive. The ones that know this are clearly not the ones making headlines. Also, note that there are many other breeds that have some sort of natural aggression or natural disposition towards chasing small or larger animals due to high prey drive

3. Fatality statistics regarding pit bull attacks are false

Statistics regarding pit bull fatalities and severe injury are true. It has been suggested that because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fatality data relies, in part, on newspaper articles, that the entire study is inaccurate. Pit bull advocates say that pit bull fatalities are more extensively reported by the media, therefore the CDC must have "miscounted" or "double counted" the number of pit bull fatalities. Considering the time spent developing the studies, it is safe to say that the authors were careful to count each event only once.

Even the CDC has discredited the study. Quoted from them:
A CDC study on fatal dog bites lists the breeds involved in fatal attacks over 20 years (Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998). It does not identify specific breeds that are most likely to bite or kill, and thus is not appropriate for policy-making decisions related to the topic. Each year, 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs. These bites result in approximately 16 fatalities; about 0.0002 percent of the total number of people bitten. These relatively few fatalities offer the only available information about breeds involved in dog bites. There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.

In addition, there are many dogs that the media has labeled as a "pit bull", but clearly weren't by any standard, as proven by understand-a-bull.com:

Also, note that other "studies" such as reports by Merritt Clifton should be discredited for lack of proper information and general fact bungling.

4. The media is unfair to pit bulls

Pit bulls have the highest propensity of any breed to be involved in catastrophic maulings. Media and law enforcement members treat each pit bull attack as a serious public safety threat. About half of all pit bull reported news regards police officers shooting pit bulls. In many of these cases, pit bulls are used as part of criminal operations for drug dealers, gang members and other violent offenders.

There is an absence of media regarding the collective damage inflicted by this breed. In 2007 alone, pit bull type dogs were responsible for 60% of US dog bite fatalities, the bulk of disfigurements and countless episodes of killing our pets and livestock. Over the next decade, pit bulls are on pace to maul 200 Americans to death. Major news agencies are AWOL on these important issues.

Again, as proven by understand-a-bull.com, the media does indeed have bias:

Does anyone remember the case where a Labrador Retriever puppy killed a baby? What about the Lab that ate it's owner's face as she slept? The Huskies who mauled a two year old? Perhaps even the Greyhounds that attacked and killed a man's dog? Most likely not, as both incidents recieved minimal coverage. Once again, the media is not looking for accuracy, it's looking for a story.

5. Pit bulls are not unpredictable
Pit bulls frequently attack without provocation or warning. As a fighting breed, pit bulls were bred to conceal warning signals before an attack. For instance, they rarely growl, bear their teeth or issue a stare before they strike. They are also disrespectful of traditional signs of submission and appeasement.

Pit bulls are also liars. Randall Lockwood, a senior vice president to the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals (ASPCA), shares the following story in a law enforcement training video:

"Fighting dogs lie all the time. I experienced it first hand when I was investigating three pit bulls that killed a little boy in Georgia. When I went up to do an initial evaluation of the dog's behavior. The dog came up to the front of the fence, gave me a nice little tail wag and a "play bow" -- a little solicitation, a little greeting. As I got closer, he lunged for my face."

This is not only untrue, but incredibly stupid. All dogs will give some hint or indcation of provocation prior to attack, no matter how small it is. There are also recollections by dogmen of dogs whining or barking prior to fights. It's also common for a dog displaying aggression to bark and snarl. Despite the lack of need for most canine posturing prior to fights, dogs of the type will often posture in small ways regardless. While it may seem like there is no warning to the average human eye does not mean that there was no warning at all.

6. Pit bulls do not have a locking jaw

A pit bull's jaw may not physically lock, but the inherent fighting trait of a pit bull is to "hold and shake." This is why we consistently hear in news reports that the dog would not let go. Many pit bull breeders and owners promote "hold and shake" behavior through the act of spring poling, in which the pit bull leaps into the air, locks down on a rope and holds for as long as possible.

The most stunning instance that debunks the "not locking jaw" myth occurred in a courtroom. During the Toldeo v. Tellings trial, Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon showed a videotape of a tranquilized pit bull hanging from a steel cable. The dog is unconscious and still does not release his grip. Having seen this video, DogsBite.org can only imagine that gasps were uttered in the courtroom

First off, holding and shaking is neither breed specific nor species specific, it is family specific. Wolves that grab prey or something that they are intent on keeping will also hold and shake, as will coyotes, dholes, African Wild Dogs, and many others. Grip on a dog is not breed specific either, as it is one of the things that those who breed dogs for hog hunting, schutzhund, french ring, police and military work look for as it is important to the job of the dog. Also, the video is questionable, seeing as due to the makeup of the average steel cable, it is very possible that the dog's teeth could have simply become caught in the strands of such a thing. Also, the possibility of a dog's jaw locking is highly unlikely, as an automatically locking jaw would prevent an animal from doing simple tasks such as eating, drinking and panting which a dog would need to survive.

Dr. 1. Lehr Brisbin of the University of Georgia offers:

"The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of "locking mechanism" unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier."

Al W. Stinson, D.V.M.
Director of Legislative Affairs, Michigan Association for Pure Bred Dogs, and the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, and a Member of the Board of Directors of the American Dog Owners Association writes:

The following quote was sent to me from Dr. Howard Evans, Professor Emeritus, College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, Ithaca New York. We were colleagues in the veterinary college for four years. He is the author of the textbook, ANATOMY OF THE DOG, (the world's definitive work on the anatomy of the dog). His statement was in a letter addressed to me on March 26. 2002. His quote was: "I have spoken with [Dr.] Sandy deLahunta (the foremost dog neurologist in the country) and [DR.] Katherine Houpt (a leading dog behaviorist) about a jaw locking mechanism in pit bulls or any other dog and they both say, as do I, that there is NO SUCH THING AS "JAW LOCKING IN ANY BREED.

We all agree that the power of the bite is proportional to the size of the jaws and the jaw muscles. There is no anatomical structure that could be a locking mechanism in any dog." As a Professor Emeritus from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University, I agree completely with their conclusion.

7. My pit bull is a sweetheart

According to a study done by the Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy, pit bull owners use a variety of strategies to lessen the stigma attached to owning a negatively perceived dog. One of the strategies is to emphasize counter-stereotypical behavior. For instance, to offset the popular idea that pit bulls are fierce and predatory, respondents in the study voiced just the opposite: "My dog is the biggest sweetheart in the world."

Other strategies used to combat the pit bull stigma included, trying to pass their dogs off as other breeds, denying that their behavior is genetically determined, discrediting unfavorable media coverage, using humor, avoiding stereotypical gear or accessories, taking preventive measures, or becoming "breed ambassadors"

Ridiculous and asanine psychobabble aside, these dogs obviously carries a negative undertone due to the recent years. Naturally it is up to the owners of the dogs to change mind or face the extermination of thier dogs. And seeing as a "pit bull" is not a breed and the dogs are not easily distinguishable from other dogs of the type to the untrained eye, could it possibly be that you are indeed projecting your mislabelings on the Pit Bull Community? One of the most important aspects to people educating others about thier dogs is to make sure that people know that this is a breed that is not suited for most people, therefore stemming the flow of irresponsible owners

8. Pit bulls used to be the most popular dog in America

Pit bull advocates often say that, "by World War I, the pit bull had become the most popular dog in America." A resource is never cited with this claim. Last year, Animal People News, tested this claim. By searching the classified dogs-for-sale ads between 1900-1950 on NewspaperArchive.com, they discovered that Huskies and St. Bernards topped the charts. Of the 34 breeds searched, pit bulls ranked 25th.

Due to the variety of names that pit bulls are known by, Animal People News ran searches on three names: pit bull terrier, Staffordshire, and American bulldog. The combined sum came to 34,770. This is equivalent to 1% of the sampling of nearly 3.5 million breed-specific mentions of dogs.

When I look around, I rarely see anyone stating that this dog was the most popular, but instead ONE OF the most popular breeds. This much is true. Merrit Clifton, the editor of Animal People "tested" this claim by search results on the NewspaperArchive.com website. I however, have trouble paying attention to anyone daft enough to mix up a Minature Pinscher and a Doberman.

Lassie, Get Help explains all the pitfalls in this accusation:
Forget duplicate ads. Forget multiple references to Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin and Balto. Forget short stories, movie and book reviews, and breed names used figuratively or used in advertising. Forget the regional, racial and socioeconomic factors that affect what goes into a newspaper. And most of all, forget that Clifton failed to search for bulldogs and bull terriers: the two names most closely associated with the "pit bull" breed in the first half of the 20th century. Set all that aside, and the bias and ignorance still loom large. "Not a shred of historical evidence!" Not a shred, dammit!

To digress just a bit, how is it that people who don't know anything about dogs become dog experts? How is it that Jon Katz -- who allows his dogs to worry sheep and calls it "herding," who believes stockdogs are trained with a clicker, who views the no-kill sheltering movement as a threat to America's children, who [as far as anyone knows] has never trained a dog to do much of anything and has never attended a real sheepdog trial even as a spectator -- how is it that Jon Katz has become, in his publisher's words, "one of the country's most respected" writers on dogs?

How is it that Merritt Clifton -- who wouldn't recognize scientific research if he tripped over it, who thinks German shepherds are bred to "herd," who can't be troubled to edit his spelling errors or find out what dogs are really bred for, who has [as far as anyone knows] never cared for or trained or even patted a pit bull, who has written about "the custom" [known only to him, apparently] "of docking pit bulls' tails so that warning signals are not easily recognized," and who writes that "temperament is not the issue, nor is it even relevant," since virtually all pit bulls are "bad moments" waiting to happen -- how is it that Clifton has become an "expert" on the breed?

"There isn't a shred of historical evidence" [Clifton writes] that pit bulls "were ever commonly kept as family pets (or indeed by anyone except dogfighters)" until the 1980s.

Wrong. Again.

On the left: one example of a pit bull on a citrus crate label. I grew up in a region famous for its citrus crops, and love historic crate labels. Lots of the old ones feature popular breeds -- Airedales, Saint Bernards -- and these days modern breeds are occasionally photoshopped into old citrus labels. The Pup Brand label is an authentic oldie. This facsimile is for sale here.

At the top of this post is a photo of a book called The Dog Album. From the dust jacket: "For the nineteenth-century businessman, newly engaged couple, or Victorian family dressed in their Sunday best, a photo session was indeed a special occasion. Which makes it all the more fascinating to see how often the family dog participated in the event." The Dog Album includes a dozen or so photos of pit bull type dogs with their people. There are more pit bulls in this book than collies. More pit bulls than pugs, in fact. Even more pit bulls than Saint Bernards.

Vintage photos of people and their pit bulls are a staple on eBay. Here's a link to the photo below.

And here's a shot of a handsome pit bull with a group of railroad engineers:

On the right, a postcard of a lady. No, Zelig fans, it's not the same dog ;~)

A pit bull is the subject of New Yorker icon James Thurber's classic Snapshot of a Dog. "'An American bull terrier,' we used to say, proudly; none of your English bulls." "American bull terrier" was one of many names given to the dog now called a pit bull, according to American Kennel Gazette editor Arthur Frederick Jones. Jones wrote a chapter on terriers for the National Geographic Book of Dogs, and began the chapter with an appreciation of Joffre, the Staffordshire terrier his family owned when Jones was a boy.

Anyone familiar with pit bulls knows that these dogs have always been called bulldogs in rural areas and in southern parts of the U.S. When Laura Ingalls Wilder writes about the family bulldog, Jack, she's writing about a dog we would recognize as a pit bull. In the great children's book Sounder the dog of the title is half hound, half bulldog: that is, half pit bull.

Listen to Texan Jim Crainer of Hawgs, Dawgs, and Hunting:

Hello David,

I appreciate you taking the time to write. Your question is "Do I hunt with pitbulls and do I presently have any pups I'm selling or giving away". First, Do I hunt with Bull dogs? Yes, but I only use them in a catch dog capacity. When the hog is bayed up, I get as close as I can and release a protected vest covered and cut collar wearing bull dog to go catch the hog. I dont have bull dogs that I let hunt for me, but know of some people who do. Its just a personal preference on type of dogs is the reason I dont. Suprisingly to alot of people, some strains of bull dogs are good hunters and have a good nose especially for rig or hood hunting. But its like any breed of dog, you have to find the right dog to do it with. Such as, just because a fella has a blackmouth cur or a catahoula doesnt mean he will bay cattle or hogs. Or just because a person has a walker hound doesnt mean he will tree a coon. You have to go thru a number of them or get them from reputible breeders to find one that will work for you. Second, Do I have any bull dogs puppies to sell or give away? I usually raise one litter of bull dog pups a year, there is a picture of the two I kept on the baydog pictures, Under Dogs, picture #3. I do sell them occasionally when I raise a litter. Thanks again for your question.

Good Hunting,


[Crainer writes elsewhere that he favors the Carver line of pit bulls -- a fighting strain --and won't bother with a pit bull unless it's people friendly and can ride loose in the rig with other dogs.]

If Merritt Clifton actually knew much about dogs, or cared enough to study the history of dogs in the U.S., he would know all this. Pit bulls -- bulldogs -- have been common for the better part of a century and a half, though not as ubiquitous as they are today. They were, and are, kept and loved by all sorts of people.

The photo below was taken in the 1890s. The toddler is my maternal great-aunt [a wonderful woman who loved dogs, and owned some legendary ones -- legendary in our household, anyway] and her uncle Albert. Albert was crippled: the dog in the photo is helping to hide Albert's legs in addition to providing support for the child. Seventy years after this photo was taken, my great-aunt remembered the dog's name and spoke of him fondly as "our bulldog." Her parents were hard-working, pragmatic Iowa farmers who liked good dogs and didn't keep bad ones. They were not dogfighters.


9. Pit bulls pass the American Temperament Test

In 1977, Alfons Ertel10 designed the American Temperament Test in hopes of creating a uniform temperament test for dogs. Since then, about 930 dogs are tested annually. Given that 74.8 million dogs populate the US today, it is fair to say that this test is not widely practiced nor recognized as a critical evaluation tool.

The 12-minute test simulates a casual walk through a park. In a few instances, the dog is required to walk on usual surfaces. The test focuses on stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and a few other factors. Over 80% of all dogs pass, including pit bulls. The test is not performed without the dog owner present (unlike the AKC's Canine Good Citizen test). It also fails to evaluate the most basic scenario that leads to aggression: How a dog reacts when it sees another dog.

Proof that this is the most basic scenario that leads to aggression, or go away please. How would that create a more aggressive scenario than a person running/biking by? Also let it be known that a fair number of dogs labled to be "pit bulls" can, will, and do pass the CGC with flying colors. Given that you credit a publicly discredited study like the CDC's, Dogsbite, it is fair to say that you are cherry picking

10. Punish the deed not the breed!

"Punish the deed not the breed," works to the benefit of pit bull breeders and owners who accept the large collateral damage pit bulls inflict on the public. The motto also seeks to place all dog breeds on equal grounds. US courts, dog behaviorists, doctors, statisticians and public safety officials disagree. They instead recognize the grave threat that pit bulls pose to community members and our pets. Like the antiquated echoing of myth #1, "It's the owner not the breed," this last myth lies at the heart of outdated dog policy. The modern answer to this final myth is to develop policy that prevents future victims from being created: Prevent the deed, regulate the breed!

Were this true, then all cities, towns, and states would be in favor of BSL and no bans anywhere would getting removed. Obviously, this generalization is false. The purpose of the saying is to cut fault where it really lies: the owner. Dogs, while talented in some areas, are incapable of many things. They can not buy themselves, train themselves, drive themselves to the dog park, incorrectly contain themselves, or place themselves in situations that would set them up for failure. This is purely the folly of the owner, the very person who should have protected the dog, and BSL does not correct that, nor does it prevent that same irresponsible owner from buying another dog and starting the process anew. Tougher punishments for what should happen should a dog bites (like harsh fines and jail time) are much more effective deterrents, as proven in places like the Netherlands and Italy.

Again, a big thanks to KuttersKru for taking the time to debunk dogsbite.org