Dogsbite.org is not an "expert" organization when it comes to canine behavior. There, I've said it.
While it seems that lately, several media outlets have been treating them like they have a particular knowledge on the subject of dog bites and attacks (I'll get to a possible "why" on that later in the post), it doesn't erase the reality that dogsbite.org is simply a website run almost entirely by an individual person who has an expertise in web design, access to google, and a desire to seek revenge on an attack that happened to her several years. Those are the qualifications behind the website. And it runs no deeper than that. And treating the website as anything more than that is a recipe bad information that will lead to less safe circumstances for people and dogs. Let me explain.
Dogsbite.org is a website run by Colleen Lynn. In June of 2007, Lynn was an unfortunate victim of a dog bite while she was out jogging. Because of the dog bite, by a dog that is said to be a 'pit bull', Lynn decided to create the website dogsbite.org. According to the original "about us" section of the website, the intent of the website was three-fold:
-- Distinguish which breeds of dogs are dangerous to have in neighborhoods
-- Help enact laws to regulate the ownership of these breeds
-- Help enact laws that hold dog owners criminally liable if their dog attacks a person or causes serious injury or death
While I actually agree with her original third mission statement, the original purpose of the website is very clearin the first two statements -- she intended to target particular breeds of dogs and ban ownership of those breeds. The goal was not public education or anything that she claims it to be about now -- it was about enacting breed specific legislation...even though she has no credentials to propose legislation like that with any basis of expertise.
And make no mistake, all of the experts organizations disagree with her idea on breed-specific legislation.
Every mainstream national organization that is involved in canine/human interactions is opposed to laws targeting specific breeds of dogs. An at-least partial list of these organizations include:
American Dog Owners Association
American Kennel Club (AKC)
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
American Working Dog Federation
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Center for Disease Control
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
International Association of Canine Professionals
National Animal Control Association
National Animal Interest Alliance
No Kill Advocacy Center
You find nearly one-stop shopping of all of the position statements of these groups here.
These groups represent the best of the best in the United States for Dog Trainers, Rescues, Shelters, Animal Behaviorists, Government entities,veterinarians, and even Animal Control Officers. All of them oppose breed specific legislation. All of them, in large part, because they have experience working with the actual dogs, and read the science, and realize the aggession is not a breed-specific issue -and the reality is that most dogs, regardless of breed, do not show aggressive behavior -- and yet, some dogs, of each breed, have.
All recommend dog ordinances that focus on the the behaviors of the actual dogs, and not on its body type.
And not listening to the professional organizations, and instead, listening to an "organization" that has no expertise, can lead to bad results. Again, their focus is not in the best interests of public safety...it's about getting revenge.
For example: at the end of 2008, Dogsbite.org named Lucas County (OH) Dog Warden Tom Skeldon their "Dog Warden of the year." Their reasoning is that "Skeldon has vigorously worked to prevent horrendous pit bull maulings resulting in serious injuries or death of human beings, their domesticated pets and livestock." Interestingly, in the same year that Skeldon received this "award", the actual number of dog bites in Lucas County had gone up 23%.
So dog bites go up, and they give the man the dog warden of the year award because he is targeting 'pit bulls'. Does that sound like the resume of an award winner for a group advocating for public safety to you? Me neither.
Within a year of them issuing the "award", Skeldon stepped down from his position under significant public pressure. The actual citizens who had to put up with Skeldon's behavior, outrageous shelter kill rates and lack of improved public safety actually forced him out of office.
But nothing may be worse than a fairly recent post (you can click on the picture to the left to read a screen shot of it) actually claiming that parents shouldn't be expected to teach their children to be respectful around dogs even though major, well-respected, dog training groups recommend otherwise. If you can teach a young child to not touch a hot oven, then they can at least understand "caution" around dogs. It is this type of irresponsibility that is making people LESS safe, not more safe.
Oh, there are other greivences. There is the reality that they claim dogs of even distantly-related breeds -- including Boxers, Bulldogs and Mastiffs - to all be 'pit bulls' in their "statistics". They consistently claim that all of the professional organizations that oppose BSL are only doing so because they are supported by dog fighters*. They sensor all comments on their website that even come remotely close to disputing anything they post -- even if it is someone who is providing acutal data that is correcting something they misspoke about -- again, censoring other types of thinking isn't exactly something you'd expect from a "public education" website.
* The all of these organizations are opposed to BSL because they are supported dog fighters and dog breeders is a particularly funny notion. Many of the organizations that oppose BSL spend literally millions upon millions of dollars trying to shut down dog fighting operations, and all of the orgs oppose dog fighting in principle, even if they aren't actively working to shut the groups down. And as for breeding, several of the groups support breeders and several are working very hard to end breeding and spend countless dollars arguing amonst themselves on the breeding issue - -so the idea they would agree on this subject because they are supported by breeders is baseless too -- to the point that it's kind of comical.
And this doesn't even include their inaccurate use of case studies to support their point of view vs reporting the actual data. Or the reality that one city that allowed them to influence their policy-making, Omaha, has had a disasterous year.
So, the question then remains, how is it that an organization that has so few real credentials continues to get quoted by media outlets out there?
One of the things that journalism schools around the nation teach is the importance of providing both sides of a story. There are always two sides, and they teach the importance of providing both. So when it comes to the argument about whether or not to ban 'pit bulls', dogsbite.org ends up being THE ONLY 'organization' in favor of banning 'pit bulls'. So the media almost has to use them, because they are the only ones with the alternative viewpoint.
And that folks, is the sad truth about dogsbite.org. They are the only one(s) that favor BSL. And they do so based on having a website and google -- not with any real expertise in working with dogs.
And that's very telling.
Oh sure, they will likely retort with criticisms of me, and what are my true credentials. It's true, that even though I've worked in rescue, and I've worked with hundreds of dogs that would be considered 'pit bulls', I have no credentials after my name. I'm not a certified trainer, or a vet. However, I will say this. My opinion is the same one shared by the national organizations that speak for veterinarians, animal control officers, dog trainers and rescuers throughout the nation. So my ideas and point of view is supported by pretty much everyone that has knowledge of canine/human interactions.
Their support group is a city attorney in Denver and an animal control officer that was forced out of his job in Toledo. That's it.
And that's the truth about dogsbite.org. Fine, give them the "other" voice. But let's not mistake them for an organization that has any form of expertise, or any unique knowledge. Let's not mistake them for anything more than a person, with a website, that is seeking revenge for an incident that happened to her. No more, no less.
On one final note to Ms. Lynn. I am sorry that you were attacked by a dog. And I do hope the owner of the attacking dog was held appropriately accountable for the actions of their dog. But it was one dog -- and is not reflective of the millions of dogs out there of this type -- and I would encourage you to go to your local shelter and meet some more of the dogs that you seek to destroy. And I hope that pushing for ordinances that actually improve public safety, and that pushing for educating parents on how to introduce pets and children, will trump your desire for personal vengeance so that we can actually create a safer society.