Earlier this month, Colleen Lynn, writer of dogsbite.org, approached the city council of Austin, TX. In her presentation, she noted that dog bites have increasing in Austin since 2007, and blamed the city's adoption of "No Kill" policy for the increase in bites. According to Lynn, the combination of pit bulls "flooding" open admission shelters and No Kill leading to "reduced screening of potential adopters and behavior testing, is a considerable public safety risk".
Lynn then went on to kind of propose, but not really propose (it's kind of confusing what she's asking for here) either differential licensing, mandatory spay/neuter, or both. You can read all the documentation here.
Last week, I got the opportunity to be on the Pit Bulletin Legal News radio program last week and Fred and his team assembled some data to take a deeper look at the situation in Austin.
To be fair, Lynn's data is actually correct -- in as far as it goes. Dog bites have been going up in Austin. It is her desire to only collect and reportthe data that she feels supports her point that causes her to have dramatically inaccurate conclusions in an attempt to provide causal correlation.
First, let me note that there is no evidence (and still no evidence) that No Kill in any way decreases public safety. No Kill is about saving lives. It's about keeping animals in homes that don't need to be removed from homes. It's about increasing adoptions so that animals that find their way to the shelter are given the opportunity to live. Aggressive/dangerous dogs are still humanely euthanized. And adopters are still screened (although No Kill would does not set arbitrary rules that lead to homes being needless turned away).
Meanwhile, the city of Austin put together a response to Lynn's assertions -- which involved a much broader range of data.
According to their data, here is the number of dog bites by year over the past decade:
Based on the report: "Simply showing a broader timeframe shows that the upward trend in bite reports has remained consistent since 2003 -- 6 years before the Council's resolution."
The report goes on to show the increase in population for the city of Austin and Travis County -- which is now the fastest growing metro area in the country. Given the large swing in population over the past decade (from about 800,000 to more than 1.05 million), it would seem fairly obvious why there is an increase in dog bites. Thus, according to the report, "Therefore, the passing of the no-kill resolution has no substantive correlation to bite report increases, whereas population growth provides a strong correlative relation for a consistent increase in bite reports."
Wow, things are going downhill quickly for the dogbites.org folks.
So one other thing I want to highlight are the difference between minor, and severe dog bites.
Again, looking at the data from the city of Austin, here are the number of dog bites by type over the last decade:
Year Minor Moderate Severe Unknown
2000 610 218 47 34
2001 689 188 39 39
2002 607 167 49 35
2003 599 113 15 37
2004 583 138 22 33
2005 603 133 15 27
2006 687 207 52 49
2007 708 228 32 47
2008 682 260 52 71
2009 711 260 44 59
2010 732 350 45 95
2011 873 402 62 112
A couple of important points here:
#1) Over the past 12 years, Austin, a city that now has more than 1 million people and an estimated 525,000 dogs, has averaged less than 40 severe bite incidents a year. Most dog bite incidents are very minor (68% were minor and 23% moderate), again showing how absolutely safe dogs are relative to the populatin of people and canines.
2) Of the total population of owned dogs, only .007% were involved in a severe bite.
3) Only 1 of the severe bites in 2010 and 2011 were attributed to dogs that had been adopted from the City Shelter.
In conclusion, the city report notes:
"When looking at a more thorough dataset than used by dogsbite.or, we can conclusively say that we do not believe there is any evidence that suggest the no kill plan has any direct affect on bite report volume."
I think this is outstanding information for everyone to read and be aware of. I've often heard the accusations that No Kill = a decrease in public safety, and this is essentially the first real analysis that I've seen address this issue (and shows that the assertion is false). It also shows that DBO continues to push for inneffective legislation that is aimed at unnecessarily killing dogs that would have no positive impact on public safety.