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« The Top 5 +1 for February, 2013 | Main | Weekly Roundup - Week Ending 3-10-13 »

March 06, 2013

Comments

Dubv

Brent, will you ever get tired of typing

"Dog attacks like this are exceedingly rare."

over and over?

How many times can you state that in reference to an attack and still feel the same way?

Do you have no pattern recognition skills or no internal BS meter?

It turns out another rare event just happened. A pit bull has killed a toddler.

Please cover it and apply you savvy to explain it as not having to do with breed genetics.

You and your followers would be sad and funny if you weren't so dangerous.

Brent

Dub,

I'll respond in more detail tomorrow. But yes, these situations are exceedingly rare. 75 million dogs in this country -- and roughly 30 a year are involved in some type of incident. Dogs are among the safest creatures on the planet -- and far safer than humans.

As far as patern recognition, I have very good pattern recognition -- the problem is, you don't. You look at situations, slap a breed label on it, and move on. It's not so simple.

There are millions of dogs labeled as pit bulls in this country. If attacking like this was a "breed trait" we'd be looking at millions of attacks like this every year. But that's not what we see.

So if they're not all attacking (which would be the case if it was a breed trait), what are the circumstances behind the incidents where the dogs do attack? When you look at these circumstance, you see amazing similarities in the incidents -- even across breeds. This is why lawmakers have been smart to listen to experts who understand canine behavior in creating dog bite legislation -- and why they shouldn't listen to people with such a poor depth of knowledge and perception that they stop by looking at the 'breed' involved.

I'll cover the Wisconsin incident -- when enough information comes out about what led to the tragic situation.

Brandi

I think his point is being missed, not sure if that's on purpose or not. You say that, "When you look at these circumstance, you see amazing similarities in the incidents -- even across breeds." While this is true, it does not take into account the RESULT of the incident. So if food aggression causes a Yorkie or Cocker to attack, and the same food aggression causes a Pit to attack, the end result is much different. While both incidents are caused by poor human controls or supervision, the result of the action is far more severe when a Pit does the attack.

Using the 75 million statistic is just as disingenuous is the anti-Pit people use to propagate their message. I say this as a Pit supporter who is frustrated that other breed supporters keep using faulty logic that is so easily refuted and thus causing more BSL around the country. We need to be straightforward and honest and stop trying to pretend that our breed is completely innocent of some of the charges. We should approach them head on. That is the only way to dispel the myths, not smoke and mirror statistics.

Brent

Brandi -- I agree that the argument comparing pit bulls to Yorkies or Cocker Spaniels is ridiculous. Size matters.
However, do we really think that if many other breeds were as popular, and as frequently put in bad situations as pit bulls are now that the results would be different? Do we not feel that Akitas, German Shepherds, all of the Mastiff breeds, Chows, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Weimeraners, Ridgebacks, etc were put in the same situations at the same rates as pit bulls the result wouldn't be the same? They're all powerful dogs and large in size. And if you look at the major, traumatic, life-ending events, they all have a similar set of circumstances that led up to them. And the breeds change -- but the circumstances don't.

Zibi

Brent you are 100% wrong.

Brent

On what?

zibi

I support your reasonable and rational look at the dogs. I read this blog for 3 years.

Brent

Thanks for your support, but I'm confused. What am I 100% wrong about?

zibi

You are not the author of this blog?

Brent

I am the author of this blog.

Lis Carey

Some of us are old enough to remember that in the past, Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers WERE put in these bad situations as regularly as pit bulls are now--and when that was true, these were, each in their turn, the breeds that everyone KNEW would turn on you and tear your toddler to shreds.

It really has nothing to do with breed, no matter how much you want it to. It does have something to do with size and physical power--but there are plenty of bigger, more powerful dogs than pit bulls. Pit bull strength and jaw power is equivalent to other breeds of roughly the same size.

You're falling for media hype and hysteria, and blaming Brent for challenging your prejudices.

Dubv

"Some of us are old enough to remember that in the past, Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers WERE put in these bad situations as regularly as pit bulls are now"

Please point to a time when GSDs or Dobies were embroiled in such controversy, had so many breed advocacy groups impotent to stop the bleeding, so many ill bred dogs, and even a fraction of the body count.

You point to a bygone era that existed to a very small degree. You are amplifying it in your mind.

The pit bull is by far the most controversial dog of the last 100 years. It is plainly obvious. You do yourself no favors by denying this.

Dubv

Brent actual deaths by dog are relatively rare. Serious injuries by dogs are not. By the way, domestic dogs kill more humans than any other animal in the US, besides allergic reaction to hymenoptera venom. So they are #2 after bee reactions.

The death and disfigurement of other dogs by fighting breeds is so common as to be mundane.

You simply don't see this Brent or don't care. I can't decide which it is.

All types of dogs can have bad owners. So why aren't all the mistreated and abused golden retrievers doing this? Why does it appear to be so concentrated in a single breed and it takes your "brilliance" to explain it away? Why have there been 6 deaths by dog this year and ALL were attributed to pit bulls?

You will be making these same arguments in 20 years and the bodies will continue to stack and 1,000s of dogs will have been ripped to shreds by pit bulls.

You simply can't admit that you are wrong about this one. Good luck.

zibi

Did you see the terrible conditions in which the dog alive? No that does not have to be aggressive stand the complete lack of socialization with humans and the environment. Golden Retrivery are treated by people much better and there is a problem.

Brent

Dub, this where your hate blinds you to reality.

Keep in mind that when Rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, etc had their time, pet ownership was very different in this country. Pet ownership has been growing for decades -- as has the US Population. In 1991 there were 51 million owned dogs (this is the earliest date I have). By 2011 it was 75 million. In the 70s, it would have been even lower.

So yes, the numbers for pit bulls are different for multiple reasons.

#1) They happen to be one of the most popular types of dogs when pet ownership has never been higher -- 50% higher than the early 90s and likely double or triple what pet ownership was in the 70s. There are just more of them.

#2) The US Population has continued to grow. In 1970, the US Population was 200 million. Today, it is 312 million.

#3) Dogs have never had as much access to people as they have today. Over the past decades we've been very effective and taking the dogs out of our yards and moving them into our homes where they have virtually 24/7 access to us. This is very notable given the amount of access dogs now have to young children and infants that simply didn't exist 30 years ago.

#4) They also have the pleasure of being the dog of the internet generation and 24/7 news cycles -- where now people can easily access information from around the world and know everything that happens anywhere in seconds -- and people without a clue of canine behavior can make a flashy website and make themselves seem like an expert in the place of real experts with real knowledge of canine behavior -- and then others can anonymously troll the internet spreading the mis-information.

It's a pretty simple equation: more dogs + more people + more access = more bites. And that said, given the huge number of dogs in this country, they continue to prove themselves to be statistically very safe companions in our lives -- which is why so many homes continue to bring them in.

Jennifer Brighton

Dub -

As Brent states, there are way too many large breed dogs that can be acquired by irresponsible owners who do not feed them, do not exercise or socialize them to most situations and keep them tied, chained or loose in their backyards. What is your solution to that? Our solution is to focus on teaching people to train, socialize and control their dogs or they shouldn't have one. If you have a dog you know has issues, you take every measure to keep the public and other animals safe.

However, just as others disregard laws that can put fellow humans in danger, the problem lies with the human, not the object or animal. Do you really think that if a certain type of dog is no longer available to the irresponsible owner that they won't acquire another large breed? It's very unfortunate, but backyard breeders who care nothing about disposition but only making a buck, will turn to pumping out whatever the public asks for.

And you are a minority among knowledgeable dog people. There is a very small percentage that agree with your position. That is a fact.

Also, you seem to imply that another breed is not capable of killing. But look at the big picture. How many irresponsible owners use goldens to guard their back yard or look tough? I would posit that if goldens became the dog starved, chained, beaten and unsocialized, we would see deaths and attacks by them. The statistics show that almost every breed is capable and has sent adults and children to the hospital. The difference between us is that you focus on one type of dog where we focus on all dogs and the reasons behind bites/fatalities. Why not put your efforts towards preventing/avoiding all incidents of dog bites as many neutral organizations and programs do?

Lori

I have two pitbulls and they are not fighting breeds. They are loving family pets. They live peacefully with a family of humans, doxies, a cocker, a pom, and several cats. Fighting breeds? Really? What a stupid thing to say.

Erika

Excellent points, Brent. I do honestly feel that the information age is a double-edged sword, because while it provides us with greater access to knowledge than has ever existed during human history.....it also makes hysteria and misinformation much easier to spread.

From my personal observations, it does seem that we live in an era of very different attitudes when it comes to canines. Our expectations of them, and of pet ownership, are very different from previous generations. Dogs are no longer expected to earn their keep through a job, and people that feel a dog belongs outside are becoming the minority. We also have a different attitude concerning aggression, and what is tolerated from a dog. Our understanding of canine behavior has grown rapidly as a science, though it remains a relatively young field that is ever-evolving.

And our attention to the problem of canine violence has grown significantly. The claim about other breeds never having the bad reputation or number of attacks is false, because what needs to be remembered is that dog attack stories rarely made it outside local papers before the era of the 24/7 news cycle and the internet.

What we also know is that which incidents make the news also depends on what the media feels is "newsworthy". My own family has witnessed this first-hand, when a neighbor's Labrador tore my cousin's Jack Russell Terrier literally to pieces. There was a poking of media interest over the "vicious dog", which vanished when they learned it was a purebred Labrador. A similar incident with a pit bull killing a Shiba Inu occurred not far from there, and that one got reported all over the place. Both involved a vicious dog that escaped to attack and savagely kill a smaller dog playing in its own yard. Both traumatized the owner who helplessly witnessed the attack.....but only one of them was considered worthy of being reported.

The CDC reports that on an average year, roughly 30,000 people will require reconstructive surgery to treat injuries from dog attacks. A tiny percentage of these incidents will make the news.

This particular tragic incident clearly involved a household with serious issues. And the violence of the owners ultimately resulted in a senseless loss of life to an innocent child.

As Brent pointed out, simply going with the justification that it is "just the breed" ignores that no incident happens within a vacuum. As he pointed out, the same HUMAN factors emerge in serious attacks regardless of the breed involved. Larger breeds are, obviously, more dangerous than smaller ones.

John Richardson

Good post, as usual, Brent. Yes, Pit Bulls are more powerful than Yorkies and Cockers. Duh, people. But they aren't more powerful than a lot of other breeds and if you ask any animal professional whether they'd rather handle 100 Pit Bulls or 100 Filas, guess what the answer would be. Part of why Pit Bulls are so insanely popular is that for some people, they are the "macho" breed that is actually generally pretty easy to handle. 20% of my county shelter intake is Pits and Pit Mixes. No other breed comes close. There's been only one dog mauling fatality in this county in recent years. That was by a Dobe. The worst single chomp bite wound on a human I've seen was by a Mastiff Mix. The worst multi-bite attack I've seen was by a Basset Hound. The worst bite I've ever gotten was by a Husky. I recently had to save a Chihuahua from the jaws of a Pit Bull and ended up in the ER - because the Chihuahua ripped the palm of my hand up pretty bad. My own worst bite came from a Husky. Pit Bulls can be more problematic around other dogs than other breeds, but even here they are not alone. The first instance I was exposed to of a shelter dog killing another dog at a shelter where I used to volunteer involved a German Shepherd. The most insanely dog reactive dog I've handled in the past several years was a Doberman. Pit Bulls pose some real challenges, but they are nowhere near unique in this regard.

John Richardson

There has been at least one fatal mauling by a Golden that I know of and the first human face transplant followed a mauling by a Lab. NO breed is immune. Pit Bulls ARE historically a fighting breed and the tenacity they exhibit when their fight instinct is triggered CAN be a special problem. I therefore unabashedly support the euthanasia of all human aggressive Pit Bulls as well as those whose animal aggression makes them uncontrollable. What's so sad about reports like the one above is that there are in so many of these case ample prior warning that the PARTICULAR dogs in question are indeed dangerous, but anywhere from nothing to just a few tepid steps are taken. But again, most Pit Bulls are not human aggressive in the least and their animal aggression is often overstated. Some actual historic pit fighting dogs have lived with other dogs, and weren't even dominant in their pack. I counsel caution in mixing Pit Bulls with other animals, but have done so myself and in by far the worst intra-pack incident I ever had, a Husky Mix was the culprit. In my current pack, I added a Pit Bull after having added some behaviorally challenging dogs, a Basset Mix, a Lab Mix and a Klee Kai,precisely because I wanted a break from the challenges. That's no hype. It's the 100% truth. No, I wouldn't add just ANY Pit Bull, but it isn't hard to find Pit Bulls that are not just good with people, but better with animals than a lot of other dogs, if you have half an ounce of knowledge and sense about you, which you will ONLY if you are not blinded by prejudice.

Erika

Completely right, John.

From my personal experiences with dogs, the majority of ones that worried me were not the "usual suspects'. A neighbor across the street used to have a /very/ reactive Border Collie, who was fairly dog-intolerant and afraid of women.....and worst of all, extremely protective of their daughter, to the degree that we were warned to not attempt to touch her if the dog was standing nearby. They muzzled the dog whenever it wasn't inside the house, and invested huge amounts of time and effort into a strict training program to manage his behavior issues. He improved over time, but remained a dog I would never approach.

My friends also had a very unfortunate experience with a store-purchased Golden Retriever. It's believed he had a serious neurological condition, as he began to exhibit serious aggression directed towards men as he matured. The husband barely escaped serious injury during an attack, and they were agonizing over what to do when the dog was (mercifully) struck and killed by a car. With one 10-year old son and a baby on the way, they were absolutely terrified of what the dog might have done. At his size, that Golden could have very easily killed their son or a baby without problem.

I've also encountered Labradors, Australian Shepherds, Huskies, and plenty of smaller breeds that have genuinely frightened me with their behavior. Any dog, regardless of breed, can be dangerous if the circumstances allow. No dog is 100% safe, because at the end of the day dogs are essentially toddlers (on an equal cognitive level) with very sharp teeth.

Brent

"I therefore unabashedly support the euthanasia of all human aggressive Pit Bulls as well as those whose animal aggression makes them uncontrollable." - I strongly support this regardless of what breed of dog you put in the sentence. There are far too many great dogs out there to risk it with people aggressive or those with severe dog aggression.

John Richardson

Correct, Brent. I should have added that this is not a Pit Bull specific stance. It's quite general. A couple years back, we had to euth a Jack Russell Mix who had killed another dog.

As for some issues raised by others:

German Shepherds. These were definitely the "bad boy" breed when I was growing up and there was one that lived the next block down who ran loose frequently, injured two dogs permanently and killed at least one cat. That dog was feared by all the kids and parents on our street. There was a ban of German Shepherds in Australia in the 50s or 60s. The became all the more notorious because of the way cops in the South used them on civil rights demonstrators. In the documentary "When We Were Kings" about the legendary Ali-Foreman fight, a black African said that George Foreman immediately lost a lot of potential support on arrival because he arrived walking his German Shepherd, a dog used also in Africa to quell demonstrators and generally intimidate the public. This stuff is not the stuff of mystery and the fact that people ask what they obviously intend as rhetorical questions like "When were GSDs embroiled in such controversy" just goes to show how "fact free" their crusade is. This stuff is NOT AT ALL difficult to document.

As for serious injury from dog bites being a lot more common than actual deaths from dog bites, that is true. But here it is even MORE clear that lots of dogs of lots of breeds have caused serious injury. What is so irksome about the pro-BSL crusade is not just that they target a lot of dogs that are NOT dangerous, but seem to wink at a lot of dogs of other breeds and all sorts of mixes that ARE. "Judge the deed not the breed" is not just a call to be nice to nice Pit Bulls, but a call to focus on the REAL problem WHEREVER it appears. Laws that clog the shelters with inoffensive, confiscated Pit Bulls are truly troublesome dogs get the same tepid treatment from the system seen in the build up to so many mauling cases do NOT serve the public interest in the least.

Oh, another animal-related death fact that is being ignored is that something like 300 or so people are killed every year in car crashes with deer. Yes, these are different in the sense that the deer did not attack and indeed invariably died themselves, but at the public health level, large deer populations + sprawling development and habitat encroachment = about 10 times as many deaths by deer as death by dogs per year. It's a fact.

Jen Brighton

Well said, John. What I find ironic is that because of the way I have been treated due to my dogs' looks, I have become a huge advocate of not only pit bull type dogs but fighting breed legislation and educating as many people as possible about the issues, including many friends and family who only know what the media tells them.

The ironic part is that since both my dogs are shelter dogs, it's possible neither of them have a drop of pit bull.

Emily

I doubt that Dubv could actually pick out an APBT from a line up of blockyheaded shorthaired dogs. FEW people can.

If he wants to define 'pit bull" as "any blockyheaded shorthhaired dog especially if it bites someone", he may have a point.

A meaningless tautological point, though.

Advocates (until recently) have ALWAYS made the "it's not a pit bull and you can't legislate against a whole class of dogs by appearance or type" argument. Though these days, some prominent advocates seem to think that accepting the "everything is a pit bull" argument of people like Dubv is a good one.

The truth is in Brent's research: dogbite fatalities have a small set of commonalities.. and dog "breed" isn't one.

BTW, there are NO reliable statistics on serious nonfatal dogbites by breed, so any claims about that are completely unsupported.

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