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« The significance of the upcoming new book, "Why Dogs Die Young" | Main | Weekly Roundup - Week Ending 9/18/11 »

September 15, 2011



Excellent article Brent. Thank you. We've linked to it on our facebook page (American Pit Bull Terrier Association Inc NZ) in the hope some of our media representatives will read it! Now you need to sort out Colleen Lynn!


Thanks Karen. Here's the breakdown on Colleen:

Jennifer Brighton

And Karen, you might find this little gem a worthwhile read about Colleen Lynn from Pit Bulletin Legal News. I believe he references Brent's blog, as well.


"Sometimes there is only one real side to an argument. This is one of those cases."

I love your blog. This might be my new favorite anti-bsl quote!

Jennifer Brighton

Brent, I haven't had time to read your blog carefully, but will do. However, aren't Cliffton's numbers skewed just by the fact they are so out of line with what the CDC reports as far as # of dog bites per year?

From the CDC website (and I've also seen this reported in medical journal blogs):

"About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Of one in five of those who are bitten, a total of 885,000 require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries.

In 2006, more than 31,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs."

If 31,000 in 2006 underwent reconstructive surgery for dog bites, and assuming 2006 wasn't much different than other years as far as attacks, wouldn't the rate of hospitalizations be much higher than what Cliffton reports? How can he even hold himself out as providing accurate information with this type of discrepancy? I guess I'm not clear if his numbers you cite are supposedly the result of only pit bull attacks, but even so, what about those other 885,000 dogs that have bitten, requiring that the person seek medical attention, 31,000 of which required surgery?

I don't know how anyone can take him seriously. I'm no mathematician (just ask my husband), and maybe I'm just plain dumb, but his statistics make no logical sense to me. I guess that's what you are getting at.

Thanks for your hard work in sifting through all this.


Yes Jennifer -- I get to that but I used the HCUP report instead of the CDC -- but yes, regardless of which of these reports you use, Clifton's "study" covers less than 1% of the total reports requiring an overnight stay in the hospital. Clifton counters this by saying he only covers the "worst of the worst", but his qualification of this isn't based on hospital data, it's based on media reports...and even then, he seems pretty arbitrary in his inclusions because how could someone being hit by a car while fleeing a dog that never bit them fall under "the worst of the worst" dog attacks? This of course is all in addition to the new reality that 20% of all all the incidents he's covered have now allegedly happened in the past 19 months. There is no way anyone with any discernment at all could take these numbers seriously.


are you away of the trend, prominently instituted by Animal Farm Foundation (which now owns NCRC) to accept the appellation of any dog as a "pit bull" if the media, animal control or anyone else calls it a "pit bull"? Don Cleary of NCRC repeatedly asserted "there is no such breed as a "pit bull" in his recent presentation, and indeed the new NCRC publication promotes the same point of view, using DNA evidence of "breeds" Their position, to the extent I can understand it, is that "you can't tell what breed an unregistered dog is"; "pit bulls are more discriminated against than any other dog" and "we can fight bdl by encompassing ALL the dogs as a pit bull so insurance companies will lose business if they discriminate"

Im not sure they're aware of how much this stance plays into the hands of the Cliftons and Lynns of the world, because AFF cannot dispute the notion that it's inaccurate or unfair to attribute bites to "pit bulls" when the dog is a mastiff, Cane Corso or something else.

(BTW, that 4.5 million dogbite statistics that CDC is using is in itself highly suspect)



I spent a lot of time talking to AAF people last month, and I'm not sure your interpretation of their stance is completely accurate (could be, but certainly not my impression from talking to several of their members). They still actively speak about Victoria Voith's research, and have more research on the way about faulty breed ID. It's still very much highlighted on their webpage:

You could be right, but this is certainly not indicative of any exposure I've had with them.

Dianne R.

Although there is no breed called "pit bull" the breed "American Pit Bull Terrier" does have breed standards under UKC and ADBA

Just because the AKC due to its elitist nature does not recognize APBT does not mean it is not a breed. I'm old enough to remember when "border collie" was not an accepted AKC breed. The CFC does not recognize Bengal cats as a breed, yet they are the most popular pure breed in the US. So I wish people would familiarize themselves with the standard, so when the media says "an 120 pound pit bull" you can call them on it. Breed standard is 30 to 60 lbs.


Dianne -- I, for one, won't be in the conversation of "there is no such thing as a 'pit bull'". However, the problem is that so much of what is being called a 'pit bull' is nowhere near any type of breed standard. There is far too much of the "a pit bull is what we say it is" type of mentality out there (which is, I think, what Emily is referring to) -- when the majority of these dogs are simply mixed-breed dogs and should be labeled as such.

But yes, earlier this week I had a commenter saying that a Presa Canario was a "pit bull" type dog. When you start broadening a category that much, you end up with anything with short hair that weighs between 30 and 130 lbs being labeled a 'pit bull' -- which is exactly what Lynn, Clifton, Skeldon and the media have essentially done. With that type of criteria, no wonder they would be high in bite numbers.

Pit Bull=APBT

"When you start broadening a category that much, you end up with anything with short hair that weighs between 30 and 130 lbs being labeled a 'pit bull' -- which is exactly what Lynn, Clifton, Skeldon and the media have essentially done. With that type of criteria, no wonder they would be high in bite numbers."

And groups like Animal Farm Foundation are legitimizing this by going along with the whole "There is no such breed as a Pit Bull" and "A Pit Bull is whatever dog someone has labeled a Pit Bull" BS. They are not helping the cause, they are helping the enemy.

Pit Bull=APBT

Diane, The AKC recognizes the American Staffordshire Terrier, a breed so close to the APBT that many dogs are dual registered as APBTs in the UKC and ASTs in the AKC.


Doesn't anyone find the Voith study suspect due to the fact that the dogs tested were of unknown ancestry and there is no way to prove that the DNA test results were actually indicative of the genetic breed makeup of the dogs? Unless I missed something.....

BTW, I recently read a statement written by a person in the field of genetics, specifically working with dogs, and she claimed the breed tests were complete nonsense.

And maybe I am completely misinterpreting AFF's stance, but as far as I can tell, they are actively embracing the notion of "it's a pit bull if someone says it is and that's all that matters". One of their reps recently stated on FB that the goal was to get as many dogs as possible regardless of breed under the umbrella term of "pit bull". FWIW

Who knows what all this will mean for the Pit Bull in the long term, but now more than ever, bite stats that assign bites to breeds are IMO utterly useless.


I've got all kinds of mixed reviews on DNA tests -- but I know that they have made a lot of improvements to the genetic markers over the past several years and I think they are a lot more accurate than they used to be. That said, regardless, I find it ridiculous that someone thinks they can identify the ancestory of a mixed breed dog based on what it looks like when DNA struggles to tell the difference. The biggest problem with the Voith study is, IMO, the small sample size...but my experience tells me that if you did 10x the sample size you'd end up with a similar result.


My point re: the Voith study is this: there was no way to prove one way or the other if those DNA results were accurate because the dogs had UNKNOWN HISTORIES. If a bunch of shelter workers were asked to ID a bunch of mixed and purebred dogs of KNOWN history, then that study would have meant something to me.

I've not seen anything to lead me to believe that DNA tests are anything other than a waste of money.

Right now, all these dogs (even purebred, registered dogs of known ancestry) are coming up all kinds of wacky mixes not even close to what the dog looks like or is known to be. On Facebook the other day, there was a 67 lbs Pit Bull mix-looking dog that was supposedly 75% Bichon according to his DNA results. This dog was brindle, btw, and none of the breeds that came up in the DNA results were breeds that could genetically come in brindle AFAIK - it's my understanding that brindle is dominant and it's not going to just randomly pop up in breeds that do not come in brindle (if I'm wrong, someone please feel free to correct me!)

I just ignore DNA tests and never use them in any argument against BSL. And I can't help thinking, "Jeez, what if one day they actually ARE accurate, and the tables get turned and they are used to target and destroy certain breeds....?"

Sorry, I know this blog wasn't about DNA testing, kinda went off on a tangent.


Mary -- what test did they use on the one on Facebook?

Most of the tests are complete crap...I do think the Mars Wisdom Panel test has a depth of breeds that others don't have, and better genetic markers, based on my experience with the various tests.

I used to be scared of DNA testing for exactly the reason you mention above...but now, more than ever, I think truth and honestly will come out in our favor every time.


I'm not sure what test they used, Brent, but yes, it is my understanding that the Wisdom test is the best relatively speaking on the market. (They have tests that can supposedly ID purebred dogs, now. Used to just be mixed breeds.)

And I 100% agree with you that truth and honesty is the way to go, no matter what.


for 100 years, "pit bull" has meant only "American pit bull terrier".

Deciding now that the term should be used for any dog with a bighead, fat chest and short hair is just a bad bad tactic.

Call it a "mixed breed" unless you have good reason to believe it's an APBT (based on appearance and behavior). Indeed, most shelter/rescue dogs are mixed breed dogs, whatever their superficial appearance (even some of the vaunted Vick dogs are clearly not purebred APBTs if you know anything)

Then insist to the Cliftons/Lynns and all the other deceivers and haters that the dogs they are collecting statistics on are MIXED breed dogs (with some few exceptions).

It's weird to see NCRC promoting "no such thing as a pit bull" (Don Cleary proclaims this in their webinar) ... at the same time their parent organization is promoting "everything is a pit bull". I believe they think that if all dogs are pit bulls, there can't be discrimination in things like insurance because companies would lose all that business. Not the way life works, at all.

To call everything a pit bull absolutely plays into the hands of those who want to make "pit bulls" the villain... because OH LOOK! all these nasty biting dogs are "pit bulls".

As for the DNA tests, I'm just extremely skeptical. Few dog "breeds" are older than 100 years and they all derive from a few types (and ultimately of course from ONE species); how does DNA get to be distinguishable in that time? A dog is a "breed" based on physical characteristics and temperament according to a standard. What I'd love is to see DNA comparisons of extremely similar, but separate breeds: rough/smooth collie - border collie- English shepherd - Sheltie - Australian shepherd. English setters-Irish setters. Or bull terrier- APBT-AST-SBT . If this were about science, someone would be doing those kinds of comparisons.


Emily -- without the DNA differences, there would be no difference in appearance among breeds. Dogs with identical DNA will be very similar in appearance (although behavior/temperament will vary). So if these DNA differences exist to adjust appearances, then they should, in theory, exist as markers to distinguish the breeds.

I am curious on certain things like comparisons between similar breeds, and how related breeds show those distinctions. I think Mars is more concerned about marketing this to raise money while the breed clubs (who I would think would have an interest in this) seem more concerned about saying DNA testing is bunk than actually doing their own testing.

I agree with your stance on the 'pit bulls' vs "american pit bull terriers' and that it does not benefit us to call everything a 'pit bull'. And you may very well be right about AFF having this stance....but I certainly haven't seen this be a focus from them...

Pit Bull=APBT

This is directly copied and pasted from AFF's Facebook page:
""Pit bull" is not a breed or breed mix, but an ever expanding group that includes whatever an animal control officer, shelter worker, dog trainer, politician, dog owner, police officer or newspaper says it is."

AFF is most definitely of the opinion that a Pit Bull is whatever someone calls a Pit Bull.


re DNA: I dunno Brent.. I'd like to see the actual science, explained by someone who doesn't have a financial interest in this. Sure there are genetic markers for appearances.. which is why Dawn's purebred AST tested as a border collie/boston terrier (they are all black/white) Considering that all mammals share about 96% of genetic material, chimps and humans share about 99% and dogs descend directly from wolves and are even more closely related genetically (related example: it took some very close, and somewhat controversial, testing to determine that the "red wolf" is probably a wolf-coyote hybrid)... I retain my skepticism.


Great post exposing Clifton garbage numbers.


I can't believe some of these comments, assumptions and accusations.

AFF and NCRC's mission and goal has always been to help dogs, especially those in the most dire need of help, that being dogs that are labeled "pit bulls."

Our stance is clear: We should never assume we know more than we do, especially when it comes to breed.

When we know a dog is an "American Pit bull Terrier," or an American Staffordshire Terrier" we have no problem calling it that.

"Breed" by it's very definition means a closed and defined group. And the term "pit bull" today does NOT refer to a closed group - it is used to define all dogs that someone thinks is a "pit bull" - regardless of its genetics.

If you bothered to look at NCRC's 2010 Investigative Report we clearly show how we label dogs: Was there any pedigree on the dog? Did the owner have papers or purchase the dog from a breeder? Does our expert advisor think the dog is a purebreed dog?

Bottom line: If there is reliable evidence that a dog is a particular breed we have no problem calling it that, but we are not going to label a dog a "pit bull," or any breed for that matter- unless we know that to be a fact.


This is directly copied and pasted from AFF's Facebook page:
""Pit bull" is not a breed or breed mix, but an ever expanding group that includes whatever an animal control officer, shelter worker, dog trainer, politician, dog owner, police officer or newspaper says it is."

AFF is most definitely of the opinion that a Pit Bull is whatever someone calls a Pit Bull.

No. You have totally misunderstood this. We are saying that the recent and common practice of calling all types of dogs, regardless of their true pedigree or genetics, a "pit bull" is exactly why "pit bull" is not a breed.


PB+APBT -- while Karen addressed this, I think there's a huge difference between making a statement that is, undoubtely, how breed specific legislation is enforced in this country, and actualy endorsing that practice.

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