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« Garden City, KS joins growing list of cities to repeal breed-specific law | Main | More research on health impacts of spay/neuter -- where should we go from here? »

February 08, 2014



It's not my assumptions. The coroner is the one who attributed it to dog bite. Seems like a reliable source. However, evidence seems to pretty clearly show the causal link. Hirt was said to be in very good health for someone her age and then, was attacked by two dogs, suffered major injuries, and died in the hospital 11 days later. The causal relationship seems pretty evident. To claim otherwise seems nonsensical at this point.

The major difference between the NCRC and Clifton is that the NCRC actually follows up on cases. NCRC doesn't claim it to be to be a statistical dataset. Clifton does.


Respiratory failure following aspiration is not a direct result of dog bites unless the fluid she choked on was dog spit. Aspiration is a complication of hospitalization; specifically factors like anesthesia, laying prone, nausea, and enteric (tube) feeding. Sure, we can quibble about how she wouldn't have been hospitalized were it not for the dog bites, but the fact remains that she did not die as a result of mechanical trauma or blood loss from dog bites. Her dog bite injuries were not considered life-threatening when she was admitted, and judging by the language and treatments described in the report, she was being treated as though she was expected to be discharged at some point.

The NCRC does not consider death caused by post-bite infection to be a DBRF [Clifton does, however] so I can't imagine how post-bite respiratory failure-due-to-aspiration would be any different (aspirated dog spit notwithstanding).

Also, the Clifton database DOES include the Hirt incident. I'm not sure when it was added, but the full report was last updated on February 7.

Your complaint about the Hirt incident not making it into the Clifton database wasn't posted until February 8.

The following entry in the Clifton database brings the Boston terrier death toll to a grand total of one:

Boston terrier: Elizabeth Louise Hirt, 93, of Bethel Township, Ohio, was found badly mauled by her two Boston terriers on November 27, 2012. Remaining in intensive care for the next two weeks, she died on December 11, 2012.


I suspect NCRC will be adding Hirt to their list soon. I've spoken to NCRC many times about similar cases. What they don't count in their studies are things like sepsis -- when relatively minor bites lead to infections and then death. But if a bite is severe and requires surgery, and then the victim dies of complications, NCRC does count that. Certainly seems like when a victim dies from complications likely from anestesia caused from needing surgery due to major dog bites that seems pretty causal. It would be essentially the same as a post bite heart-attack caused (likely) by a blood clot as in the Nge case. And regardless of what the media portrayed, those weren't minor injuries to a 93 year old woman. And I'll still refer back to the Coroner who noted that this woman died from a dog bite. Spin it however you want or whatever, but again, if any person should know it would probably be her.

Clifton had it listed as a "maiming" until recently. NCRC only tallies fatalities. The only reason I called it out is because had this tragedy not occurred, no one would have caught the Hirt incident as a fatality because the media hadn't covered it. This is why treating Clifton's numbers as anything more than a data set is laughable -- because if the media doesn't cover it, it doesn't happen in Clifton's world. And yet, I can count probably a dozen or more cases in Kansas City just in the past couple of years that probably could have made Clifton's list had they ever gotten reported by the media. But they didn't. The idea that the media reports all major attacks is laughable -- and so him trying to tout his tally sheet based only on media reports as "statistics" is equally laughable.

What makes me laugh even more is that Clifton attributes the sharp increase in attacks in recent years to more aggressive dogs -- but the reality is, every major city in the country is reporting major decreases in dog bites. The biggest difference is that Clifton has google now and didn't 15 years ago, and thus, missed many of these stories (if they were reported at all). It cracks me up how flawed his data collection is, and yet, how some people continue to defend it.


Bites are not attacks. The Agency for Heathcare Research and Quality found that between 1993 and 2008, severe dog bite injuries rose a population-adjusted 86.3 percent:

So where is the data collection or statistical analysis that exonerates pit bulls?

The best that NCRC seems to be able to come up with are reports that are utterly rife with methodology that stinks to high heaven. For example, the recent NCRC-authored study that threw out 82 percent of breed IDs as "invalid" and relied on a single behaviorist to judge photos of dogs -- and not just any behaviorist, but one who vocally opposes breed-specific legislation and has had a long and demonstrated relationship with a pit bull lobbying corporation.

The only reason you don't see a problem with that is because she came up with an answer you like.


I'll not get into the HCUP study a lot, you can read my thoughts on it here:

I'll note 2 things though for you:

1) It's interesting that in the 10 years between 1997 and 2008 rates were remarkably steady, but for the 5 years 93-97, both the highest and lowest rates per occurred. But, because the lowest was in 93, the study started there and they tried to make it seem like a trend line that based on the other data, doesn't appear to be real. It also doesn't take into account increases in pet ownership during the same time period which grew faster than the human population.

2) It is impossible to look at the HCUP data, and take it seriously, but also take Merritt Clifton Seriously. The HCUP Study reports 9500 serious dog bites in the single year 2008 -- while Clifton reports 1/3 of that number for an entire 30 year period. I tend to think HCUP has a decent methodology (I would never say that for Clifton) but then would not that that makes Clifton's data (again solely based on media reports) not a statistically accurate sample of the total serious dog bite issue in the US. Not even close. The HCUP data makes Clifton's look even more like the laughingstock that it is.

As for the NCRC - -you may want to look at that methodology again as you misrepresented it.

One of the things that I like about the NCRC data is that it looks at many factors relating to dog attacks. These factors mirror my own experience as a dog handler and the opinions and experiences of other experts regarding the causal factors of dog attacks.

So the fact that the NCRC echoes the opinions of experts throughout the nation (many of whom don't agree on anything) and whose methodology has passed peer review, I definitely put it ahead of Clifton's ramblings in what I believe. I see the HCUP study and the opinions of experts in alignment).


So where is the database that exonerates pit bulls? Hint: a "study" based primarily on a pit bull advocate's appraisal of photos does not count.

In many places, hospitals are required to report on dog bites as part of the intake process. Surely one could easily obtain these records and prove that nibbles by pibbles are vastly outdone by oodles of maulings by poodles and other hushed puppies? And why hasn't a single soul come forward to testify about being bribed by the media (or the long slobbery arm of the International Retriever Lobby) to keep quiet about all the deadly labrador incidents?

I agree that the media does not report all dog attacks requiring hospitalization. But I don't see any evidence that Clifton's report is substantially biased or unrepresentative, especially in light of the proportion of breeds/breed types in fatal attacks, all or most of which seem to get a decent amount of media attention.

What you seem to be arguing is that the media conspires to sit on severe attacks unless it involves pit bulls, which is particularly ludicrous in light of how demonstratively receptive the media has been to pit bull advocacy talking points, especially as of late.

I most certainly did NOT misrepresent the NCRC's methodology. Perhaps you need to take another look. I'm referring to the JAVMA study but these criticisms also apply to the final reports.

The NCRC threw out 82.4% of breed IDs as “invalid” even if the pet guardian testified as to the type of dog involved and even if the media/law enforcement reports all correlated under the strict definition of concordance.

The criteria the authors used for establishing a "valid" breed ID is more likely to eliminate pit bull breed IDs as "invalid" for a number of reasons. In fact, this methodology seems deliberately designed to exonerate pit bulls.

The NCRC decided that a breed ID was “valid” only if the following conditions were present:

1: Verified parentage, a pedigree, or DNA test: On the face of it this sounds fair, but pit bulls may be much less likely to have a pedigree than other dogs for any number of reasons (acquired from shelter, etc.). As for the DNA test, the testing company doesn't even have a breed profile for the APBT, and warned that tests done on pit bulls are likely to come back as a mix of several breeds. A DNA test done on an APBT could, therefore, produce an "invalid" breed ID.

2: Concordance between media/law enforcement reports and Amy Marder's agreement with breed ID. If photos of the dog couldn't be obtained, the breed ID was thrown out as invalid. If photos were obtained, these were sent to Amy Marder and Marder had sole and final say on whether or not the dog was the breed listed.

Marder has had a long and demonstrated relationship with AFF/NCRC and went on the record to oppose BSL during the time this study was being compiled.

It's not tough to figure out that a pit bull advocate and BSL opponent is not an unbiased observer and cannot be counted on to offer uncompromised breed appraisals of dogs KNOWN to have been involved in a deadly incident.

How this donkey show made it through peer review is anyone's guess.


So, you acknowledge the HCUP study counted 9500 dog bites requiring hospitalization in a single year 2008, and Clifton, has tallied less that 4,000 "attacks doing bodily harm" in 30 years, and yet you don't see how Clifton's data is under-represented? And that, by using the media, it is also not an unbiased random sample? That's just illogical.

Read the NCRC methodology again. Not that I brought them up in this case, nor do I really feel it's my job to defend them, but you have the methodology wrong.

As for the studies exonerating pit bulls? They're everywhere. They're the reality that 5-8 million (ish) pit bull live as family pets without incident. It is the statements from veterinarians, dog trainers, the CDC, and National Animal Control Association etc that note that the vast majority of pit bulls are not problems. If they were genetic killers (which you seem to want to imply), the why are only a small percentage involved in attacks?

That's why it's important to then look at the specific factors in those attacks that make them different from the other dogs that aren't attacking. This is why the NCRC study is so relevant -- because it looks at these factors. Clifton can never find any other correlative factors because if the only factor you track is breed, then that's the only link you can ever make. But things like containment, abuse, supervision, tethering, not feeding, criminal activity, etc DO MATTER. Again, this sentiment is consistently expressed by experts around the country. Trying to ignore it is irresponsible.

Let's take a look at the story at hand. Dogs living in a troubled environment, with owners that had a criminal record, where the victim had called authorities 16x and filed for civil protection for help only to be brushed aside by authorities. The discussion of breed is only a distraction from addressing the real problem in cases like this and is serving as a distraction from addressing the real issues here. Don't you see how we should be having a REAL discussion about how to help people in a situation where there were known aggressive dogs next door? That regardless of what types of dogs these were (and again, evidence suggests they weren't even pit bulls), there should be help for this victim? And talking about breed is distracting from having this conversation -- and is hurting, not helping.


You’re alleging that Clifton’s database is not representative due to media bias. In other words, you’re essentially claiming that there is a nationwide (nay, worldwide) media conspiracy against pit bulls, or at least a joint concerted effort involving the majority of media outlets to actively suppress the reporting of attacks that didn’t involve pit bulls.

Your argument also assumes that this vast conspiracy has been airtight over several decades, and yet wholly capricious in origin: No whistleblowers coming forward about being instructed by management to ignore attacks unless it involved a pit bull, no evidence of bribes or threats, no officials testifying to being forced to fake death certificates or autopsies for pit bull victims, and perhaps most importantly, no real motive or incentive for such a conspiracy to even exist.

Really, now.

Once again, I do NOT have the NCRC's methodology wrong.

Point out how, EXACTLY, I misrepresented the methodology and also quote the language in the NCRC’s JAVMA study. Don’t give me any of this nonsense about how it’s “not your job” to defend the NCRC. If you’re going to blather about how I misrepresented the study (which I didn’t), then surely you can prove it.

The bottom line is that the NCRC study’s conclusion about breeds positively relied on Marder’s assessment of dog photos. Since Marder is an affiliate of pit bull lobbying organizations and a BSL opponent, she cannot and should not be expected to give accurate and unbiased opinions about the breed identity of dogs known to have killed someone.

Anyone can craft a "study" to find practically whatever they want, and many have. Sometimes, as I’ve demonstrated, they even get a completely biased mess through peer review. I asked for a database that exonerates pit bulls. A verifiable collection of serious or deadly dog attacks where pit bulls are not significantly overrepresented. For example, a raw collection of hospital intake records where people are reportedly mauled near to death by labradoodles and beagles and basset hounds.

I’ll also accept hard evidence that an International Anti-Pit Bull Media Conspiracy is actively suppressing reportage of severe and deadly attacks by cute breeds. I have to say that, between the cutesy Time photo spread, the feel-good coffee table books, the documentaries, and the multiple cable TV shows all dedicated to pit bulls, they’re really got me fooled.

No number of white swans proves that black swans do not exist: pointing to all the “nice” pit bulls is little more than a distraction. Furthermore, how can you assert that these dogs are all living “without incident,” since we were just discussing how many serious attacks aren’t reported (not to mention how many attacks on animals aren't reported)? And what about all the millions of non-pit bulls living, truly, without incident? I can practically throw a rock and hit a lab that's not neutered and/or kept on a chain, and/or owned by a very low-income person. Yet the last deadly Labrador attack in the U.S. was ten years ago and involved a rabid dog. The Retriever Lobby is powerful indeed.

“evidence suggests they weren't even pit bulls…”

And what evidence would that be?

The only person referring to the dogs in the Richey case as "cane corsos" is Mark Kumpf, who is a vocal pit bull advocate. He was a major player in overturning Ohio's BSL and was photographed with his arm around Jane Berkey, founder of Animal farm Foundation ("securing equal treatment...for pit bulls").

First responders, ACOs, and even the victim herself identified the dogs as pit bulls or pit bull mixes. The dogs were also said to weigh "up to" 60 pounds, whereas cane corsos typically weigh 100 pounds and up.

I must say that while this immediate post-tragedy attempt to pin the blame on cane corsos is transparent and pathetic, it also reveals exactly where Kumpf’s priorities lie.


Sigh. You are such a waste of time because you're so micro-focused on the wrong issues.

1) I said media bias. Not conspiracy. Some things are perceived as more "newsworthy" than others and thus, get more airtime (because it is about ratings after all, to drive advertising dollars).

Here are a couple of examples -- just in Kansas City:

a) A news report of a child "attacked" by a pit bull

The child's wounds were described as "superficial". This is a metropolitan area of 1.6 million people. We probably have 3-5 people per day that receive superficial wounds from dog bites. Why was this in the news but almost no other dog bites are? The child got some antibiotics and went home. Again, why was it news?

Similarly, we had two Great Danes that mauled a woman, drug her out into the street. I saw the photos. It was a major attack. No news coverage. Why?

b) Here's a story from this week about a state bill in Missouri. The bill is still in committee. Do you realize how many bills are sitting in committees right now at the state level? Hundreds? Thousands? Why is this one particularly newsworthy? I have a guess...

c) And then there's this case -- SWAT teams shows up, and arrests a bad guy for drugs, weapons, etc. Good for the city -- guess what the news focused on -- that's right, the dogs that were at the scene. Because the dogs were a bigger story than the narcotics and weapons bust. Again, why do we think that is?

I could post thousands of examples of this, but these are just three recent ones from Kansas City. If you think all dogs are treated equally by the media, you are dillusional.


As for the NCRC study, have you actually read it? It was based almost entirely on concordance and discordance of media reports -- and had different layers of concordance and discordance based on media reports and determined whether there was full, or partial agreement on media reports or animal control assessments, along with photographic evidence.

As for that, I really don't even care, because even if every single fatality were caused by a single breed of dog, it would still cause a lot of reason to question why 30 dogs per year of a breed attack and kill, while MILLIONS of them live happily in homes without incident. If dogs had predisposed dispositions to kill, certainly more than a tiny number of millions would do it. But they don't. So the outliers would need to be studies separately to determine what is different between them, and all other dogs of that breed that don't attack and kill. This is what the NCRC study does a very fine job of doing, recognizing the other factors.

As for the dog in question in this case, again, I'll submit that it DOESN"T MATTER. It's a diversion from the real issue at hand of how is it that a woman can make 16 complaint calls for dogs she's afraid of with no resolution. That's a HUGE issue, regardless of the breed of dogs involved.

However, there are several reasons to note that the dog is not a pit bull.

1) The head of animal control ID'd the dog as a cane corso, not a pit bull.

2) Multiple previous 911 calls called the dogs "mastiffs", not pit bulls.

3) Photographic evidence of one of the dogs can be found here:

The photo shows a dog with significantly different jowls than what would be typical of an American Pit Bull Terrier -- that would have a lot less excess skin around their jowls. The excess jowl would be more indicative of strong presence of one of the mastiff breeds. Again, not that it matters, because regardless of the breed, the dogs were clearly not properly cared for, weren't properly maintained, and everyone had every opportunity to intervene and no one did. The talk of breed is a diversion to the actual issue.


question for Primrose aka PitBullPendulum: if Marder is ipso facto unreliable because of her association with AFF/NCRC, then surely you must agree that Clifton is ipso facto unreliable because of his association with "Animal People" and FB pages like Pit Bull Propaganda Machine?



Oh Emily. Those are unbiased sources dontcha know? They're the only ones not being funded by dog fighters. Or so I've read. (snark)

Debbie Bell

Boston terrier, aka Boston BULL terrier. They came from the pit stock.

American Bulldog, until the 1980s name change,
American PIT Bulldog.


Debbie. This is the type of nonsense that is spewed by the anti pit bull crowd that just increases the ignorance that is out there. The Boston Terrier is a 150 year old dog breed that according to the AKC is a mix of English Bulldog and Terrier. It was actually originally designed as a non-sporting breed. It is a distinctively different breed from any of the "pit bull breeds". The nonsense about linking any attack to pit bulls is ridiculous. Here's a hint. Dog breeds share 99.9% of their DNA. They're all related in in some way. But trying to make up information to support your opinion is not helpful. To anyone.

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