Sunday, August 22, 2010
Delaware - On July 2, we received an email from Giancarla Churchman. She said that she was writing because she had been drawn to the website for sometime and that her story is one that "wouldn't have happened" had she heeded the information found on DogsBite.org. Churchman's story is one of great importance and involves adopting a pit bull into a home with three small children and a pet dog after "accidentally" getting caught up in the pro-pit bull movement.
We encourage you to read and share Churchman's story, particularly with those who are considering adopting a pit bull. After reading her story, you will understand first-hand what a thoughtful, educated and cautionary dog owner experienced after adopting a 10-month old pit bull. You will learn how she religiously followed the strict guidelines devised by members of the pit bull community, primarily Bad Rap (View: Bad Rap's New Bully guidelines), and how each of these measures failed.1
You will learn that after 60 days, and amassing 6 written pages of aggression incidents with the culmination of the pit bull, named Bella, attacking her other pet dog, Churchman requested to have the dog euthanized. Lastly, you will learn how both her veterinarian and the S.P.C.A. group, who adopted the dog to her, refused to euthanize the animal. The group then posted Bella up to their Petfinder adoption page with no mention of previous aggression or biting incidents as well.
A "Recovering" Pit Bull Owner
Churchman's letter was written March 24, three months prior to contacting DogsBite.org. Over the course of this time, Churchman came to several realizations. For instance, seeing how the shelter operated in regards to a dangerous pit bull, opened her eyes to the scope of the pit bull problem and the role many animal groups play within it. In reflection, she now sees that the 60 days of extensive training was unreasonable, though at the time, she thought it very reasonable.2
After Reading Churchman's Story
- How many of you think you could be a responsible pit bull owner?
- How many other well-meaning people share Churchman's story?
- How many of you wonder where Bella is now?3
Given the nature of Churchman's experience with Bella, we shared her story with behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova. As it did for DogsBite.org, Churchman's experience struck a critical nerve with Semyonova. She has many times witnessed the grief and guilt of well-meaning dog lovers, who only realized the truth about the pit bull after they'd been misled, taken one in, and seen this end in tragedy for a child or another dog. Below, we've enclosed her summary response after reading Churchman's story.
COMMENTS ON 'My pit bull experience' – SUMMARYBy Alexandra Semyonova"It's clear that Ms. Churchman acted out of love for animals. As is the case with so many who are duped into trying to adopt a pit bull (or a pit bull mix), her love of dogs made Ms. Churchman want to believe that no dog could be vicious by nature. It made her believe every dog should have a chance. And because pit bulls have been flooding shelters for years and are the most euthanized dogs in the world, it seemed an act of mercy to her to give a pit bull a chance.
The really appalling thing about this story is how pit bull rescues and pit bull propaganda organizations – including many generic so-called 'humane' societies – play into this love of dogs in unknowing people. Pit bull people (and 'humane' societies) know perfectly well what the breed is all about. This is illustrated by the measures these pit bull fans advise people like Ms. Churchman to take – in particular their 'lockdown' for at least the first month. These clubs willfully ignore the safety and well-being of adopting household members, particularly children and other animals, hoping to get yet another pit bull that has landed in a shelter re-homed. That 'humane' societies often willfully go along with this is illustrated and proven by the fact that this shelter is now again advertising Bella for adoption, but without the information that Ms. Churchman provided.
In fact, Ms. Churchman did everything right to help a normal shelter dog feel comfortable in her home and begin to show his/her true doggy nature. She did everything that would help a traumatized normal dog overcome any trauma and feel safe and confident; everything that would enable a traumatized dog to for once have normal and affectionate relations with his/her housemates (human and canine) – and eventually with all the rest of the world.
The fact is that none of the measures that will help a normal dog can help a pit bull. Hand-feeding, systematic desensitization, habituation, counter-conditioning, trust-building – none of these will change the genetically determined brain disorder pit bulls are born with. When a normal dog shows aggression (they almost never attack as such), it is indeed to do with feeling too defensive to the world around them. The more a normal dog feels confident and above all safe, the less likelihood that it will show any aggression at all. In a pit bull, lack of confidence is often the only thing that keeps it from attacking. This means that if you are fostering a pit bull, confidence-building measures usually make an attack more rather than less likely.
So here's another tragedy. Ms. Churchman knows very well how to help and take care of a traumatized dog. I am hoping that this experience will only make her reject the pit bull propaganda. I'm hoping that it will not make her doubt her dog skills, nor make her reluctant to use those excellent skills to try to save some other, normal dog.
The final, and in my eyes very important tragedy is what Ms. Churchman was led to expose her own dog to. As much as she loves dogs, I doubt she would voluntarily have exposed Roscoe to such a life-changing trauma. I can forgive her because it was her love of dogs that made her believe the pit bull scene's lies, and because it's clear she won't make this mistake again. I only hope she can forgive herself. I have confidence she'll be able to help Roscoe get over this.
In closing, there is the tragedy that could have happened but didn't: it was Roscoe and Ms. Churchman's husband who were attacked, and not one of her children. Shame on the pit bull scene!"
Detailed Comments and Terminology
In addition to providing a thoughtful summary, Semyonova provides 9 pages of comments covering themes and terminology to help explain Churchman's story. Some items, such as "Lockdown" and a "Growing Confidence in the New Home," may shock owners of dogs who could never imagine this to be true of any dog breed. The last item addresses the grave irresponsibility of the S.P.C.A. group who sought to "pass on Bella" without sharing the dog's history of aggression incidents.
Detailed Comments Contents
- Hand Feeding
- Shutdown In Shelter Dogs; Growing Confidence In The New Home
- Resource Guarding
- 'Dogs Stop' Command
- Dog-Dog Aggression Is Different From Dog-Human Aggression
- Positive Reinforcement Will Work Especially With Pit Bulls
- Who Started It, Who 'Finishes' It
- Bella Dog-Selective With Her Aggression (P.6)
- Roscoe Terrified By Bella After The Attack
- Information Given By Pit Bull Contacts And Rescues, 'Humane' Societies, Etc.
- Re: Sound Temperament In The Pit Bull
- Ambassador For The Breed
- Battling Demons (P.6)
- Failure Of The Rescue To Acknowledge The Information And Pass It On To Prospective Adopters
|The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs|
Alexandra Semyonova's book, credited by Animal People as "the most astute book about dog behavior that we have reviewed in 23 years," is available for purchase at the Hastings Press website. The e-book, an instantly downloadable PDF file, is available at the website as well.
|Nonlinear Dogs: A Website Dedicated to Telling the Truth About Dogs|
From the Nonlinear Dogs website, one can review selected pieces of works by Semyonova including: "The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs," and "The Social Organization of the Domestic Dog," a study that challenges current canis familiaris organizational models.
2While speaking with Churchman on the phone, she said she really "sucked in the koolaid." She even told her children, "all dogs are individuals." She also said that her house was "becoming a prison" with lockdown, crate-and-rotate and the other measures she was forced to take to limit Bella. Lastly, she said that when Bella attacked the other family dog on March 17, she did not have a break stick. Churchman instead used the handle of a sledgehammer to pry open Bella's jaws. This and the rest of her story is completely unreasonable for a "family pet."
3Some time between July 8 and August 14, Bella's Petfinder page was removed. We have no additional information about the dog.
01/27/10: Dutch SPCA Willing to Sacrifice Other Animals to Appease Pit Bull Fans
05/05/09: Semyonova: "Heritability of Behavior in the Abnormally Aggressive Dog"
04/17/09: Crow Bar Used to Unlock Pit Bull's Jaws Engaged in Fight
| 8/22/2010 9:59 PM |
I really appreciate Mrs. Churchman's honesty and attention to detail in this. I also appreciate the courage it took to come forward as a former pit owner and be so candid about her experiences. It opens her to the wrath of the pit lobby, many of whom are violent felons, and even to some who are anti-pit and willing to take out their anger and outrage about the situation with these dogs on any owner, regardless of what their motives or intentions were at the time they obtained the dog.
To me it's obvious that not only is she a dog lover, she is a knowledgeable and conscientious dog owner. Her experiences serve as evidence that NO dog owner is right for a pit bull, or perhaps more accurately, that pit bulls are not for true dog lovers. As always, Alexandra Semyonova's response is devastating to the pit propagandist cause. It's a pity most pit owners will accept the "expertise" of untrained, uneducated vet tech "behaviorists" over the real thing.
| 8/23/2010 10:05 AM |
I'm looking at the badrap site and some of it is off the wall. The part on dog parks is somewhat sensible in that it says to NEVER take a pit bull to a dog park. However, it's ridiculous in making it sound like a fight is never started by a pit bull. Really? If a pit bull never starts a fight then why does dog fighting exist? If neither dog attacked first, both dogs would just sit in the fight pit, with nothing happening.
It notes that "all breeds fight." Well, yes, this is true but pit bulls are the breed that was selected to fight until death. Normal dogs get into quick spats that almost never result in serious injury. Any dog that gets into prolonged, dangerous fights is abnormal, and that abnormal behavior is far more common in pitbulls due to the fact that they were bred to kill other dogs.
Reading that page, I'm also startled at the fact that a lot of pit bull owners become offended if a person walking another dog avoids them. It seems that they at least acknowledge the fact that pits are not safe with other dogs. I don't think I'm being unreasonable if I don't let my mixed breed dog and my Maltese interact with a dog bred to fight until death.
The description of the "lockdown" procedure new pit bull owners are recommended to do also startled me. I've been involved with different dog rescue organizations for 15 years and have never heard of that. I've fostered and adopted numerous maltreated, shy dogs and I've never had to totally control the dog in that extreme way. I have to keep an eye on new dogs for safety, and I know crates are a common tool in house training dogs, but having to crate a dog that much is really over the top.
| 8/23/2010 10:29 AM |
The situation in the animal shelter and rescue sector is something I never expected to see.
The extremist, fanatical, even violent and mentally ill "No Kill" radicals have taken over many shelters and rescues and are using them as private banks while they "sell" aggressive dogs to an unknowing public, and raise money.
There are sane, sensible people in the humane world who DO care about the attacks on pets and DO care about people's safety, and would never place or harbor a violent dog.
But the No Kill fanatics have harassed and threatened them away, calling them "killers" and any other smear they can think of in an effort to take over and take over the money. And No Kill is willing to tell any lies possible to sell dogs. No Kill is dishonest in just about every way possible.
There is more money being donated to animal shelters and rescues in recent years, and for the No Kill community, animal shelter work is NOT charitable. These people make significant amounts of money running these shelters and groups, and they use emotionalism and emotional bribery to "sell" pit bulls and get donations.
Greed is at work, and they are willing to let other pets and people be sacrificed in their efforts to sell pit bulls and make money.
Of course, these shelters and rescues are now being sued when they place violent pit bulls, but they don't care. These people will bleed the organizations dry of money, and then leave to let the organizations collapse and all other animals to suffer.
The lies being used to sell these pit bulls are frightening, and these No Kill people KNOW they are lying. They don't care. They just want an innocent person to give them money and take away a pit bull so the shelter or rescue can falsely brag about their "adoption rate" and try to get more money.
Adopters then suffer, their other pets are killed, their neighbors and relatives are attacked, they are attacked themselves, and the No Kill people will lie more and blame them, the victims.
There are also veterinarians involved in this fraud, and that is one of the most abusive aspects to this whole dilemma.
This pit bull selling is one of the cruellest versions of consumer fraud going on in this country.
| 8/23/2010 11:08 AM |
As a prosecutor who regulary dealt with pit bull owners; past and present, I have had the opportunity to have these sort of conversations. More than once I have had a pit bull owner admit that they were "all wrong" about pits. Many repeat the same old song, "I thought it was all about how you raised them." Of course this does have a huge impact on any animal, but pit bull rescue central, HTTP://WWW.PBRC.NET said it best many years ago...."Never trust your pit bull not to fight."
Would you trust your labrador retriever not to fetch? Would you trust your german shorthaired pointer not to point?
This same logic or rationale applies to pit bulls folks.
| 8/23/2010 11:31 AM |
I also believe Mrs. Churchman's willingness to share her experience is such detail is extremely courageous. I think it is also extremely important and hope other it will encourage more people with similar experiences to share them.
I was horrified to learn about a MONTH LONG lockdown period that is considered SOP for pit bulls adoptions! I am very curious to learn from Mrs. Churchman if she believed that if she implemented this extremely rigorous adoption plan, she would end up with a "regular dog."
Every time I read Ms. Semyonova's writings, I pick up a little more understanding.
Ms. Semyonova's comments are a fantastic resource for me. She answers questions that I can't even formulate beyond - this behavior is just weird and not like any dog I've ever experienced.
She explains that the state of any kind of excitement: play, sexual, affection can trigger an attack. That makes so much sense to me! All of a sudden, many of the "weird" behaviors described in attack stories make sense and is absolutely horrifying.
I also found her discussion about HA/DA and social partners very helpful in sorting out that relationship.
It is amazing to me that someone who showed as much dedication and experience with dogs in general and Bella in particular would be treated the way she was when she brought the dog back to the shelter.
Despite months of work with the dog including consultations with a trainer and a behaviorist, the fact that she had suggested that Bella was not sound, meant the shelter was "too busy" to listen to her valuable insight and experience with the dog, and they hustled the dog out of Ms. Churchman's possession, as if Ms. Churchman were a dangerous agent.
I hope and wish Ms. Churchman's story will reach prospective pit bull owners. She is obviously not alone.
I just recently read of another owner's very similar experience and decision to discuss it publicly.
There are many more people out there who've had a similar experience. I'm thankful that a few are deciding to share their story and hope it helps prospective pit bull owners make a wise decision.
| 8/23/2010 2:36 PM |
i hate liars. i want to encourage ms churchman to report this to the proper authorities and have this shelter investigated. heads should roll.
and the badrap nonsense is priceless, especially the part about teaching your frankenmauler not to stare at cats. i bet donna has a plan to "cure" homosexuality too. thank, i have added it to my growing private collection of badrap propaganda.
the denial surrounding the pit bull is mind boggling.
| 8/23/2010 4:20 PM |
I'm the same anonymous as above. I just found a site advertising a 100 000 volt electronic breaking stick that is recommend as a tool to break up fights involving pit bulls.
The same site pulls out the "it's not the breed!" stuff. Okay, if pit bulls are so safe, why the dog tasers? Of course, despite knowing that their dogs are potentially dangerous to others, pit bull owners will get all offended if normal dog owners cross the street before letting their dog near the pit bull.
Why are people who claim to be "dog lovers" breeding dogs that have to be electrocuted before they'll stop mauling another dog? That's insane. Pit bull breeders are usually not dog lovers, they're typically cretins who have to have a tough-looking dog as an ego extension. I suppose that, with all the different animals one can keep as companions, it's going to be the criminals and idiots that are going to choose the type of dog bred to kill other dogs.
| 8/23/2010 5:43 PM |
After Abbi was maulled, we went to the local "Humane Society" to try to find her a small dog that she could "relate" to after her incident without any fear. She left there in tears! She said there were so many "big mean dogs"! Almost every one was marked as some sort of "other breed" such as a "terrier mix" or "lab mix" as if those of us with any knowledge do in fact know a PIT BULL "American Stafordshire Terrier" WHATEVER when we see one! We all know the breed is inherintly dangerous and is quickly becoming a menace to the "HUMAN SOCIETY"!!! When will we be allowed to protect ourselves???
| 8/23/2010 8:09 PM |
This story just plain scared the hell out of me.
I cannot wrap my mind around the superhuman effort Ms. Churchman put forth to rehome this dog as being part of the "recommended" adoption procedure for the pit bulls overrunning animals shelters across the country.
And then, after all had been said and done (in this case seemingly devoting her entire existence to this THING both day and night), after all that effort and hard work and sweat and literal bloodshed, to have a euthanization request denied both by the veterinarian AND the original shelter is beyond horrific. To have that shelter try to later adopt out an obviously dangerous animal afterward is physically sickening beyond words.
I would think at the very least that both the vet & the shelter need to be reported to whatever state and local authorities are appropriate. For if this is not a case for euthanasia, then what is?
Perhaps she may wish to contact her local representatives as well. Given this being an election year, perhaps her efforts might bear fruit.
I can only hope and pray that this dangerous animal has since been put out of its obvious misery before anyone else, either animal or human, has been harmed.
| 8/23/2010 8:23 PM |
Off the subject, but I just wanted to extend a very big THANK YOU to the DogsBite team for all the hard work you guys do to help keep ordinary people safe from these brutes and from those who exploit them for their own personal gain.
Your efforts definitely have a positive result and are worth more than you many ever know. Again, many, many thanks to you! :)
| 8/24/2010 12:56 AM |
Another vicious pit bull adopted from a shelter, well treated from puppy hood and responsibly cared for, except this person wants to put the dog in a new home. See how many animals this pit bull has already killed.
Just think if this dog moves in next door to you.
"I'm looking for a good home for my APBT. He just passed 2 years old. About a year ago my girlfriend at the time thought it would be a great idea to get me a pit bull for my birthday. She knows how fond i am of them and heard me talking about getting a puppy. So she went to the pound and got one. Waited till he was neutered and brought him home. This was a very bad descion and one I have tried to live with since and did the best I can. At the time we lived in an apartment that didn't except dogs. I was in the process of buying a house so I didn't think it would be that much of a problem. I ended up buying the house and living with Kado and my girlfriend. Things were fine till we broke up and I was left with the responsibility of Kado alone. Which would have been fine by me except I was laid off and was forced to rent my house out and move back home for awhile. My parents have one pit bull mix who Kado has already fought with and another APBT female who is dog aggressive. So until I can find him a home he's living with my current girlfriend in a converted barn apartment. The problem here is he's very hard to handle for her and they have two small dogs and a border collie male who seemed to be getting along with Kado but recently Kado's been snapping and being agressive. I have done everything I can to keep but it just seems like it's not working out. I would like to find him a good home with people who can care for a dog like him. He is an extremely lovable dog. He thinks he's a lap dog. He always wants to be close to someone and cuddle with them. He love's to play and will sit, and give paw or high fives. Kado's Neutered, up to date on shots and has no health problems that I know of. Some of the things I have noticed that someone adopting should know. He's Very dog aggressive. He can get along well with small dogs. Every other dog he's been around he tries to fight with. He's also has a need to hunt anything with pulse. I have been walking on back trails with him off leash and he has went after everything from rabbit's to full size deer. My girlfrined opened the door to apartment and Kado saw some geese and off he went. He took down 4 of them before we could get him. He's also went after horses and chickens. Which makes it difficult for her to walk him since she's on a farm. I figure he would be in great hands with anyone who needs a hunting dog of some sort. He's also very protective of the home and new comers. He is as game as they come. Any questions just ask "
| 8/24/2010 1:42 AM |
My God it is sad that there are individuals and groups who care so little for the lives of innocent children that they advocate the adoption of dogs bred for violence. How many mothers just like Ms Churchman exist, ignoring what they can see in favor of lies they have heard? How many children do these rescues put in danger every day? Influential groups like the SPCA and the AVMA need to step up and tell the truth about pit bulls or they need to be held accountable for the injuries and deaths these dogs are causing.
| 8/24/2010 8:00 AM |
As a Massachusetts resident, I am always astounded by the manner in which rescue groups and humane societies advocate committing insurance fraud to boost pit bull adoptions. Whether its by deliberating labeling a pit bull a "hound mix", or by withholding or misrepresenting insurance restrictions on this breed to potential adopters, pit bull advocates won't tell the truth. And here is the truth.
It is virtually impossible to find decent rental housing with a pit bull in Massachusetts....the Mass supreme court recently ruled that a landlord could be sued for damages caused by a tenants pit bull, EVEN if that pit bull had no prior history of aggression. Those renting with a pit bull are usually either enting from a family member, or a private landlord who has no idea what his/her legal liability is....this will change over time, as more and more landlords are made aware of the insurance restrictions and liability surrounding this breed.
It is also virtually impossible to secure private homeowners insurance in Massachusetts with a pit bull....if you are intent on adopting a pit bull,and own a home, you will end up with the public insurance option for those who can't secure insurance in the private market...the Mass Fair Plan. You will also pay considerably more for insurance in the Fair Plan than you would if you were able to shop for the best price/coverage in the private consumer market....as much as double.
Considering the high value of real estate in Massachusetts, this means that a person could potentially pay as much as $10,000 or even more, over the life of the dog, in insurance premiums...with NO option to shop for better coverage....for the "privilege" of owning a pit bull, as opposed to a lab or a beagle. You can be sure NO rescues or shelters are informing potential adopters of this fact....its easier to tell potential adopters to just "list the dog as a terrier mix" or a "lab mix" and you will be fine.
| 8/24/2010 12:55 PM |
I know just where she is coming from. Our love of dogs, and being misled by Pit Bull people is how we both ended up with this happening to us. I had to put my Pit Bull to sleep and it was not an easy decision. She was my first, and my last Pit Bull. I now wish every other Pit Bull owner would come to the same realization. These dogs just can't help themselves because killing is in their blood.
| 8/24/2010 6:53 PM |
SME, you are brave, too, for publicly saying you've made a mistake. I honestly can say that I might have made the same mistake back in the 80s when I first heard about pit bulls. I thought, its just like dobermans. I knew several stable and well trained dobermans and I knew the vicious ones were brought up wrong.
I think if I'd been in a position to adopt a pit, I would have.
The amount of pit propaganda and the way they're being "sold" means a lot of people are being taken in every day.
There should be a place for reformed former pit bull owners to share stories, actually.
| 8/25/2010 8:56 AM |
I just want to encourage everyone who loves dogs to read Semyonova's detailed analysis regarding this story. Like a previous poster said, her explanation clarifies much of what I have seen personally with regards to dog behavior, and explains a lot of seemingly "unexplainable" attacks. Her observations regarding dog/dog aggression....that normal dogs do not try to kill or maim a social partner, and humans are considered social partners...so a dog that won't inhibit its bite toward another dog will ALSO be likely to injure a human...were spot on.
I hope other pit bull owners will come forward and share their stories...Bella's owner did everything humanely possible to give Bella a wonderful home; its impossible that a "new" owner could do a better job. How sad and cruel to keep bouncing this dog from home to home, risking the lives of people and other animals. Bella will no doubt be killed or injured when she attacks a person or other animal, and die frightened and alone. How the vet and rescue involved claim to love animals is beyond me.
| 8/25/2010 9:03 AM |
Ah, never mind what I said about electric breaking sticks.
Apparently, if a gamebred pitbull goes off and tries to kill another dog (or a person), even being shocked with 100 000 V won't stop it:
It's post number nine. Crazy.