Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Chaguanas, Trinidad - In the aftermath of the death of 46-year old Denise Rackal, who was murdered by a pack of pit bulls belonging to a Chaguanas police officer in early May, justice for the victim's family has stalled. A Trinidad science whore, veterinarian Dr. Mahfouz, also infected a local newspaper reporting on the incident. Journalist Kevin Baldeosingh regurgitated the nonsense and made other factual errors that must now be corrected for the record.
Corrections for the Record
Misleading statements made by veterinarian Dr. Mahfouz and an analysis of them by author and internationally acclaimed animal behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova are the focal point of this post. Several other parts of Baldeosingh's article must also be addressed, as they show that American pit bull zealots not only flog the email inboxes of U.S. press members and lawmakers after a serious or fatal pit bull attack, but target overseas inboxes as well.1
To start, Troublemakers, by best selling author Malcom Gladwell is cited in the piece. One of the worst failures of Troublemakers is that Gladwell uses unscientific data from the American Temperament Testing Society to support his ideas. Gladwell is aware of this fact, but uses the data anyway. Critics have zinged Gladwell for his own poor sampling methods that result in "hasty generalizations and selection biases" and a heavy reliance upon anecdotal evidence.2
Baldeosingh also refers to the National Canine Research Council (NCRC) as "US Canine Research Council," as though it is a government institution. The NCRC is a pro-pit bull entity inspired by Karen Delise that became a limited liability corporation (not a nonprofit) on August 14, 2007. The following day, and under the signature of Jane Berkey, who also owns Pit Nutter
Denise's son shown hugging her casket during funeral services.
International Fatal Pit Bull Mauling
In the wake of the Trinidad pit bull mauling that left the victim's "throat and brain ripped open," not only did science whores, such as veterinarian Dr. Mahfouz and Malcom Gladwell4 raise their ugly heads, but alarmingly so did Trinidad womens' rights groups who cited the need to own dangerous breeds for their protection. Apparently, the safety of women in this area is that bad. Animal behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova responds to both aspects in the next part.
RE: All Dogs Are Natural Predators
Re Denise Rackal: Let’s face the facts, pit bulls are genetically programmed killers, but this has nothing to do with the natural inclinations of dogs or predators
That we are willing to risk – and often sacrifice – our children’s lives and our own lives to keep these unpredictable and uncontrollable living weapons among us is symptomatic of a mind boggling social pathology on a large scale.What an incredible shame that anyone would try to dismiss the pathological aggression that typifies the pit bull by saying that dogs are natural predators. A statement like this betrays ignorance both of what the domestic dog is and of how predators behave, and is unfair to both.
Even if the domestic dog were a predator, which it isn’t, random killing would not be in its repertory of behavior. Even lions and tigers and bears don’t just suddenly think, ‘Hey, I’m not hungry but I feel like killing something just for the heck of it,’ to then casually attack anything that happens to be passing. Killing is a serious and expensive business in terms of energy expenditure, and Nature doesn’t allow for this kind of energy waste. Killing also entails the risk of being injured as the prey defends itself. No natural predator is stupid enough to take this risk except out of necessity. And even if it is hungry, a predator does not confuse its own kind or its own social partners with prey. Although conflicts can sometimes arise between members of the same predator group or species, even then behavior is normally aimed at settling the conflict without anyone being seriously hurt or killed. In fact, a great deal of natural behavior serves to avoid conflict and confrontation between same-species predators (e.g., scent marking the living area so that strangers know it’s already occupied and can avoid the occupants).
So forget about the pit bull’s energy wasting, random killing of anything and everything, including its social partner (humans and other dogs) being some kind of normal predatory behavior, even if the domestic dog were a predator.
Which it’s not. The dog stopped being a wolf because it stopped living by hunting and started eating our garbage. Back in those days (at least 14,000 years ago), humans tolerated dogs in their vicinity because the dog served a clean-up function, and only as long as the dog didn’t scare them. The entire evolution of the domestic dog was built upon the ability to live peacefully with humans, without harming us, our children, or any of the other domestic animals we keep. In the end, this has resulted in a creature that – in its natural state – is extremely reticent in the use of aggression. Normal dogs do not injure each other in conflicts beyond perhaps a scratch or a tiny puncture wound. They try to do the same with us, lashing out only when they feel they must as a last defensive resort, trying to use only as much force as is absolutely necessary to open up a flight route or get us to back off. With a normal dog, we don’t have to be in constant fear that the dog is suddenly going to explode and maul or kill us – and certainly not just for the heck of it.
The problem with the pit bull (as a biological type that includes various breeds of dogs) has nothing to do with predators or with normal canine behavior. The problem with the pit bull is that humans have applied artificial selection to preserve and intensify a hereditary brain malfunction. This brain malfunction impairs the ability of the executive functions in the brain to operate properly. It causes the same kind of unpredictable, explosive aggression in all species that have it, including humans. All of this has been well documented, including in humans, no need to repeat it here.
This brain disorder serves no purpose for the dog that has it, and normally it would have died out due to the carriers killing each other, being rejected as mates by other dogs, by the carriers being unable to mate due to outbursts of aggression when aroused (thus the rape rack to allow pit bulls to mate), and so on. Unfortunately, the mutation turned out to serve human purposes very well. This originally had to do with distorted views of masculinity, and with gambling and greed, and was limited to small circles – in the United States mostly to the Ku Klux Klan (which used dogfights to raise funds) and to the states where the Klan dominated politics.
Before the pit bull again became popular (now not only for dogfighting but also as a legal weapon), most people could do with a normal dog as a watchdog. Pathological aggression wasn’t necessary because the function of a watchdog is not to attack and kill, but to warn of an approach or an intrusion and to get the burglar or assailant to flee. The prevalence of the pit bull among the criminal element (in most places in the world, the majority of pit bull owners have some kind of criminal record) has now unleashed an arms race. If the rapist or mugger has a pit bull, it’s no use having a normal dog yourself – your dog has to be at least as aggressive as the weapon dog the criminal uses. Better yet, have two! If the rapist has two, get three! Or get a better version, something bigger than a pit bull and twice as unstable and mean! (The presa, the fila, etc)
That we are willing to risk – and often sacrifice – our children’s lives and our own lives to keep these unpredictable and uncontrollable living weapons among us is symptomatic of a mind boggling social pathology on a large scale. This human social pathology seems to permeate from politicians who are reluctant to take measures, right on through to scientists and vets who are losing sight of normal animal behavior under pressure of the pit bull lobby. Saying that the pit bull defines what the dog is, is like saying that Charles Manson defines normal humankind.
Whether Trinidad & Tobago chooses to ban the pit bull and other aggressive dog breeds and types is a choice the country has a right to make. However, the choice should not be based on faulty ideas of what predators and dogs are and do. It should include recognition of the fact that the pit bull is an artificial human creation. It should not allow the lovers of these distorted breeds to claim ‘nature’ as their excuse and their way of abdicating responsibility. The pit bull problem is completely unrelated to the natural behavior of any other animal, from lions and tigers and bears to the normal dogs who can still live among us without hurting us this way.
Behavioral biologist, anthropologist
Author of ‘The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs’, a must-read for busting the myths and understanding normal dog behavior
Baltimore, May 2011
2In true Delisian style, Gladwell is a cherry-picker. After Troublemakers was published, blogger Steve Sailer wrote an interesting post about it: Malcolm Gladwell on why his bestseller "Blink" was a load of hooey.
3See: Related State of New York documentation.
4Perhaps the boldest Gladwellian "La La Land" argument is the following: "In about a quarter of fatal dog-bite cases, the dog owners were previously involved in illegal fighting." This might have been true during the years of 1979 to 1980, but that was thirty years ago and directly reflects the pit bull leakage period.
05/11/11: Family of Mauling Death Victim Awaits Apology from Dogs' Owner
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"
Photo: Andy Hypolite/Guardian Media
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| 6/01/2011 8:08 PM |
semyonova has a way of putting dog behavior -- normal and abnormal in perspective.
When I read that all dogs are predators or even all dogs bite - I have to stop and think about my experience - which I know is limited, but I have lived with dogs all my life, and never once did I think I was living with a predator. Never once did I wait for that fatal day when the dog went off. So far from that, actually.
The phrase "all dogs can bite" has morphed into "all dogs bite." And it's not true. All people can bite, too.
It is impossible that so many people would let predators into their homes - knowing and waiting for that fatal day... preposterous!
Alexandra says it best:
Saying that the pit bull defines what the dog is, is like saying that Charles Manson defines normal humankind.
this woman who died in agony should not be dismissed as just something that happens with dogs. She deserves, at the very least, the acknowledgement that her community, city, and country failed her. Her death should be for something.
| 6/02/2011 12:06 AM |
If someone wants an item for protection, they should invest in a hunting knife or gun. Some guns can run as cheap as $500 on some used gun sites; and are certainly a better investment then a pit bull or any dog for that matter.
When it comes to the dogs are predators bull they're missing one of the most important reasons dogs and their breeds exist. People wanted dogs who's predatory inclination as controlled and specific. Which is why it's easier to keep retrievers and pointers from killing and easier to make terriers and molossers to kill.
And yes, predators do not randomly kill in most cases. Several fatal cases of big cats were done either because the human proved too much of a stimuli, or the cat was indeed hungry. When wolves do kill it's generally to remove any serious threat or competition. But even in both cases those are extremely rare.
This "researcher" should be banned for her lack of common sense and poor journalism.
| 6/02/2011 12:29 AM |
Journalist Kevin Baldeosingh (a "he") has a Wikipedia page (that he probably created himself) and is an active self-promoter.
I thought this piece was especially hysterical, "Trinidad & Tobago’s preeminent satirist." He also likens himself to some kind of equal rights crusader (and Jonathan Swift).
Baldeosingh cherry-picked data from the Gladwellian piece that Gladwell had already cherry-picked to death. I somehow doubt Trinidad newspapers would find this amusing.
| 6/02/2011 5:01 PM |
More from Baldeosingh:
"But what really prevents me from being a true Trini is that I am sometimes wrong. Even worse, I'm the only newspaper columnist in Trinidad and Tobago who's ever wrong. For example, many years ago I wrote a satirical column about pitbull dog owners, in which I described them as uniformly stupid, valuing VCRs more than human life, and having small penises.
Some months after that column was posted on my website, I started getting about ten e-mails every day from American pitbull owners who had come across the piece. For over three weeks, they bombarded me with claims about how loving their dogs were and why I should be killed by one of them. This only confirmed for me how right my opinion was.
Some months ago, however, I read an article about pitbulls called "Troublemakers", written by the half-Jamaican writer Malcolm Gladwell for The New Yorker. Gladwell cited tests which showed that pitbull dogs were calmer than other breeds, and pointed out that these dogs had been bred to fight in front of excited people, so that if they were innately aggressive toward human beings they would have been useless for the sport.
He also noted that, since people favour certain breeds at different times, there would be more of those dogs and therefore more incidents involving them. Thus, perceptions of dangerous dogs change, as shown by the movies The Amazing Dobermans in the 1970s and Cujo in the 1980s.
If any pitbull owner had made these arguments to me, I would have changed my opinion—well, halfway, because it turns out that certain types of individuals shouldn't be allowed to own large dogs. "In about a quarter of fatal dog-bite cases, the dog owners were previously involved in illegal fighting," writes Gladwell. In 1998, rastaman Christopher Charles was killed by two pitbulls owned by multi-millionaire Steve Ferguson, who's now in jail fighting extradition to the United States.
Looks like he swallowed it all!
| 6/02/2011 6:12 PM |
Good catch Vintage! I doubt Gladwell (or any of the 16 New Yorker fact-checkers) caught the contradictory rubbish!
He writes first:
"Pit bulls were not bred to fight humans. On the contrary: a dog that went after spectators, or its handler, or the trainer, or any of the other people involved in making a dogfighting dog a good dogfighter was usually put down. (The rule in the pit-bull world was "Man-eaters die.")"
"In about a quarter of fatal dog-bite cases, the dog owners were previously involved in illegal fighting."
| 6/03/2011 4:31 AM |
Lockwood also states in Gladwell's piece:
I haven't seen a fatality involving a Doberman for decades, whereas in the nineteen-seventies they were quite common.
There were attacks and media coverage of Dobermans during this period but only ONE fatality. According to Delisian data for this period (1970-1979), Dobermans killed ONE and pit bulls killed FIVE.
Leave it to a Ph.D. dog bite fatality investigator to make such an error? Ignoring the difference between a living subject and a DEAD one? Indeed the 1970s was the "Decade of the Dobes" and the introduction of training dogs to attack on command, but this is vastly different than saying that killings by Dobermans were "quite common" during this period.
The Delisian "one killing" by Dobermans in the 1970s became massively dwarfed by pit bulls after their leakage period began at the end of the 1970s. Not only were pit bulls by far superior killing machines, but the trend of using a dog as a weapon was already established too. The mid 1980s alarm by U.S. press groups reflect this horror.
| 6/03/2011 2:08 PM |
It appears to have become unacceptable to question the temperment of Pit Bull type breeds at all anymore in this country, and now it appears that belief is spreading.
I have noticed how careful a person has to be when bringing up this subject to other dog owners, those who do not own pits. A small dog was killed by a Pit Bull at the dog park I frequent and other owners were discussing it, blaming everything on the poor, dead Yorkie. I see the blame is also frequently placed on human victims as well. I recently complemented a woman's nice looking Border Collie mix and she looked around then whispered to me that she had to go out of state to adopt him because the local resues had mostly Pits and Pit mixes when she was looking for a dog. If people risk saying anything negative about this breed around other people they do it in whispers. The control of public opinion concerning Pit Bulls has been astounding, there's never been a politician that could pull off anything with the media and public this complete.
| 6/03/2011 7:05 PM |
Excellent insights M. This is an under-the-radar issue that pierces its way into the mainstream only after a serious or fatal attack. It's a 3-day media event most of the time. Lawmakers can easily respond by doing nothing because they bank on the fact that it will be another 6 months to a year before the next gruesome headline. Action is usually only taken after 3 or more life-altering attacks have occurred in a city or county in a short time frame. This many attacks so close together often brings out common-man voices that demand action be taken too. Otherwise, the only other voice lawmakers hear is that of national and local animal advocacy groups (pit bull zealots), who combined spend umpteen millions annually educating elected officials that pit bulls are Nanny Dogs. There is no organized voice -- multi million-dollar organization -- on the other side to match these lobbying activities. If there were, the whispering would vanish!
| 6/04/2011 12:10 AM |
The only people I know who've succeeded to this level are Hitler, Kim Jong Ill, and his father. And that's probably where they get several of their oratory tactics from. Also helps that the vast majority in their community are gullible or stupid. Maybe mix of all three.
| 6/06/2013 1:28 AM |
Brilliantly illuminating, Ms Semyonova--putting pit bull behavior in the context of a cooperative social species makes it clear their eruptions of pathological behavior would never allow their genes to persist without human intervention--I will also say that, while it is harrowing to watch any creature undergo a mortal attack, the methods of the pit bull seem to reveal a genuine enjoyment of the torturous destruction, the extended enactment of the whole ghastly thing, whether baby, old lady, kitten, puppy, or horse--as their worshippers proclaim, with such evident pride, "A pit bull may not start a fight--but it'll always finish one" ---Should we all appreciate their gladiatorial glory? I despise them, and their immoral, indifferent, callous, and impotent wardens.