Pit "Bullies" in Seattle
UPDATE 09/17/08: The Stranger, an alternative newspaper in Seattle, confirms the victim's story -- the letter written and posted at DogsBite.org -- and points out a widely used pit bull advocacy tactic: intimidation. To clarify The Stranger's story, DogsBite.org will state a few things. DogsBite.org is a national dog bite victims group dedicated to reducing serious dog attacks by creating common sense laws. We are also Seattle-based.
Back in March, the founder of DogsBite.org, Colleen Lynn, submitted a 21-page whitepaper to the Seattle City Council that spelled out the national pit bull problem, as well as Seattle's pit bull problem. The paper made 4 recommendations for city-wide pit bull regulations: mandatory microchipping for identification purposes, liability coverage of $250,000, sterilization and prohibiting felons of own pit bulls.
Simultaneous to writing this paper, a group formed known as Families and Dogs Against Fighting Breeds (FDAFB). The mission of this group was to place a citizen initiative on the city's ballot to ban fighting breed dogs. The key member, Ellen Taft, already had legislation written for the initiative. Upon meeting Lynn of DogsBite.org, it was a natural fit for the two to share resources and together present multiple options to the City of Seattle.
Fast forward to the real story at hand, The Stranger fills in the details of the recent incident that involved an attack by a dog owned by a member of Families Against Breed Bans (FABB), an oppositional group to both FDAFB and DogsBite.org:
A group working to ban potentially dangerous dogs from Seattle has abruptly canceled plans to submit a citizen initiative after receiving threatening e-mails from pit-bull enthusiasts, group members say. "You should be publicly executed for your actions against our beloved pets," one e-mail reads. "You all ought to be neutered," says another.
"The harassment was so bad, we decided it wouldn't be safe to send out signature gatherers," says Ellen Taft, a spokeswoman for Families and Dogs Against Fighting Breeds (FDAFB).
As the FDAFB regroups, pit bull advocates, organized as Families Against Breed Bans (FABB), are scrambling to downplay a recent attack by a dog owned by one FABB member, Faith Hynoski, and her husband Joel. The pit-bull supporters at FABB did little to promote their cause when one FABB member wrote The Stranger a letter, complete with smiley emoticons, threatening to sue the paper if it revealed Faith Hynoski to be the owner of the pit bull that attacked another dog; the letter went on to warn that "it would be advisable to run NOTHING pertaining to the events of Sunday, September ," the date the attack took place...[snip]
One such incident was the attack on September 7, during the grand opening of the Zak and Zoe pet store in Phinney Ridge. A large crowd of owners and their leashed dogs were milling around the store when, according to a report from the Seattle Animal Shelter, the Hynoskis' pit bull Zack attacked a yellow Labrador named Sam. The report says the Hynoskis' pit bull became aggressive, wrapped its jaws around Sam's neck, and would not let go.
After the attack, Sam's owner, Irene Mitri, called the Seattle Animal Shelter, which issued the Hynoskis a $269 citation for what shelter director Don Jordan calls "an unprovoked attack." While it initially appeared Sam was not injured, Mitri says a veterenarian later found "scabbed puncture wounds" on Sam's neck. The report also says that Joel Hynoski told a Seattle Animal Shelter officer that he was guilty and would pay the fine.
The Hynoskis did not respond to phone and email requests for comment, but Russell says they plan to appeal the citation.
According to the animal shelter's Jordan, the shelter had to put down 300 pit bulls or pit-bull mixes that were brought into shelters. "They're just so dangerous we don't want to place them with the public," he says.
The Stranger's story confirms that Sam was attacked by a FABB member's dog and that a citation was issued to the dog's owner. The article also points out the irrationality of the Seattle Animal Shelter. The shelter puts down 300 pit bulls per year: "They're just so dangerous we don't want to place them with the public." The shelter also opposes breed-specific law, such as mandatory sterilization of pit bulls, because we guess, they'd rather put a needle in the dogs.
09/15/08: Pet Store Owner Writes to DogsBite.org
Nadja Chorba, the owner of the pet store, Zak and Zoe, writes to DogsBite.org and says that the quotes gathered by the Stranger's writer, Johan Spangenthal-Lee, are "inaccurate."
09/12/08: Pro-Pit bull Activist's Dog Attacks
Seattle, WA - The Stranger's Blog, known as the Slog, reports that a pit bull belonging to one of the founders of Families Against Breed Bans (FABB) reportedly attacked another dog last Sunday at the grand opening of a pet store in Phinney Ridge, according to the pet store’s owner.
"There [were] over 100 dogs through here on the weekend. We only had one incident," says Nadja Chorba, owner of the Zak and Zoe pet store. Chorba says members of FABB had been invited to the store to talk about breed bans and educate the public about pit bulls. Then, Chorba says, the pit bull "decided he was unhappy at the moment” and attacked another dog. "There weren’t any loud noises" or anything else that would have startled the pit bull, Chorba says.
Prior to the Slog publishing this blog post, the owner of the victimized dog, had written to DogsBite.org. The below letter was sent to DogsBite.org in addition to various Seattle newspapers.
DogsBite.org publishes this Letter to the Editor in entirety:
After listening to KUOW's "The Conversation" on September 10 about pit bulls, as well as learning about the horrific recent attack in Seatac, I am compelled to write a letter to the editor with a story that is eerily relevant.
This past Sunday, September 7, my yellow lab Sam was viciously attacked by a pit bull owned by the founder of F.A.B.B. (Families Against Breed Bans), at the grand opening of a friendly new dog store (Zak and Zoe) on Phinney Ridge. The attack was witnessed by many, and all were horrified. Everyone was also struck by the irony of the incident: the attack happened after we had all been standing around outside the store, calmly listening to the owners tell us about the sweetness of pit bulls, and how it is the owner's fault when pit bulls become violent. They had come to the grand opening event to make their cause known, handing out flyers and "educating the public" about pit bulls. And then, after 15 minutes of standing with them, chatting, all dogs on leashes, without any notice or provocation or visible signs of aggression whatsoever preceding the attack, their pit bull turned violently on our dog and locked his jaws on Sam's neck. Let me be clear, this was not in any way a fight. Sam was just standing there (he's known in our area as 'the sweetest dog on the planet') — this was an unprovoked attack.
After minutes (which seemed like hours) of watching our dog scream while their pit bull held Sam’s neck in his jaws, while no one, not even the dog's owner was able to release him, finally somehow he was freed. We immediately took Sam to a quiet place nearby, where he stood shaking uncontrollably for nearly 1/2 hour, with a racing heartbeat. A dog specialist who happened to be on the scene generously offered to work with him to keep him from going into shock. She said that given what she had just witnessed, she was very surprised that half of Sam's face wasn't ripped off. Many of us believed he was about to be killed right then and there, at Greenwood and 74th, on the sidewalk, with our families (including our 5-year-old daughter) all around.
My husband and I did report the incident to the police, and it is going, uncontested, on public record, with a citation issued to the pit bull owners. The day following the attack I received a phone call from a member of the F.A.B.B. organization and was told that “the woman whose dog it was has stepped down and is no longer in charge of the group".
You can imagine my irritation while listening to yesterday's guest on KUOW, representing F.A.B.B., three days after this attack, as she defended the ever-popular notion that “it's not the breed, it's the owner,” and that these are sweet dogs, completely trustworthy in public. I believe these particular owners to be caring, well-meaning people, offering a loving home to their pit bulls. It is my understanding that the dog that attacked Sam had been through some training, and was thought to be very sweet, and fine in social situations with people and other dogs. These are the good, conscientious, caring kind of pit bull owners. They just happen to have a dog whose predecessors were bred to fight and to kill, and so there can be a predisposition in all these dogs that is genetic, and can lead to unpredictable, dangerous behavior.
I would like this story brought to light, and readers can make what they will of this incident. I would not feel right knowing that our story went untold, in the midst of this heated discussion. At the very least, as a public service message, I think people need to know that it is illegal for a dog to bite another dog in Seattle (as of 2003). Even our wonderful dog trainer (voted best in Seattle 2008) didn't know that this was a reportable incident.
The author of this letter has asked that it be forwarded on exactly as worded -- not snipped or altered in any fashion.
09/13/08: Coverage of the Seattle Area Pit Bull Attack and Activism