The Pit Bull Debate
Clackamas County, Oregon - Andy Parker, of the Oregonian newspaper, continues to write pointed and controversial columns regarding the pit bull problem. Oregon has recently experienced a rash of pit bull attacks including attacks in: Happy Valley, Portland, Madras and Vancouver. As a recipient of pit bull advocate email, Parker has experienced their fanaticism first hand, as well as the many untruths they employ to advance their cause.
"I'm also surprised by the number of people who blame the media for "inventing" the pit bull problem out of thin air. They insist that somehow journalists have conspired against pit bulls by underreporting other types of dog bites and misidentifying many dogs involved in attacks as pit bulls.
They say the media bias, along with the public's misidentification of dogs, results in unreliable stats on breeds involved in dog attacks. As a result, they question the significance of reports compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other groups showing pit bulls are involved in a hefty percentage of serious and fatal dog attacks."
The misidentification myth is a favored tool for pit bull advocates. But the media is a visual medium and they frequently photograph the attacking dog, whereby placing the misidentification myth into jeopardy. Furthermore, police officers and animal control officers identify the dog breed in most instances of attacks, not the media or a public citizen. Both types of law enforcement officers are usually qualified in identifying a "pit bull type dog."
The average person, who knows common breeds of dogs, can identify a German shepherd and a poodle. One does not need to be an expert, nor is there a lion in the background roaring: "THE PUBLIC CANNOT IDENTIFY A POODLE!" One does not need to be an expert to identify a pit bull either. Pit bulls have distinct features, as outlined by the UKC. Due to conditioning and breed-mixtures (a pit bull crossed with a dalmatian, for example), size, weight and coloring will vary.
Dogs Identified in 2008 Fatal Attacks
Identifying breed-mixtures, particularly when 2 or more breeds are involved, can be difficult and should lie in the hands of a seasoned authority, such as a humane society or veterinarian. Yet many average people can recognize a pit bull and a pit bull-mix when they see one. One does not need a special certification for this. Frankly, if it looks like a pit bull, it usually is. We've chosen several images from Petfinder.com to demonstrate this point.
Pit Bull Type Dogs Found on PetFinder
From left: Pit bull, pit bull, pit bull-dalmatian mix, pit bull-(unknown terrier) mix.
Where Do the Myths Come From?
Parker's recent column also brings to light the untruths used by pit bull advocates to advance their cause. But where do pit bull advocates and owners come up with ideas like, "journalists have conspired against pit bulls," and the CDC fatality data is inaccurate? The concepts come straight from pit bull special interest groups, who in many cases are individuals ("experts") within animal organizations such as the ASPCA, Best Friends and Bad Rap.
In a January 2007 article, (Profiling: Two Sides of the Issue) published by Veterinary Forum, Ledy VanKavage of the ASPCA voiced both concepts. VanKavage also used data created by pro-pit bull groups to prop up her argument. VanKavage's "point" is positioned side-by-side to "counterpoint" written by Alan Beck, who provided expert testimony for the Ontario pit bull ban. Beck directly addresses each distortion VanKavage voices.
12/11/08: Who Wrote the CDC Fatal Dog Attack Report Published in 2000?
11/11/08: Coverage of Oregon Pit Bull Attacks and Statewide Debate
11/10/08: Best Friends Announces the Vicktory Dog Wine Collection
11/03/08: Flashback: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Refuses Care of Pit Bulls
07/21/08: Comment: ASPCA Perpetuates Myth that Pit Bulls Were Once a Popular Family Dog
06/02/08: ASPCA Pushing Pit Bull Adoption: Adopt-A-Bull Contest