The Hague, NL - On September 25, 2009, the Dutch SPCA1 fired animal welfare inspector Alexandra Semyonova, author of The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs, after Dutch pit bull terrier enthusiasts targeted Semyonova for identifying the dangerous characteristics of the breed and criticizing the reluctance of the humane community to recognize that dog breeds created to fight are both behaviorally and physiologically different2 from other dogs.
The firing leaves The Hague3 without an animal welfare inspector until a competent replacement can be trained.
Semyonova recently issued a statement to DogsBite.org regarding the actions of the Dutch SPCA. We have underlined portions of her statement for emphasis.
Dutch SPCA Fires Animal Welfare Inspector
"It's clear that they don't care about leaving thousands of animals unprotected -- including neglected and abused pit bulls," writes Semyonova.
"I've spent almost ten years now investigating reports of neglect and abuse of animals. The Dutch SPCA knew from the beginning that I disagreed with their stance on pit bulls. This annoyed them, but I was one of the best inspectors they ever had, able and willing to spend months if necessary nursing a case along until I saw that an animal's situation had really improved. I always expressed my views on the pit bull problem as a private person or in my capacity as an expert on dog behavior. I never implied that the Dutch SPCA shared my opinion. In fact, I was -- if asked -- always quite clear that they don't. So the organization tolerated me.
In summer 2009, however, after I appeared in a Dutch television documentary on the pit bull problem, the Dutch SPCA began to get a flood of anonymous calls making ridiculous complaints about me. I was credited with owning DogsBite.org4 (quite a piece of inadvertent flattery there) and of going around parks arbitrarily tear-gassing pit bulls or stabbing them to death. In the end, the SPCA sacked me without verifying any of the complaints or the identity of the complainers, simply calling me disloyal for continuing to tell the facts about aggressive dog breeds.
The most shocking thing about this, isn't its effect on me. It's the fact that the SPCA is willing to leave all the animals -- thousands of them -- in one of the Netherlands' biggest cities without a competent welfare inspector to protect them. Dutch law only protects animals from the most blatantly cruel physical abuse. These most blatant criminal cases are covered by the national service. It's up to local welfare inspectors to take care of the other 99% of the complaints we receive, where we can't bring criminal charges and have to depend on persuasion to get an animal owner to change his or her ways. It's going to take the SPCA at least a year and a half to find and train a new city inspector up to real competence. This means a year and a half of all kinds of animals silently suffering in situations that are appalling, but that the criminal law doesn't cover.
The pit bull people are now trumpeting the success of their slander campaign all over the Internet as a big victory. It's clear that they don't care about leaving thousands of animals unprotected -- including neglected and abused pit bulls."5
The second part of Semyonova's statement addresses the "organized attacks" carried out by The Hague pit bull community. Similar attacks are carried out in America as well.
Organized Crime and Intimidation Campaigns
"If you speak out about pit bulls, you are on your own," writes Semyonova. "You are even on your own if you report the killing of your dog by a pit bull to the police."
"The anonymous complaint campaign to the Dutch SPCA wasn't the first attempt to silence me. But I'm not the only one who has been targeted. The same organized attacks have been directed toward shelters and shelter personnel where illegal pit bulls were being held for testing. There have even been break-ins and assaults.
The Dutch Ministry of Justice acknowledged on public television that these intimidation campaigns form a pattern that clearly constitutes organized crime, but said they have no intention of prosecuting the pit bull fan club that is behind it all. If you speak out about pit bulls, you are on your own. You are even on your own if you report the killing of your dog by a pit bull to the police. The police will take the complaint if you insist, but they add a warning that they won't interfere if the pit bull fan club targets you for punishment. And they don't. This has led to serious underreporting of animal maimings and deaths caused by pit bulls."
The third part of her statement addresses the hypocrisy of animal welfare groups, who favor "preserving" the pit bull breed -- terminology mainly used by dogfighters.
Hypocrisy and Lack of Real Concern for Animal Welfare
"The SPCA is largely responsible for the repeal of the pit bull ban in the Netherlands this past summer," writes Semyonova. "The SPCA now get scads of calls from people whose ordinary dogs have been savaged by a pit bull."
"Still, what shocks me most, is the willingness of the SPCA to ignore the health and welfare of other animals in favor of preserving the pit bull. The SPCA is largely responsible for the repeal of the pit bull ban in the Netherlands this past summer. The SPCA now get scads of calls from people whose ordinary dogs have been savaged by a pit bull.6 But they can no longer help these traumatized and grieving people, because it's the SPCA who made sure there's no longer any legal recourse. Worse yet, SPCA policy requires that grieving callers be fed the same old line of propaganda they wanted me to propagate.
Meanwhile, as long as no outsiders are listening, other SPCA employees I know acknowledge that they cross the street or quickly leave a dog park when they see someone approaching with a pit bull. They have one walking around at the national office. I've been told that when a visitor comes, they shut this dog up in another room. So the SPCA knows perfectly well what this type of dog is all about,7 yet they continue to fight for the breed's preservation -- and for suppression of information8 that might lead other dog owners to avoid pit bulls, thus saving many dogs' lives.
Then there's the welfare of the pit bull itself. The SPCA knows that dogfighting isn't illegal in The Netherlands, yet they aren't fighting for a law to ban it. They know that keeping these fighting breeds legal means keeping dogfighting alive as a brutal blood sport. I just don't get it that they keep spending their donors' money on keeping the fighting breeds on the streets. To me, it looks like a lack of real concern for animal welfare."
The final part of Semyonova's statement includes an unanswered email sent by Animal People editor Merritt Clifton to the Dutch SPCA chief executive.
Failure of Humane Organizations to Admit Mistake
"They don't seem to realize they are undermining their own credibility on all fronts by failing to find the courage to admit a mistake," writes Semyonova.
"In an unanswered e-mail to the Dutch SPCA chief executive, Animal People editor Merritt Clifton asked, 'The Dutch SPCA could have been credited with employing the author of the most astute book about dog behavior that we have reviewed in 23 years of full-time coverage of animal issues worldwide, except that you had fired her. Why?'
In my opinion, the organization made the wrong decision some fifteen years ago, when they decided to oppose breed-specific legislation and to fight for the preservation of the fighting breeds. Now they are more concerned with saving face by sticking to an old, bad decision than with doing what is really necessary to truly be a humane society. The same goes for humane societies all over the world. They don't seem to realize they are undermining their own credibility on all fronts by failing to find the courage to admit a mistake."
About Alexandra Semyonova
|The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs
Alexandra Semyonova's book is credited by the editor of Animal People as, "The most astute book about dog behavior that we have reviewed in 23 years." Semyonova's book is available for purchase at Amazon.com and several other websites.
|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; The Social Organization of the Domestic Dog; The Deaf Dog Manifesto and others.
2In the years serving as the vice president for research and educational outreach for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Randall Lockwood taught extensively about the "difference" between fighting dogs (pit bulls) and other dog breeds. Furthermore, Lockwood's fighting dog research was used to uphold the City and County of Denver's pit bull ban.
3The Hague is the third largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
4Not only does DogsBite.org enrage U.S. pro-pit bull groups, we enrage such groups across the world!
5This is true in the U.S. as well. Furthermore, as 2007 data shows (750,000 pit bulls euthanized), the pit bull community responded by breeding more unwanted in pit bulls in 2009.
6The volume of pets, who are savagely attacked by pit bulls, far outpaces attacks on humans.
7The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is also fully aware of the dangerous characteristics of the pit bull breed (See: ASPCA Guide to Handling Pit Bulls in Shelter Environments). Yet, the ASPCA promotes the breed as a "nursemaid's dog" to the U.S. public.
8Countless U.S. animal welfare groups suppress and distort the truth about the pit bull breed to the American public. A few examples include: Best Friends, the ASPCA and the PSPCA.
08/24/09: 2009 U.S. Shelter Data: Pit Bulls Account for 58% of Dogs Euthanized
05/05/09: Semyonova: "Heritability of Behavior in the Abnormally Aggressive Dog"
02/06/09: Ecuador Joins International Trend: Bans Pit Bulls and Rottweilers as Pets