Denise's son shown hugging her casket during funeral services.
Natural Predators? archived
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 "ethics sell-out," 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 Animal Farm Foundation, the NCRC became authorized to do business in New York.3
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 "ethics sell-outs," 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 predatorsThat 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.
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