Breed Misidentification Propaganda Explained
Images of fatally attacking pit bulls and pit-mixes in 2013 obtained from multiple sources.
Jump down to view all 2013 breed identification photographs or read our analysis first.
DogsBite.org - Due to the endless onslaught of pro-pit bull and animal welfare groups who proclaim that a pit bull cannot be identified by it's owner, family members, animal control officers, police officers, the media and more, we located as many photographs of fatally attacking dogs in 2013 as we could. Of the 32 total recorded deaths last year, 19 fatalities1 had identification photographs of the attacking dogs. 17 of these fatalities, 89%, involved pit bulls and their mixes.
Of all fatalities with photographs, 53% (10) were provided by the media, 32% (6) were provided by the dog's owner or family member and 16% (3) were located on social media websites. Notably, 100% of the fatal dog attacks in South Carolina (3) had identification photographs. In California, 4 of the 5 fatal occurrences had identification imagery. Of the 13 deaths without photographs, about a third involved the dogs being shot dead on scene and another third did not involve pit bulls.
Multi-Sourced News Reports
News reports pertaining to fatal dog attacks -- without identification photographs -- are nearly always multi-sourced. This means that multiple parties have identified the dogs including, but not limited to: animal control officers, police officers, other first responders, the dog's owner or family members, and even veterinarians. Pro-pit bull and animal welfare groups would have the public and lawmakers believe that each of these cited sources is invalid when a pit bull is involved.
"Breed identification" of fatal dog attacks that do not involve pit bulls, however, are accepted at face value by pit bull promoters.
Face value meaning that other breeds of dogs that kill human beings have no identification requirements beyond a simple description of the dog, sourced or otherwise, in a news article. That alone is sufficient to pro-pit bull and animal welfare groups. The "breed misidentification" propaganda machine that roars beneath fatal pit bull attacks is limited only to pit bulls and their mixes.2 The "loyal" dog breed that kills more Americans than all other dog breeds combined.
ASPCA Breed Identification Study
Instead of taking readers down the mind numbing path of the volume of pro-pit bull penned papers, quasi-studies and surveys which purport that breed identification, in the case of pit bulls, is impossible, why not share results from a recent ASPCA study showing the exact opposite? The ASPCA, a national animal welfare group, is a heavy pusher of the "breed misidentification" theme, as are other national animal welfare groups, including the HSUS and Best Friends Animal Society.
In September, the ASPCA released study findings showing that visual breed identification by intake staff at Richmond SPCA agreed with DNA results 96% of the time when identifying pit bulls and their mixes. The study was "supposed" to show that if a DNA test result card was placed on the cage of the dog, instead of a card labeled "pit mix," the dog would be more adoptable. This was based on the faulty assumption that intake staff would often incorrectly identify pit bulls.
The dogs were divided into two groups, one with cards labeled "pit-mix" or "pit-type," the other with DNA test result cards indicating a pit bull as an American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier or American bulldog. There was little difference in adoption rates.3 Further, because the ASPCA assumed that visual identification by workers would be much lower, they also assumed that the DNA results would not be jam-packed with bully-type breeds, like they were in the study.
Due to this, the ASPCA could not even test the hypothesis of their study: Looks like an X, but is really a Y.
The first finding I am sharing here impacted our ability to answer some of the questions we were hoping to answer in a significant way. We found out just how well Richmond SPCA staff did in visually identifying dogs likely to have Staffordshire terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or American bulldog as at least 25% of their breed make-up. Out of the 91 dogs, only 4 dogs had none of these breeds in their DNA, and 57% had one of those breeds as the primary breed ... but at least at the Richmond SPCA, with a specific look and type, staff were quite good at breed identification—correctly identifying 96% of the dogs in the study as having at least 25% of the breeds noted above ... As we anticipated that more of the dogs would not have bully-type breeds in their reports, we were not able to dive into the question of "he looks like a X but he really is a Y." - Dr. Emily Weiss
The ASPCA likely made these assumptions based on a pair of poorly designed quasi-studies either funded or influenced by the National Canine Research Council (See: Pit Bull Propaganda Machine), which seemed to show that animal professionals cannot identify mixed-breed dogs. The significant differences between the NCRC "quizzes" (Survey Results: What Kind of Dog is That? and Pit Bull Identification in Animal Shelters and DNA4) and the ASPCA study are four-fold:
- Visual identification in the ASPCA study was specifically to separate the dogs into just two groups: bull breed dogs and non-bull breed dogs, the other two studies lacked this limitation.
- Intake staff worked with a real population of dogs in the ASPCA study -- strays and surrenders in a specific city, not a group of dogs that were chosen for the study using unspecified and unknown criteria.
- Intake staff evaluated actual dogs in the ASPCA study. The other two studies only used photographs of dogs (we believe both shared the same photographs too).
- Neither NCRC "quizzes" disclosed which DNA lab was used or that pit bulls do not even have a DNA profile,5 thus can only be matched to closely related breeds.
In conclusion, news reports about fatal dog attacks are nearly always multi-sourced regarding breed identification. As 2013 illustrates, over half (59%) also contained identification photographs. "Scientific proof" of a dog's breed is not required to enforce breed-specific laws6 nor is it required to properly identify a dog breed. "Breed misidentification" tricks and theatrics were constructed by pro-pit bull and animal welfare groups and endure today for one class of dogs only: pit bulls.
2013 Fatal Dog Attack Identification Photographs
2The only other time breed misidentification comes into play is when a wolf-hybrid (often an illegal dog breed to own) is mislabeled as a husky-mix or malamute-mix after a serious or fatal dog attack.
3This is also quite significant as shelters routinely label pit bulls and their mixes under the breed's obscured related pure breed names (American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, etc.) in hopes of improving the dog's adoption chances. Just one more enlightening aspect to the ASPCA's study that "ran off the rails" is the disclosure of how some shelters routinely flat out lie to the American public seeking to adopt dogs! That the obscured breed labeling did not even impact the adoption rate of these dogs, suggests that the public is catching onto these games and that an average person seeking to adopt a dog is indeed capable of identifying a pit bull.
4Despite being survey and poster "quizzes" based upon photographs that were chosen using unspecified and unknown criteria, the NCRC funded or influenced "quizzes" are heralded by pro-pit and animal welfare groups as authentic research studies. The ASPCA bought into it as well, all too happily. But when they tried a real-world scenario based upon these quasi-studies, they met with real-world results: "visual breed identification by intake staff at Richmond SPCA agreed with DNA results 96% of the time when identifying pit bulls and their mixes."
Additionally, the survey "quiz" (funded by the NCRC) is not dated so it is unclear which of the two "quizzes," both headed by Dr. Julie Levy, came first or if they were carried out simultaneously. Certainly some, if not all, of the photographs were shared between the two. As for the poster "quiz," which cites both Delise and Berkey of the NCRC, as well as Voith, who is funded by the NCRC and has a similar breed identification study, one must look very carefully at the stated methodology that leaves out any reference about the "quiz" being based upon photographs and not live dogs. Below is the stated methodology. Remember, this is so-called university level research with at least two PhDs listed as authors.
"In this prospective cross-sectional study, 4 staff members at 4 different shelters each recorded the suspected primary breed of 30 dogs, for a total of 16 observers and 120 dogs. In this study, the terms American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, and pit bull were included in the study definition of pit bull-type breeds. Blood was collected from each dog for DNA breed signature. Dogs were coded as "pit bull" if American Staffordshire terrier or Staffordshire bull terrier were identified to comprise at least 25% of the breed signature. Agreement among individual shelter staff members regarding identification of pit bulls was determined with the kappa statistic. The sensitivity and specificity of each staff member’s identification of pit bulls with DNA breed signature as a gold standard was calculated."
5Wisdom Panel by Mars Veterinary is widely recognized as the leading DNA testing lab.
6The Colorado Dog Fanciers, Inc. et al. v. The City and County of Denver, 820 P. 2d 644 (Colo.1991)
"Since section 8-55 allows the determination that a dog is a pit bull based on nonscientific evidence, the dog owners assert that they are denied substantive due process. The city, however, is not required to meet its burden of proof with mathematical certainty of scientific evidence. Therefore, even though section 8-55 permits a finding of pit bull status to be based on expert opinion or on nonscientific evidence, such a procedure does not violate the dog owner’s due process rights."
08/31/15: Who Can Identify a Pit Bull? A Dog Owner of 'Ordinary Intelligence'...
11/13/13: New ASPCA Study Shows SPCA Workers Can Correctly ID a Pit Bull 96% of the Time
09/10/13: Maul Talk Manual 2.0: A Guide to Understanding the Language of Pit Bull Owners...
04/26/11: Blogger Dissects Deceptive Online Pit Bull Identification Test, 'Find the Pit Bull'
10/15/10: The DNA Paradox: Hired Gun Ledy VanKavage Flip-Flops Position on Pit Bull DNA
05/05/09: Alexandra Semyonova: Heritability of Behavior in the Abnormally Aggressive Dog