HSUS Back-Pedaling on Fighting Dog Stance and the Widely Debunked Dogsbite.org for Some Reason Still Cited as a Media Source

By Editor
In Breed-Specific Legislation
Feb 16th, 2011
9 Comments
2301 Views

Last Friday I stumbled across what I thought was going to be a promising article in The Seattle Times that began,

“Pit bulls are the most abused, reviled, abandoned and euthanized dogs in the United States.”

Anyone who has ever rehabilitated abused bulldog breeds knows first-hand the heartbreaking truth of the above statement.  But while The Seattle Times seemed to be attempting a “pit bull” apologetic, it doesn’t look like they quite had all the facts. 

For instance, the article cites Adam Goldfarb, director of the pets at risk program for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Washington, D.C. who says,

“Dogs are products of their environment. Dangerous dogs are not born, they are created1…When you hear about a dog being set on fire or attacked by an ax, it usually involves a pit bull and it’s not their fault.  In some communities, there is a perception that pit bulls have less worth than other dogs…If genetics were as strong a factor as they’re suggesting then every dog fighter could easily breed lots of super aggressive dogs. Every dog in every fighter’s litter would be unmanageably aggressive and that’s just not the case”…

Wait just a minute here, didn’t the HSUS say just the opposite in the December 2008 issue of Sports Illustrated?:

“The Humane Society of the U.S., agreeing with PETA, took the position that Michael Vick’s pit bulls, like all dogs saved from fight rings, were beyond rehabilitation and that trying to save them was a misappropriation of time and money.”

And we’ve seen the HSUS’ kill-all-former-fighting-dogs stance in practice too.  In September 2008, the Shelby County, Illinois Animal Control contacted the HSUS office in Chicago for advice on placing in rescue dogs seized from a fighting ring.  The Animal Control officer said that he,

“…contacted the Humane Society of the United States office in Chicago about placing the dogs with any of various pit bull associations, but officials said this would only be an option for puppies. All of the seized pit bulls are adults.”

As a result of the HSUS’ incorrect advice, all of the dogs rescued were needlessly killed.  Yet there was credible evidence well before the Shelby County debacle that these dogs could have been saved.  In 2006, 16 dogs were rescued from a dog fighting ring in neighboring Lake County, Indiana.  The Animal Control officer called in a bulldog rescue group from Chicago who temperament tested the dogs.  The majority of the dogs passed their temperament tests and went on to be rehabilitated in foster care. (The original article, while no longer available from the originating news outlet, is posted in the comments section below this post.)

Sounds like the HSUS is saying two entirely different things doesn’t it? Well, there goes the HSUS’ self-professed “expertise” on the issue of dog fighting. It looks like they realized that they got a lot of bad publicity for their heartless stance on dogs rescued from fighting rings and so they did a 180.

As anyone who has ever worked in bulldog rescue can tell you, bulldog breeds rescued from abusive situations are the majority of the time easily able to be rehabilitated because of these dogs’ pleasing natures. (Unfortunately, these dogs’ pleasing natures are also why they get exploited and abused by dog fighters.)  As you’ve seen, there was evidence well before Michael Vick’s dogs that dogs rescued from fighting rings could be rehabilitated.  But Vick’s former fighting dogs were a high-profile case illustrating just how worthwhile it is to save formerly abused “pit bulls”; that they can go on to make perfectly loving pets.

According to the Washington Post,

“Of the 49 [Vick] pit bulls animal behavior experts evaluated in the fall, only one was deemed too vicious to warrant saving and was euthanized.”

Those passing their temperament tests went on to be rehabilitated, fostered, and/or adopted.  Some were even featured on the National Geographic channel’s show Dogtown.  So, not only was the HSUS heartless, they were wrong in requesting that the judge in the Vick case have all of Vick’s former dogs killed. (Meanwhile, true animal lovers and welfarists — those in rescue and anti-BSL circles, including myself — were lobbying the judge in the Vick case to save these dogs, which thankfully he did.  From our prior experience rescuing and rehabilitating abused bulldogs, we knew they could be saved.)  And then the HSUS went on to make a shill out of Michael Vick!  Was that the whole point in having the media blow up the Michael Vick story, so that the HSUS could go on to exploit his high-profile fall from grace?  That’s ironic too, because when I said back in 2007 that animal rightists would eventually use Michael Vick to stump for their burdensome, rights-negating legislation, I wasn’t wrong.  Yet that didn’t stop the hate mail.

But I digress…

Now back to The Seattle Times article.  After the author had given the “pro” side of “pit bulls” as man’s best friend à la the HSUS, she then gave the “con” side, unbelievably citing the now infamous dogsbite.org.  I have already excerpted the HSUS’ supposed stance on “pit bulls” and/or fighting dogs, though as you can see, their beliefs appear to change with whichever way the fund-raising winds blow, but what about the incredibly ignorant statements from dogsbite.org?  For example, The Seattle Times quotes dogsbite.org’s Colleen Lynn who says that,

“We believe pit bulls are born dangerous. They are born with a dangerous tool set. They can use it or not use it…

Yes Ms. Lynn, every dog is born with a dangerous tool set which they can use or not use.  They’re called teeth.  Yet still, if she acknowledges that not all “pit bulls” are dangerous (and actually no one dog breed has been scientifically proven to be inherently vicious or dangerous) then she is selfishly advocating for the deaths of good, innocent dogs.  Does she care?  I’m guessing not, which is why her doggy death crusade is so repellent and why she is viewed with such disdain, not just by bulldog breed fanciers, but by many in the dog-owning community.

Lynn went on to say,

“Last year, 33 people were mauled to death and two-thirds of the dogs were pit bulls…A ban saves the most human lives by preventing attacks before they occur”…

Two-thirds of those dogs were not “pit bulls” because “pit bull” is not a breed, nor do breed bans save human lives.  As the Toronto Humane Society reported in May 2010, statistics from a survey they conducted showed that “the number of dog bites in Ontario had changed little” since Ontario’s 2005 ban on “pit bull” “breeds” was instituted. Also, Italy and the Netherlands both repealed their breed-specific legislation (BSL) within the last couple of years citing its ineffectiveness.  And, it has also been widely reported in the BBC that the UK’s BSL, which has been instituted since 1991, has been an utter failure as there has been a huge rise in banned fighting dogs which is why the UK is currently looking to repeal their ban.

There are also examples nationally of the failure of breed-specific legislation like the huge cost required to enforce BSL in Denver.  Or how about Denver’s own Animal Control officers being unable to discern what was and was not a “pit bull” as defined by their own ordinance? (See Margolius v. City of Denver.)  Or how about Toledo’s BSL being ruled unconstitutional in 2010 and the city being enjoined from their own BSL ordinance because their dog warden — who also couldn’t tell what was and was not a “pit bull” as defined by Toledo’s ordinance — was labeling so many dogs “pit bulls” that Toledo had an extremely conspicuous kill rate. (This just proves what we always say: that almost any medium- or large-breed dog, their mixes, and lookalikes can be called “pit bull,” which as you see, just allows the doggy grim reapers to kill all the more dogs.)

Others and myself have told Ms. Lynn this repeatedly, that a myriad of medium- or large-breed dogs can be called “pit bulls.” Indeed, when even Chihuahuas are mistaken for “pit bulls” is there any breed, or their mixes, or lookalikes, that couldn’t be called a “pit bull”?  Is that it?  Does Ms. Lynn just want the whole dog world to be called “pit bull” so she can ban all dogs?  Would that make her feel safe?  Well, you know what Benjamin Franklin said: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  Yet since breed-specific legislation doesn’t even make communities safer, BSL just demands that people give up their essential liberties (i.e. their constitutional rights) with nothing in exchange.

And for all the bad press internet-wide that dogsbite.org engenders, for some reason, The Seattle Times still entertained Ms. Lynn’s prejudice and misinformation.  The article went on to say:

“[Lynn said] all fighting dogs should be euthanized because they are too unstable…Despite temperament tests given by some shelters, Lynn said a dog that has been trained to fight will always be a risk to people and their pets.”

Well, I think the mere fact that Vick’s former fighting dogs went on to be rehabilitated, fostered, and re-homed completely contradicts Lynn’s above statement, but then, the media never seems to ask where Ms. Lynn gets her information. Curious, don’t you think?

Lynn added,

“‘Pit bulls bite, hold and shake, ripping your skin like a shark…They don’t let go.  They shake back and forth,’ because that’s what owners of fighting dogs want and have bred into the animals, she said…”

So really?  Lynn is going to dust off that long-debunked urban myth about “pit bulls'” “locking jaws”?  Well then, I guess I’ll dust off my standard repudiation of such an absurd statement. Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, who is the Senior Researcher at the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and an expert in training, handling, behavior and the anatomy of bulldog breeds has testified under oath in a court of law that,

“…pit bulls [which the court defined earlier as meaning the American Pit Bull Terrier] do not have locking jaws.  Based on actual dog dissections and measurement of their skulls, the evidence demonstrated that pit bull jaw muscles and bone structure are the same as other similarly sized dogs…No evidence was presented to demonstrate that a pit bull’s bite is any stronger than other dogs of its size and build…”

The American Dog Breeders Association also includes Dr. Brisbin’s findings in one of their pamphlets which says,

“The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of [American Pit Bull Terriers] show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any [other] breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of ‘locking mechanism’ unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier” (American Dog Breeders Association, “Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier”).

So, which should the public, elected officials, and the media trust, the findings of a scientist/researcher who is an expert in the training, behavior, and anatomy of bulldog breeds, or the opinion of a former dog bite victim who offers up junk science and faulty statistics and who just might have an agenda?

After the actual evidence I’ve listed here refuting each of dogsbite.org’s claims, should the media really be using dogsbite.org as a source?  Because as a source, dogsbite.org is…well let’s just say laughable.  Further, The Seattle Times does not seem to know or care that both the HSUS and dogsbite.org have shared the same agenda: pushing breed-specific legislation based on the same kind of hysteria and misinformation as The Seattle Times included in its article.  So why does the media keep citing dogsbite.org or the HSUS as if they were credible sources?  Well, after years of seeing the media death crusade against “pit bulls,” all we can conclude is that the media is complicit with those who want to eradicate “pit bulls” and perhaps all domesticated animals from the face of the earth.  What, you don’t believe that there is an agenda to end domestic animal ownership (including agricultural animals)?  Well then, let’s let the HSUS have the last word:

“We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. One generation and out. We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding.” — Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the United States, Animal People, May, 1993.


1. It’s weird that the HSUS should now start saying “Dangerous dogs are not born, they are created” because others and myself have been saying exactly the same thing in lobbying letters for years.  For instance, take the following excerpt from a letter I wrote in 2007 wherein I said “there is no such thing as breeding fighting dogs.  Fighting dogs are not born, they’re made. They’re made via systematic torture and abuse…”  Hmmm….

9 Responses to “HSUS Back-Pedaling on Fighting Dog Stance and the Widely Debunked Dogsbite.org for Some Reason Still Cited as a Media Source”

  1. Following is an excerpt from the article I mentioned in the above post:

    http://www.nwitimes.com/articles/2006/06/07/news/lake_county/545c6443265f709286257185007f05a4.txt

    The Times – June 7, 2006

    Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue officials tested 16 pit bulls recently rescued from a Gary firefighter’s Calumet Township home to determine their temperament.

    The dogs were rescued from the home of Carlton Davis Jr. on Memorial Day after neighbors called police due to concern about the dogs. Lake County police suspect some of the dogs may have been used in connection with a possible dog fighting ring. No charges have been filed.

    Tracy Gibson, a board member for the breed rescue, said 14 of the 16 dogs passed the test Monday.

    “I was happy,” Gibson said Tuesday. “You never know what people do to these dogs.”

    Gibson said the Child and Pet Relief Fund contacted the rescue organization about temperament testing for the dogs.

    “We wanted an outside agency to do this testing,” said Judy Bonaventura, animal control rescue coordinator. “Their tests are certified.”

    Gibson recommended humane euthanasia for the dogs that didn’t pass. She also said the recommendation was made based on the dogs’ aggression toward other animals, not toward humans.

    “None of the dogs were people aggressive,” Bonaventura said. “They just wagged their tails.”

    …”Some of these dogs that are starved on purpose will show food aggression,” Gibson said. “But none of these dogs did.”

    Bonaventura said the dogs’ health continues to improve and that many of them should be safe to adopt when the investigation ends.

    Gibson agreed and said the dogs’ response to testing was phenomenal based on what they had suffered at human hands.

    “They were some of the sweetest dogs you’re ever going to meet,” Gibson said. “With basic training, I don’t see why they couldn’t be put up for adoption at a later date.”

  2. EmilyS says:

    um… did you miss the news that HSUS now supports the individual evaluation of fight bust dogs?

    http://www.petconnection.com/blog/2009/04/10/best-friends-hsus-announce-new-policy-on-fight-bust-dogs/

  3. NPBB says:

    Please don’t confuse a literary device for ignorance…

    And did you not read my above post about them back-pedaling because they got so much bad PR because of their kill-fighting-dogs stance? They still push onerous, rights-negating legislation, and they were still the impetus behind the killing of countless abused dogs with their supposed ignorant stance on fighting dogs all the while calling themselves “experts.”

    The point of the above post was to show the HSUS’ history and to show my incredulity by illustrating that it is doubtful that they have changed their stance on anything. Their agenda to end domestic animal ownership still appears to be firmly in place. Let’s not forget that like PETA, the HSUS has pushed BSL; BSL which also kills lots of innocent dogs. So I fail to see your point here Emily, since I thought I had already made it: The HSUS back-pedaled on their stance on fighting dogs because they got a crapload of bad press for it, and rightfully so which is why I said:

    “It looks like they realized that they got a lot of bad publicity for their heartless stance on dogs rescued from fighting rings and so they did a 180.”

    So what is your argument? That we should just forget about their prior stance which saw the needless deaths of so many innocent dogs because they now seemingly appear more humane??? Please tell me that’s not it, because I simply do not believe that they just didn’t know that former fighting dogs could be rehabilitated. Like I illustrated, there was evidence well before Vick that former fighting dogs could be rehabilitated, so when the HSUS gives a blurb to the media and they use animal welfarists’ language to appear humane, excuse me if I don’t believe their sincerity.

    Luckily we have humanewatch.org to keep a daily, sometimes hourly eye on the HSUS’ hypocrisy. And while I’m at it, maybe I should give my readers a link to the Activist Cash bio about the HSUS’ alleged terrorist ties:

    http://activistcash.com/organization_overview.cfm/o/136-humane-society-of-the-united-states

    And the reason I ended the post with this infamous quote,

    “We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. One generation and out. We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding.” — Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the United States, Animal People, May, 1993.

    is because, like I said, I don’t think their end goal has changed one bit. They still appear to want to end domestic animal ownership. They’re just going to find a different way to do it now. Indeed, it is the things they do that cause great concern, not what they say; what they say appears to be lip service to an unsuspecting public and what they say changes too frequently for them to have any credibility. What they do is…well…deadly…and there is more than ample history to prove it.

  4. J.M. says:

    That article entitled “Pit bulls:Man`s best friend or worst enemy?”
    is on another site and there`s an absolutely hilarious apropos comment by someone named “Jupiter” in regards to Colleen Lynn and the basis for her supposed expertise.
    I don`t know if I should quote them here,so I`ll just post the link.

    http://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/2011/feb/11/bc-us-fea-pets-pit-bulls/

  5. Ha ha, yeah I’ve read that guy’s response to Colleen Lynn on other sites too. Funny, but also poignant.

    Jupiter makes a good point when he notes that while Lynn claims to be objective, she is anything but. She’s blocked myself and others from her site, so to me that indicates she knows she couldn’t effectively debate any one of us. Where her “evidence” is made up of hysteria, histrionics, junk science, and wildly skewed statistics, the dog lobby is rational, arguing for legislation that actually works, not legislation like BSL which kills a bunch of innocent dogs and doesn’t even keep communities safer.

    But like Jupiter and others, I am very concerned that the media would give this woman any credence whatsoever. It’s astounding to me that any city council or the media et al would cite her junk science as if it were credible. But then, that just makes it that much easier for us to pick apart.

  6. Erica says:

    I had heard of dogsbite.org but never really paid much attention to it, until TODAY after reading this. It really is sad that someone who OBVIOUSLY has an agenda to see all pit bull type dogs destroyed. She not only DOES NOT understand dogs – let alone any dog that just so happens to fall under the pit bull stereotype. It really is sad that just anyone can start a website and ACT like they have a clue when they don’t…..

    It is VERY telling in that she blocks so many people who are knowledgable about pit bull type dogs. Obviously she can’t interact with people who know what they are talking about and only feels comfortable trying to “educate” people who have half a brain…and that’s being generous! Most people use their own brain to think for themselves and do their own research to find out the truth – so if these people are willing to listen to her they don’t have a lick of sense!

  7. Wow Erica, so very well said. You put your finger right on what bothers other folks and myself so much about dogsbite.org.

    If Lynn was trying to exterminate a race of people, her crusade would be seen as criminal. But attempting to wipe out several breeds (or more) of dog belongs in the same category of warped thinking. It’s the same kind of small-minded prejudice born of hate. Meanwhile, perfectly loving, adoptable, and blameless dogs are killed for no reason. It makes me sick.

  8. J.M. says:

    I think another Poster on that site hit the nail on the head as to why the Media go to Lynn.
    Who else could they possibly go to in order to continue their demonization of pit type dogs?
    That shiny bauble of a website has caught their attention.
    As Jupiter said it`s a sad reflection on the state of Journalism today.
    Most of the Media has no interest in the truth.
    They simply want people to come to their sites and what better way to get them there than to continue this hate campaign.
    I do believe that most of the Public is smarter than Lynn and the people who post on her site in support of her nonsense would be the same people taking part in a Klu Klux Klan Rally.
    It`s the same mentality.
    That was the first time I had seen that comment by Jupiter.That`s priceless and I hope they keep posting it every time Lynn is quoted.

  9. Hear hear J.M.! Another astute observation. You are absolutely right.

    The media likes to believe that their subscription rates are down some 60% because of the internet. I believe that people are just fed up with the mainstream media’s lies and have gone to independent sources for the truth. When you consider that the media is owned by what like 3 companies, they can control the dissemination of information as they see fit. But they shouldn’t expect that people will sign on for their propaganda, manipulation, and lies.

    As for Lynn, I think you are spot on. As the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. observed many times, hate never solved anything, so how will putting hate in legislation form a la BSL solve the irresponsible dog owner problem?

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