Is Purdue’s Alan Beck Pushing BSL Via His Student and Debunked Pit Bull Urban Mythology?

By Editor
In Absurdity
Dec 2nd, 2013
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Perhaps you’ve had the same experience, but some of the most clueless people I ever met in my life held Ph.D.s.  It’s like they’re idiot savants.  They claim to know a lot about one topic, and even that may be suspect, but are ignorant everywhere else.  It appears such may be the case with Alan Beck, who holds a Ph.D. and ironically is director of the Center of the Human-Animal Bond and a Purdue professor of animal ecology. 

Professor Beck may know a lot about some animals’ ecology, but he doesn’t seem to know a thing about the dogs he calls pit bulls.  In that sense, I imagine Professor Beck could be in the running for embarrassing professors at Purdue like Professor Arthur R. Butz and his Holocaust denying are a shameful blemish on Northwestern University.  Yes, it is at times shameful what they call “higher” education. 

For those who don’t know, Mr. Beck is thought to be a complete and total shill for the radical animal rights groups who want to end all domestic animal ownership.  His being in league with these radicals may be why Beck has offered his “expert” testimony in favor of breed-specific legislation (BSL) in several key BSL legal challenges.  

But let me give you a little sampling of the kind of “expertise” for which Mr. Beck is infamous.  Yesterday, the Journal and Courier, ran an article called “Two pit bull attacks in one day; dog-biting expert not surprised” (and by “dog-biting expert” one can only assume they are referring to Beck, though this remains to be seen).  The article was about two supposed pit bull attacks that both happened on November 12, 2013, in Lafayette, Indiana near where Purdue just so happens to be.  Beck said of the incidents,

“All studies have shown pit bulls, through quasi-objective measures, are more aggressive” in comparison to other dogs . . .

I would be laughing if this foolishness weren’t responsible for the deaths of so many perfectly loving and loveable dogs. 

Still, let’s break Beck’s statement down.  What does “quasi-objective” mean?  ‘Quasi’ in this context has the meaning of “as if,” “in a sense or manner,” “seemingly,” or “resembling.”  So a more literal (i.e. clearer) version of what Beck said might read: All studies have shown pit bulls, through seemingly objective measures, are more aggressive. 

Just for funsies, let’s use each possible definition of the word ‘quasi’ in Beck’s sentence:

All studies have shown pit bulls, through, as if objective measures, are more aggressive.

All studies have shown pit bulls, through, in a sense or manner, objective measures, are more aggressive.

All studies have shown pit bulls, through, resembling objective measures, are more aggressive.

“Seemingly” objective measures makes the most sense in light of what Beck is trying to say, but if these studies were “seemingly” objective, they could also be subjective, meaning “placing excessive emphasis on one’s own moods, attitudes, or opinions,” and that would perfectly describe Beck’s “expert” testimony; it is based on his mere opinion with no basis in fact.

In other words, Beck, via his statement, may just have tried to put one over on what he may very well believe are some very dumb readers.  Are you dumb, readers?  I don’t think you are.  In fact, I bet when you read that ridiculous statement, it likewise gave you pause and you said to yourself “What?!” 

Maybe another way to read Beck’s likely intentionally misdirecting statement is: Studies on pit bulls have, via possibly subjective measures, shown that they are more aggressive.  So if you give credence to junk science “studies” like the ones Beck and Dogsbite.org cite which, on their face are incorrect simply because they refer to that non-existent “breed” pit bull as if it were an actual breed, then yes, there will be some very subjective studies that will supposedly “show” that pit bulls are more aggressive.  But all you’ll really have shown is your ignorance. 

Indeed, others and myself have long called into question the veracity of junk science studies and mere opinions offered under the guise of “expert” testimony by the likes of radical animal rightist proxies like Dogsbite.org and Alan Beck.  But then Beck’s offering of the subjective wasn’t the only misdirection he gave in his statement to the Journal and Courier.  He also said,

“People have been breeding these dogs for fighting since the early 1880s,” he said, by focusing on morphological features keen for fighting. These traits include a solid stature, short hair and a large jaw for clamping down and shaking.

“A low threshold for attack and a high threshold for pain . . . ”

So then, given Beck’s mere opinion, every stocky dog with short hair and a large jaw should be what?  Eradicated?  Made extinct?  Destroyed?  Extirpated?  Exterminated? (I have a thesaurus too, but I try not to hide an agenda behind words that can have multiple meanings.  I just like to tell the truth.)

By Beck’s “standard,” not only would all dogs he calls pit bulls be on his hit list, but English Bulldogs would also have to be wiped out.  And likewise all mastiffs, Rottweilers, Chow Chows, Boxers, Japanese Tosas, Vislas, coon hounds, and on and on, would have to be wiped out.  See, you have to pore over Beck’s words to get what he’s really saying because he tends to hide his agenda in plain site, just behind double-speak words and phrases that can have more than one meaning.  Call him out on that, however, and he’ll likely claim the seemingly plausibly deniable answer.  But again, if you delve deeper, what you see is a distinct possibility of his being in league with, if not funded by, radical animal rightists whose agenda is to end domestic animal ownership.  Breed-specific legislation is just one way these radicals have gone about ending domestic animal ownership, and by pushing these radicals’ agenda, Beck’s “expert” status is certainly dubious to say the least.

So let’s look at what a real expert has to say about the so-called pit bull’s solid stature, short hair, and jaw structure, i.e. their morphological features.  I. Lehr Brisbin, a Ph.D. worth his salt, is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and an actual expert in the training, behavior, and the anatomy of bulldog breeds.  Dr. Brisbin has said of the pit bull locking jaws myth (to which Beck is referring when he says pit bulls supposedly have “a large jaw for clamping down and shaking”) that,

“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” (Source: American Dog Breeders Association, “Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier”).

Dr. Brisbin has also testified in a court of law under oath that,

“ . . . pit bulls [which the court defined earlier as American Pit Bull Terriers] 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. He stated that, contrary to information relied upon and perpetuated by earlier case law and law review articles, assertions that a pit bull can bite with a ‘force of 2,000 pounds per square inch’ have absolutely no basis in fact or scientific proof.”

The court affirmed Dr. Brisbin’s testimony as true.

In addition to the wildly inaccurate 2,000 pounds per square inch bite force claim, many pit bull detractors (including Alan Beck when he referred to pit bulls’ supposedly “low threshold for attack and a high threshold for pain”) point to a trait called gameness which they use as supposed “evidence” that all pit bulls are inherently aggressive and therefore dangerous.  Dr. Brisbin defined gameness as,

“ . . . the ability or willingness to continue doing an action once begun, i.e. ‘stick-to-it-iveness’.”

The expert testimony went on to explain that,

“Gameness, in itself, is not a negative trait. For example, the ability to carry out duties or trained tasks, despite injury, distraction, or frustration, is desirable in pit bulls which have been trained to be search and rescue dogs, protection dogs in the U.S. military, drug sniffing dogs, and therapy dogs.”

So, like pit bull advocates had been saying all along, it is irresponsible dog owners who potentially make any breed dangerous, not the innateness of a dog or breed of dog.  Given Dr. Brisbin’s actual expert testimony, what is Alan Beck’s “expert” testimony really worth?  Because if “doctor” Beck is an “expert” on pit bulls, then they must be giving out Ph.D.s at carnival sideshows. 

And since the dog lobby, myself included, has met Dogsbite.org‘s hysterical disciples on more than one occasion, Alan Beck is certain to have his own set of, let’s just say inculcated followers as well.  In fact, one of Beck’s Ph.D. students, Felicia Trembath, was one of the people who just so happened to be involved in one of two supposed pit bull incidents in Lafayette, Indiana on November 12, which is what prompted the article in the Journal and Courier in the first place.  Do you believe in coincidences?  Me either.

Trembath and her mother Sandy Cotton claim to have found a collarless pit bull on their front porch November 12, 2013, which they then locked in their bathroom to protect the dog from getting hit by a car in traffic.  Long story short, the dog supposedly got out and attacked Trembath’s cat, Smokey, with what Trembath describes as latching on with a grip that would not let go, and voilà, there you have an excellent foundation for Alan Beck’s brand of hysteria.  

And here’s the kicker, again, according to the well-timed and well-placed article in the Journal and Courier,

Trembath is a PhD student at Purdue University who has worked alongside Alan Beck, director of the Center of the Human-Animal Bond and a Purdue professor of animal ecology. She knew she had to lever the dog’s mouth open.

So, if Beck, of which Trembath is a student, says in the very same article about Trembath’s cat Smokey being attacked by a pit bull, that pit bulls supposedly have “a large jaw for clamping down and shaking,” i.e. the locking jaws urban mythology of the pit bull which was herein debunked, then how was Trembath able to “lever the dog’s mouth open”?  Better yet, how do we know the dog in question was a pit bull when pit bull isn’t even a breed?  Should we just take their word for it from people who may very well have an agenda against pit bulls that they and their cat were attacked by a so-called pit bull?

There are just too many coincidences in this story.  So we’re to believe that Trembath’s mother and their cat just so happened to be attacked by a pit bull, and that Trembath just so happens to be a student of Alan Beck who is to pit bulls what the bubonic plague is to death?  In other words, Beck is a scourge to innocent dogs.  His very name conjures up images of piles of innocent dead so-called pit bulls.  And yet we’re to believe that a student of Alan Beck’s just so happened to have had her cat killed and her mother bitten by a so-called pit bull that she took in out of the supposed goodness of her heart?  Really? 

And so if the two-pit-bull-attacks-in-one-day-in-Lafayette story is just too much of a stretch for your imagination, then perhaps you’ll likewise find it a stretch that a student of one of the foremost experts in pit bull mythology just so happened to have been involved in a pit bull attack that acted as a perfect foundation for said foremost expert in pit bull mythology to proliferate his pit bull mythology in an attempt to advocate for what one can only assume is pit bull eradication via even more breed-specific legislation. 

 

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One Response to “Is Purdue’s Alan Beck Pushing BSL Via His Student and Debunked Pit Bull Urban Mythology?”

  1. Fred Kray says:

    I totally agree that Beck is not qualified to discuss this issue. If you want to read what he really knows about breed specific legislation, take a look at the testimony he gave in Dias v. The City of the Denver, which I discuss at the following link:

    http://legal.pblnn.com/pro-bsl-experts/alan-beck

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