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