Peoria, Illinois Councilwoman Beth Akeson Spews “Pit Bull” Urban Mythology as Fact

According to our favorite “pit bull” bashing rag the Peoria Journal Star, Peoria, Illinois, is looking at making changes to their Animal Control ordinance.   As such, a task force,   was convened and a public hearing held, during which Councilwoman Beth Akeson said:

What is important for people to understand is pit bulls, when they do attack, they deliver an injury that is completely different than other dog bites . . . That is a fact.  

In case you missed it, that is a duly elected official espousing long-debunked urban mythology about “pit bulls’” supposed locking jaws, stronger jaws, more powerful bite force, etc.   Worse, she proclaims that disgusting lie as if it were true.

Ms. Akeson’s false comments are wildly irresponsible and here’s why: Hyping “pit bulls’” “different bite” or their supposed greater deadliness in biting or attacking, which again are falsehoods, is not only spreading “pit bull” urban mythology, it’s promoting it to dog fighters, drug dealers, and other animal abusers and animal exploiters who acquire so-called “pit bulls” to fight or to protect their drug operations.   In other words, Ms. Akeson is promoting animal abuse and other crimes, whether she knows it or not.

Following are the facts, and clearly the Peoria City Council will be needing some truths before considering ordinance changes in December.   I. Lehr Brisbin, Ph.D., who is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and an expert in training, handling, behavior and the anatomy of bulldog breeds has said 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.”

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 bulls 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.”

Dr. Brisbin’s testimony was affirmed by the court as true.   Therefore, it is clear that the bite of the so-called “pit bull” is no different from that of any other “breed.”  

And I put the terms “pit bull” and “breed” in quotes, because there is no breed “pit bull.”   The slang term “pit bull” is a catch-all that describes not a breed, but many dog breeds, their mixes, and lookalikes.   So when Ms. Akeson cites statistics that supposedly show “pit bulls” being responsible for more bites in Peoria than any other “breed,” all she’s really illustrated is that no one, including Animal Control, knows what a “pit bull” is.   If they did, they wouldn’t refer to “pit bulls” as if they were a real breed.   Notice that even the Peoria Journal Star is careful to refer to “pit bulls” as a “variety.”

And when Ms. Akeson provided a “study” that supposedly showed “pit bull” attacks have a higher risk of death than those of other breeds, again, all she’s really illustrated is that any medium- and large-breed dog in an attack that can pass for a “pit bull” will be mislabeled a “pit bull.”   This is how municipalities load up their dog bite data, whether intentionally or unintentionally.  

For instance, Denver’s “pit bull” ban hasn’t just been in the business of indiscriminately killing dogs.   Denver’s Animal Control officers have been negating their residents’ due process rights as well because, like Peoria, their own ACOs don’t know what a “pit bull” is.   For example in the 2004 case of Margolius v. The City of Denver, it was shown that Mr. Margolius’ due process rights were violated when Denvers own Animal Control Officers could not discern what was and was not a “pit bull” as defined by their own ordinance.   Denver violated dog owners’ due process rights again when the Denver Daily News reported that in January 2011 (and in 2009) Denver’s Animal Control officers could not tell the difference between a Boxer mix and what Denver’s ordinance defined as a “pit bull.”    

Denver claims their BSL has been successful and yet “While dog bite-injury hospitalizations are infrequent, the breed-discriminatory County of Denver continues to have a significantly higher rate of dog bite-related hospitalizations than all counties in the state except for one, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment statistics.” (Miami-Dade County has likewise reported similarly high dog bite-related hospitalizations despite having BSL in place since 1989.)

As Denver has illustrated, not only has BSL proven to be unconstitutional, it doesn’t even keep communities safer.   In fact, quite the opposite.

Ironically, even after all that killing, Denver had the second highest rate of dog bite-related hospitalizations in the state.   So, Denver has had BSL for over two decades, countless innocent dogs have been needlessly killed, and the community is much less safe than before.  

Is Councilwoman Akeson still sure she wants to ally herself with the and Denver Doggy Killers, spewing their hate and lies?   Or would she rather stop what one of her own constituents called her “pit bull” bashing and ally with the community to actually keep it safer by promoting responsible dog ownership and punishing irresponsible dog owners with a dangerous dog (owner) law?  


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