A little bit of context and education goes a long way: A case for the Pit Bull.

I recently found myself in the murky waters of the dog hating cesspool of social media. Not the best place to be when you’re an avid dog lover. But I bit the bait and got sucked in and within a few hours, was banned from two FB groups which advocated for the culling of pit bulls. Another reason to believe FB is the devil’s work because it gives too many people a platform to spew vitriol, hatred and propaganda without any supporting facts.

As the owner of a rescue Pit mix, this kind of crap gets my blood boiling, especially since Casi is the sweetest creature on the planet (and anyone who has had the good fortune of meeting her knows this). It’s not that I don’t understand their position….because I do, but they’re wrong. Understanding why these anti-pit bull groups think the way they do is one thing. But supporting it is another, and I definitely do not support ignorance, especially when you look at the effects of it. The reality is, if they just took the time to educate themselves, they’d figure out that all that energy and emotion is being misdirected.

Ironically, both FB bumps happened when I presented the facts to the group. Neither admin nor any member could respond – even after multiple requests by myself to do so. But this was expected. As of today, I have never received a response from any anti-PBer when I present the numbers, complete with context, to them. Not Meritt Clifton, not Barbara Kay, not Colleen Lynn, nor any individual who’s ever written a scathing piece about the dogs. I get it though….it’s easy enough to get pulled into the frenzy that the media creates to score ratings, and for these particular individuals – it’s easy enough to put pen to paper rather than use your brain and do the math. We just saw it happen in Hamilton Ontario a month or so ago when a man died, and all the news agencies reported PIT BULL ATTACKS AND KILLS MAN. A few hours later, they changed it to say Dog Attacks and Kills Man. And then, the next day it was shown that the man’s death was actually due to natural causes and had nothing to do with a dog.

But did you spot the difference? Re-read the headlines. In the first one, PIT BULL was clearly stated. Second headline? Meh….just a ‘Dog’.

Exactly my point.

PS: Barbara Kay – this one’s for you.

To get an idea of just how irresponsible media reporting can be, see the following links related to this story: here and here and here. The worst part is the dog was set to be euthanized, even though it had nothing to do with the man’s death, and it wasn’t even a Pit Bull (FYI, it was a Shar Pei cross). This just goes to show the stigma attached to these dogs and how that carries forward, regardless of evidence/facts. And if it wasn’t obvious, it also demonstrates just how unreliable dog type identification is because – let’s face it – a Shar Pei looks nothing like a Pit Bull.

And you see these kinds of manipulative news reports everywhere. Start poking around the web and you’ll see for yourself. It’s far too common to see phrases like “thought to be a pit bull” or “a pit bull type of dog” or “resembled a pit bull”. In fact, almost EVERY single report is positioned like that. But the truth is, 97% of the people on this planet can’t properly identify a pit bull.

To see what I mean, check your own skills at Pick the Pit and let me know how you did.

The bigger problem though, is there’s a LOT of people who just can’t think for themselves; they can’t form an opinion on their own, so they follow the pack (no pun intended), and the sheer number of them is frightening.

Given that the numbers and “facts” continuously pushed by these anti-PB advocates lack the context behind them, I’ve taken the time to put together some math for you so you can have a better idea of the actual situation. All sources are cited at the bottom of this post. I’m going to use 2012 as the base year….but you can use any year and the results are the same.

In 2012 there were 17 deaths reported by PB-related dogs in the US [1]. Of the 17 deaths:

1) One was listed as “contributing” as the woman died from a stroke the next day. Heart disease was deemed to be the main cause of death.
2) One was the result of a 4 year old who – when left unattended – wandered into the backyard of a house a 1/2 mile from his own and was attacked by a leashed dog.
3) One was the result of negligent child abuse, in which the grandfather was charged and convicted.
4) One was from a pack of 5 dogs, one of which was an assumed pit bull. No one knows which dog caused the death.
5) One was from a pack of 7 dogs, one of which was an assumed pit bull. No one knows which dog caused the death. (1)

There are no perfectly accurate numbers for dog population in the US. However, it was estimated to be around 78.2 million in 2012 [2]. With that said, another site [3] lists 70 million as the number in 2012 so – for the sake of this post – let’s round it to 74 million dogs in the US. PB and PB related mixes probably comprise about 9% of that number, but to keep the anti-PBers happy, let’s go lower to 6%.

That amounts to 4.4 million pit bull or pit bull type dogs.

So we had approximately 4.4 million pit bulls or pit bull type dogs in the United States in 2012. There were 17 deaths caused by PB or PB type dogs in 2012. Of the 17, 5 are questionable. But, to keep the anti-PBers happy – let’s stick with the number 17. So STATISTICALLY speaking, 0.00000386363% of the pit bulls that exist in the United States will kill a person. And if we stick with the more reasonable 9% of the total dog population, we have about 6.7 million pit bulls, which means 0.00000254% of them will kill a person.

Put another way, you’d have to actually encounter OVER 394,000 pit bulls before one will actually kill you.

That warrants repeating: 394,000. Almost a half a million pit bulls. I guarantee you, you’ll be long dead before you hit that number.

And if you want to go really hard core math, the number of dogs I stated you’d have to encounter isn’t even close to being accurate because I didn’t factor in the actual citizen population of the US, which would affect that number significantly because you’re not the only person living in the country. My original results calculate your chances of being killed by a pit bull if you are the only person in the entire United States, and in that – you would have to encounter over 394,000 pit bulls as you wandered aimlessly around by yourself through the country before one actually decided to kill you. But in 2012, you were merely one of 314 MILLION people in the US, so factor that into the equation and you’ll see that you’re FAR more likely to get killed by a tsunami, a mosquito, a hippo, an ant, lightening, cancer, cars, guns, drowning, stroke, horses, cows, and much much more.

In fact, statistically speaking, you are more likely to win an Oscar than get killed by a Pit Bull. And let’s face it, you’re probably a really shitty actor.

Unrelated (but not really), there were 8,855 gun-related homicides in the US in 2012 [5]. Compare that to 17 PB-related deaths (and keep in mind that this number is still questionable). When you realize the vast majority of anti-PBrs are conservatives, it seems just a touch hypocritical that their focus is on dogs and not….um….guns.

Weird.

So, as you can see – context is key here…..and without it, there can be no real knowledge, only data.

Now let’s talk about Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).

In case you don’t know, BSL is a law that bans or restricts certain types of dogs based on their appearance, usually because they are perceived as “dangerous” breeds or types of dogs.

A 20 year study conducted between 1979 and 1998 by the AVMA into fatal dog attacks on humans originally stated that these attacks appeared to be ‘breed specific’. However, the AVMA later reversed it’s position, stating in a comprehensive literature review “Breed is a poor sole predictor of dog bites. Controlled studies reveal no increased risk for the group blamed most often for dog bites, ‘pit bull-type’ dogs. Accordingly, targeting this breed or any another as a basis for dog bite prevention is unfounded. As stated by the National Animal Control Association: “Dangerous and/or vicious animals should be labeled as such as a result of their actions or behaviour and not because of their breed.” (4)

The ASPCA said that, along with putative over-reporting, false reporting – which is seen all the time – was a major contributor to public perceptions of the breed. Read more here.

The reality is, BSL doesn’t solve anything. It’s a costly sham that hasn’t succeeded in reducing dog bite-related injuries everywhere in the world it has been enacted.

There was a great study done on BSL that calculated the number of dogs on the targeted breeds list that would have to be completely removed from a community in order to prevent even one serious dog bite related injury. The result? More than 100,000 dogs of the targeted group would have to be removed. Quite absurd, no? You can read that study, which was published to the JAVMA, here.

Additionally, in a recent study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) on the exceptionally rare events of dog bite related fatalities, the researchers identified a striking co-occurrence of multiple, controllable factors in these cases. Guess what? Breed wasn’t one of them.  You can read it here.

Another fantastic study focused on the psychological effects of BSL, with the researchers applying a theory known as the ‘contact hypothesis’ which is generally used by sociologists to understand the origin of racial stereotyping and other forms of prejudice. They concluded the study had “good scientific evidence to explain why the pursuit by governments of breed specific legislation to reduce the risk of harm to citizens is not only doomed to failure, but also giving people a false sense of security, which may actually be making the situation worse.” You can read more about the study here.

Cesar Milan – aka The Dog Whisperer – who is considered a leading expert in dog behaviour wrote about BSL, stated the following: “This is about as ridiculous as writing a law that says ‘Green-eyed people are not allowed anywhere’ and basing it on the ‘fact’ that more crimes are committed by green-eyed people, at least when eye color is recorded.”. You can read his full post here.

And if you think these are the only sources supporting the elimination of BSL, think again. All you have to do is google “Does BSL work” and read the results. You will NOT see one shred of evidence supporting it. NOT ONE.

Here is a small list of organizations who oppose BSL, simply because it has been proven time and time again to be completely ineffective:

American Animal Hospital Association, American Bar Association, American Dog Owner’s Association, American Humane Association, American Kennel Club, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, Association of Pet Dog Trainers, Australian Veterinary Association, Best Friends Animal Society, British Veterinary Association, Canadian Kennel Club, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federation of Veterinarians in Europe, Humane Society of the United States, International Association of Canine Professionals, National Animal Control Association, National Animal Interest Alliance, National Association of Obedience Instructors, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (UK & Australia), United Kennel Club, and the White House Administration. In addition, many provincial, state and local-level veterinary medical associations and humane organizations also oppose BSL.

And if all of that isn’t enough, BSL is costly as well. It penalizes responsible pet owners, diverts resources, and is open to challenge – which results in a whole lot of legal implications. If you want an idea on the costs associated with BSL, use this calculator.

Now, let’s talk about responsibility.

Dogs are not born vicious. That’s like saying your newborn is born a child molester. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. We are all inevitably products of our environment. All the shit you do, the way you process situations, and how you react is based almost entirely off your environment – and even more so, your perception of your environment.

So how did the faithful pit bull, the same dog we all grew up with in The Little Rascals, turn into this so-called “canine of Satan”? In a nutshell, dog fighting. And even though it’s illegal in all 50 states and throughout Canada, shitty humans with really small dicks engage in it everywhere. Dogs that fight are bred and conditioned to never give up when they are fighting, even if it means that they will be badly hurt or killed. And guess what bait is most commonly used to incite aggression in these dogs? Pit bulls. Yes – you read that right. So explain how it is that a pit bull – this horrible devil dog – is used as a bait dog to incite another, when all pit bulls are bad?

Please….take some time to process that. And while you’re processing, google bait dog for a horrifying dose of reality.

Pit bulls that fight are trained to do so. They know no different, and this is 100% the cause of humans. In case you feel the need to debate this, let’s look at the same argument in a different context. A child is born into a family with a certain set of beliefs. These could be racist, or religious – whatever. But it’s all the child knows because it’s all they are exposed to. Controlled exposure is a very powerful force and you don’t have to look any further than extremist islamic groups for proof of that.

That is the pit bull that is trained to fight. The only difference is, a pit bull does not have the same capacity as a human to think for themselves.

Time and time again, research proves that ownership of EVERY dog is what matters. You can take any puppy – whether it be a Golden Retriever or a Maltese – and turn it into a vicious dog through controlled exposure. But don’t forget — controlled exposure works the other way as well. Love your pets, treat them well, and they will flourish – which is proven by the 525 million or so dogs that haven’t bitten or attacked anyone.

Whoops! There’s that context thing popping up again.

Studies have shown that, due to the biased reputation created by idiots, these types of dogs began to attract the wrong type of owners. The irresponsible human who wants a ‘tough looking’ dog will get a pit bull simply because of the reputation we have created for them inside illegal dog fighting rings. As a result, in the 1980’s – many PB owners and owners of other “vicious” or “high risk” breeds (Dobermans, Chow Chows, Rotts) were more likely to have criminal convictions and more likely to display antisocial behaviour. Even the ludicrous website dogsbite.org supports this point, though for entirely different reasons.

With this said, it’s important to note the majority of PB owners are NOT bad people, yet they endure a LOT of discrimination. There are millions of wonderful, responsible people that own and love their pit bulls. These dogs are wonderful dogs, just like any other dog immersed in a healthy environment. Unfortunately, due to the stigma attached to Pit Bull owners, many organizations and movements have been formed to educate the public on these dogs and their owners. The Majority Project is one such effort. Here’s their PSA:

The Majority Project PSA from Animal Farm Foundation on Vimeo.

Related, if you want to read a great article on responsible dog ownership, check out this one from Time Magazine.

Another wonderful piece was recently written by Steffed Baldwin and published in the Huffington Post. It’s called The Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics Behind Dog Bites, and it’s definitely worth the read.

So this is it. These are the numbers. These are the facts. Math is non-debatable, and context is key.

And just to be clear, I’m obviously not supporting dog attacks on people. But I’m also not going to take a nazi-style approach and move to wipe out an entire group of dogs because 0.00000386363% of them is bad. Basing an opinion off that is beyond ridiculous and nobody would do it in other facets of their lives.

If you want to take the position of blame, then look no further than the mirror. It’s humans who abuse and neglect dogs…it’s humans who engage in illegal dog fighting…it’s humans who are irresponsible backyard breeders….it’s humans who train dogs to be aggressive….it’s frauds like Colleen Lynn and Merritt Clifton, who pose as ‘experts’ on the topic of dogs, disseminating their lies onto the masses…..and it’s humans who consume all this irrelevant information and take it to be truth, rather than educating themselves first through a little bit of research.

Now, the time has come to go snuggle with these sweet ladies. And in case you couldn’t tell (because chances are, you couldn’t) – the sleeping one is a Pit Bull.

puppies

PS: Stay tuned for an upcoming post in which I’ll discuss how these anti-PB groups promote the ongoing abuse of these dogs. Also upcoming, why I think all news reporting agencies and columnists should be held accountable when they provide false information and misrepresent a group.

Sources:
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_dog_attacks_in_the_United_States#Fatalities_reported_in_2012
[2] http://www.statista.com/statistics/198100/dogs-in-the-united-states-since-2000/
[3] https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Statistics/Pages/Market-research-statistics-US-pet-ownership.aspx
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pit_bull#Studies
[5] https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_8_murder_victims_by_weapon_2008-2012.xls
[6] http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/140423/dq140423b-eng.htm

1 Comment on A little bit of context and education goes a long way: A case for the Pit Bull.

  1. Elsa Morales
    August 26, 2015 at 3:02 pm (2 years ago)

    I love pit, i have two, the more loyalty and sweet pet, they live together with my parrots, kids, and cats in harmony.

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