A “Canine Innocence Project”?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

This article from the animal rights section of the Change.org ring of websites has been making the rounds on dog-related blogs and Twitter feeds. Arguing that many dogs are mistaken for pit bulls in jurisdictions that have banned the much-maligned “breed,” the author calls for state officials to DNA test dogs before euthanizing them.

The argument is that city officials shouldn’t be able to euthanize a dog simply because it “looks like a pit bull,” whatever that means. But the real aim is to undermine breed-specific legislation altogether by imposing what would sound to most like a common-sense requirement that most cities can’t afford to follow.

It’s a cute idea, and I support the ultimate goal, but the scheme requires too much concession to the misguided thinking behind put bull prohibitions. I’ve written about breed-specific bans before, so I’ll save some time with a cut-and-paste:

Bad owners create bad dogs, regardless of the dog’s lineage. Bans on pit bulls don’t prevent dog fighting, nor do they prevent people from raising vicious dogs. They just ensure that dogs fitting the pit bull description will be vicious, because the well-bred lines will be discontinued and good owners will stop raising them. Meanwhile, people who raise dogs for fighting will simply move on to another breed.

Moreover, the term pit bull isn’t really a breed at all. It’s a generic term that can and has been applied to just about any dog with bulldog and/or terrier traits (take the pit bull test here). The American Kennel Club-recognized breed that’s generally associated with the term is the American Staffordshire Terrier. And the vast, vast majority of staffies are harmless (they’re actually considered a child-friendly breed).

In fact, most fighting dogs commonly called pit bulls aren’t bloodlined staffies. Fighting dogs are bred for attributes conducive to fighting, not for pedigree.

Better to impose strict liability on dog owners for any damage their pets do to others or their property.


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76 Responses to “A “Canine Innocence Project”?”

  1. #1 |  bobzbob | 

    “that being that if you actually properly classified the dogs in that study I have no doubt that Pit Bulls would fall well behind other breeds in the number of fatal bites, what is your solution? ”

    I agree with you 100% that the “pit Bull” terminology used in the study is different from what you use. No argument there.

    But that doesn’t invalidate the study – if we take the study’s inclusive definition of a “pit bull” then it seems you don’t have an argument with it.

    By the way there is a difference between an dog being bred to be aggresive towards other animals and one bred to be aggresive towards other dogs. Dogs are social creatures and there is a BIG difference in being agressive towards other dogs vs. prey species. The biggest concern is that any animal behaviourist will tell you that dogs consider people to be other dogs! Dogs interact with human in the same ways they interact with other dogs – dominance heirarchies for example. Dogs bred to be aggresive towards other dogs are certainly at risk for being aggresive towards people. This is born out by the FACTS that these breeds, bred for intra-species aggresion, are FAR more likely to kill people than other breeds.

    P.S. A new someone in CA who defended his American Pit Bull terrior as nuttily as you do, until it seriously injured a child. Then he had it put down. Hope you learn your lesson before another innocent gets maimed.

  2. #2 |  Beau | 

    to ‘thorn’:
    I guess if you know your dog, you can say this. Some people are not capable of being honest about something like that. “My son would never steal anything” for example.

    To BSL supporters:
    To say all pits are dangerous, is like saying all black people are criminals. I am sure Hitler came up with all kinds of twisted ‘facts’ about Jews when he was in power. There were probably lots of people in Germany who supported some of the policies he implemented, without seeing the underlying evil until it was too late.

    The way I see it, this is no different. Just another color of racism. What happened in Denver is just like the holocaust. Those who would enforce such a policy are no better than WW2 Natzis. I guess we are headed that way, and these are just the early signs(preemptive war, etc). People need to wake up.

    Dogs bite people from time to time, that’s a fact. If you own a dog that is prone to aggressive behavior, you should be aware of this, or you are not paying attention(bad dog owner). The owner should be held accountable. A dog who bites someone, unprovoked, should be put down. If my dog attacked someone, I would put her down myself, and accept responsibility for her actions. Responsibility! My dogs lineage is not responsible for what some other A-holes dog does. Get it?

    Simple minds…

  3. #3 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Dogs bred to be aggresive towards other dogs are certainly at risk for being aggresive towards people. This is born out by the FACTS that these breeds, bred for intra-species aggresion, are FAR more likely to kill people than other breeds.

    You have exactly zero evidence for this. And the claim is silly on its face.

    Dog breed to be agressive towards animals and submissive towards humans is more likely to attack humans….riiight.

    Put down the crack pipe and move away from the computer till you are sober.

  4. #4 |  David in Balt | 

    @50

    It is a dog, despite how much people may want to believe it is a person, their kid, whatever it is still an animal and subject to all the behaviors that go with it. The same can be said of every breed of dog and that is why part of responsible ownership is keeping an eye on your animal.

    @bobzbob

    Yes, it does invalidate the study. It is not ‘my terminology’ it is the proper classification of a breed of dog. It is the same as me lumping collies, sheepdogs, Shelties and Shepherds into one group, labeling them all ‘herding dogs or dog-types’ and then stating that we should put down all Golden Retrievers because clearly herding-type dogs are prone to vicious attacks. It is -bad- science and no amount of your ignorance will change that. There is no reason to take ‘an inclusive definition of pit bull,’ because they are -very- different breeds and need to be treated as such. If you have some sort of reason for it to be otherwise I would love to hear it but so far all I hear is a bunch of whining about how the facts don’t support your biases. Seriously, those studies are a textbook example of the fallacy of equivocation. Kidseven was incapable of answering my question but maybe you can. I performed a study that says the majority of people in Britain are black. In my study I included Britain as well as all the nations of Africa. Why is my ‘study’ incorrect? If you can answer that then you should know why citing those studies is pretty ignorant.

    As far as your fantastical assertion that prey dog aggression = human aggression unless you have a source to back that up I call BS. Seriously, have you considered why you need to make things up to attack a breed of dog? You call me ‘nutty’ but I’m not the one using bad science and made up ‘facts’ to support my case. The history of the breed is well understood and while it is unfortunate that they were used as fighting dogs human aggression was selected against as you actually had to be in the ring with the dog when they fought and you didn’t want a dog that would whip around and attack the handlers. This is pretty basic breed history if you actually took the time to look it up instead of just making shit up.

    P.S. My brother hated my Pit Bull. He refused to leave his kid alone with him but would leave him alone with his Golden Retriever. One day the Golden snapped and mauled my nephew taking a chunk of his face and upper pallet off. He had her put down. I hope you learn your lesson and spread the word of the viscousness of Golden Retrievers. ( I wish there was an emote for rolling eyes, I really do. You do realize that over-breeding of Golden Retrievers has led to a rise in distemperment among the breed, right? Oh wait, your not really interested in learning about dogs, breed differences, or facts regarding them just about not being ‘wrong’ and maligning those big mean evil Pit Bulls.)

  5. #5 |  Steve Verdon | 

    The biggest concern is that any animal behaviourist will tell you that dogs consider people to be other dogs!

    Calling in an airstrike on this bullshit.

    My dog:

    Dog aggressive…would kill another dog if I or another person wasn’t there to keep her under control. However, she exhibits absolutey none of the same behavior towards a human that she does towards a dog.

    Either you are horribly misinformed or just being an outright liar.

  6. #6 |  Beau | 

    To ‘bobzbob’:
    Your ‘facts’ are flawed. Pit bulls were bred specifically for bull baiting. It wasn’t until later that they started to fight them. So, no, they were not bred to fight dogs. Aggression toward humans was strictly considered an unacceptable trait, so dogs who demonstrated this trait were culled/not bred(the only breed I am aware of that had such a standard). This is one reason pit bulls typically make poor watch dogs. Ignorance is the reason people use them for this purpose. Ignorance is the reason people are scared of pit bulls. I find it quite amusing when I encounter these ignorant and fearful individuals who meet my dog. They almost can’t believe she isn’t attacking me, my daughter, and them for that matter. Just like the country boy who hates people of other races who has never known one. Ignorance…

  7. #7 |  Kidseven | 

    I think you’re right, Thorn, most pit bull owners don’t think their dog would ever hurt anyone—and obviously most of them are right. But apparently they believe nurture completely eliminates nature when it comes to pit bulls.

    If you attempt to point out the obvious—that pit bulls represent a disproportionate number of fatal attacks on humans—they will (in between lashing out and wishing you dead ) try to baffle you with temperament scores, the vagaries of canine DNA tests, and breed- specific persecution theories. If you’re lucky you might even get a link to pit bull advocacy group for straight facts.

    Bobzbob, naturally I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. Most of the rest of world accepts that certain breeds are more aggressive, but keep in mind that all of the guys in here “debunking” the major studies and selling us anecdotes OWN pit bulls.

    Oh and, ding ding ding! We have a winner: Beau gets the grand prize for bringing up the holocaust with the line: “What happened in Denver is just like the holocaust.” Spectacular! And bonus points for ending with “Simple minds.”

  8. #8 |  David in Balt | 

    @bobzbob

    One last thing about your ‘facts’ that these breeds are ‘more likely to kill people.’ You do realize that in those studies, both of them, they specifically state that they do not count war dogs and police dogs among the statistics right? Again, putting aside for the equivocation fallacy in the report, you do realize that it is basically worthless as an indicator of aggression and lethality because it fails to include those dogs (usually German Shephards, Doberman Pinschers, etcetera) in the records. This alone makes the report worthless, but you know, if it backs up your biases that doesn’t really matter does it.

  9. #9 |  David in Balt | 

    @Kidseven

    I can only conclude that you are either mentally deficient or a troll (but I repeat myself), as you have been unable to answer even the most basic questions regarding the equivocation fallacy. It is a pretty sad person that has to sit on the internet maligning a breed of dog. Get a life buddy.

  10. #10 |  Kidseven | 

    David, seriously, if you can’t swim in the deep end with the rest of the kids you shouldn’t bother putting on your trunks.

    At least Steve was kind enough to admit his dog will kill another dog if she’s not kept under control (what a treat it must be to own that kind of dog) Fortunately the rest of us with 100-plus IQs can extrapolate from there.

  11. #11 |  David in Balt | 

    Wow. So you started out with an equivocation fallacy and moved on to a composition fallacy. Your obviously not capable of an intelligent conversation so I’m done.

  12. #12 |  Dan | 

    Kidseven its clear your’e not a fan of bull dog breeds, and I guess you think people should not have the right to own them regardless of their behavior or temperment. If I understand your thinking correctly, you would support these bans and the cops killing or euthanizing the animals even if they had no history of problem behavior. I have a staffie bull terrier and I live in a rural area were there is still a remnant of common sense so there are no bans here. I would never move to a place that had these laws, and I would do anything to protect my dog, so when you praise the extermination of a whole group of dogs [any type of bull dog and terrier, even Boston Terriers] have been considered pit bulls in certain locations, it doesn’t go over well with people like me. This dog is part of my family. And it seems you want her dead not for anything she has actually done but for being a bull dog. What I am saying is that if you say things like that, you cannot complain when people strongly disagree. As others have said, there really is not a good defintion of what a pit bull is and attacks by other breeds have been attributed to them by the media or Law enforcement– “pit bull’ has a more intense connotation than labrador or what have you. And so I just do not trust the numbers cited by these studies. Primarily because of the lack of a clear defintion of the breed.

    Staffies are animal aggressive. My dog is friendly to other dogs, but if she is challenged she will not back down. That’s the nature of the beast, so as an owner I have to be especially careful when she is around other dogs. Many of the bites and attacks have happend when people intervene in a dog fight.

    You have every right to believe what you want but don’t expect me or anyone else to agree or be impressed with your opinion.

  13. #13 |  Beau | 

    Like I said, ignorance. Your deep end is pretty shallow, especially if you don’t get the point. There have been two people killed in TX recently by dogs. None of these dogs were pits. Even if they were, would you look at the number of people killed by this race or that, and say, “We need to ban/kill this race, and here is why…”? That is the line of thinking you are embracing here. Do you not see that? A high IQ does not give way to reason, and reason is what I trust in.

    Come to my home and try to take my dog. You will find, the dog is not the one you need to be worried about.

  14. #14 |  Kidseven | 

    Dan,

    Should I expect people to put all kinds of crazy words in my mouth? Because I argue a simple point: that pit bulls represent a disproportionate number of the fatal attacks on humans, you determine that I support bans and the euthanization of the entire breed? That I want people to kick in your door and kill your dog? C’mon man. That’s the problem with debating a bunch of pit bull owners; you guys get so emotional you can’t think straight.

    If you’ll actually look at what I’ve posted you’ll see this line:

    “I’m not even suggesting there is anything practical that can or should be done about aggressive dog breeds. I just tire of hearing this lame argument that “it’s not the dog, it’s the owner.'”

    You said I “praise the extermination of a whole group of dogs.” Really.

  15. #15 |  Kidseven | 

    Very seriously, I came to this discussion convinced that the nature of pit bulls had a lot to do with the fatal attacks—perhaps as much or more than the nurture or owner’s treatment of the animal—but you guys with your anecdotes, defensive reactions and threats have me seriously reconsidering. Perhaps there is just something about the person who would own a pit bull.

  16. #16 |  Dan | 

    Again, don’t complain because others don’t agree with you. What do you expect??

  17. #17 |  David in Balt | 

    @Dan

    Its even worse then that, after having told him -exactly- what is wrong with those studies he still sits there and uses it. Pretty sad but obvious troll is very f*cking obvious at this point.

  18. #18 |  Steve Verdon | 

    At least Steve was kind enough to admit his dog will kill another dog if she’s not kept under control (what a treat it must be to own that kind of dog) Fortunately the rest of us with 100-plus IQs can extrapolate from there.

    Yes, she is actually. You see, I don’t take her around other dogs. If other dogs come around I leave, with her. If they are off leash and their owner is around, I demand that the owner get THEIR dog under control (most places have leash laws after all). Beyond that, she is one of the most tolerant dogs I have ever owned. When I want here to stop chewing something, I put my hand in her mouth.

    So I’m going to take a guess here and say your extrapolation is flawed.

    but you guys with your anecdotes, defensive reactions and threats have me seriously reconsidering.

    Anecdotes? Wait aren’t you the douchebag who appealed to media accounts? Never mind that I and others have pointed out the problem with the studies you relied upon and pointed to other sources such as Karen Delise’s work. And I’ve made no apologies for my dog, I’ve described both her positive characteristics and her negative ones.

    C’mon man. That’s the problem with debating a bunch of pit bull owners; you guys get so emotional you can’t think straight.

    Aren’t you the doorknob who implied that an APBT in the park is more of threat than you are to your own child? Based on what? Newspaper accounts.

    Really, you keep ignoring the flaws in the study. Be honest and admit that looking at the absolute numbers while not looking at the relative ratios is misleading. That using a “catch all” catagory of “pit bull type” creates an overly large class of dogs thus giving a biased measure. That lack of context can be problematic in that bad owners are going to result in bad outcomes. That if you see me walking down the street with my dog its absurd for you to equate me with an owner who does not socialize his dog, does not train his dog, does not ensure his dog is secure at all times, an takes preventive measures to ensure no other people or pets are injured. But that is clearly what you would do. Please spare us the denials you’ve made your own bigotry and biases quite clear.

    Does everyone that own a pit bull believe “it would never hurt anyone”?

    No, I’d like to think that if someone were to try and harm my family my dogs would intervene to protect us. So I would not say “never”. Is either of my dogs likely to hurt anyone? Highly unlikely, but Thorn you might kill one tomorrow, either accidentally or otherwise, so I don’t see the point. Humans are far more vicious, depraved and deadly than any dog of any breed…well except maybe chihuahuas.

  19. #19 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Mr. Zinnen,

    I see your point about the temperment statistics, but I think your analogy fails. I think a dog that is capable of attacking an killing a person is probably going to have temperment problems. A stable, well trained, well socialized dog should NOT attack a person, let alone kill them. In short, I think your analogy fails.

    BTW failure in the test is automatic for:

    Unprovoked aggression
    Panic without recovery
    Strong avoidance

    The test even has a component where a stranger advances on the dog in a non-threatening and threatening manners. And since a dog’s behavior is not random like a drug response, I think your analogy is weak at best and outright wrong.

    Of course, if we had data on dogs passing temperment tests attacking and or killing people and the actual context….

    Now, one problem with temperment testing is that only people who think their dog is likely to pass are inclined to take the test. Selection bias basically.

  20. #20 |  Kidseven | 

    “Beyond that, she is one of the most tolerant dogs I have ever owned.”

    Beyond the fact she’ll KILL any off leash dog she encounters? I can only imagine what your previous dogs were like.

    “douchebag” “doorknob”

    Well done.

    “douchebag who appealed to media accounts?”

    Um…no, actually. Only references I recall making were two substantial studies. Both of which have since been debunked here by you and another pit bull owner named David in Balt.

    “And I’ve made no apologies for my dog, I’ve described both her positive characteristics and her negative ones.”

    Clearly, but what does that have to do with my main point about pit bulls and their disproportionate involvement in human deaths?

    “you keep ignoring the flaws in the study.”

    Actually you need to add an “s” I guess. I cited two independent studies.

    “Be honest and admit that using a “catch all” catagory of “pit bull type” creates an overly large class of dogs thus giving a biased measure…”

    The second study makes very clear that all breeds were “catch alls.” If a poodle-like dog mauled someone it was chalked up to poodle. Read the study again, or for the first time. Do you really think a group of scientists are going to miss on that most basic point? Spend all of that time and energy and completely bungle the whole concept of an unbiased survey? Not one major study but two? Give it up.

    “its absurd for you to equate me with an owner who does not socialize his dog, does not train his dog, does not ensure his dog is secure at all times, an takes preventive measures to ensure no other people or pets are injured.”

    When did I say anything about any of that? Again, your own insecurities surface.

    “Humans are far more vicious, depraved and deadly than any dog of any breed”

    Another powerful counter point.

    Yes, I must be a bigot. Only a biased, close-minded fool could conclude pit bulls are involved in a disproportionate number of human fatalities.

    Take care.

  21. #21 |  Dan | 

    kidseven, I guess I’m a bit confused: you say you don’t support getting rid of the bull dog breeds and yet you also insist that they will kill anything when they are off a leash. If they are the devil dog you insist on then why don’t you support bsl and mass euthanization? It looks like contradicting statements to me. And insulting owners of bulldogs because you are angry with those posting doesn’t help your cause either.

  22. #22 |  Kidseven | 

    @ Dan

    “kidseven, I guess I’m a bit confused: you say you don’t support getting rid of the bull dog breeds and yet you also insist that they will kill anything when they are off a leash.”

    I’m guessing you’re just pulling my leg now. Hard to read sarcasm, but of course you know I’ve never suggested they’ll “kill anything” when they’re off leash. It was Steve Verdon (see above) who TOLD us his pit will in fact kill another dog off leash. I’m merely taking his word for it. And as I’ve also made clear, I don’t think most pit bulls are dangerous. My only argument is that (drum roll please): Pit bulls are involved in a disproportionate number of human fatalities.

    Do what you want with that information. If it makes you feel better as a pit bull owner to call me a douche bag, ignore statistics, and to think I’m a troll or have some axe to grind (besides making this one point) then believe what you want and enjoy the weather in your little snow globe world.

  23. #23 |  Dan | 

    Take it easy kid7… when did I call you a douhce bag? It seems that you are having a bad day or something so lets agree to disagree and end this conversation.

  24. #24 |  thorn | 

    It’s amusing that people resort to invoking Godwin’s Law and quoting stats from a bull-lover’s website. What’s next, using MADD as supporting evidence during a discussion on supporting a new prohibition?

    No real point here, just an observation.

    But I will say – Beau, enough testosterone. You love you dog – we get it. But as someone who has been the target of several dog attacks (not just pits, btw) earlier in life – i can tell you one thing: if I ever happen to find myself walking through your neighborhood, or down a road near your home, and your dog so much as growls and approaches me – I’ll put a hollowpoint through its head before it can flare its ears twice.

  25. #25 |  Steve Verdon | 

    The original pitbull problem video,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeuy_PBlqz8

    Interestingly prior to seeing this video I thought alot like Kidseven and others commenting here. Then a few weeks later found a pitbull (an APBT) in the park that we took in and has become our dog. I knew that because she was mostly black and an APBT that if I took her to the local shelter she’d die. If I left her, she’d likely be hit by a car or get picked up by an animal control officer and die. She’d met my rottweiler and was friendly towards her. So I took her home and haven’t regretted it since.

    Beyond the fact she’ll KILL any off leash dog she encounters? I can only imagine what your previous dogs were like.

    Not so long as I’m around. She knows that I don’t like aggressive behavior and tries to ignore other dogs. And she does submit to my desires. So no, she wont kill any off leash dog. My previous dog was a German Shepherd, and she was very well behaved.

    Well done.

    Well aren’t you the one first using media accounts, then a study and refusing to admit its short comings that are repeatedly pointed out to you. So I stand by my characterizations. They aren’t ad hominems is they are true.

    “And I’ve made no apologies for my dog, I’ve described both her positive characteristics and her negative ones.”

    Clearly, but what does that have to do with my main point about pit bulls and their disproportionate involvement in human deaths?

    You claimed that APBT owners have a blind spot regarding their own dogs, yet I describe my APBTs short comings proving your claim false. Yet you refuse to acknowledge it. As you would say, “Well done.”

    Actually you need to add an “s” I guess. I cited two independent studies.

    Both studies make the same mistakes.

    1. Creating a super-class of dogs.
    2. Ignoring relative ratios.
    3. Ignore the correlation between popularity and DBRFs.

    The second study makes very clear that all breeds were “catch alls.”

    A rottweiler is pretty distinctive looking dog; it is hard to mistake a Rhodesian Ridgeback, but yet I’ve seen a news article that did just that. So I’m sorry if I don’t buy the above claim. Further, after noting that breed is a “catch all” the author goes on to make breed specific claims. Lame in the extreme.

    When did I say anything about any of that? Again, your own insecurities surface.

    When you write shit like this its often a good idea to scroll back upstream:

    So I take it you don’t see any fundamental difference between the ownership of an inanimate object with lethal potentiality and one that runs around with free will next to my three-year-old at the city park?–June 10th, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    I’ve taken my dog to the city park many times and seen people like you. They grab their kids, and look worried when they see my dog.

    I’m guessing you’re just pulling my leg now. Hard to read sarcasm, but of course you know I’ve never suggested they’ll “kill anything” when they’re off leash. It was Steve Verdon (see above) who TOLD us his pit will in fact kill another dog off leash.

    Again good idea to scroll back upstream…. you wrote earlier,

    Pit bulls were BRED for aggression somewhere along the way and they seem particularly good at it.

    You were clearly unware of the fact that dogs can have different levels of aggression such as some dogs being only animal/dog aggressive. Now after being disabused of this knowledge you act as if it was your position all along.

    My only argument is that (drum roll please): Pit bulls are involved in a disproportionate number of human fatalities.

    Yes, in absolute numbers using a catch all non-breed specific definition. However, the real statistic of interest is the relative ratio in regards to attacks and DBRFs.

    Do what you want with that information. If it makes you feel better as a pit bull owner to call me a douche bag, ignore statistics, and to think I’m a troll or have some axe to grind (besides making this one point) then believe what you want and enjoy the weather in your little snow globe world.

    1. You are a douchebag.
    2. I’m not ignoring statistics; statistics is my day job and you have the wrong one.

    It’s amusing that people resort to invoking Godwin’s Law and quoting stats from a bull-lover’s website. What’s next, using MADD as supporting evidence during a discussion on supporting a new prohibition?

    What “bull lovers” site? The ATT website? That site tests dogs of all breeds.

  26. #26 |  Ignatz | 

    Is it just conceivable that while certain dogs (the bull terrier group) pose little or no threat to humans as long as they remain upright? That is – recognisably human? Looking at the dog fatality stats, such as they are, there seems to be a huge bias towards fatalities among young people and the elderly.

    Are these dogs bright enough to know that the running, squealing infant that just fell on top of it is not a dog attacking it, at which point an innate anti-dog aggression kicks in?

    Meanwhile I’ll agree with a basic point made by several posters. Bully breeds might not be any more aggressive than others, but the nature of a bully attack is very different.