Friday, April 8, 2011

I'm not done: Part 2!

Bob 1
Photo: This intact male Pit Bull Terrier was in great pain after being hit by a car, yet he never showed signs of aggression toward us humans as we handled him.

Here's Part 1 of my take down.

And in case you need it, here's an explanation of why I bother to defend pit bulls from poorly researched and overtly biased rants such as this.

Skeptifem, you can do better than this.

In Part 2, Skeptifem now focuses on pit bull advocates and how crazy they are to defend dogs that, in her mind, have definitively been proven to be SUPER SPECIAL DANGEROUS than any other type of dog.

(Part 2: Paragraph 1)
One of the main things she takes exception to is the fact that pit bull advocates often compare breedism to racism. This is something I've struggled with myself. From the perspective of a dog-lover, the parallels are impossible to ignore. But to a lot of people, such a comparison is insulting. I understand this. I know perfectly well that dogs aren't humans, and so do plenty of other pit bull advocates.

Again, just because some people are hyperbolic in their defense of pit bulls, doesn't actually mean pit bulls shouldn't be defended.

What I don't understand, especially from a feminist, is why she ignores the links between BSL and racism. This is a related but seperate discussion, (although Skeptifem has already proven she doesn't understand nuance when it comes to this subject). A big part of breed specific legislation is the this idea that only gang-bangers or similar undesirables own them. (I mean, pit bulls aren't owned by nice families are they?) Specifically attacking the pets of people of color sounds like racism to me.

(Paragraph 2)
"Being worried that someone else will be mangled by a dog isn't considered a legitimate reason [to discriminate]."

Well, yeah. Since there's no reason to treat any individual pit bull type dog differently than any other dog in any given situation.

Also, this constant theme that pit bull advocates hate dog bite victims gets old real fast.

It's not logical to discriminate against friendly, family dogs because someone, somewhere, was injured by other, different dogs. Making this observation also doesn't mean that I hate or blame the victims of dog attacks. Also, observing that there were ways to prevent dog bites independent of breed is not "blaming the victim". Unless, of course, the victim was an idiot. Then they actually deserved to be blamed for their actions.

Any dog can cause harm. If breed discrimination actually worked to deter dog bites, then I and most other dog people would be totally for it. Fewer dog bites is good for dog owners, too. But it doesn't. Even if all "pit bull type" dogs vanished from the face of the earth tomorrow, people would still be attacked and injured and maimed and sometimes killed by dogs.

She links to two studies that list risk factors for dog bites. They both include "certain breeds", but for now I'll ignore the inherent problems with compiling these types of breed-specific statistics. What I want to know is: why do anti-pit bull people always ignore the other risk factors?

Children left unsupervised with dogs. Seasonality. Age of the victim. Unneutered male dogs. This is my favorite: households with any dogs at all.

"If advocates admitted that there is a genuine concern about public health ... they would have to address it as such, but the refrain of "my dog is perfectly safe" is all that can be heard"

Perhaps that's all that Skeptifem hears, but she obviously isn't reading the same blogs I am. Dog people all over the web are very concerned about dog bites, and are doing their best to address them as a public health issue. We're just doing things other than BSL.

"Safe" is also a very relative term. I would call my border collie very "safe", yet I would never leave her unattended around young children because she could easily injure them unintentionally. I've known many pit bull type dogs (and many other dogs!) that I would say the exact same thing about.

"Advocates ... flood youtube with videos of their pit bulls being friendly with their kids, titling them things like "pit bull attacks child" or "vicious pit bull" so that it is difficult to find videos about actual attacks that occurred."

Titles like that are meant to be sarcastic or ironic, not a part of a vast conspiracy to hide negative images of pit bulls. And why are anecdotal videos and photos that show pit bulls in a positive or neutral way somehow less trustworthy than negative ones?

She can't even imagine that anyone would let their child interact with a pit bull at all, and says, "Animals that can kill babies shouldn't be put anywhere near babies." Human babies are pretty fragile; I guess by this logic no one should allow any animal over the size of a baby garter snake near a baby? I'm being factitious of course. It's completely ridiculous to think no one can safely take pictures of a child with a family pet.

Shen then misquotes BadRap and says they say to never leave children unsupervised with pit bulls. What they (and everyone who knows anything about dogs) actually recommend is to never leave children unsupervised with any dog.

Then, in the span of a few jaw dropping sentances, Skeptifem brings up three pit bull myths as if they were facts:

"I don't know what this is supposed to prove exactly, considering that many families could have taken years of pictures of this sort before their pit bull killed one of the children. I would say that keeping these dogs away from children is important because of how difficult it is to dislodge the dogs once they bite. A special breed specific tool for bites called a "break stick" exists to try and dislodge pit bulls who bite, but if you really believe your dog is "perfectly safe" it is hard to imagine why you would be compelled to buy one or supervise your children around the dog."

Ticking time bomb? Check. Superdog bite strength/locking jaw? Check. Break sticks required?Check. A few paragraphs later she likens owning pit bulls to owning tigers or birds of prey. We're well on our way to filling in a bingo card, here.

Paragraphs 3 through 5 are dedicated to completely misrepresenting a recent incident with a pit bull being banned from a library reading program. In Skeptifem's version, the current owner of Jonny Justice the former Vick dog muscled his way into a library and forced children to read to his dog so he could get photos of the act. The children were terrified, and he and his dog were kicked out of the library. Pit bull advocates went nuts and pulled the whole program in a fit of pique.

Uh huh. What really happened was that Jonny, a trained, experienced and well-behaved reading assistant dog, was banned from a library's dog reading program by one librarian. There were no reports of "terrified children". When mediation with the librarian was ignored, and the city attorney confirmed that that breed discrimination was actually illegal in the state. Instead of follow the law, it was the librarian that canned the whole program rather than allow a well-behaved, trained dog in her library.

Skeptifem says, "The safety and comfort of everyone else is at the bottom of the list of what these folks care about."

Fearing something for ignorant or illogical reasons doesn't mean the rest of society has to bend over backwards to accomadate you. There are some people who fear vaccines for ignorant or illogical reasons; that doesn't mean the rest of us should change childhood vaccination requirements for them.

The rest of Part 2 is more ad hominem arguments about how some pit bull owners/advocates are silly or stupid or callus or whatever. Yawn.

And, oh yes, I will finish this thing with a Part 3.


Jess said...

Skeptifem is not very skepti, eh? Maybe a call to the UK to see how BSL is working for them would be in order.

There is a truly disturbing amount of classism in almost all dog legislation except the most basic welfare and cruelty laws, much of aimed at minority or low income owners, and all of that very judgmental about 'those people.' NOT HELPFUL.

CyborgSuzy said...

I read a lot of scientists'/skeptics' blogs and I've seen more than one of them (who aren't dog people) be off-handedly anti-pit bull.

They spend all day ranting intelligently and logically against homeopathy, vaccine denial, global warming denial... and yet when they find out some people keep pit bulls as pets they're all "wha? But EVERYONE KNOWS pits iz dangerous superdogz?!"

Dude, I BaggedYourPit said...

I don't understand why you would insist there is a reasonable comparison between "Breed" & "Race."

The negative issue associated with "race" is stereotyping, while the purpose of a breed is to achieve a stereotype, to replicate an ideal according to a breed standard and to do so beyond appearances alone.

Reasonable people do not have expectations of character according to race, but routinely have expectations about personality, intelligence and other canine features according to breed.

The term "canine racism" came about as an idiot's attempt to leverage the emotional fulcrum of race despite breed and race being profoundly dissimilar. It is beyond insulting; it is racist because reciprocity between terms would assert that people can be judged as stereotypes the same way we can make useful assumptions about stereotypes of breeds.

In light of this racism argument, it's ironic the breed cataloged by the Anti-Defamation League as a racist hate symbol is the pit bull.

CyborgSuzy said...


Fearing an individual person (whom you know nothing else about) based on the way they look is racism (or biotry, depending).

Fearing an individual dog (which you know nothing else about) based on the way they look is breedism.

If you can't see a parallel there, then you fail high school English Lit.

It is reasonable to have SOME kinds of "expectations" of an individual dog based on it's physical appearance.

For example, if I wanted to get into the sport of dock diving, for instance, I probably wouldn't choose a shih tzu if I wanted to be competitive. If I wanted to compete in retrieving trials, I probably wouldn't choose a corgi. If I need to herd cattle, probably won't use a mini poodle.

But beyond the really obvious examples like those, assigning black and white standards when it comes to breed traits gets murky.

"Pit bulls" don't have a "bite children in the face" breed trait, and yet BSL advocates act like it's an obvious truth.

Breed traits is an interesting and sometimes hotly debated area of discussion among dog people (I'm talking breeders, bloggers, researchers, scientists, trainers). ENTIRE BOOKS are written on the subject of breed traits, what they are, where they come from, are they genetic, and if so, what are the gene(s) responsible, how many generations have people bred them one way vs. another, how many different breed strains are out there, what's the different history of each breed and strain within breeds, etc. Throw in mixed breeds and everything goes out the window.

There's so much gray area and nuance. And anti-pit bull people completely brush it all aside (or in most cases, don't research it in the first place) in favor of a gut feeling that "pit bulls" are extra super dangerous compared to other breeds.

Dude, I said...

Cyborgsuzie: “It is reasonable to have SOME kinds of "expectations" of an individual dog based on it's physical appearance.”

There, you said it!

But it is unreasonable to have expectations based on a person’s race. If you cannot see that “reasonable expectations based on appearance,” vs. “unreasonable to have expectations based on appearance” are opposite positions, “then you fail high school English Lit,” to use your words. Frankly, I don’t recall logic being the focus of English Lit. In critical thinking you would have learned how to construct a rational juxtaposition and avoid false equivocation from non sequitur, (“is like,”) extrapolations.

So it’s interesting how you go about contradicting yourself. After a few black and white examples put forth by you, the subject becomes “murky” when conclusions don’t suit you.

You state: "Pit bulls don't have a "bite children in the face" breed trait, and yet BSL advocates act like it's an obvious truth.”

So the fact that pit bulls kill more children than all other breeds combined tells you NOTHING?

This is more than an obvious truth - it is a documented truth. And I’d argue the injuries from pit bulls are frequently more severe than a mere bite to the face, because pit bulls were bred for extreme and persistent violence. Bites to the face often result when children invade the space of dogs they are unfamiliar with, and these bites frequently come from small dogs and toy breeds. But let’s make practical distinctions about trauma; these injuries are far less important than the mutilating injuries inflicted by dogs with breed enhanced aggression and selection for sustained violence. I don’t recall an experience where a pit bull has merely bitten someone in the face, but when a victim has a massive flap avulsion, (like scalping,) circumferential degloving injuries of upper extremities, open thorax, crushing wounds of the throat and neck, why is the perpetrator always a pit bull or pit mix? Coincidence?

What’s more, my observations are supported by the clinical studies, i.e., “The most common breeds included pit bull terriers (50.9 percent), Rottweilers (8.9 percent), and mixed breeds of the two aforementioned breeds (6 percent).” (Note: This study observes frequency by breed, but in my opinion is a failure for not quantifying severity of injury by breed as well.)

The numbers are as black and white as the reality is grim. You’ll need to rely on the “logic” learned in a creative writing class to explain differently.

And what about attacks on other pets? How much collateral damage should the world tolerate for the bottom of society to own animals bred for violence? Every week the Craven Desires blog shows us the tip of the iceberg through the few stories the media bothered to report. It’s Friday, aka, Craven Desires ‘round-up’ day.

CyborgSuzy said...

Dude, we DO make some reasonable expectations based on race.

We expect a person of African decent to have darker skin and slightly higher than average risk of sickle-cell anemia. We expect a person of Northern European decent to have lighter skin and slightly higher risk of cistic fibrosis.

These kinds of neutral expectations are similar to the examples I gave above of not expecting a mini poodle to excel at herding cattle.

But the type of breed profiling the anti-pit bull people encourage is purely negative breedism. And it's based on myths, misinformation, and in some cases outright lies.

Using scary language like "OMG PIT BULLS KILLZ ALL THE CHILDRENS!! Doesn't change the facts. All the breed-based statistics out there (including the studies finding that breeds other than pit bulls have higher bite rates in some areas) have the same two flaws: the breed identification is by non-experts, and never taking into account the overall population of breeds in the area where attacks are happening.

"Pit bulls" aren't bred for "violence and aggression. These days, the majority, especially AKC registered ones, are bred for looks only. Even the ones actually bred to fight other dogs don't have this mythical "aggression to babies and the elderly" allele that you imply. If willingness to attack and kill other animals was actually the same as human aggression, no one would be able to own ANY type of terrier, lurcher, hound, or spitz.

DubV said...

Suzy, do you excuse dog-directed aggression as a breed trait? I don't. I think it is a horrible trait.

Because someone breeding pit bulls does not fight them, where do you think those genetic sequences go that were instilled in the past? I'll tell you. The genetic sequences do not change in a specific direction unless a force is applied to them, whether natural or artificial. Further, you spoke of an aggression allele. Do you realize that almost all traits of interest are not Mendelian but instead encoded by many genes which interact in a complex fashion?

As far as breedism, you seem to think it is fine to have expectations of a breed. However, as soon as that expectation has a negative connotation, you call foul.

This makes no sense. It is perfectly reasonable to think of tendencies (even very strong ones) within breeds and how they separate out. It is perfectly reasonable to have expectations of a breed of dog that was formed by sadists looking for a dog to fight to the death.

Dog breeds were created by humans practicing "eugenics" in a sense. Human races were not. It is not racism or breedism to generalize about dog breeds. The ability to do this is the entire point of having various breeds of dog.