Remember a couple months ago, when I freaked out at The Humane Society for speaking out against city animal shelters going no-kill? But then it turned out The Human Society wasnt really ‘The Humane Society’? It was really ‘The Humane Society of the United States’, an animal liberation group like PETA and ALF, cannibalizing The Humane Societies reputation?

Those goddamned bastards have done it again.

I was reading a lovely article about the rehabilitation of Michael Vicks dogs, and half way through I see this asshole quoted:

John Goodwin, a dogfighting expert with the Humane Society and a proponent of euthanizing fight dogs, is skeptical of the emerging reports of the Vick dog recoveries. Fighting is in their blood, he said. Retrievers retrieve. Shepherds herd. And fighting pit bulls fight. “The behavior is bred into them,” he said. “These groups are not rehabilitating these dogs. They’re training them to behave in a more socialized manner. But these pit bulls should never be left alone with other dogs, because you never know when that instinct to fight another dog is going to surface.”

John Goodwin is a ‘dog fighting expert’ kinda like Casey Luskin is an ‘evolutionary biology expert’. Hes actually a high school drop-out and an Animal Liberation Front member.

Aaaaand its awful strange that HSUS is ‘skeptical of the emerging reports of the Vick dog recoveries’, when the day after Vicks arrest they were soliciting donations for the ‘care’ of the dogs… even though they were in no way connected to caring for the dogs… because they wanted to kill them all…

lol *vomit*

Crappy reporting: Its not just for science anymore!

Comments

  1. #1 Optimus Primate
    July 7, 2008

    I’d like to chain John Goodwin to the same four-foot chain I found wrapped around Max’s neck five years ago and leave him out in the brutal Alabama heat for a few rain-free days.

  2. #2 J-Dog
    July 7, 2008

    Optimus Primate – You are beuing WAAAY too kind. I can think of way more interesting ways to deal with Mr. Goodwin. And best of all, most of them are now legal, *thanks to the Bush Administration*.

    *Never thought I’d ever write that in a sentence.

  3. #3 Bob O'H
    July 7, 2008

    I can think of way more interesting ways to deal with Mr. Goodwin.

    Remove an o from his name, and feed him to Hitler.

  4. #4 Paul Lundgren
    July 7, 2008

    I see you were Abbie on the Spot on this one. I just read about it on Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

    If I were the Humane Society, I’d sue these assholes for infringement. World Wildlife Fund successfully got their acronym back from the World Wrestling Federation a few years ago.

  5. #5 Capital Dan
    July 7, 2008

    These guys are as bad as Christians in how far they’ll go to lie and deceive for their “cause.”

    Anyway, Paul. As great as it would be to shut this bullshit group down, there’s really nobody for the Humane Society to sue in this group. They’re nothing more than a rough, unofficial group with the same disorganized format as the People’s Front of Judea.

    Maybe if they had a mailing address or something.

  6. #6 Jim Lippard
    July 7, 2008

    Capital Dan:

    HSUS has an office in D.C. I saw the building on my last visit there, last year, while walking to Mei Wah restaurant–it’s at 2100 L St., NW.

  7. #7 Bluegrass Geek
    July 7, 2008

    The Humane Society (the real one) needs to pull a World Wildlife Fund here, and sue the HSotUS to get the name changed.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    July 7, 2008

    So, are you saying that ‘pit bulls’ trained to fight can be converted to cuddly puppies, or not? What is the science on this (as in emperical data, not theory. The theory is not clear on this particular issue).

  9. #9 Paul Lundgren
    July 7, 2008

    Guys/Gals:

    They also have a website that comes up as the first thing in the browser address line when you type in “Humane Society.” That’s a project worth Google Bombing, IMO.

    http://www.hsus.org/

  10. #10 HSUS
    July 7, 2008

    Here is The Humane Society of the United States statement on the Vick dogs.

    ——
    The Michael Vick dogfighting case has opened America’s eyes to the grim fate of dogs bred and trained to kill each other in a pit. The behavior is shockingly widespread, with hundreds of thousands of people involved in some aspects of these appalling spectacles. Since the Vick case came to light, The HSUS has helped to pass nearly 15 new state laws and a new federal law to crack down on animal fighting and participated in dozens of major raids on people involved in these crimes. In the last year, we’ve seen arrests more than triple and thousands of fighting dogs confiscated.

    It’s great that the Vick dogs have a second chance and that there are efforts to socialize them and allow them to live (though we do urge extreme caution in allowing them to be around other animals.) Allowing these dogs to live is possible because the court ordered Vick to pay $1 million as a set-aside to provide care and retraining for the dogs.

    But this is an unlikely outcome for the other dogs seized in fighting raids. There are no sanctuaries for them, there are already tens of thousands of pit bulls slated for euthanasia in public and private shelters, and there are, of course, finite resources within the humane movement. HSUS is using its resources devoted to animal fighting to strike at the root of dogfighting, to arrest the kingpins in the industry, to train law enforcement to crackdown on this behavior in every community, and to intervene and ward young people away from this crime, in order to prevent hundreds of thousands of dogs from being placed in harms way in the first place.

  11. #11 Wesley R. Elsberry
    July 7, 2008

    The HSUS is very good at issuing press releases and injecting themselves into high profile issues.

    Which is why, when you give your limited charity dollars, to enrich the real animal welfare advocates at the 130-year-old American Humane Association. They aren’t as flashy as the HSUS johnny-come-lately animal-rights-radicals-posing-as-if-they-cared-about-animal-welfare, but that’s because the AHA doesn’t spend big bucks on ad campaigns. And they’ve been the folks that helped get the groundbreaking animal welfare laws on the books and who have helped organize the various local humane societies… the ones who prefer to place pets over killing them.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    July 7, 2008

    But this is an unlikely outcome for the other dogs seized in fighting raids. There are no sanctuaries for them, there are already tens of thousands of pit bulls slated for euthanasia in public and private shelters, and there are, of course, finite resources within the humane movement.

    Mr HSUS: This seems to be the key issue here, beyond education of the public and enforcement of the laws. It might be helpful to have some numbers here. How many pit bulls are in HSUS shelters right now? What is their chance of adoption? How long do they stay in your shelters until they are put to sleep?

  13. #13 ERV
    July 7, 2008

    Dear Mink Fucking Arsonist–

    Gee, thanks so much for deciding what kinds of dogs I can adopt. I agree, why would I adopt a fighter when I could adopt a nice pit? Why would I adopt a pit when I would adopt a labrador? Why would I adopt a black lab when yellows are so much prettier? Thank you so much for supporting the slaughter of animals *you* dont like, so I dont have to make any decisions.

    I really want *you* to be the one to make these decisions, what with iron-clad logic like ‘retrievers retrieve’ and ‘shepherds herd’ therefore ‘ALL fighters FIGHT! Its in der BLOOD!’ that wouldnt pass an intro logic course and certainly not a basic Google search into the history of pit bulls. Oh wait, thats right, youve never taken an intro logic course, or had to write a basic research paper. You dropped out of high school to pursue your dreams of using terrorism to get people to do what *you* want them to do.

    Fuck off.

    Yours in Christ,
    ERV and her vicious puppy.

  14. #14 Felstatsu
    July 7, 2008

    Seconding the “Fuck off.”

    I don’t presently have any pets, mainly due to the difficulty in getting the type of pet I want (domesticated fox, they exist, but are rare and hard to find, almost impossible in the USA), but the idea that even fighting dogs can’t be rehabilitated into nice pets by getting them into a good home is BS. The idea that such things are in the blood such as retrieving and whatnot is equally bull. Since I’ve got more to say than is appropriate in a comment on someone elses blog I’ve put up a post on my own. Never linked anything in a science blog comment so this will probably just come out as text to copy-paste for anyone interested.

    http://errantside.blogspot.com/2008/07/about-pets.html

    New blog and all so there’s no readers yet, whoever comes first will likely have the honor of being my first visitor.

  15. #15 Dylan
    July 7, 2008

    Eh, I don’t see how anyone can decide which dogs you can or can’t adopt right, but I would be all for pit bulls being outlawed. Depending on which study you look at, they’re responsible for between 25% and 42% of all fatal dog attacks, far more than any other single breed, and they’re responsible for more of the non-fatal attacks than any other breed as well. What’s more, in most cases of attack, there’s no reported history of aggression (just to cut off the “but my dog is as sweet as can be” retort). I don’t trust my neighbors to have them (though a good portion of the fatal attacks actually occur while the dogs are on a leash!), and they shouldn’t trust me with one. Owning a pit bull is like owning a loaded gun that can get out of the house and fire itself at people.

    I don’t know jack about HSUS, but I’d be all for banning the breeding, selling, and buying of pit bulls. That way, after a few years, no one will have to worry about euthanizing them, because there won’t be any.

  16. #16 ERV
    July 7, 2008

    Dylan– Approximately the same number of people were killed by lighting in the US as they were by dogs. So technically, by your own statistics, you are more than twice as likely to be struck by lightning than you are to be killed by a pit bull.

    Please try to keep your personal fears in perspective.

  17. #17 ERV
    July 7, 2008

    So I sent a nice email to the author of this article. I figured she just didnt know about the difference between HSUS and AHA.

    Oh no. She knew– but editors screwed with her article:

    Thanks so much for your message. I am troubled, because I made clear in my first draft the difference between HSUS and local humane organizations whose philosophies couldn’t be more different. I’m out of the country presently, but will look into what happened during the editing process. It’s a distinction that escapes many, and thus is important.
    Best Regards,
    Brigid Schulte
    Washington Post staff writer

  18. #18 MRW
    July 7, 2008

    Given that the Humane Society of the United States has operated under that name for over 50 years, and that “humane society” is used by organizations worldwide that are not all linked together, I strongly doubt that the lawsuit suggested by Paul and others would work.

  19. #19 Dr. Matthew
    July 7, 2008

    I worked at a veterinary clinic all through high school, and we once boarded a fighting pit bull for the city while charges were pending against his owner. He was growing on us, till he attempted to attack a dog brought in to board. The county removed him shortly thereafter.

    We were all a bit burnt by that event when a stray pit bull was brought in only a few months later (it was a small Kansas town, we veritably doubled as the pound at times). She was lean, young, peach and white in color. A unique, beautiful dog, but we were nervous b/c of our limited exposure to the “breed” temperament. Since we had a mandatory hold time for all strays (the vets I worked for had no qualms with putting strays to sleep), the staff placed an ad for a home without other dogs or children.

    The ad was responded to by a single male looking for a running companion. He loved her at first sight, and took her home. He called us a few weeks later and couldn’t thank us enough. He told us that she was already trained – she would fetch her leash when it was time for a run, seemed to know and respond to any command he could think of, and couldn’t get enough affection. She also loved company and doted on his friends.

    Among a group of folk that should’ve known better, it was a great reminder that violent dogs are a result of abusive human practices, not “breed.”

  20. #20 Optimus Primate
    July 7, 2008

    Dylan, what you either fail to realize or neglect to point out is that most people define “pit bull” as “any aggressive, square-headed, pointy-eared canine.” So your statistics are pretty much meaningless. Most people wouldn’t know a pit if it pissed in their Cheerios.

  21. #21 Reed
    July 7, 2008

    Dylan,

    Do you have any references to support those statistics ? One common problem with this kind of statistic is how “pit bull” is defined. Generally, any dog of roughly that size and build gets labeled a “pit bull”. Most of them aren’t.

    Can you spot the pit bull ?
    http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.html
    Are you advocating banning every dog that looks like this ? Or every dog large and strong enough to pose a lethal threat to a human (adult ? child ?) ? Or just the ones that are certified as a particular breed ?

    Of course, it’s little surprise that largish muscular dogs cause more fatal attacks than poodles. Especially when those dogs are popular with people who want “mean” dogs. These people typically don’t train their dogs well, and do abuse them. If they didn’t have pit bulls, they’d have rottweilers or ridgebacks or German shepherds, and whichever of those dogs was the most popular would dominate the attack statistics.

    And just out of curiosity, have you actually ever owned or interacted with these kinds of dogs for an extended period ? As someone who has, I find your characterization of them quite far from the mark.

  22. #22 The Chemist
    July 7, 2008

    I don’t have any pets because of my apartment-rockin’ lifestyle (I would get sea monkeys but they make too much noise and I hear they throw their feces) but I DO hate it when people give themselves similar sounding names to give themselves credibility they never deserved.

    PS-The sea monkey thing is a joke.

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    Sorry, most of you are full of shit.

    There is not any question that certain behaviors are well manifest in certain breeds (“in the blood” if you want, but that is a dumb way of putting it). Very few behaviors are unique to a bred … a mutt will retrieve, a cocker spaniel can be trained as an ‘attack dog’ … though there might be a few behaviors that are special to one breed or a few breeds. Pyr’s and St. Bernards collect largish things into piles sometimes (pyrs rarely). That’s sort of unique.

    The point being that the assertion we see above that the breed-specific behaviors is total BS is simply wrong. I doubt you could train a pyr to be a water retriver, and I doubt that a whippet would make a good herd protecting dog or even a herder. But a pyr will automatically become a certain kind of protecting dog, and a border collie will herd your car and your cat and your coat and your hat.

    On the other hand, simply saying it don’t make it so. It has been said again and again that “pit bulls” are killers, or will attack easily. Same has been said of german shepherd and dobermans. When I was a kid in USNY shepherds were the pit bull, the ghetto dog, the attack dog, the dog you mostly saw tied up and if someone saw one running around free they would call the dog catcher. (in those days most dogs roamed free.)

    The fact, to the extent that it is a fact, that pits have higher attack rates … and this does seem to be real … MIGHT be because they are prone via breeding, or it MIGHT be because they are trained or it MIGHT be a combination. The science that has to be done to figure this out is currently not done, as far as I know (if anyone knows of any specific studies on this I’d love to see them). At this point, asserting that it is true vs not true is, as is not supportable.

    Then there is the discussion of whether Pits actually exist or not. Of course they do. “Pit Bull” is not recognized as a specific breed, but is almost always one of several closely related breeds, often cross bred. But I still think you can say something coherent about them. It seems that most pits in the US are really staffordshire terriers (that is what they look like, anyway). The fact that pit is not classified by the AKC is is not really important … they list only about half of the known breeds anyway.

    All indications are that pits raised properly should be put in that very large category of dogs that might bite because they are bonded, loyal, protectors. As long as the dog can figure out who is an intruder vs. not, this should not be an issue. The fact is that most bites by pits follow the same pattern of other bites: Children from down the street on the dog’s own turf. This tells us something about dogs, and it tells us something about kids.

    In my view, there are breeds that you can fuck up a fair amount and the dog will not bite (nor will it hunt or do anything else you might want it to do). Other breeds of dogs, if you fuck up (in the way you raise it) will be either nippy or bity, or in some cases, just dangerous (somewhat to a lot). It seems that most people don’t know squat about how to raise a dog, and once they get the puppy, do not spend the effort they need to properly raise it. Many dogs ‘come out OK’ on their own, despite, not because of, their owners!

    And guess what. Do you have a dog? This probably means you! At least to some extent.

    Pits COULD be more dangerous in that they go to a very aggressive attack mode when they do switch into that mode, and/or are more likely to go into attack mode than other breeds. But I would guess that properly raised pits would be similar to any of the properly raised mastiffs or terriers. I would not want to be a stranger breaking into the house or threatening the family cat, but this is the category of dog I would prefer to have.

    But if the dog is not raised properly or is raised to be aggressive, that is a problem.

    I know of no data whatsoever that tells us what happens when a trained fighting dog, as an adult, is rehabbed. I asked for this data above but none were forthcoming.

    Still waiting. Looking forward to it. Or is this just another area of conjecture?

  24. #24 Optimus Primate
    July 8, 2008

    Greg, I can only personally tell you about the reformation of the Chow/Pit (staffy, specifically) mix I rescued five years back, who went from being vicious to exceedingly tolerant after a couple of years of love, devotion, and gentle discipline. But that’s anecdotal, I know, and probably of little interest to you.

    Hopefully when this study is a bit more mature, your opinion will change.

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    Thanks for the link. You understand that I do not have an opinion on rehab… what Im am saying is that I would need more information to have an opinion.

  26. #26 Felstatsu
    July 8, 2008

    Greg, google is your friend. I spent about 20 seconds yesterday and found a well done scientific study that shows that pits are not the most aggressive breed and that aggression can not be provably related to heritage.

    Just one interesting quote in the study I found and linked to in my own blog is this. “The American Temperament and Test Society was established 24 years ago as a resource
    to objectively evaluate the temperament of all breeds of dogs. This test is quite extensive,
    and not easy to pass. Dogs are faced with a variety of unusual and stressful situations
    such as being approached by strangers, approached by people with other dogs, being
    startled by a sudden noise, being placed on uneven footing and so forth. Over these 24
    years, the American Temperament and Test Society has tested over 22,000 dogs of 185
    different breeds (ATTS, 2003). The average pass rate of these breeds combined is 80.4%,
    while 82.7% of all American Pit bull Terriers have passed.”

    Basically American Pit Bull’s pass the temperament test at an above average rate, and from a sample of over 22,000 dogs from 185 different breeds it’s not like I’m taking some leap of faith and wrote my last post simply cause I want to call BS on someone else. There is real science related to this area and good scientific studies that have shown what this guy is saying is BS, go use google and you’ll find the studies too.

  27. #27 Felstatsu
    July 8, 2008

    And obviously since I referenced the link in my blog post I’d forget to provide the link to my blog.

    While it is linked above, it is kinda rude to mention something on a different site and not provide the proper link, so here it is again.

    http://errantside.blogspot.com/2008/07/about-pets.html

  28. #28 Bee
    July 8, 2008

    I think Greg Laden said a lot of sensible things here. It is nonsense to say there are *no* typical breed behaviours, as anyone who’s ever owned a Border Collie would know. Whether it is training, bad breeding, maybe some heritable neurological problem, or ignorant owners, pitties have the reputation of being unpredictable, and unfortunately they are strong dogs that can cause a lot of damage in short order. I’ve a friend who was brutally attacked by his apartment mate’s show pit bulls – these two dogs won prizes, and were very obedient, well socialized, affectionate dogs whenever I met them. Yet they pretty much ripped half the face off my friend before the owner could get them stopped. The ‘provoking’ behaviour was him walking in his own front door.

    But there’s also this: I think I’ve read that (in Canada) more bites are recorded from German Shepherds than *all* other breeds. Whether this reflects the numbers of GSs or something else, who knows. Nobody is calling for bans on GSs, of course, because their overall reputation is as an ideal protective family dog, and they seldom actually kill anyone.

    So I don’t know. I love dogs. I wouldn’t want to see any breed banned. But I think people who particularly love pit bulls need to stop being defensive and look hard at the breed, which has been seriously abused in North America, with large numbers of backyard breeders paying no attention to anything but looks and fertility – these are the pits that end up in shelters or forced to fight. I’m pretty sure British pitbulls (whatever they call them there) don’t have this reputation. Why is that?

  29. #29 Felstatsu
    July 8, 2008

    Bee, I am sorry to hear about your friend, but you do need to understand that it’s only anecdotal evidence, and that around the world the reputable studies are finding that pit’s are simply not the most aggressive dog out there. Breed simply is not the problem, and someone deciding that pits should be killed because fighting is in their breed is simply wrong and has every right to have BS called on it.

    Training on the other had has been shown to be the main factor in animal behavior. Look at carnivals, they’ve got trained lions there, and if a lion can be trained to not bite off someones head when it gets stuck in their mouth then there’s no reason to believe that any breed wouldn’t be able to be trained to be vicious and aggressive. The old dog new tricks issue is also wrong, so simply because it’s presently common for pits to be trained as fighters in America is no reason to summarily execute them once they’ve been rescued (that’s also a fun term to use in this case, we “rescue” them just so they can be executed). Instead they should be properly cared for and rehabilitated unless it becomes obvious that the damage to the dog is too deep to be healed with time.

    Truly though, Greg’s opening saying “Sorry, most of you are full of shit.” is something sensible and his opinion that certain behaviors manifest in certain breeds, while flying in the face of the evidence, must surely be right because it sounds good. I mean, never mind that the scientific evidence is on the side against hereditary behavior/aggression, we’ve got Greg saying we’re full of shit and one story of a person who knows someone who was badly attacked by a pit. I still don’t mean to make light of what happened, but it’s not exactly the hard evidence required to disprove studies that have taken 20+ years and included over 22,000 dogs. Sure it may sound sensible at first glance without having done some studying, but once some research is done the simple fact is that Greg is just plain wrong with pretty much most of his post.

  30. #30 Felstatsu
    July 8, 2008

    Oh, I did kind of forget to address your final question Bee. In regards to Pit’s having a reputation as a violent attack dog in America, do you suppose that the sensationalist media reporting serious dog attacks as being done by pits even when they were not done by any of the breeds that are grouped into the pit bull generalization would at all affect the general population? This type of reporting, who knows how it started, likely some reporter who didn’t like pits for whatever reason didn’t get a good look at the real dog responsible (if any look at all) and figured reporting it as a pit would make for a good story which story was then picked up by other news outlets. This reporting that then likely led some dog fighter trainers and drug lords to buy these “killer dogs” and train them to be killers, which then led to there being a real increase in aggressive pits, not because of breed, but because they were trained that way. Next thing people know there are real pit attacks on people and the original report that used pit bulls as a scapegoat because the reported didn’t care enough about facts is validated. Just one possibility, but it’s already been shown that the media just cares about selling a story, facts come in as a distant second at best, and investigations have found that media reports of attacks by pits include serious attacks by non-pit breeds as well.

    There are plenty of ways that we could’ve taken to get to this place and I don’t know which one we took. All I know is that people have found that not all dog attacks the media reports as pit bull attacks are actually done by any type of pit bull, and that this misrepresentation has likely led a great deal to the idea that pits are natural born killers since there’s “so many attacks on people by pits.”

  31. #31 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    Felstatsu

    Yea, I know about that test. Investigate further. It is utterly bogus. Amazingly so, in fact.

    A golden retreiver taking the test: A stranger with a funny scary mask lunges at the dog and its owner. The dog is supposed to sit there and do nothing, then it passes the test.

    A pit bull taking the test: A stranger with a funny scary mask lunges at the dog and its owner. The dog is supposed to take down the attacker, then it passes the test.

    No shit. Google is your friend. To me it is a tool to use carefully!!!! (hey, don’t feel bad, I got fooled the first time on that one too)

    I agree with you, though, that training is a big factor. Saying that it is the main factor (period) is wrong, because it depends on what we are training the dog to do/not do. BUt it is a big factor.

    Greg’s opening saying “Sorry, most of you are full of shit.” is something sensible and his opinion that certain behaviors manifest in certain breeds, while flying in the face of the evidence, must surely be right because it sounds good.

    Sorry about that. I was just following our hosts’ lead and being an asshole. Fuck you all. But really I don’t mean that.

    But yes, I do want to see real studies, real evidence, and real science. The study you cite by Watson is pretty much bogus in a number of ways. Do you have any otehr papers? I am hungry for more references. Lets see what you’ve got!

  32. #32 ERV
    July 8, 2008

    Greg– I dont know who told you that, but the ATTS is recognized by the AKC, and there is an ‘official’ AKC temperament test that a dog must pass to be awarded a ‘good citizen’ certificate (dogs can then go on to be therapy dogs, visit hospitals, etc).

    Arnie has taken these (I was extremely worried when I first adopted a pit bull). The tests involved reacting appropriately when a stranger walked by, stranger walking by cheerfully, a 3 year old approaching slowly, a 3 year old child running by screeching, sit-stays, down-stays, reactions to medical equipment (crutches, wheel chairs), and reactions to loud noises. Arnie passed all of them except the sit/down-stays because the second I wasnt holding him, he wanted to go play with the other dogs.

    At no time did anyone scare Arnie with a mask on, and at no time was he rewarded for ‘taking down the attacker’.

    Now, I can train Arnie to be a protection dog. He can go through the same training as police dogs. But even then, they are not rewarded for attacking unless they receive the command to do so.

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    Erv, I based my comments on the description of the test, which does in fact describe the masked stranger, etc. It does take more digging than just a little to get to the breed-specific descriptions (to which I refer). But it is there.

    I exaggerate slightly…. I don’t think the dog is expected to actually take the attacker down, and the dog is leashed.

    I don’t know who/what Arnie is, but I’m guessing dog. What breed?

    The web site is here:

    http://www.atts.org/index.html

  34. #34 AtheistAcolyte
    July 8, 2008

    Dylan (#15)-

    though a good portion of the fatal attacks actually occur while the dogs are on a leash!

    From the American Humane Association website:

    # At least 25 different breeds of dogs have been involved in the 238 dog bite-related fatalities in the United States. (from 1979 – 1998; also only the cases where breed information is available)
    # Pit bulls and rottweilers account for over half of these deaths.
    # 24% of human deaths involve unrestrained dogs off of their owners’ property.
    # 58% of human deaths involved unrestrained dogs on their owners’ property.

    From the study analyzing dog bite fatalities, 17% of fatalities happened with restrained dogs ON the owner’s property, and <1% with restrained dogs OFF the owner’s property; this implies leashed dogs, being under the owner’s supervision, are safer than any other.

    There are two further additional notes – the label “Pit bull type” is incredibly misleading. There are actually several breeds which fall under this label (for instance, see the actual legal definition of a “Pit Bull” in Ohio), which displays the potential for misreporting in these cases. One would, in fact, expect the “catch-all” label to contain more incidents than a specific breed name, which requires some considerable familiarity with dog breeds to determine.

    Second, the “pit bull type” dog accounted for 76 deaths out of the 238, or ~32%. But when you look at the yearly data, it tells an even more interesting story. From 1979-1990, Rottweilers accounted for some 8 deaths. In the same time period, “pit bull types” accounted for 54. From 1991-1998, the heyday of Rottie popularity, Rottweilers killed 37, and “pit bull types” killed 22. The breeds which make up the “pit bull type” are very common, with some estimates ranging from 5 to 10 million in the United States. A person is much more likely to be killed by a caretaker or loved one than by a pit bull.

    To me, this issue of outlawing specific dogs seen as dangerous is as useless as abstinence-only education. There are incredibly varied individual personalities within a breed, and each personality is affected by treatment and training. We should mandate obedience and training classes before we outlaw certain breeds.

    On another note, this July 4th, the wife and I were targeted by local police because we had our pit with us at a Fourth of July celebration (during the day, we went home for the fireworks). I intend to complain to the police department, but would like to compile a binder of facts and research on pit bulls to give them to accompany the complaint. I would like to turn this whole nasty event into a positive, educational moment for the officer in question. Abbie (or anyone else for that matter), do you have any suggestions on content for such an information packet?

  35. #35 ERV
    July 8, 2008

    LOL! Oh yeah! He failed the ‘supervised separation‘ portion too. I blocked that one out of memory because it was so awful– Arnie has horrible separation anxiety so he screams bloody murder when I leave him. Hes a 70 lb pit bull and he cries/screams (LOUD) like a baby when I leave him with someone else for 30 seconds. He also tried to drag the tester across the armory to chase after me. Yeah that portion of the AKC test he failed miserably LOL!

  36. #36 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    From the test description:

    “Subtest 10: Aggression
    The weird stranger advances to within 18 feet of the stationary handler in an aggressive manner.
    The purpose of this subtest is to evaluate the dog’s protective instincts.

    The stranger is never closer than 10 feet from the dog. The handler’s 2 foot arm and the 6′ lead is added in for a total of 18 feet. Aggression here is checked against the breed standard and the dog’s training. A schutzhund trained dog lunging at the stranger is allowed, but if an untrained Siberian husky does the same, it may fail.”

  37. #37 ERV
    July 8, 2008

    Greg– Umm…….. LOL!

    And, ‘schutzhund’ is what I was referring to with police dog training. ‘Schutzhund’ training is what you would do if you wanted your dog to be your bodyguard. It is not a breed, nor would a pit dog qualify as a ‘schutzhund’ trained animal.

  38. #38 AtheistAcolyte
    July 8, 2008

    Greg-

    I looked over the test description:

    Self Protective/Aggressive Behavior
    Objective: These tests collectively evaluate the dog’s capacity to recognize an unusual situation, its threshold to provocation, its protective instincts, and its propensity to realize when the situation becomes a threat.

    Subtest 8: Non-Threatening
    The handler/dog team stops at the designated marker. A weirdly-dressed stranger crosses the path 38 feet in front of the team.
    The purpose of this subtest is to test the dog’s alertness to an unusual situation.

    Subtest 9: Threatening
    The weird stranger advances 10 feet towards the stationary handler in a threatening manner.
    The purpose of this subtest is to evaluate the dog’s ability to recognize when an unusual situation turns into a provocation.

    Subtest 10: Aggression
    The weird stranger advances to within 18 feet of the stationary handler in an aggressive manner.
    The purpose of this subtest is to evaluate the dog’s protective instincts.

    The stranger is never closer than 10 feet from the dog. The handler’s 2 foot arm and the 6′ lead is added in for a total of 18 feet. Aggression here is checked against the breed standard and the dog’s training. A schutzhund trained dog lunging at the stranger is allowed, but if an untrained Siberian husky [a non-guard dog] does the same, it may fail.

    Pit bulls have protective instincts, but any dog displaying unprovoked aggression is failed. Just because pit bulls are naturally more protective than Goldens doesn’t make it a bullshit test. You shouldn’t use a completely different breed’s temperament to judge a dog.

  39. #39 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    Right, and “pit bull” is not a breed either. I’m simply not prepared to buy into the assertion that “pit bulls” are anything (aggressive or not) for any reason (innate or trained) given any of the ‘data’ … By the way, most people are quite surprised to find out that the TT is breed specific as to whether aggression is expected or not. Most people I’ve spoken with about this assume that “passing the TT” = the dog is gentle.

    I also find it ironic that a large contingent in this disscussion don’t want any innate behaviors … no ‘blaming the breed’ but are willing to cite a “temperament” test.

    Temperament is that part of an individuals’ personality that is innate … genetic … born with … in the blood. It makes me laugh.

    The truth is that this is actually a very complex problem being wrestled with using powerful emotions, strong alliances, and a whole big pile of stupidity.

    If it is shown that some breeds are more aggressive (define aggressive of course) then does that mean that we take the most aggressive breeds and outlaw them? What if the most aggressive breeds are not that aggressive? On the other hand, all dogs are wolves. They eat people now and then. Maybe they should all be banished.

    But what we see often is people WANTING the world to be a certain way, and then BELIEVING what helps that ‘happen.’

    Hey, if there are some breeds that are easily trained to be aggressive and others not, then those in the former category need to be raised in a way in which the owner does not accidentally train the dog to eat the neighbor’s children.

    To be honest with you, in my view, as long as the pit bull owning community is going to plunge itself into deep denial of dog-realty (regardless of the actual facts, at present unknown) then pit bulls should be banned. Banned, I say!

    Not because the dogs are dangerous but because the owners are fanatics. Too bad for the owners who are not fanatics.

    I strongly suspect that pit bulls (to the extent that we can define them) are innately more potentially aggressive than the average dog. Most protector breeds are potentially agressive but highly repressed. Thus, they can kill a bear but are not likely to kill the baby. Or the cat. But maybe pits have been bred to remove some of this repression. I suggest this as a hypothesis … not an observation or a fact. The reason I suggest it is that they are pit bulls. Pit means the dog fighting pit. They are supposed to be fighing dogs, so that they are innately potentially more aggressive is a distinct possibility.

    On the other hand, Shepherds and Dobermans are also bred to be aggressive (in the case of the latter, to be a truly one man dog … in the old days, if the police man who had the particular doberman died or retired, the dog was routinely put down). But we know from vast experience that dobermans and shepherds that are not abused or raised badly, and not raised to be aggressive, show very little aggression and have few problems. Pits are a newer phenomenon. I don’t know that we know that yet.

    At the same time, how hard can it be to raise a pit to be a bunny? Well, I suspect not hard. But, if there is an innate factor in behavior … which is true for all dogs for some behaviors … and the owners simply deny that this is true, then I for one am not prepared to trust that owner to raise a dog properly.

    And finally, I totally agree with the proposition (by the “don’t illegalize a breed” lobby that it is the owner, not the dog, that is the problem. But I see this sort of denial and ignorance as part of the problem, not a route to the solution.

  40. #40 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    AtheistAcolyte :

    It is not really a bullshit test, not. But seriously, very few people realize, as I say in the above comment, that “passed the temperament test” can mean “showed aggression” Most people think that passing the TT with flying colors is “the dog was a bunny”

    That is the bullshit part.

  41. #41 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    Never mind that second not. It was not a negation. I don’t know what it is. Just pretend it is not there.

  42. #42 ERV
    July 8, 2008

    AtheistAcolyte– Honestly, its hard for me to write about this topic. If Dr. Arsonist had found Arnie that cold winter day, my best friend on the planet would be dead. I cant deal with that in a rational manner (though Im getting better).

    I can pull up some webpages I have bookmarked at home– but my favorite way of dealing with pit bull witch hunts is to put that fear into perspective, like I did earlier.

    I can put up my links later, but there were 32 people killed by dogs in 2007. Lets assume 50% of those were pits (and ignore circumstances where the homicide was not violent, ie a dog eating a baby dumped in a garbage can) so that makes 16 people, in the US, who were killed by pit bulls.

    An average of 42-66 people are killed every year in the US by lightning.

    So… You are at least twice as likely (more like 4 times as likely) to be struck by lighting, as you are to be killed by a pit bull.

    Fear of pit bulls, as a breed, is not a rational fear.

  43. #43 ERV
    July 8, 2008

    Greg– ‘Schutzhund’ is not a breed any more than ‘obedience’ is a breed. ‘Schutzhund’ is a training style, like karate for dogs.

    You arent understanding this, thus you are calling the test bullshit, when it is not. Arnie showing aggression during this test is not acceptable. Arnie post-schutzhund training, showing aggression is acceptable because he has been trained to be a bodyguard.

  44. #44 AtheistAcolyte
    July 8, 2008

    Greg-

    But we know from vast experience that dobermans and shepherds that are not abused or raised badly, and not raised to be aggressive, show very little aggression and have few problems. Pits are a newer phenomenon. I don’t know that we know that yet.

    This is what makes me think you have no idea what you’re talking about. Pits have been in the United States since the mid-1800s (Sgt. Stubby, anyone?) and Doberman Pinschers have only been bred (starting in Germany) since the 1890s. So, what “vast experience” exactly is it that makes German Sheps and Dobermans when raised well, not mistreated and trained will not be dangerous?

    Put another way, what evidence will change your mind? Perhaps the stories of dogs that were trained to fight being rehabilitated, or the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of responsible pit bull owners who never have an aggression problem with their dogs?

    Or perhaps a new study by Dr. James Serpell, through interviews of 6,000 dog owners:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1032531/Why-sausage-dogs-really-just-legged-fiends.html

  45. #45 AtheistAcolyte
    July 8, 2008

    It is not really a bullshit test, not. But seriously, very few people realize, as I say in the above comment, that “passed the temperament test” can mean “showed aggression” Most people think that passing the TT with flying colors is “the dog was a bunny”

    That is the bullshit part.

    That’s a people problem, not a dog problem. A dog cannot pass the test if it displays unprovoked aggression. And with a higher-than-average passing rate over >500 breed tests, I’d say that’s indicates a distinct disconnect between mass public opinion and simple fact.

  46. #46 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    AtheistAcolyte

    My point, obviously not clearly made: For decades, GS and Dob’s have been kept as bunny-dog pets. I don’t think that is the case with pits.

    Put another way, what evidence will change your mind?

    Change my mind about what? I have not formed an opinion about this. You may be presuming too much about what I think and about what I know.

    Thanks for the mention of the study. Have you read it, or only the newspaper account of it? Do you have a copy of it?

  47. #47 AtheistAcolyte
    July 8, 2008

    The abstract can be found through ScienceDirect:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleListURL&_method=list&_ArticleListID=764295581&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=15d60e5b6eac111e56ad1aa40d8fe8d6
    It seems to be in press at the moment.

    What do you mean by “bunny dog pets”? Family pets (small children in the family)? If so, pit bull terriers have been adopted by regular families in the U.S. since the 19th century. Again, approximately since the Doberman has been bred.

    Change my mind about what? I have not formed an opinion about this. You may be presuming too much about what I think and about what I know.

    But we know from vast experience that dobermans and shepherds that are not abused or raised badly, and not raised to be aggressive, show very little aggression and have few problems. Pits are a newer phenomenon. I don’t know that we know that yet.

    What evidence would convince you that Pit Bulls that are not abused or raised badly, and not raised to be aggressive, show very little aggression and have few problems?

    The other side must be asked as well, since you claim to have no opinion:
    What evidence would convince you that Pit Bulls that are not abused or raised badly, and not raised to be aggressive, still show a lot of aggression and have many problems?

    I submit my own dog as a datum for the former, I’m sure Abbie would present hers as well, and shelters can be consulted for more.

  48. #48 AtheistAcolyte
    July 8, 2008

    Here’s another interesting analysis of standardized behavioral testing on targeted breeds and Golden Retrievers:

    Between 2000 and 2002, legislation in Lower Saxony insinuated a special dangerousness of certain dog breeds, and controls were imposed on them. Exemption was only possible if the dogs passed a standardized temperament test. In a previous study, test results of 415 dogs belonging to breeds affected by the legislation were analyzed. Ninety-five percent of the dogs showed no indication of disturbed aggressive communication or aggressive behavior in inappropriate situations. Because a control group was not available at that time, these results referred to a comparison between the affected breeds. In this study, golden retrievers were tested and used as control group. Seventy golden retrievers were tested in the temperament test. The order of testing was: veterinary examination, learning test, situations of dog�human-, dog�environment-, and dog�dog-contact, and obedience. Levels of escalation in aggressive behavior were scored using a scale of 1�7. A total of 58.57% of the dogs did not show aggressive behavior (Scale 1). Forty percent displayed aggressive behavior referring to Scale 2, and 1.43% showed aggressive behavior referring to Scale 5. A total of 98.57% of the dogs reacted appropriately, and 1.43% displayed aggressive behavior in inappropriate situations. In the previous study, 95% of the animals reacted appropriately, whereas 5% displayed excessive aggressive communication or aggressive behavior in inappropriate situations. Comparing the results of golden retrievers and breeds affected by the legislation, no significant difference was found. A scientific basis for breed specific lists does not exist. Therefore, legislation in Lower Saxony was changed, and breed lists were withdrawn.

    Stefanie A. Ott, Esther Schalke, Amelie M. von Gaertner, Hansjoachim Hackbarth, Is there a difference? Comparison of golden retrievers and dogs affected by breed-specific legislation regarding aggressive behavior, Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, Volume 3, Issue 3, May-June 2008, Pages 134-140

  49. #49 Bee
    July 8, 2008

    Fetstatsu at 29 and 30

    I think you have picked bits of my post to react to and ignored the main thrust.

    I am aware that my friend’s story is an anecdote (and of the value of anecdotes), but you must admit it is the kind of anecdote one hears specifically in North America. I’m an older person, yet in my entire life around hundreds of dogs, I have never seen another such appalling injury caused by a dog, and I’ve seen plenty of dog bites. And on that note, you seem to have missed my referral to German Shepherds (in Canada) being the most common biters – not pitties.

    Your trained lion comparison is unfortunate, I think, since it’s a fact that every now and then some expert trainer is mauled or killed by trained lions, tigers and elephants. But of course training is tremendously important, otherwise no lion tamer would ever have got his head out of a lion’s mouth once. And so is dog training important.

    I never said *breed* was the problem, but that possibly *breeding* is. Professional breeders of dogs do take behaviour and temperament into consideration when planning a line, because it *is* to some extent genetically influenced. People have been breeding dogs for a very long time to be good at specific tasks, and that isn’t just a physical thing. A completely untrained Border Collie will attempt to herd anything that moves. A Cocker Spaniel won’t – unless it is trained to do so. This is not ‘flying in the face of evidence’. This is commonly known evidence. I sincerely don’t understand why pittie defenders don’t want to investigate NA breeding at least to find out if this *is* part of the problem (and I’m perfectly aware that pitties are misidentified frequently). Because blaming the media for exaggerations and sensationalism isn’t going to help pitbulls. Finding out why pitbulls in other countries don’t have this reputation might be useful.

    I have no desire to see rescued fighting dogs euthanized if they can be saved. I would like to see pittie owners get over being defensive (difficult as that is when you love your dog) and work on coming up with better (maybe even proactive) responses than ‘sensationalist media’ and denial of the very existence of breed traits. The dog-fighting needs to stop. The backyard breeding of underfed, messed up dogs needs to stop.

    And really, I hope all of you that own pitties have long happy peaceful relationships with your pets.

  50. #50 AtheistAcolyte
    July 8, 2008

    Bee –

    I don’t know how you would investigate North American breeders for malicious intent to breed super-aggressive dogs. I absolutely support investigating dog-fighting kennels and breeders. However, I think money and legislative power would be better spent educating the public in how to train and handle a dog (any dog, not just mine). I also support laws which place responsibility for the dog on the owner (several states have what’s called the “one bite law”, which is simply ridiculous).

    But still, just because a trait is hereditary doesn’t mean it’s highly hereditary. For example, a purebred Pit Bull Terrier is the end result of hundreds of years of human breeding for aggression (first in bull baiting, then in pit fighting). Since purebred Pit Bull Terriers are not vicious killing machines, one can then deduce that aggression is not as highly heritable as, say, eye color or coat thickness.

    Quoting Dr. Cornelia Wagner:

    In most cases, dogs that have been selected for high levels of aggression are raised in a very aggression-stimulating environment. Unfortunately, the blame for aggressive behavior in these dogs is usually solely placed on their genetic make-up, while environmental factors are often ignored. Environmental and learning effects however, are always superimposed upon genetic influences. Thus, early isolation and neglect as pups (e.g., in so-called ‘puppy mills’), training to attack other dogs and humans, and a low-stimulus environment with inappropriate exercise are factors that ‘create’ dogs with social deficits (i.e., lack of appropriate interdog communication) which have an unstable position in their group (unstable dog-owner relationship), and are hard to influence. Aggression in these dogs is rather a symptom of a behavioral disorder than a regulative species-specific behavior.

  51. #51 Nomen Nescio
    July 8, 2008

    For decades, GS and Dob’s have been kept as bunny-dog pets. I don’t think that is the case with pits.

    Petey would disagree.

    pit bulls have been used as fighting dogs probably since the breed was created, but it’s only fairly recently that that’s been (perceived as) their only use. the breed, insofar as it is a breed, has always been suitable as a family pet, and was widely considered as such until quite recently.

    from the original article:

    these pit bulls should never be left alone with other dogs, because you never know when that instinct to fight another dog is going to surface.

    well, duh. no dog should ever be left unsupervised with any other (strange to them) dogs, because any dog can attack another dog not a member of its own pack, to humans seemingly at random. this is part of their pack behavior and is the case for any breed.

  52. #52 Reed
    July 8, 2008

    Greg:
    Actually, pit type breeds have been fairly popular pets dating at least back to the ’30s. Obviously this is subject to the whims of fashion, but there is significant, longstanding experience with them as family pets. People have been keeping and breeding these dogs for things other than fighting for a long time.

    Aside from that, I agree with you. There’s no doubt that behavioral characteristics can be selected for. This should be blatantly obvious to anyone who has spent any time with various breeds of domesticated mammal… or anyone who accepts evolution!

    The thing is, BSL takes some vague physical characteristics as a proxy for behavior. This is problematic in a number of ways:
    1) It ignores the other significant factors in behavior.
    2) It means that your ability to keep a pet depends on some vague, ill defined standard. You may say you know a “pit bull” type when you see it, but chances are that very few people will agree on the border cases.
    3) It neglects the fact that there are multiple different breeds with similar looks, which have not necessarily been bred for the same temperament.
    4) It attacks the symptom. Gregs example of shepherds being the “ghetto dog” perfectly illustrates this. If you ban “pit bull” type dogs, fashion among that set will move on. I’d wager that 10 years after a successful “pit bull” ban, dog attack statistics are pretty much the same, with some other breed on top.

  53. #53 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    Again, approximately since the Doberman has been bred.

    There are those that would tell you that the breed did not exist then. Or, indeed, that it does not exist now. But if you are correct about this, that is interesting and very relevant. It also underscores my point.

  54. #54 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    What evidence would convince you that Pit Bulls that are not abused or raised badly, and not raised to be aggressive, show very little aggression and have few problems?

    None whatsoever. This is my starting assumption.

  55. #55 AtheistAcolyte
    July 8, 2008

    There are those that would tell you that the breed did not exist then. Or, indeed, that it does not exist now. But if you are correct about this, that is interesting and very relevant. It also underscores my point.

    In 1898, C.Z. Bennett founded the United Kennel Club (UKC) and assigned his pet American Pit Bull Terrier UKC registration number 1. It was the first kennel club to recognize APBTs. In 1936, the AKC accepted APBTs under the breed name of American Staffordshire Terrier, allowing many to double-register their dog as APBT (UKC) / AmStaff (AKC). (Petey the Pup was the first dual-registered)

    In 1890, Karl Dobermann first bred the Doberman, and the breed was named in his honor in 1894 after his death.

    So, the breed has been around at least as long as the Doberman, and very likely longer.

    What evidence would convince you that Pit Bulls that are not abused or raised badly, and not raised to be aggressive, show very little aggression and have few problems?

    None whatsoever. This is my starting assumption.

    If this is the starting assumption, then what is to be proven? And what is the reason for saying most people commenting here are full of shit? We’ve bounced from topic to topic long enough to get lost.

    Basically, it’s this: Pit Bulls as a breed are undeserving of the mass public opinion against them.

    To inject a bit of emotion into this, I’m fucking tired of people glaring at my dog, crossing the street to avoid walking past her, and cops coming up to me asking me to consider leaving a public place because I have a pit bull. I’m tired of people pulling their hand back from petting her and all but running away when I tell them she’s a pit bull. She doesn’t deserve that. She deserves the love and care and attention that any maladjusted yippy little shit of a chihuahua gets just because it’s pocket-sized. No more glares. No more prejudice. She didn’t do anything to deserve it.

  56. #56 Greg Laden
    July 8, 2008

    This would be an example of bullshit:

    “…the idea that even fighting dogs can’t be rehabilitated into nice pets by getting them into a good home is BS. The idea that such things are in the blood such as retrieving and whatnot is equally bull.”

    The first part is perhaps true, but maybe not, and that is why I asked about it (which led to various incorrect assumptions about what I think/know/don’t know). The second part is absurd.

    On the other side, we have those people who don’t get that the “yippy little shit of a chihuahua” is actually more likely to bite them than an your American Staff. Terrier. Which is probably what you should call it when people ask.

    Or call it a “staffie” … that would work.

  57. #57 Dave Gill
    July 9, 2008

    By the way, they had a HSUS rep on NPR’s “Fresh Air” yesterday talking about pets and the housing crisis.

    Maybe more folks should leave them a note telling them to do their homework…. (I did)

  58. #58 Felstatsu
    July 9, 2008

    Greg, do tell how and why my view that fighting being in the blood as bull is “absurd” because I really don’t see it your way at all.

    You came here, said most of us were full of shit, offered your own “facts” without offering anything more than you saying they’re facts, and now continue to say that those of us who have spent time looking for the information are still bullshitting with little no evidence showing, just the appearance that we must be wrong because what we’re saying doesn’t seem to fit into your world view.

    You’ve called the study bull based on your own interpretation of what happens in it, yet the accounts from people who have actually gone through the temperament test disagree with what you say happens. I’m a lot more inclined to believe people who have gone through it that you who show up saying we’re wrong with nothing to back up your side.

    Frankly though, your downright strange comments, talking about not having views and all after saying people are full of shit is rather confusing. Are you trying some sort of modified Chewbacca defense?

    The best I can gather from your comments it that most of the time what you’re saying can be reduced to “I think you guys are full of it and your studies are wrong because they don’t say what I think they should say.”

    Bee, what point is there to comment on the GS topic you bring up? There really isn’t even enough information there to actually discuss it, just some speculation that it might be caused by more people owning them without any numbers supporting this. What am I supposed to say about it? Now, when a study takes the same or close numbers of the various breeds involved in it and shows higher numbers of attack in xyz breed it’s worth commenting on.

    Shall I also comment on why pit owners might be defensive of pits? Could it be because studies that are well done and have no visible sign of bias or errors are called bull when the study finds some other breed is more aggressive and that when a poorly done study with obvious errors finds pits are the most vicious bloodthirsty thing this side of the Monty Python bunny, that study gets hailed as real science and touted around as much as possible by the media? Could it be because serious dog attacks are attributed to pits by the media even when it wasn’t done by a pit? Is that enough coverage of why they might be defensive now?

    The study I linked did look at genetics and found no real discernible differences between the nice and the vicious dogs. I sort of assumed that someone wanting to discuss this would’ve at least bothered to read the evidence provided, even if just to find something better that shows it is wrong. So far all that’s come up is Greg calling it garbage without anything supporting his dismissal of it. Without evidence to the contrary I’m more inclined to believe that the evidence you quote is better attributed to people engaging in nurture that causes the “expected” traits to come up in breeds. There will still be aggressive dogs in litters from pairs that were chosen for their passiveness, and there will be passive dogs in litters from supposedly aggressive pairings. I think it’s more determined by how the parents act and how the trainers act.

    For example of how such nurture could happen without us even intending it, what happens when a dog viewed for it’s guard dog qualities goes chasing after squirrels? It’s generally told “Good boy” or whatever else that’s similar. Now what happens when a poodle does the same thing? Generally it gets discouraged from such actions. These will alter the dogs behavior during its youth and we’re really not thinking about how it would affect the dog, we’re just thinking about how a nice refined poodle shouldn’t be romping about in the mud chasing after rodents. In fighting pit breeding it’s likely that the passive dogs are killed outright once their personality shows to avoid it lowering the aggression of the other dogs as they are forced to endure treatment designed to bring out the most possible aggression in a dog. I think breed wouldn’t really matter in situations like this, and that any dog breed would become just as vicious going through such treatment.

    AA, even though I don’t have any pets, enough of my friends do and it ticks me off just as much to see people avoid a dog on the street because of stereotypes, knowing how friendly the dog really is.

  59. #59 Greg Laden
    July 9, 2008

    Felstatsu,

    You are making an explicit statement about the genetics of dog behavior that happens to match up nicely with your own view points and how you want your dog to be treated. Understandable, but not very scientific.

    I think you are being a little defensive.

  60. #60 Felstatsu
    July 9, 2008

    Greg, what is the problem with your reading comprehension. In most of my posts here I have explicitly mentioned I have no pets at present. I also do not have any plans on getting any in the near future. I am also not particularly interesting in ever having a dog for a pet as I’m more interested in having a cat. Beyond all of that, my viewpoint is based off of the studies I found by searching. These studies are the ones that you have said are worthless, yet even now you provide absolutely no evidence as to why they are wrong at all other than your own view points.

    I based my statements on the science I could locate and was already prepared to admit that genetics could have an effect on dog behavior. That was actually my initial stance until I was unable to find studies supporting such a stance that were not disproved elsewhere. I made my “explicit statement” based on the information I have been able to find that wasn’t discredited by anything else I found. I also changed my stance on behavioral genetics based on what I found, and this is now somehow “not very scientific” because?

    Maybe I am a little defensive right now, but after doing the work to research this topic and be able to discuss it, being called “full of shit” repeatedly by someone who has shown no sign of having any relevant knowledge, nor shows any sign of having researched what he’s talking about at all frankly makes me a little angry. The fact that you also continue to make posts that give me no reason to believe you’ll ever bother educating yourself on this topic simply because you don’t want to encounter anything that opposes your world view on this subject irks me even more. Now, do you want to post some evidence so I’ll at least have a very small reason to consider your side any more, or do you want to just I’m full of it/wrong/whatever else yet again and claim I have nothing scientific while providing absolutely nothing that supports your stance?

  61. #61 Nomen Nescio
    July 9, 2008

    Or call it a “staffie” … that would work.

    work towards what goal?

    most people can’t identify pitbulls on sight; cf. any “spot the pitbull” photo-quiz website. calling a pitbull a pomeranian might fool such folk, but won’t reduce any prejudices they might have against the breed one iota. so doing that would be acting deceitfully to no long term good.

    lots of people tend to over-identify non-pitbull dogs as pitbulls, for a number of reasons. cf. several of those same photo-quiz web sites, that use photos of dogs that have been incorrectly named pitbulls (or just plain “dangerous”, “aggressive”, etcetera). such folk are unlikely to be swayed by protestations that “oh no, it’s an amstaff!” and are likely to be upset by the perceived duplicity as well. you’d be thought to have something to hide (is your dog so dangerous, that you have to lie about its breed?) to no long term good.

    so why call a pitbull anything but a pitbull? at best you’d be avoiding one immediate social confrontation, at the cost of losing whatever teachable moment might have lurked in there, and you’d be perpetuating prejudices and fears against your dog. it’s a long-term losing proposition that gradually, slowly, makes the situation worse.

  62. #62 DrugMonkey
    July 14, 2008

    ERV, nope, no sale on the lightning comparo. no way, no how. last I checked, teh lightningz were not a completely superfluous personal lifestyle choice with nonzero risk inflicted on fellow citizens. You gotta come up with some examples that involve entirely optional personal preference behaviors. like boating or skiing or something like that.

    and all this dancing about what qualifies as a pit, whether today’s pit is the old Dobie, is the 1970’s Shep….complete and utter rubbish. totally beside the point. why should a modern civil society permit one person to own dogs that are capable of killing another human at all is the proper starting point. if we say yes, this lifestyle choice is protected, no matter the nonzero risk to other humans, well, the whinging over what percentage risk can be attributed to what alleged breed is a bunch of crap. …of course then you have to permit people to walk around with leashed lions and raise those cute Capies in the back forty, but hey, some people get a lot of joy out of their pet lion and you haven’t lived ’til you’ve had fresh Cape Buffalo Mozzarella you know…

  63. #63 Nomen Nescio
    July 14, 2008

    a completely superfluous personal lifestyle choice with nonzero risk inflicted on fellow citizens.

    so is having children.

    why should a modern civil society permit one person to own dogs that are capable of killing another human at all is the proper starting point.

    that line of thinking is headed straight down the slippery slope. if we can’t own dogs that might kill humans, why should we get to own anything that might kill humans? (cf. the entire “gun control” debate — which, just like your argument here, is all about control, not about the things you purportedly want to control.) at the end of the slippery slope, we’re all locked in individual padded cells for fear of somebody getting hurt.

    life’s dangerous. get over it. dealing with inevitable risks is what adults are supposed to do. learn how.

    besides, all this nonsense about — how did you put it? let’s quote —

    if we say yes, this lifestyle choice is protected, no matter the nonzero risk to other humans,

    — you know what that reminded me about? homophobic bigots railing against that “lifestyle choice”. which of course isn’t enough by itself to prove you wrong, but when you find yourself using similar logic and verbiage to the Fred Phelps posse, i’d think that should be a wake-up call…

  64. #64 ERV
    July 14, 2008

    I never said lightning/pit bulls were an analogy.

    I compared them for perspective, because people with an irrational fear of pits (or dogs in general) think that thousands of people are killed by pits per year. They imagine pits hiding around every corner, waiting to rip out baby jugulars.

    Lightning is a useful comparison because most rational people recognize that being killed by lighting is a relatively rare event.

    Thus, for perspective, you are >3 times as likely to be killed by lighting as you are by a pit bull.

    Yet you, evidently, are willing to kill millions and millions of family pets to ‘save’ the ~6 people killed by pits every year. It doesnt matter that my dog is well trained. It doesnt matter than my dog shows his belly to 3-year-old kids. It doesnt matter that the construction guys and police officers we see every day on our runs love my dog. It doesnt matter that my dog would die trying to protect me. It doesnt matter that killing every pit on the planet wouldnt effect dog bite statistics at all.

    What ‘matters’ is an irrational fear of an improbable and avoidable event.

    And, I would never use lighting/pit bulls as an analogy, because, as you said, it isnt apt. I cant control lightning with my voice. I cant sleep in the same bed as lightning. Lightning doesnt care about my health and well being. No, I fully recognize that lightning and pit bulls are not analogous.

    However, if youre going to bitch at me about using inapplicable analogies, I wouldnt turn around and try to compare a 35-55 lb domesticated dog with a 350-550 lb wild cat. wtf?

  65. #65 DrugMonkey
    July 14, 2008

    so is having children.

    really? if we stopped breeding dogs tomorrow, where would our species be in 100 years? How about if we stopped breeding ourselves?

    that line of thinking is headed straight down the slippery slope. if we can’t own dogs that might kill humans, why should we get to own anything that might kill humans? (cf. the entire “gun control” debate

    I’m very comfortable with this slope. Why indeed should we get to own anything that poses a risk? Where do we draw the line between tangible benefit, personal preference and the right of others not to suffer random damage or death? Does the fact that a handgun does not have any intrinsic agency (and thus responsibility for outcome can be more sharply drawn) make a difference?

    dealing with inevitable risks is what adults are supposed to do. learn how.

    This is what lawmaking and regulation-enacting is all about. deal with it. We do not, as a civil society, extend infinite personal liberty. One of the big watersheds is where that personal liberty might pose a threat to the life and liberty of others. We ban automatic weapons, grenades, Stingers, etc. Ditto certain wild animals. I assume protecting the liberty of others is a big part of this. My question remains- what is the justification for the ownership of dogs that are capable of killing another human beyond ” ’cause I want one, dude”. I can find any number of people that want automatic weapons “for sporting purposes”. They don’t get to (in the US).

    you know what that reminded me about? homophobic bigots railing against that “lifestyle choice”.

    so a desire to own a dog is now a biological imperative similar to sexual orientation? ’cause the evidence is pretty damn clear on the gay thing. Dog ownership? not so much. I can imagine a selective advantage for those that affiliated with dogs, back when dogs were a contributing part of human viability but I’d like to see the arguments on that one.

    jebus, dog owner = teh gay….always some new absurdity on the intertoobz!
    /chuckle

  66. #66 DrugMonkey
    July 14, 2008

    ERV @#64: it is not necessary to explicitly state that you are drawing an analogy to in fact be doing so. you are, in fact, drawing this analogy.

    It doesnt matter that killing every pit on the planet wouldnt effect dog bite statistics at all.

    I made it quite clear that I am not talking about breed-bigotry against pits or dobies or rotts or whateverthefuckall. I am talking about any dog that is physically capable of killing a human.

    if youre going to bitch at me about using inapplicable analogies, I wouldnt turn around and try to compare a 35-55 lb domesticated dog with a 350-550 lb wild cat. wtf?

    my analogy with respect to other animals that someone might reasonably want as a pet (perhaps I should have used tiger? there seem to be many more people being busted with illegal “pet” tigers[whatup with this tiger thing?] than lions for some reason) is several orders of magnitude more appropriate to a discussion of dog legality than is lightning!

  67. #67 windy
    July 14, 2008

    why should a modern civil society permit one person to own dogs that are capable of killing another human at all is the proper starting point.

    What do you mean by “dogs that are capable of killing another human being at all”? Technically, that’s any dog (a Pomeranian can kill a baby: I’m not sure about chihuahuas but at least they can inflict considerable damage)

    I’m very comfortable with this slope. Why indeed should we get to own anything that poses a risk?

    Should people be allowed to own swimming pools?

  68. #68 Nomen Nescio
    July 14, 2008

    DrugMonkey’s gone off the rails. regulate and legislate every possible risk? hand over all risk management to the government sight unseen? that’s not the sentiment of anybody who feels competent to run their own life; that’s the position of somebody who wants a parent figure to come in and tell them what to do and how, in excruciating detail.

    no thank you, i’d rather live in a free country — yes, even knowing i will have to deal with risks to my own life and limb that way. you cannot have both liberty and complete safety at once; i choose liberty. if you’d rather be swaddled and coddled for your own good, i recommend you try to get yourself placed under legal guardianship. that’s basically what your proposal for overarching government regulation would do to us all; kindly include me out of that!

    (oh, and also, what windy said. on both counts. pretty much everything poses at least some risk — as i said, coping with such risks of daily living is the natural task and duty of any competent adult.)

  69. #69 AtheistAcolyte
    July 15, 2008

    Cars, when properly controlled, do not kill people. But when improperly controlled (or not at all), they do.

    I think the comparison to cars is far more apt. I mean, why allow people to have cars when they obviously kill people, and it’s a superfluous life choice? Public transit works with a far lower fatality rating, and biking and walking are excellent exercise as well as far less dangerous than driving.

    My question remains- what is the justification for the ownership of dogs that are capable of killing another human beyond ” ’cause I want one, dude”. I can find any number of people that want automatic weapons “for sporting purposes”. They don’t get to (in the US).

    Define “capable of killing another human” beyond “They r teh pit bullz and tey r teh denguruz” and I might agree with you. In fact, current law may agree with you. How would you quantifiably test an animal or animal breed for that? Perhaps a temperament test?

    Let’s move this on to another issue:
    Since the purpose for asking the question is to safeguard human lives and happiness, what is the justifiable reason for allowing human beings capable of killing another human being alive? We know schizophrenics are more than capable of killing others, as a direct result of their mental disease. So why not kill all the schizophrenics before they kill someone else? Or, if killing’s not your thing, lock them up for life, or until a cure can be found?

    I realize that a dog is not the same thing as a human being, but that’s a logical future destination on the slope.

  70. #70 The Perky Skeptic
    January 24, 2009

    This discussion has affected me deeply by making me want a dog. I think dogs, like all mammals, have great behavioral outcomes when given lots of love and cuddles. :)

  71. #71 BirrML
    April 16, 2009

    I own 2 pitbulls. One was raised from a puppy, the other, we saved. He was a pit trained to fight, then abondoned when he lost. We took him t the vet, paid a very expensive bill, and took him home after about a week. He was originally aggressive toward our other 2 dogs we had at the time, so we had to keep an eye on him, and keep him separated while we were gone. 3 years later, this dog is the biggest lover I have ever met. He gets along with all of our animals(we have a total of 4 dogs and 6 cats). He is extremely affectionate. Our min-pin is more aggressive than either of the pits. He is non-confrontational with anyone who walks into our house. Someone could break in and he wouldn’t even bother them aside from wanting attention. He does, however, tend to be a little aggressive toward unfamiliar dogs who may seem to be a threat(such as walking him in hte park, and having someone with boistrous dogs walking toward us). Other than that, he is the sweetest thing to ever walk this Earth. It is horrible to think of how our neighbors and the dog warden have persecuted us because we own 2 “vicious animals”. I don’t care what anyone else has to say on this matter. If you own a dog(any breed) and you train it correctly and show it love, it will be a good dog. PERIOD! Training it correctly doesn’t mean just feeding and petting it. You must show the dog who is dominant(not by beating it). When the dog tries to act aggressively toward anyone or anything you must curb this and discipline the dog. There is a long explanation of how to train dogs correctly which I am not going further into. The idea here is to educate, from first-person perspective, pit-bulls aren’t the natural killing machines the media, amongst others, tries to make them out to be. Any dog can attack, any dog can be docile, it all depends on how it is trained, not bred. I agree with other statements made here, these dogs are targeted by bad owners for teir size and power, which is why they are considered more prone to attack. Did you know most toy poodles are more aggressove than most pits? Are we scared of these mean, crazy, uncontrollable toy poodles? NO! Of course we’re not scared of something who at best might break the first few layers of skin. Do not be ignorant, pit-bulls are highly-rated as having great temperaments. Even higher than Golden Retrievers. It all depends on how they are raised. Like humans for example. If someone is not raised properly, with a good foundation, good morals, good role-models, what happens? They become gangsters, thugs, thieves, etc. So don’t look at the breeds, look at the breeders, and the owners. That’s who’s fault it is when a pit-bull is vicious.

  72. #72 BirrML
    April 16, 2009

    Another thing is…. Why would I even listen to someone who’s tag is Drugmonkey? If the government were to do as you say, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy your drugs, would you? Let’s consider the fact that many medications have side effects that veritably shorten your lifespan. Alot of which if taken in extremely large doses, can kill you within minutes. Why shouldn’t the government make all drugs illegal in this line of thinking? Considering the risk of losing human life if abused or taken in the wrong amounts. So if you’re so afraid of a little dog killing you, perhaps you should lay off the drugs?

  73. #73 ktbug ladydid
    October 18, 2009

    A few of you have commented that a breed’s standards are a die-hard fact. That retrievers retrieve, pit bulls fight, etc. My sheltie does herd me around the house. She also is an outstanding fetcher. Is fetching in her “blood”? No. Her breed was trained to herd. But with training, I’ve gotten her to NOT try and trip me down the stairs, or run in circles around me. Breed standards are really just appearances, and they’re always changing. So stop judging a breed by what you THINK it means.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.