Monday, June 2, 2008

PBRC's Response to The Lakewood Observer

Below is Pit Bull Rescue Central's response to an editorial written by Brian Powers for The Lakewood Observer.

The article can be found by clicking here:
Frequently Asked Questions about the Proposed Pit Bull Ban

On May 25th, Councilman Brian Powers quoted Pit Bull Rescue Central’s website to show that pit bulls are dangerous and unpredictable. Unfortunately, he ignored the context of these quotations and much of the other information on our website. More than anything else, we stress that while aggression toward other animals is a normal trait in pit bulls, aggression toward humans is not. This is a point that most people miss, and we are disappointed that Councilman Powers used our information to mislead his readers. The quotations were mainly taken from an article on how to prevent dog fights, and it is quite clear that we are talking about pit bulls’ tendency for dog aggression while urging pit bull owners to be cautious around other dogs. By neglecting to mention anything about animal aggression, the councilman made it seem as if we were declaring that pit bulls are generally unstable in temperament. This is not true.

In fact, pit bulls pass the American Temperament Testing Society’s stringent test at a rate similar to, if not higher than, many other medium-to-large, powerful breeds. The American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier pass at rates of 84.3%, 83.4%, and 88.8% respectively. Compare this to Golden Retrievers (84.2%), Great Danes (79.2%), Weimaraners (80.1%), and Standard Poodles (85.3%), to name just four common breeds.

The councilman also cites a Center for Disease Control report on dog bites and an American Veterinary Medical Association book on “vicious” dogs. The CDC has repeatedly acknowledged that this report is methodologically flawed and should not be used for setting public policy. It lumps American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers together with “pit bull mixes,” something it doesn’t do for any other dog. It is simply bad statistics to lump three breeds together with a bunch of dogs that might look like those breeds. Lumping German Shepherds together with mixes to create a third category called “German-Shepherd-type dogs” would result in a similarly inflated percentage. And while Councilman Powers seems confident that everyone knows what a “pit-bull-type dog” looks like, the doctors at the CDC aren’t, which is why they oppose breed bans and even stopped collecting breed-defined fatal attack statistics ten years ago. This is one of many problems with the CDC report; readers can find out more by clicking here.

There are, as the CDC notes, no reliable statistics on dog bites, and statistics on dog-related fatalities tell us little except that it is exceedingly rare to be killed by a dog of any kind. As Janis Bradley explains in her book Dogs Bite: But Balloons and Slippers Are More Dangerous, your chances of being killed by a dog are roughly one in eighteen million. You have a better chance of being killed by lightning. While we are not familiar with the AVMA book, it is likely that those quotations were also taken out of context. Along with every other major veterinary and animal welfare group, the AVMA has clearly stated its opposition to breed specific legislation. Puzzlingly, Councilman Powers freely quotes the CDC and AVMA but refuses to heed the advice of their experts when it comes to legislation that would affect a significant number of people.

We urge the City Council and the people of Lakewood to show good sense in this matter. Breed bans do little to punish irresponsible owners. Councilman Powers writes as if all pit bull owners need to be punished. Why would he want to punish many people for the transgressions of relatively few people? Aside from wasting tax dollars, breed specific bans merely criminalize good owners, the kind of owners Councilman Powers needs in his constituency. Instead of strongly enforcing the laws already on the books and holding bad owners accountable, the council would rather curtail your property rights by having law enforcement officials bang on your door and take away your family’s dog (which may or may not be a pit bull), just because it looks a certain way.

The Volunteers of Pit Bull Rescue Central


Brian Cluxton said...

Thank you for this post. I've also contacted the Councilman regarding his letter to the editor. Did you send the response to the same newspaper?

Best Regards,
Brian Cluxton
Columbus, OH

Josh said...

Hi Brian,

We have sent it to the Lakewood Observer, but they haven't responded yet. Please feel free to pass this information on to anyone who might find it useful.

Amanda said...

I was unaware of this situation until I read this blog. Your response counld not have been better worded. Unfortunately, we all know that the orignal statements will be the most widely read, but hopefully the response will make a bit of a splash itself -- let's pray for smart jounalists/editors that take PBRC responce and give it a catching headline!

Burg said...

I just did a post yesterday on irresponsible owners and misconceptions about these dogs.. I'm a big time supporter of bully breeds!!

Great site!