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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Damned Pit Bulls

posted by on September 24 at 14:11 PM

And now it’s official:

Pilgrim Congregational Church will open its doors to dogs and cats, parrots and parakeets, and any other animal people want to bring to a blessing of the animals at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 5.

One exception—no pit bulls. The church’s insurance policy won’t let them through the door because of their reputation, deserved or not, for being aggressive.

“It’s unfortunate, we didn’t want to have any restrictions,” said Alana Snyder, a church member. “We’re thinking of ways of getting people into the church and Weymouth is a community focused on dogs.”

Don’t know how they got that reputation. In other pit bull news: pit bulls running loose kill two dogs in Pennsylvania; police dog attacked by pair of pit bulls in British Columbia; pit bulls attack wheelchair-bound man and his three year-old son in Tennessee; pregnant woman in Maine upset that her two pit bulls were put to sleep after escaping from her home and attacking a neighbor’s dog; pit bull in Florida shot to death after it attacks an elderly man, his granddaughter, and a police officer; woman’s new pit bull attacks her three year-old son in New Zealand, ripping large chunk of flesh from the boy’s arm.

Last word to an animal control officer in New Zealand:

“No animal control officers trust pit bulls. They’re not like other dogs. I’m not sure why people get dogs like this. I mean, what is the need for a dog like that? They were specifically bred for fighting other dogs. When you get a pit bull biting, it’s a lot more severe. Because their jaws are so powerful, they actually take a chunk out. Other breeds will take a nip then run off.”


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If only there could be this much passion over fixing the problems at the King County Animal Shelter. But budgeting, staffing, politicking and management to solve a real problem with a real solution doesn't draw eyeballs for your ads, does it? If it bleeds, it leads, as they say.

Posted by elenchos | September 24, 2008 2:16 PM

All dogs go to Heaven (pit bulls excepted).

Posted by RonK, Seattle | September 24, 2008 2:28 PM

There was this woman answering questions on the WaPo website about training dogs, and she fielded a question from someone who wanted to introduce her dog-aggressive pit bull to her sister's Boston terrier. I was like, for reals? The WaPo woman was insistent that they fix the dog aggression first. Ya think?

Posted by Balt-O-Matt | September 24, 2008 2:31 PM

elenchos, problems with king county animal control & the animal shelter are directly linked to pit bulls run amok. what percentage of the animals at the animal shelter do you think are pit bulls? banning pit bulls would be a real solution to several real problems.

Posted by jrrrl | September 24, 2008 2:33 PM

Dan, I love you, but shut thee fuck up about pit bulls already.

Posted by Shelby Cobra | September 24, 2008 2:43 PM

Yes, because when insurance companies deny coverage it's always for virtuous reasons.

Posted by w7ngman | September 24, 2008 2:43 PM

@6, I was going to post about that.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | September 24, 2008 2:47 PM

Hey, when insurance companies start denying insurance to pit bull owners, it will be the end of the breed. No ban will be necessary.

Posted by snarky | September 24, 2008 3:08 PM

"Other breeds will take a nip then run off"

well, except for marjorie knoller's dogs, whom you may recall literally ate dianne whipple while knoller stood by and watched. those dogs weren't pit bulls, they were presa canarios.

and since i brought it up, knoller was just sentenced 15 years-life for allowing her dogs to eat another human being to death. it's kind of a big story. with all your concern for protecting the public from dangerous dogs, i'm surprised you haven't reported on it. i can only guess why, but i suspect if the dogs were pitbulls and fit squarely into your "it's the breed not the owner" narrative, you would have been all over it. but you know, i'm just guessing.

Posted by brandon | September 24, 2008 3:13 PM

Pit bulls do not have stronger jaws per se - they are simply bred to be persistent and tenacious. NOr were pit bulls orginally bred to fight other dogs - pit bulls arise out of breeds bred to fight bears for sport in 19th century England.

I do get tired of hearing the same incorrect "facts" repeated over and over. And, as always, I wonder how many of these "pit bull" attack reports really come back to actual pit bulls versus misidentified dogs.

That said - yeah, introducing ANY dog aggressive dog to another dog? Bad plan all around.

Posted by beth | September 24, 2008 3:20 PM

Presa canarios are way more dangerous than pit bulls - we're not talking Labrador retrievers here. I don't think there's anyone in the world that would say "oh, those presas are lovely dogs, wouldn't hurt a fly." (Well, without being really sarcastic, that is.) Frankly, I'm borderline on pit bull bans - but I'd support a presa ban in a heartbeat. Beautiful dogs... but so are wolf hybrids. People shouldn't own them as pets.

Posted by wench | September 24, 2008 3:30 PM

11 - which underscores the point that pit bulls are not the only dangerous dogs out there, which seems like a no-brainer to me but appears to be a novel concept in certain circles.

Posted by brandon | September 24, 2008 3:36 PM


Um, pit bulls are popular here, as everywhere. Of course you find a lot of them at the shelter, as at all shelters.

Instead of promising that a ban would do this or would do that, can you show me anywhere that a breed ban has worked? If you had evidence that banning pit bulls reduces dog attacks, you'd have a slam-dunk argument. I'd be convinced.

Posted by elenchos | September 24, 2008 3:50 PM

Dan. You're a dick. Do just a little basic research. Here, I've tried to make it easy for you...

# American Veterinary Medical Association:

"The AVMA supports dangerous animal legislation by state, county, or municipal government provided that legislation does not refer to specific breeds or classes of animals."

# National Animal Control Association:

"Dangerous and/or vicious animals should be labeled as such as a result of their actions or behavior and not because of their breed."

# Humane Society of the United States:

"HSUS opposes breed specific regulations because they do not address the underlying issues of owner behavior and responsibility."

# The American Kennel Club:

"Strongly opposes any legislation that determines a dog to be "dangerous" based on specific breed or phenotypic classes of dogs."

# American Humane Association:

"American Humane Association supports local legislation that protects communities from dangerous animals, but does not advocate laws that target specific breeds of dogs."

Posted by pitbull fan | September 24, 2008 3:50 PM

I'm not going to argue with you on the pit bull issue. I disagree with a breed ban, but I'm not going to convince anyone one the other side of the issue, and vice versa.

But at least give some notice when other breeds attack, too, in the interest of fairness.

Posted by SheWho | September 24, 2008 3:57 PM

Hey, this other idea occurred to me.

Is there a connection between wanting to invade Iraq instead of slogging through boring old weapons inspections, and wanting to ban drugs instead of doing the difficult, unglamorous work of drug treatment, and wanting to ban the macho dog du jour rather than the tedious task of managing a spay/neuter and animal control program? Seems like there is a mindset that wants to see everything in the most dramatic terms, of good vs. evil, where it can all be solved in one mighty push to wipe out the source of the evil once and for all.

It's kind of like Critical Mass and their melodramatic demonstration as a substitute for all the dull, thankless meetings and squabbling and negotiation and research that Cascade Bicycle Club does to build a bike infrastructure.

Just a theory.

Posted by elenchos | September 24, 2008 4:03 PM

Call me a bigot, too, then but take a walk in my neighborhood (South end) and you'll meet many a droopy-drawered doo-ragged gangbanger wannabe walking his pit. No leash, of course. You should see the yards these dogs live in, too with chicken-wire fencing they can dig under or through, sun-faded Big Wheel (on blocks? I wish), broken and empty "foties."

Posted by L'KeishaWanda | September 24, 2008 4:17 PM

@8: you really think lower-class macho assholes who keep intact pits have DOG INSURANCE?

i don't have dog insurance - i don't know anyone who does.

Posted by max solomon | September 24, 2008 4:40 PM

elenchos, breed bans have worked in HUNDREDS of places, including king county. we successfully nearly eliminated wolf hybrids in king county in the 80's/90's.

list of cities/counties with breed bans in effect:

evidence of ZERO pit bull-caused deaths or serious injuries since denver's pit bull ban was enacted almost 20 years ago in 1989:

Posted by jrrrl | September 24, 2008 4:40 PM

elenchos: no, if you google pit bull breed bans almost 100% of the anti-breed ban sites complain about the damn liberals. i'm sure there is a link between wanting breed bans against dangerous animals, wanting gun control, wanting universal health care, wanting to end the war in iraq, etc.

Posted by jrrrl | September 24, 2008 4:44 PM


Sooooo, you think maybe a dog bred specifically to FIGHT FUCKING BEARS! isn't exactly the sort of thing you want around helpless children and old people, you think, maybe?

Posted by COMTE | September 24, 2008 4:48 PM

Dan, I don't know if you intend this, but now every time I see a dog, I am hyperaware of them. Doesn't even have to be a pit-type. You haven't raised awareness of a problem so much as you have fear-mongered. I understand that fear is a more compelling thing than reason, and it takes an effort of will to overcome the fear reaction.

Posted by Lavode | September 24, 2008 4:59 PM

Wolves? That's like saying a breed ban would work because lions and crocodiles are banned.

IT'S RETARDED. Please, please stop mentioning wolves. I mean, like, you know, "You must be at least

THIS SMART ------> <-------

to have this debate."

Now never speak of wolves again.

Posted by elenchos | September 24, 2008 5:00 PM

And Denver's ban? I was promised proof that Denver's ban worked and instead I get THIS:

But even after 17 years — there were two briefs periods of nonenforcement during legal challenges — the ordinance hasn't produced any solid answers about the ban's effectiveness, said Doug Kelley, director of Denver Animal Care & Control.

Jesus people. Do I have to argue your side too?

Posted by elenchos | September 24, 2008 5:03 PM

And finally, my little theory said nothing about liberal vs. conservative. I was talking about instant gratification vs. the long, hard road known as "reality." Anyway, it's only a theory.

Posted by elenchos | September 24, 2008 5:05 PM

yawn. if you read the article, he said that because people still own pit bulls, but they're underground. DEATHS have gone down to ONE in the past 19 years (by a chow). the goal of a pit bull ban is to reduce DEATHS and BITES, not to eliminate pit bulls as a breed. that's what you asked for, that's what you got.

please explain how banning wolf hybrids is different than banning pit bulls, besides that they look different? even legally they're considered a "breed."

Instead of promising that a ban would do this or would do that, can you show me anywhere that a breed ban has worked? If you had evidence that banning pit bulls reduces dog attacks, you'd have a slam-dunk argument. I'd be convinced.

hmm, serious pit bull attacks down to 1 in 19 years, hundreds of places where breed bans have worked. now go on arguing yourself from an hour ago.

Posted by jrrrl | September 24, 2008 5:12 PM

sorry, serious dog attacks down to 1 in 19 years. pit bull attacks down to 0.

Posted by jrrrl | September 24, 2008 5:18 PM

Um, there was only ONE DEATH before the ban. According to the same article. See, to show something has worked, you need to show a significant change between the before and the after. And you have to link causation, not just correlation.

Denver officials are uncertain as to what effect the ban has had. "Bites by pit bulls and other restricted breeds have fallen some years and climbed others, and the number of overall dog bites is up in some places," says the Rocky Mountain News.

Which is what you would expect if people just replaced their pit bull with some other big dog.

A good animal control program with emphasis on spay/neuter, for all pets, does have solid data showing it works. I support what works, even if it doesn't lean on lurid headlines.

Posted by elenchos | September 24, 2008 5:31 PM

oh geez. read your stupid article. they're talking about the SUBURBS, not denver. in denver they're VERY CLEARLY down. the one year the ban was overturned by the courts, bites jumped up and the year the ban was reinstated they went back down.

there was one death and three serious mauling in the 2.5 YEARS before the pit bull ban went into effect. that went down to zero and zero in the next 19 years.

jesus. there isn't any clearer evidence possible that pit bull breed bans work.

if you want mandatory neutering, fine... i seriously doubt anti-pit bull ban advocates would be thrilled with that alternative, though.

Posted by jrrrl | September 24, 2008 5:43 PM

The article said...

The ban was the result of four serious maulings by pit bulls in a 2 1/2period in the 1980s

jrrrl said...

there was one death and three serious mauling in the 2.5 YEARS before the pit bull ban went into effect.

You know what that is? That's poor reading comprehension, that's what that is. There was a spate of maulings in a short period of time, which inspired the hysterical reaction. That doesn't mean they had two maulings every two and a half years.

The lead of the article itself clearly states the data are inconclusive. The people who wrote the article are telling you it doesn't say what you think it says.

Posted by elenchos | September 24, 2008 6:00 PM

@19: The last fatal Pit Bull attack in Denver occurred in 1986. Denver instituted a ban on Pit Bulls in 1989. Mr. Nelson, unversed in the patterns, frequency andd circumstances of fatal dog attacks, draws a conclusion about the effects of the ban and the incidence of fatal dog (Pit bull) attacks with no evidence to support this claim.

Portland, Oregon, a city with approx. the same population as Denver, also reported a fatal Pit Bull attack in 1986. Portland, Oregon did not institute a ban on Pit Bulls after this incident, yet they have not had another incidence of a fatal Pit bull attack since 1986.

City/State Population
(US Census) Last Fatal Pit
Bull Attack Ban on
Pit Bulls
Denver, CO 554,636 1986 YES
Portland, OR 529,121 1986 NO

Fact: A city without breed specific legislation (Portland) has had NO fatal dog attacks after 1986.

Fact: A city with breed specific legislation (Denver) has had a fatal dog attack (non-Pit bull) after 1986.

Posted by St Francis | September 24, 2008 6:13 PM

In a major blow to proponents of BSL policies, Holland has lifted its ban on pit bulls!

On Monday, June 9, the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Gerda Verburg, announced to the parliament that the rule banning pit bulls in the Netherlands would be lifted. After fifteen years, it has been found that the ban has been ineffective.

This represents a major victory for European animal advocates who have been opposing this breed specific legislation!

The lifting of the ban came on the advice of a committee that had been formed to re-consider the policy.

The ban had been imposed in 1993, as a reaction to the killing of three children by dogs. However, as Gerda Verburg, pointed out, there has been no decrease in the number of biting incidents during the fifteen years in which the ban has been in place.

So the ban seems not to have served the purpose for which it was designed.

Posted by St Francis | September 24, 2008 6:18 PM

elenechos: YR DOIN IT RONG!

Posted by HAZ BUKKIT | September 24, 2008 7:44 PM

Let me conclude by saying that the linked-to article whose second paragraph says "But even after 17 years — there were two briefs periods of nonenforcement during legal challenges — the ordinance hasn't produced any solid answers about the ban's effectiveness" has failed to convince me that pit bull bans work.

Not just me. It has also failed to convince every major animal welfare and veterinary organization. Which is a clue.

Posted by elenchos | September 24, 2008 9:11 PM

if you actually read the New Zealand story about the dog biting part of the boys' arm... would've read that the woman was feeding her TIED UP dog. The boy wandered where the dog was eating. It doesn't take a major brain surgeon to understand that the dog was just trying to take competition out of his dog bowl.

Why was the dog chained up?
Why was the young person near the dog?

Human fault 1
Dog fault 0

Ya can find my other comments

Posted by Natalie | September 24, 2008 9:47 PM

It's your blog, and you're entitled to your opinion, but I have a problem with your arguments (which doesn't happen often).

It seems to me that all or most of the evidence you post to support a pit-bull ban are news stories about pit bulls attacking people. Do you have any actual statistics on dog attacks? How many dog attacks are there a year? How many are unprovoked? How many attacks are by pit bulls? Is the percentage of attacks by pit bull higher than the percentage of dogs who are pit bulls?

If you are going to advocate passing these bans, I would like to see something other than anecdotal evidence that demonstrates that pit bulls are more dangerous than other dogs.

Posted by J. | September 24, 2008 10:58 PM

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