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Friday, March 14, 2008

Worst Post Ever About Pit Bulls

posted by on March 14 at 15:48 PM

I have a 1968 Honda Scrambler (cl305) now, and have owned at least one motorcycle for the past ten years. When I bought this one, my friend Peter—who was studying prosthetics at the UW—told me that after his internship he will never ride a motorcycle. He seems to know a lot about losing body parts. And replacing them, too.


So i thought he’d be a great person to ask about pit bulls. I mean, why not get some expert opinions on the matter? Every time a pit bull story surfaces people always argue about the nature of pet-inflicted injuries, about good and bad owners, about identification of breeds, and on and on…. So I wanted to get some facts.

I emailed him a question: “Have you ever had to create a prosthesis for someone who was attacked by an animal, maybe a pit bull or something?”

His very revealing response was, “Negatory, but lawnmowers, yes.”

Maybe all these posts about the dangers of pit bulls should be directed to a more damaging problem: lawnmowers. Many of the same questions, unfortunately, would dog such a topic. Was the injury the result of a bad owner verses a good owner? Was the lawnmower cared for properly? Do lawnmowers attract a certain kind of owner? Could medical workers even properly differentiate a lawnmower from other similar tools, such as a gas-powered weed whacker?

Instead of getting sidetracked, I decided to remain focused on pit bulls. Maybe I’d just have to work a little harder to get the information I was seeking. Since I stopped working hours ago, this seemed possible.

Each time the pit bull discussion comes up, someone—often me—posts this crazy link to a list of dog attack deaths and maiming in the US and Canada between September 1982 and November 2006.

This would seem to provide the authoritative information people need to make good decisions about pit bulls. But still, people would reply that cat bites are more infectious, it’s the owner’s fault, or that animal control agents couldn’t correctly identify a pit bull in most cases. All of these arguments can be seen somewhere way down in this thread.

The report was compiled by Merritt Clifton, who happens to live in Washington state. I thought he might be an expert or something, and that maybe he could clear things up a bit. So I emailed him.

He responded instantly. And at great length.

I asked about breed identification first.

Do people really know what a pit bull is? Are there vast numbers of people who might not know that they don’t even have a pit bull? Do animal control agents make enough mistakes to invalidate your findings?

MC: This is also damned silly, because even if 50% of the identifications of breeds were erroneous, which would reduce the accuracy of breed identification to the level of random chance, you would still have one breed that amounts to 5% of the dog population committing 25% of the attacks that rise to the level of fatality or permanent injury—about one dog attack incident in 10,000.

But come on, people make mistakes. We’ve seen all the polling errors in the recent primaries. What margin of error do you think is present in your final document?

MC: None of significance. I’m not looking at hair-splitting cases.

The attacks that make my list are attacks where the damage is unequivocal, & where usually there is considerable aftermath to the incident—insurance claims, lawsuits, prosecutions, etc.—with lots of folks getting lots of opportunity to contest the facts, including the breed identification.

Still, do you really believe most animal control agents have the ability to identify the pit bull breed? I mean, are they really trained to do such detailed and scientific work?

MC: If they can’t identify the single most often impounded breed, they must be working with their eyes closed.

Okay, but even if your stats are all correct, is it really fair to consider the pit bull a dangerous breed? Or isn’t it more likely that the owner creates the problem, not the dog?

MC: I compare the situation to a motorcycle vs. a car.

A motorcycle is inherently more dangerous, because it wasn’t designed in the first place with safety as the first consideration. That doesn’t mean a motorcycle can’t be ridden safely, but it means there is much less margin for error.

When you take that issue & compound it by the attraction of motorcycles to young men who want to ride like cowboys, the margin for error shrinks. Even if the primary issue in accidents is the cowboy behavior, the fact remains that a bike flips out of control much more rapidly than a car, with much greater potential for hurting someone.

So, we regulate motorcycles much more stringently than cars, & most bikers acknowledge & appreciate the need, because they don’t want to run afoul of the cowboys either.

[Note: At this point, I think he’d convinced me. I mean, that motorcycle stuff finally seemed to explain what Peter had told me. But I still had one question remaining, to which Clifton gave a very thoughtful response…]

What do we do then? Is there any way this problem can be resolved? Do you think a viable solution would be boil the pit bulls alive and feed them to their owners?

MC: Similar things are done to dogs in parts of Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, China (mostly in the south & areas close to Korea), and Nagaland & Mizoram, in the extreme northeast of India, near Myanmar.

However, people (mostly older men) pay to eat the dogs who have been tortured to death, typically at hole-in-the-wall restaurants in the red light districts of town. The dog-eaters, not more than 6% of the population even where dog-eating is most visible, believe that dogs’ flesh is an erotic stimulant, more potent if the dogs’ flesh is suffused with adrenalin from fear and pain.

Even from a solely scientific perspective, this is nonsense, as cooking the flesh destroys the adrenalin, but all sorts of people believe all sorts of things that have no reasonable basis…

Force-feeding pit bulls to their owners is, besides all that, decidedly unlikely to rectify the lack of [judgment] that causes people to breed & traffic in dogs who are capable of killing with their first outburst of bad behavior.

What is necessary is to get these people to think in a considerate long-term manner. Inflicting pain and humiliation tends to have exactly the opposite effect.

Special thanks to: Animal People! I’ll post the interview in its entirety to”>my blog later tonight.

[ANIMAL PEOPLE is the leading independent newspaper providing original investigative coverage of animal protection worldwide, founded in 1992. Our readership of 30,000-plus includes the decision-makers at more than 10,000 animal protection organizations. We have no alignment or affiliation with any other entity. $24/year; for free sample, send address.]

RSS icon Comments


Let me see, I used to own a Weimaraner, my brother used to own a Saint Bernard, and our neighbors bred various dogs.

Yes, I know what a pit bull is - and I would still, if attacked by one, empty as many clips of ammunition as I had for any gun until it was dead.

Does that answer your question?

Want an injury? Try steel bars in construction.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 14, 2008 3:52 PM

I didn't read this post because it was too long but I think I sprained my finger by scrolling down for like a mile and a half and so I decided to go through all the trouble to post a comment that says: Too long! Under the cut!

Posted by Paul Constant | March 14, 2008 3:55 PM

UPS just delivered a Vietnam-era battle axe to me. No joke. (They were actually highly desirable in the jungle, but are now mostly collectors' items.) Bring on the pit bulls!

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | March 14, 2008 4:01 PM

Maybe not the worst post ever about Pit Bulls, but certainly the longest...

Posted by Tuna | March 14, 2008 4:02 PM


I didn't know how to make a "cut", so I'm sorry about that. I'll see if I can get it added.

I hope you do appreciate, however, that after writing this, I went back and capitalized all the letters that were supposed to be uppercase. You don't actually have to read it to appreciate that... it can be a visual thing.



Posted by infrequent | March 14, 2008 4:06 PM

i think Paul was being what they call humorous, making fun of other commenters

Posted by vooodooo84 | March 14, 2008 4:08 PM

Yes, Paul, it's too long, but I suspect he was unable to put some of it after a break. Why don't you go complain to Amy Kate instead.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | March 14, 2008 4:09 PM

Dude. Nice bike.

Posted by elenchos | March 14, 2008 4:09 PM

All that bitching from a guy whose posts area waste of bandwidtg 99% of the time? Give me a fucking break.

Posted by Elvis | March 14, 2008 4:13 PM

Paul, love it, though it flew by a mile above these heads!

Posted by Amy Kate Horn | March 14, 2008 4:15 PM

I'm with @8. That is a sexy bike.

Posted by spencer | March 14, 2008 4:28 PM

Irony, it's like satire, but with iron bars.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 14, 2008 4:48 PM

If you like that kind of bike, you've got to make it out to Twinline Cycles. The owner is quite friendly and accommodating.

Posted by elenchos | March 14, 2008 4:49 PM

ditto the great bike comments.

Posted by gnossos | March 14, 2008 4:54 PM

thanks for the comments on the bike, it's my pride and joy.

i've seen twinline cycles advertised on the stranger and have thought about going out there. thanks for the recommendation. it's obvious they are good at what they do, it's nice to hear from personal experience that they love it and are friendly.

Posted by infrequent | March 14, 2008 5:05 PM

getting young male idiots who breed & own dangerous dogs to think in a long term & considerate manner is impossible.

boiling the dog & feeding it to the owner is just as likely to work.

Posted by max solomon | March 14, 2008 5:10 PM

oh, and i finally get the Constant joke. how did i miss that one? sometimes satire is so well done it seems real. well played, well played.

Posted by infrequent | March 14, 2008 5:14 PM

Your post did have a lot of words, which can be painful to some Slog readers. But I did think the analogy to owning a motorcycle was a good one. I'd never quite thought of it that way, and I think it is a good comparison.

A little editing wouldn't hurt, but otherwise, excellent post.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | March 14, 2008 5:34 PM

Lawnmowers! Brilliant. I wish I'd had Peter's insight when trying to talk my way out of yard work as a kid.

Posted by Hooray for Sun | March 15, 2008 1:51 PM

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