Saturday, March 6, 2010
They make it so easy!
We hear a lot of really whacky comments from people who are understandably upset about dog attacks, but don't really have all the facts as they relate to the Pit Bull breed and dog bites in general. Here, we tackle some of those comments.....and offer some easy, sane responses up in exchange.
"Pit Bulls are bred to be dangerous". First of all, none of us at RPB ever recall reading a history on or standard for the breed that included the need for the breed to 'be dangerous'. As a breed, they are actually required to be extremely GOOD with people, very biddable. Second of all, what does 'dangerous' mean, really? According to the CDC, playgrounds cause more injuries and deaths than Pit Bulls. Are playgrounds 'created to be dangerous'? Are they an acceptable risk? Or are they just too dangerous to exist? Hey, life is dangerous. That's just.....life.
"Pit Bulls have a gene that causes them to 'snap' at any time". Hmm, really. Research to substantiate your claim, please? It's ok, you can get back to us on that one.
"There are more fatal attacks committed by Pit Bulls than any other breed". This is an oldie but goodie - it's been bandied about forever. We recently sent a notice debunking this claim to the Huffington Post in response to a REALLY silly (even by over-the-top media standards) essay. Here's what we said: the Centers for Disease control have ceased compiling dog bite statistics based on breed because they recognize that such data is impossible to gather accurately. Statistics on dog bites based on breed have been called into question by many, including the American Veterinary Medical Association. Not to mention, for the purposes of bite statistics, the term "pit bull" doesn't even reference a single breed of dog: it references AT LEAST 3, along with mixed breeds and dogs merely looking a certain way. To compare "pit bull attack fatality stats" against those of "any other breed" means you are comparing attacks by MANY breeds and "types" against the bite stats of just ONE other breed. Hardly accurate or a fair representation of the American Pit Bull Terrier breed, aka Pit Bull.
But let's put the whole "dog bite deaths" thing into perspective for a moment, huh?
In 2008, there were 376 murders in our home state of New Jersey. Here are the NJ stats on dog bite deaths. Between 2000 and 2009, there were 2 deaths related to dog attacks.
Annually there are typically around 30-something dog bite deaths NATION-WIDE (in 2009 there were 33).
Here are some more numbers: In 2000, there were 435,000 tobacco-related deaths; (18.1% of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity accounted for another 400,000 deaths; (16.6%), and alcohol consumption 85,000 deaths (3.5%).
Humans continue to be the biggest threat to themselves and to each other. You're worried about a Pit Bull killing you? You are a WAY bigger threat to yourself.
So pardon us if we are scratching our heads over all the hysteria. The chances of being killed by ANY dog, let alone a Pit Bull are so small as to practically not even warrant consideration. It should also be noted that non-fatal dog bites in general are on the decline. We as well as other groups continue to work hard to ensure safe, happy interactions between people and dogs, and apparently what we are all doing is working.
"Pit Bull bans don't cost us anything and would make us safer!" This was an interesting comment from someone who seems to think laws and their subsequent enforcement appear out of thin air and cost nothing to uphold. There was some interesting data gathered on the expense of enforcing a breed ban in Prince Georges County, Maryland. It cost $500,000 a year to enforce the ban. Maybe an acceptable expense? But the data determined “the public safety benefit is unmeasurable.” In other words, it was impossible to tell if a ban had any effect whatsoever, although it was determined that the ban impeded animal control's ability to appropriately respond to complaints in general, so there is reason to believe bans actually make people less safe not more.
Baltimore's BSL cost is $750,000/annually; the UK's Dangerous Dogs Act (which is a laughing stock in its inability to have controlled and eliminated the problem of the country's vicious dogs) cost $14 million to enforce between 1991 and 1996.
Breed specific legislation does NOT make us safer, and the costs of useless laws could be better spent on improving other areas of public safety. Calgary has a very interesting dog law that does not single out breeds and has been shown to be incredibly effective. They have seen a 70% drop in dog bites overall. They are at their lowest level in 25 years.
Bad information tends to get passed around quite easily, especially so when the subject matter is gossipy or fear-inducing. With the subject of Pit Bulls, not only do many urban legends refuse to die (although advocates are slowly but surely beating them down), and get passed back and forth between family, friends, neighbors and beyond, there are some really out of control organizations with dubious agendas that are nothing more than irrational fear mongers when it comes to the breed. Groups like PETA (an extremist animal rights group that actively works to outlaw pet ownership) and another org that concerns itself with dog bites (run by a disgruntled attack victim with an axe to grind), are great for spouting debunked myths, and unscientific "stats" that were simply compiled by scouring newspaper headlines. If the CDC couldn't reliably collect breed-based bite stats, what makes the untrained members of certain agenda-pushing groups think they can do any better?
Sometimes people are so blinded by their anger, ignorance and fear that they are unwilling to see the facts or listen to reason. With the sheer number of Pit Bulls out there, logically if you follow the rationale of the "anti's", we should be reading about attacks every hour on the hour. I mean if they really are this vicious then surely people would be killed left and right, Pit Bulls would be running rampant in the streets attacking people. But that clearly isn't the case.
Some days ya really just have to ask, "If you don't know what you're talking about can you please just STFU?"