Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Eco-Footprint? Get Rid of the Child and Keep the Dog!

According to two New Zealanders, owning a pet dog is worse than owning a sports utility vehicle in terms of the eco-footprint. The declaration in the book "Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living" by New Zealanders Robert and Brenda Vale goes over the numbers. Taking into account the land required to generate its food, a medium-sized dog has an annual footprint of 0.84 global hectares (2.07 acres). Compare that to the mere 0.41 global hectares required to drive a sports utility vehicle 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) a year (the number includes the energy to build the car). Some experts, however, disagree with that "dog" number.

"When I saw the study I ran some quick numbers," Clark Williams-Derry, chief researcher at a the Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based sustainability thinktank, told the Seattle Times. "The average dog has to eat at least twice as much as the average person for this to be right. People are just heavier than dogs so, I just had to scratch my head at that."

But, heck, forget pets. They are mere blips on the radar. By taking a quick jaunt over to Wikipedia, I was able to deduce the average eco-footprint of a human being. "In 2005, the average biologically productive area per person worldwide was approximately 2.1 global hectares (gha) per capita. The U.S. footprint per capita was 9.4 gha, and that of Switzerland was 5.0 gha per person, while China's was 2.1 gha per person. The WWF claims that the human footprint has exceeded the biocapacity (the available supply of natural resources) of the planet by 20%. Wackernagel and Rees originally estimated that the available biological capacity for the 6 billion people on Earth at that time was about 1.3 hectares per person, which is smaller than the 2.1 global hectares published for 2005, because the initial studies neither used global hectares nor included bioproductive marine areas." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_footprint)

Dogs have many eco-advantages to human beings. They do not drive cars, buy bottled water, burn fires in chimneys, buy plasma televisions, get new clothes every season, turn on the air conditioner, use computers, buy cosmetics, water their lawns, insist on the newest goodies for Christmas and birthdays, or commit any number of other human eco-sins. Humans are, of course, far worse for the environment than even the most anti-environmentalist of canines.

Just to see what my footprint was, I tested out this nifty footprint calculator at http://www.footprintcalculator.org/ and came up around 4 gha per year. So, for each child a U.S. resident foregoes, he or she can own approximately 62 medium-sized dogs--a fair trade, in my assessment. That number takes into account the comparative lifespans of each species, with dogs at about 14 years and humans at approximately 78 years. Dogs have other advantages to children that aren't directly related to their environmental impact. For example, a child isn't going to bark at a strange noise, alert me to smoke in my home, or even--in the case of my dogs--carry my laundry upstairs, get my shoes or slippers, and turn on or off the lights when needed.

So, Robert and Branda Vale, forget having any(more) kids...get a dog!

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The "imposter" Pit Bull - Part 2

In a previous post, we showed a couple of News10 stills depicting what looks to be a Doberman/German Shepherd mix near a police cruiser. The dog is running loose around the vehicle. This footage aired during the story of two dogs, allegedly Pit Bulls, that were running loose. At least one of the dogs bit two people. Witnesses said there might have been a third dog as well, but police could only find (and shoot) two dogs.

I contacted News10 and asked them where they got the information that both dogs were Pit Bulls. Who identified the black and brown Shepherd-like dog as a Pit Bull? News10 responded that Sacramento County animal control identified the dogs as Pit Bulls or Pit Bull mixes. I then contacted the county animal control, and their PR representative Annie Parker informed me that animal control officers identified the dogs as Pit Bulls or Pit Bull mixes.

Well, the whole thing made my head spin. I've seen breed misidentifications before --even by veterinarians and animal control officers -- but only once have I ever seen an animal control agency so badly mess up the "Pit Bull" label... on a Shepherd? Really? So, I dug further and laid it out on the table....

Either Sac County AC is flat-out wrong about the dog's breed, or the black and brown dog was not one of the dogs shot by police. I emailed Parker the photos, and she informed me that the dog was, in fact, NOT one of the dogs shot by police. It happened to be another loose dog, apparently in the area at the same time. It was wearing a collar. It's not clear whether the mystery dog was the "third" dog spotted or whether it was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Parker wrote, "Yeah, we are assuming it was out loose at the same time. We’re not sure. Supposedly a third dog was called in, but only one person saw it, and neither the ACR officers or the Sherriff Deputies saw the third dog. ACR did spend almost two hours afterwards canvassing the neighborhood looking for the third dog but it was never located."

It does leave me wondering, though, if witnesses reported two to three dogs, and this dog was running around loose in the area at the same time... why did none of the law enforcement officers seize the dog? And why did News10 show such prominent footage of this dog in its "Pit Bulls attack" broadcast? Did News10 believe this dog was one of the "Pit Bulls?"

Well, about the only thing I'm sure of now is something I've known for many years -- media stories are sometimes misleading, and breed identifications should always be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism.

(But NEWS10 isn't quite as bad as FOX news splicing together footage from two different protests, on two different days, to make a crowd appear significantly larger! http://www.fancast.com/blogs/2009/tv-news/daily-show-calls-out-fox-news-for-flubbing-footage/)

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

When City Council Members Go Bad

Auburn, CA wants to revise its dog ordinances. Last night, I had the pleasure of sitting through agenda Items 1-8 about property tax assessments and the like before getting to Agenda Item 9--the agenda item just about everyone in the room (including the news media) wanted to hear.

What is Auburn going to do about dogs?

The mayor, who had previously emailed me with reassurance Auburn was not looking at any breed-specific ordinance, including a spay-neuter one, opened his remarks by stating that they would not be discussing a breed ban, acknowledging that bans violate CA law. The council went on to discuss dog incidents and statistics with animal control and law enforcement staff. By the end of the evening, it seems most of the city council would love to target Pit Bulls, but the mayor and the city attorney and some of the animal control/law enforcement folks aren't too eager to start trying to enforce a breed-specific ordinance. We'll have to wait to see what the draft ordinance actually says.

During last night's meeting, Councilmember Hanley read a statistic that "90% of all dog attacks are committed by intact dogs." Well, actually, the statistic often quoted is 90% of all fatal dog attacks are committed by intact males (the percentage is actually less when you look at dog attacks in general). So, Councilmember Hanley, the statistic is male dogs and fatal attacks, and as we all know, statistics are...well...only that. They do not generally prove cause and effect. In fact, almost all idiot dog owners own intact dogs (which, as anyone who has taken a logic course knows, does NOT mean that all intact dogs are owned by idiots -- i.e., "all cats are mammals but not all mammals are cats." But I digress!) So, even if the statistic is valid, does it show that having testicles causes dogs to turn psycho, or does it show that irresponsible owners who fail to properly contain, train, and/or socialize their dog, or are attracted to a "tough" image, by and large, and want to keep intact males? It's no surprise these might be many of the dogs that end up causing problems in communities, not by virtue of the reproductive organs, but by virtue of the idiots who own and breed them.

And as for the topic of sterilization and aggression, by the way, studies have correlated spaying females to increased aggression). (http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/1880/4/1_3.pdf).

However, there are benefits of spaying and neutering. Neutering males CAN lessen a dog's desire to roam, mark, and hump -- but then again, my parent's Pug, neutered at the age of 5 1/2 months can be quite the little marker -- as my mom's couch can testify! Neutering males, especially younger, can lessen the degree of same-gender DOG aggression (i.e., neutered males can be a little less testy with other males over territory/resource issues).

But as for human aggression -- no chopping off testicles does not miraculously turn an unstable, aggressive dog into a gentle, passive one. Behavior problems need to be dressed directly, through intervention, training, and diligence... a trip to the vet to chop off reproductive organs isn't going train and socialize you. (And if those methods don't work, just euthanize the dog for everyone's sake!)

Oh, and let us not forget the two neutered dogs in Napa a year or so ago that broke out of a yard and attacked a passerby.

I will leave you with the following photos from last night's meeting:

Author Dawn Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The "imposter" Pit Bull

These days, Pit Bulls are so cool, other dogs are pretending to be them! Take one Sacramento Doberman/Shepherd-like mix strolling down the street, biting people, and getting shot by police.

This black-and-tan dog with vaguely shepherd-like ears, a thick tail, and lab-like coat was apparently proclaimed a "vicious Pit Bull" by bystanders, animal control, the police, and even News10.

I've posted the image here for all to see. If you think this is a Pit Bull, you need glasses. What I find scary is... did animal control think this was a Pit Bull? (I say "was" because apparently law enforcement shot the dog dead after it bit/attacked several people).

You can see the News10 video here http://www.news10.net/video/default.aspx?aid=85071

UPDATE: KCRA, which originally reported the dogs as "Pit Bulls" has changed its online story to reference them merely as "dogs." We presume this change is because one of the dogs is obviously NOT a Pit Bull and the other's breed is still undetermined. http://www.kcra.com/news/21544090/detail.html

Author Dawn Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Out of the mouth of City of Sacramento Animal Control

News10 did a story about a Pit Bull Attack. Immediately following that story, it aired another story about National Pit Bull Awareness Day in Sacramento (October 24th). In the middle of talking about the Pit Bull walk, News10 interjected the interview of an Animal Control officer from the City of Sacramento. The officer's name is Clinton Nelms, and he apparently adopted a Pit Bull from the shelter that had behavior issues. (Incidentally, News10 misspelled his name as Melms). Nelms states in the interview that he tried to rehabilitate the dog, but the behavior was not eliminated. Nelms, wearing his animal control uniform and standing in front of the City of Sacramento animal care building, goes on to say he believes that, unless Pit Bull ownership is regulated (think: Breed Specific Legislation!), all Pit Bulls will be banned.

During this interview, News10 shows footage of a white Pit Bull-looking dog in a kennel -- presumably at the very same animal care and control agency. The dog is in a kennel with a sign that says "keep fingers out of cage." The dog also wears a thick chain collar around its neck that's held in place by a large padlock.

The entire interview with Nelms and the background footage is disturbing, and we wonder why having an image of a barking Pit Bull wearing a ridiculous and intimidating collar was chosen as a backdrop for this story. We have questions we'd like answered. You'll have to watch the video (link below) to understand our criticisms and concerns.

First, why is the shelter adopting out dogs with aggressive behavior issues in the first place?

Secondly, does the agency want to ban Pit Bulls -- currently in violation of state law? Do they really and truly think Pit Bulls are inherently aggressive with (unspecified) "behaviors" that can emerge at any time?

Thirdly, why is News10 showing a dog wearing a thick chain collar with padlock? Did News10 ask to see a "scary" Pit Bull? Or did Nelms or another worker choose to show them this particular dog? Was the footage News10's way of "juicing" up the story with the most sensationalized image it could find? Or is the City of Sacramento intentionally selecting negative images to show News10?

Fourth, what was the full context of Officer Nelms' statements. In a preliminary statement, a shelter worker stated that Nelms' interview was heavily edited and "not entirely accurate." Just how heavily edited was his interview? Was News10's editing fair, careless, or intentionally misleading? We're asking News10 to supply Officer Nelms' entire, unedited interview for comparison.

Finally, and most curiously of all, why in the hell is there a dog in the City's kennel that has a thick chain link collar and padlock? Did the dog just come in off the street and no one had five minutes to spare to get the collar off (and if so, why did they then let News10 back to view THAT dog)? Or is this some new policy with the City of Sacramento? Are they now advocating keeping Pit Bulls on thick chain collars with padlocks?

Take a look at the footage (of the relevant portion of the clip) HERE:

We'll be interviewing Carol (and Idge) later, so stay tuned for THAT enlightening video!

We implore all Pit Bull advocates to contact the City of Sacramento Animal Department of General Services to express your opinion about Nelms' ' interview. You can go to their online form here: http://www.cityofsacramento.org/generalservices/contact-us/

Or you can call the animal control agency directly at 916-808-7387

After all, everyone who pays taxes and the mandatory dog licensing fees should have a say in what this agency is doing with all our hard-earned money!

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Slanted online polls

I think it's about time we talked about the entire regime of online news polls. You know the kind--a news story prompts an Internet media agency to post a poll asking a yes-or-no type question, and then provides a list of selectable answers. Instead of the answers being simple and objective such as "yes," "no," or "I don't know/have no opinion," they are often phrased in a way that makes at least some people have to "say" things they don't really mean (or choose not to vote at all).

The following News10 poll caught our attention tonight:

Following Friday's death of a Delhi child from a pit bull attack, do you think pit bulls should be allowed in homes with small children?Yes. Pit bulls are only dangerous if they are not trained properly.No. Pit bulls are too naturally aggressive to be around children.

I know many of our members wanted to vote, but some just couldn't bring themselves to select either answer. Both answers mandate that, in order to vote, one must assert that Pit Bulls "are dangerous."

Yes. Pit Bulls are no more potentially dangerous than other dogs of similar size.

That, at least, is a true statement. (At least if you believe the National Geographic bite force tests which show the Pit Bull's jaw strength is less than that of both the Rottweiler and the German Shepherd).

And anyone who wants to say, "But German Shepherds don't kill babies." Um. Yes, they do. In fact, there were at least 27 human deaths caused by German Shepherds between 1979 and 1998 in the United States (and deaths caused by police dogs are NOT included in this number). Great Danes caused 8 human deaths during this same time period.

These numbers come from the CDC Report, and unfortunately, it's impossible to tell how many deaths were caused by Pit Bulls during this time period, because the CDC study only references "Pit Bull type" dogs (it doesn't say "German Shepherd type" dogs, in comparison). So, we have no way of knowing what "Pit Bull type" dog includes. Does it include Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Boxers and American Bulldogs and all the other breeds commonly mistaken for Pit Bulls (like Presa Canarios, Bandogs, Dogos, and anything else that has short hair)?

We'd like very much to see News10 and other agencies change they way they craft their online polls to include more neutral (and factually correct) statements as answer options. We don't mean to pick on News10 because, after all, we LIKE News10 (especially after their exceptional story on Continental Airlines and its horrible breed discrimination policy):D (Of course, we're totally objective on that point!)

But, come on... enough is enough with the slanted online news polls!

Should you wish to send your POLITE comments to News10, you can email the agency at comments@kxtv.com

CDC Report: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/dogbreeds.pdf

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Continental says NO to Pit Bull puppy

Joey is a 4 month old Puppy rescued by the Chako Rescue Association in Sacramento. When Libby Sherrill, the filmmaker creating the documentary BEYOND THE MYTH, came out to California for an event, she met Joey and bonded with him. Joey is rambunctious and full of energy, though as happy go lucky as any pup could be. His energy level, however, makes him a harder placement because he needs a very active home. Thankfully, Libby is a very active woman and lives in the country in Knoxville, TN.

Well, Libby needed to fly home to TN, and she wanted to take Joey with her (in the Cargo hold of the Continental plane, with the little pup safely in a kennel). Continental, it turns out, doesn't like Pit Bulls and won't fly any Pit Bull over 6 months of age or over 20 lbs. Joey is about 4 months, but he just misses the weight limit at about 27 lbs.

Continental explains that "safety concerns" have led it to adopt this policy, which prohibits even "mixed" breed dogs that may be part Pit Bull (though their website says they allow "crossbreeds," the representative on the phone told us that information is wrong and the website simply has not yet been updated).

So, Joey had to stay in Sacramento while Libby flew home, without him, to TN.

Continental's policy is not driven by safety. What can a 4 month old puppy do that a 90 lb German Shepherd or Rottweiler could not do? Are they afraid that little Joey will break out of his kennel and damage the aircraft?

Well, I'd like you to meet this rescued German Shepherd from the bay area.

His name is Greylin, but it really should be Houdini. He's busted out of three kennels (destroying them in the process), escaped an enclosed dog run, and sailed over a 7 foot privacy fence. Continental will fly him, no problem, in a standard plastic Vari-Kennel in the Cargo hold of its aircraft which would no doubt prove as ineffective a containment device as the other three kennels he managed to demolish.

And he is not alone. Take a visit to Captains Kennels (a boarding kennel) that declares on its website, "Escape proof kennels, specifically German Shephards. If you own a German Shepherd, you know what we mean."

So maybe Continental should ban all Pit Bulls and German Shepherds. But wait! Border Collies are also often escape artists! "High intelligence does mean they learn quickly - but that includes how to do anything they set their minds to. They are master escape artists who can virtually pick the lock on your gate." http://www.yourpurebredpuppy.com/reviews/bordercollies.html

And the list goes on. Jack Russell Terriers, Malinois, Akitas, Huskies, Malamutes and many other breeds are well known for their abilities to escape confinement -- whether it be a fence, a crate, or an outside kennel; but for some reason, Continental has deemed a 4 month old Pit Bull pup weighing a mere 20-something pounds to be more of a menace than a high-drive, chew crazy, kennel-destroying German Shepherd about four times his size.

Apparently, it's only a secret to Continental that many different breeds of dogs can get out of SOME kennels. In other words, if Continental was really concerned about safety, it would mandate that all dogs be transported in secure, escape-proof kennels. But, no, Continental has chosen to discriminate against Pit Bulls, even little pups confined securely in crates -- even escape-proof crates -- and blissfully allow all other breeds on its aircraft.

CHAKO says "Shame on Continental" and urges everyone to contact Continental airlines at 800.WE.CARE2 (800.932.2732)(Apparently, they don't REALLY care -- at least not about a little rescue puppy needing a lift to his new home)

See Joey's story on the news at http://www.news10.net/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=69027AND Beyond The Myth's site at http://www.beyondthemythmovie.com/

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

California officials harassing dog fanciers through AKC website

The California State Board of Equalization has been visiting the AKC website and searching out breed clubs. Any person who has his or her name and address listed there or at the breed club's website is subject to harassment by the California State Board of Equalization. The Board uses this information to send out letters advising people they need a seller's permit to sell dogs or puppies and demanding they respond within 30 days. A copy of one of these letters is depicted at the end of this blog entry.

CHAKO called Jenny Chau with the Board and asked her about these letters. She confirmed these letters have gone out, and her supervisor (Bermudez) instructed her to send them. We asked Ms. Chau, since the government has the burden of proof and citizens have a constitutional right not to incriminate themselves, what would happen if someone did not respond to the letter.

Ms. Chau confirmed there is no penalty for not responding to the letter, but people who fail to respond would get a second notice and the matter might be referred to the Board's district office for further review and possible investigation. She stated several times the letters were sent out as part of an "outreach" program. (Yeah, a Big Brother outreach!) If you are required to hold a seller's permit because you meet the criteria, but you do not have a permit, then CHAKO recommends that you seek an attorney to assist you with the board. If you sell no more than two pets or other non-food animals during a twelve month period, you are not required to hold such a seller's permit. You do not have to prove YOUR innocence. The government has to prove its case. Therefore, you are not obligated to respond to the letter.

CHAKO has contacted various media organizations and legislators with this information and recommends that anyone who has received such a letter do so as well. You can find your legislator by visiting the following link http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Proof that Racism is at the heart of Breed Discrimination

Donald Butler, a member of the Public Safety Committee for Horicon, Wisconsin, believes that Horicon should ban Pit Bulls. His rationale for wanting Pit Bulls out of Horicon is simple, if shockingly discriminatory.

"Horicon is not a ghetto. This is one breed of dogs we do not need."

Many educated dog advocates, attorneys, and scholars have stated that breed discrimination is often a guise for classism. Never before, however, has a public official come right out and admitted such a thing!

We applaud Donald Butler for his bravery. It takes guts to admit that the sole motivation for wanting to get rid of Pit Bulls is because one believes that only "ghetto" people own Pit Bulls. Is it possible that Mr. Butler believes that, by banning Pit Bulls, all the people with darker skin will leave Horicon with their beloved Pit Bulls?

Mr. Butler, despite his bravery, made quite the ass of himself for such assumptions. Even if true, he has shown himself to be a racist, pure and simple. However, Mr. Butler's belief that Pit Bulls are "ghetto" is, of course, erroneous. People like Helen Keller, Michael J. Fox, and John Stewart own Pit Bulls.

The author of this blog happens to hold three degrees and has authored several serious works, including a law review article, a scientific journal article, and a nonfiction book.

Well, if Pit Bulls are "ghetto," then Pit Bulls sure have improved the "ghetto!"

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

Portis - penitent and perlexed

Clinton Portis recently expressed regret that he'd made comments trivializing dog fighting.In a May 21 interview with WAVY-TV in Norfolk, Portis said of accused dog fighter Michael Vick, "It's his property; it's his dogs. If that's what he wants to do, do it."

After a firestorm of public criticism, Portis backtracked, stating, " "I didn't know it would affect that many people, didn't think what I said was that offensive....I've never been into dogs, never dealt with dogs, don't like playing with dogs. But at the same time, there's a lot of people who are crazy over pets."

It seems Portis just doesn't know how to spin very well. What he's made clear by his latest comments is that he doesn't find dog fighting offensive, but he's sorry he opened his mouth because there are a lot of crazy pet lovers out there who found his comments offensive and said so. Portis has revealed the lesson he's learned from all this.

"From now on, I don't comment on nobody."

You're a stand-up guy, Portis. Just please stand far, far away from me

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

The Government as Micromanager

Imagine you wake up in the morning, shuffle into the bathroom, turn on your faucet and eye the digital counter on the faucet that regulates your water use. You brush your teeth quickly, staying within your allotted water usage for that activity, then hop into the shower, which is timed to provide exactly four minutes of moderately warm water. You get out, quickly dry off and dress, then head out into the living room where you wake your 39-pound dog (dogs 40 pounds or over have been banned) and put some food in his bowl, which he eagerly devours. You open the backdoor and venture outside with your pooch, waiting for him to do his business. It's cold, and you're impatient, and you roll your eyes as he moves from place to place, sniffing. A slight drizzle begins, and you cross your arms for warmth. When your four-legged friend finally does his business, you pick it up promptly with the pooper scooper, then deposit it in an environmentally-friendly and sealed, county-approved bin for animal waste, then you let your dog back inside and follow him in, closing the door behind you. You eye the living room and hope it looks the same way when you return, since it's illegal to keep your dog in a crate, on a tether, in a kennel, or alone in the backyard.

With a sigh, you grab your wallet, biodegradable cell phone, and keys. You hop into your compact, fuel efficient vehicle and drive to your work three miles away (the sale of SUVs and vans were banned long ago, and only those who use a wheelchair or have two or more children may apply for an exemption. Also, since the law now places a $3,000 tax penalty on anyone who commutes to work more than five miles each way, you had to accept a less-than-ideal job closer to home). You stop for coffee on the way, but you're only able to get decaf (caffeine was banned years ago), and as you view the selection of fruit and vegetables that comprise the breakfast offerings behind the counter, you find yourself missing the occasional bagel or muffin. With a sigh, you pick up your drink and make your way to the building. You've made sure you aren't wearing any cologne or perfume, because those are prohibited since some people have chemical sensitivities, and as you get out of your car, you quickly sniff your armpits (since deodorant is banned, too, and you didn't have time toput a whole lot of time into that area earlier in the shower). On your way to your office, you stop in the breakroom and add some hot water to your coffee. The only vending machine offers unsweetened juice, low fat milk, or unsalted nuts and dried fruit for sale. You put in a hard day at the office and, on your way home, you stop at a drive-through and order a bottle of water (soda is a thing of the past), a grilled, trans-fat free chicken sandwich on whole grainbread (white flour was banned a year ago), and a side of apple slices, which you plan to feed to the 39-pound dog. You have to be careful with what you feed him because, if he gains a pound, you'll have to euthanize him.

If that reality seems far-fetched, it isn't. Legislators in America are quickly becoming micromanagers of our lives, and while some ofthe above regulations might seem like a good idea, others clearlyfall into the area of unwarranted intrusions into personal lives.

Let's rewind to today. A cluster of new California laws are set totake effect July 1. These new laws include a ban on junk food and soda in schools, recycling programs for plastic bags, and increased fees for bottles and cans that are recyclable.

The ban on junk food arose from Senate Bill 12, passed in 2005, and details the type and number of calories food items must contain in order to be sold. It also specifies how foods must be prepared (or how they must NOT be prepared). Senate Bill 965, passed the same year, limits the type of drinks schools may sell to the following:

1) fruit-based drinks that are composed of no less than 50 percent fruit juice and have no added sweetener,

2) Vegetable-based drinks that are composed of no less than 50 percent vegetable juice and have no added sweetener.

3) Drinking water with no added sweetener.

4) Two-percent-fat milk, one-percent-fat milk, nonfat milk, soy milk,rice milk, and other similar nondairy milk.

This year, Assemblymember Sally Lieber proposed a law that would make it illegal for parents to spank their children. Another law will prohibit drivers from talking on their cell phones without using ahands-free device. Yet another pending law would require all dogs in the state to be sterilized by the age of four months. Still another law makes it a crime to leave a dog tethered in the yard for more than three hours, even if the owner is present with the dog (say,working in the front yard on the car with the dog on a long line) or camping with the dog. It doesn't stop there, another proposed law would regulate what type of lightbulbs we use.
These laws slowly chip away at the personal freedoms upon which this country was founded. Every year, more laws add to the ones already in existence, managing what we can wear, drive, and eat. Many places already limit (or are proposing to limit) the type and number of pets you can own, how high your fence should be, what size or breed of dog you can own, whether you can leave your car parked on the street overnight, sleep in a parked vehicle, or even wear baggy pants. Personal choice is on the verge of being obsolete, because the government has decided it knows what is best for us and our children,and like a good little proactive parent, the government is involved in every facet of our lives.

It will soon become time to change our nation's motto. America was once the Land of the Free. Now, it is the Land of the Over-regulated.

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

Media Bias: 'The BLACK defendant' syndrome

Is the media truly objective and unbiased? How media agencies report stories show their prejudices (and, no, we are not talking about FOX News!)

Let's take this example --Pittsburgh Live! In this story, published May 12, 2007, about a dog attacking another dog, the headline reads: Pit bull attacks dog in Brackenridge (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/s_507284.html)

In the following story, dated July 25, 2008, the headline reads: Dog attack in Erie County kills toddler (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/cityregion/s_579353.html)

At no time, in the second story, does the paper mention the breed of the dog. Other papers describe the dog (and include photos) as an Old English Sheepdog.

In April of 2005, News 10 of Sacramento reported a story where a Queensland Heeler and Pit Bull attacked another dog. (http://www.topix.net/forum/source/kxtv/TSVHC0RFNGIKUT9UI). The headline only referred to the PIT BULL. In response to this obvious bias in the reporting of the story, we sent the following email to News 10:

"Regarding this tragic story, we are almost as saddened by the bias displayed in the headline as we are by the horrible event itself. Why, if a Queensland Heeler AND a Pit Bull both attacked and killed the dogs was only the PIT BULL mentioned in the headline? That is akin to telling a news story about a white man and black man who rob a store together but having the headline read: Black man robs store."

To News 10's credit, they recognized the bias in the headline and responded as follows (in an internal email copied to us):

"The reader has a point. How about we change it to something like: Roseville Woman Mourns Pets Killed in Dog Attack?"

They subsequently changed the headline.

People who report the news are as subject to bias as the rest of society, but as the watchdogs of society, it is crucial that news professionals make a concerted effort to recognize their prejudices and report the news in as objective a fashion as possible. Bias in the media harms society by causing people to perceive issues in a certain way that may not represent reality, and these perceptions often find their way into laws that affect millions of people...and animals.

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

Guest Blog: Who cares about THOSE dogs? by Jackie Marshall

For a year and a half, I have been dreading the inevitable: the criminalization of dog ownership.

At first, I approached the members of my German shepherd training club and asked them to support my pit bull friends by opposing SB 861. They would have no part of it. "It's just THOSE dogs; it'll never happen to our breed." No matter what I wrote or said, such as "I guarantee that our dogs are next," nobody would support me in my anti-BSL campaigning because nobody would bother with a bill that didn't affect them personally.

Then, all of a sudden, the powers that be wanted to criminalize dog breeding in Sacramento County (with Sac City close behind), but this time it isn't breed specific; it's dogs of any breed. I spent quite a bit of time opposing that, too, but I couldn't get any of my German shepherd buddies to support those efforts either. This time they said, "That law will never pass." And of course it's no surprise that it did. None of the dog people at those meetings would support each other; they just bickered in a "Well, why would I support poodle/spaniel/mutt breeders? Those dogs are useless anyway." In other words, who cares about THOSE dogs, and who cares about the people who love them?

So now California wants mandatory spay and neuter laws statewide, which everybody says will never pass. It does not make exception for ranch dogs, unless they are registered AKC, which pretty much guarantees that they won't work. All the people who swear by mutts will be out of luck forever. Breeders will have to pay fees. Breeders will have to get permits. Dogs will have to have paperwork about their shots, breeding, and residence addresses formally registered with the State. All of a sudden, again, no surprise, the German shepherd people are up in arms! Please, everyone, take action! They are going to make laws about breeding OUR dogs! Please help immediately! Fight this new bill!

But I for one do not care to participate any more. I have no sympathy for dog owners who don't care a damn about other dog owners. Maybe the "Nazi" in German shepherd lineage has finally kicked in...well sure, make those dogs illegal, they are just show dogs or family pet mutts! Uh huh. Not the important kinds of dogs: OURS.

The ranchers with long lines of working dogs find them important, and so do people like me who have had a blessed experience with a mutt, and all the people who swear that their best dogs have been of indecipherable lineage and they'll always adopt mutts from the shelter. It's my opinion that MY dogs are important, as they are police K9 candidates (which may not matter to you if you're a criminal). But it sure as heck is also my opinion that the State shouldn't be determining what kinds of dogs THEY will let US find important. Who cares? It won't be happening to MY dogs, because everybody wants my dogs. In fact, it just drives my puppy prices up, as they will be in demand when only Germans can breed them.

So the rest of the GSD people are out of luck, as far as finding support here. They let too many pit bulls go under the needle, so I no longer care about their rights to hobby breed. As far as I'm concerned, they're on their own, like pit bull people have been for a long time. And I've learned a valuable lesson in modern self-centeredness.

Author: Jackie Marshall

Saturday, March 14, 2009

When Public Officials Go Bad

Kory Nelson has declared War on Pit Bulls. He's Senior Assistant City Attorney for the City and County of Denver, Colorado, and he has made it his personal mission to eradicate Pit Bulls from the United States, even going to far as to call up Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco to give him unsolicited tips on how to exterminate this breed of dog.

Nelson even wrote an article for Municipal Lawyer titled, "Why Pit Bulls Are More Dangerous and Breed Specific Legislation is Justified." He is a man with a passion for killing Pit Bulls. In 2002, Denver euthanized 338 Pit Bulls.

A study reported in a 1994 Pediatrics article titled, "Which Dogs Bite? A Case-Control Study of Risk Factors" sought to determine dog-specific factors independently associated with a dog biting a non-household member. Cases were selected from dogs reported to Denver Animal Control in 1991 for a first-bite episode of a non-household member in which the victim received medical treatment.

The study found that children aged 12 and under comprised over half of the victims. The breed of dog responsible for the most bites -- the German Shepherd Dog.

Kory Nelson's article advocating the mass killing of dogs contains a small biographical blurb about the man who has made exterminating a breed he considers dangerous his personal mission in life. That blurb contains one very interesting piece of information.

Kory Nelson owns a German Shepherd.

Since German Shepherds were responsible for the most dog bites resulting in medical attention in the aforementioned study, we suggest Denver ban German Shepherds next. Of course, after German Shepherds, Denver will have to ban Chow Chows because they were second on the list of biting dogs (then Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, and Akitas).

German Shepherds, often bred for protection work, have frequently made the news for attacks. An 8 year-old Chicago boy was attacked by a neighbor's two German Shepherds on Christmas Eve (2005). A Lancaster, PA police dog mauled a girl on a school playground. Little six year-old Bailey Prosser was mauled by a German Shepherd in 2005.

Kory Nelson proves himself to be the worst kind of hypocrite -- one that uses the law as a weapon to embark on his own personal crusade to exterminate a breed he personally despises while owning a breed of dog that ranks #1 on the list of biting dogs for his own County.

German Shepherds, of course, are not banned in Denver, and Kory Nelson has no interest in banning them since he owns one.

Of course, CHAKO does not advocate a ban on German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, or any other breed. In fact, one of CHAKO's most active volunteers is a German Shepherd Dog enthusiast. However, we believe that persons who are public servants and have authority and power to affect the lives of citizens should not be allowed to yield that power as a weapon to act on their own personal prejudices. They should not use the law to target others while exempting themselves. They are public servants, not dictators.

Kory Nelson should be removed from his position. He is a disgrace to lawyers, and an affront to a free and just society. He is a hypocrite on a personal mission of destruction.

"Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the state was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They believed the freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth... that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government.... "

-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Science of Breed Discrimination

It is often said that some breeds are genetically prone to aggression. A dog's behavior is determined by genetics. Human beings, however, are intelligent, sentient creatures who have free will. Dogs, of course, are also intelligent and sentient creatures, but being 'lesser' animals, different genetics apply to them...somehow.

Of course, genes are genes, whether in humans or canines. So, when politicians start banning breeds under the rationale that some breeds are more inherently vicious than others, they engage in breed profiling. If these same politicians were to say, on the other hand, that black people need to be eliminated because they commit the majority of crimes, that would be racial profiling. Racial profiling is wrong. Breed profiling is, however, somehow thought of as different. Dogs are not people, after all.

Dogs are not people, that is obvious, but humans, especially those called politicians, are perhaps a bit too arrogant and naive. If the argument is sound that some breeds of dog are genetically predisposed to aggression, then the argument is equally sound that some ethnicities within the human species are genetically predisposed to aggression. Dogs may be dogs, but science is science, and science is both objective and universal.

Sir Francis Galton, born in 1822, was the first scientist to study heredity and human behavior systematically. Since then, the science of behavioral genetics has advanced. There are several indications that behavior is genetic.

Behaviors can be altered in response to changes in biological structures or processes. For example, a brain injury can transform a shy, quiet person into a loud, aggressive jerk, and doctors routinely treat behaviors caused by mental illness with drugs that affect brain chemistry. Geneticists have even created or abolished specific mouse behaviors by inserting or disabling certain genes.

In humans, some behaviors run in the family. For example, mental illness tends to cluster in families.

Behaviorial similarities run across similar species. Chimpanzees are humanity's closest relative, sharing 98 percent of oru DNA. The two species also share behaviors that are very much alike. For example, both are highly social creatures. Both nurture, cooperate, demonstrate altruism, and even share similar facial expressions.

Recently, the science of behavioral genetics has shown that many human personality traits that most people see as a product of will are, as it turns out, products of genes. Novelty-seeking, for example, shows a strong genetic influence. In fact, studies demonstrate that certain behaviors such as alcoholism are related to growth hormone release. Another study looked at 124 unrelated subjects and showed that "higher than average novelty seeking test scores were significantly associated with a particular exonic polymorphism, the 7-repeat allele at the locus for the dopamine receptor D4 gene." (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/dispomim.cgi?id=601696) What that means, basically, is that novelty-seeking is likely linked to a particular genetic variation in humans.

Genes affect a variety of human behaviors, whether or not individuals like to believe they do. Dog behavior is also influenced by genetics. In fact, humans share more of their ancestral DNA with dogs than with mice. Dogs and humans are so genetically alike that scientists study disease in dogs to learn about disease in human beings. ""When compared with the genomes of human and other important organisms, the dog genome provides a powerful tool for identifying genetic factors that contribute to human health and disease," according to Dr. Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Scientists also have evidence that genes influence aggression. Researchers at the University of Virginia, for example, published information indicating that sex chromosomes (those X and Y shapes of DNA in our cells) influence maternal and aggressive behavior in humans. Emilie Rissman, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Virginia remarked on her research, "It is our hope that these data could lead to the discovery of new genetic bases for aggression and parental behavior in other animals, including humans."

So, beware. If you believe that certain breeds of dogs should be exterminated because they are genetically prone to aggression, then it follows, logically, that certain human races or even genders are more prone to aggression than others. In other words, if you support breed profiling, then you must, according to science, also support racial profiling.

Welcome to the brave, new world.

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.