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.