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.

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