Advocacy Overdrive: Addressing the Opposition - Facts Trump Feelings

Sad as it is there is still a segment of our society that has a prejudice against Pit Bulls. Despite the CDC, respected animal behaviorists and even the Department of Justice all saying that there is no need to ban dogs, some people persist in their xenophobic ways towards “pit bulls”.

To quote Bill Maher the host of Real Time with Bill Maher “It is not a debate when you have scientists debating non scientists”. He was speaking about global warming, but it could just as easily have been about dogs. This is not a debate; it is science trying to get the uneducated masses to see how unwarranted their fears about dogs are.

One of the major problems with dogs in our society is that we have people making decisions, passing laws, creating myths and fomenting fears about dogs and these people have little or no knowledge of dog behavior or have in way any legitimate experience with dogs, let alone pit bull type dogs. What they have are feelings and options based on media reports. It is simply an opinion based in fear.

It’s laughable when you look at the people involved in the Anti Dog Lobby, you see that there are only two or three people pushing the agenda and then you see a lot of other scared people joining in on blogs and websites.

Let’s take a look at the biggest assertion by the opposition that Pit Bulls are to be feared and in some way are not like other dogs.

Pit Bulls are more likely to bite or kill a person. This is based on media reports and one “study” done by Clifton Merritt. This “study” is based on media reports from the years 1982 - 2006. This assertion that Pit Bulls are more likely to bite gets bandied about mainly on one website.

KC Dog Blog does an excellent job at dissecting the fraudulent and inaccurate conclusion this “report” has come to. I suggest you check it out here -

Mr. Ken Phillips, an attorney, has chosen to focus on “Pit Bulls”.  He has chosen to site one study, not all the studies, not history, not the math and science of dog bites, but one study. A study that backs his claims, a study that will resonate with victims of dog bites, a study that will tug at the heart strings of people already fearful of “pit bulls”.

Go here and find the “pit bull”

Good luck as there are quite a few dogs that look like “pit bulls”. However in reality there are only three breeds that make up that type of dog. The American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terriers these dogs are Pit Bull dogs. If it is a mix, well it’s a mix and if it’s not one of those three breeds, then it’s not a pit bull dog. It is that simple.  This idea that any dog with a blocky head and a muscular body is a “pit bull” is ludicrous.

As far as I can tell from his website Ken Phillips has zero education in regards to dog behavior nor does he offer any links to legitimate dog behaviorists or the other studies from the CDC, or American Temperament Testing or the JVAMA to show that Pit Bull dogs are not an inherent danger, but it’s the humans in their lives that create them to be that way due to ignorance, negligence or abuse. Even though he states that we should not “ban the weapon”, but “go after the person behind it”, he is still equating “pit bulls” as weapons. Dogs are victims and subjected to the actions, desires and whims of humans. Essentially dogs are subjugated and the human has the responsibility to see the dog is sound, not the other way around.

My question is this…why are these anti dog folks not concerned about the other breeds of dogs involved in fatal incidents and mauling incidents? If they are truly concerned about dog bites, and fatalities surrounding dog bites (and hey who isn’t?) you’d think they’d focus on dog’s in general not one breed or type.

I’ll tell you why these anti dog types focus on the term “pit bull”, because it is sexy, it’s become conflated with dangerousness and it will get a response when you say Pit Bull.

Check out this example from a media study by The National Canine Research Council for the month of August 2007.

August 18, 2007 - A Labrador mix attacked a 70-year-old man sending him to the hospital in critical condition. Police officers arrived at the scene and the dog was shot after charging the officers. This incident was reported in ONE (1) article and only in the local paper.

August 19, 2007 - A 16-month old child received fatal head and neck injuries after being attacked by a mixed breed dog. This attack was reported TWO (2) times by the local paper.

August 20, 2007 - A 6-year-old boy is hospitalized after having his ear torn off and receiving severe bites to the head by a medium-sized mixed breed dog. This attack was reported in ONE (1) article and only in the local paper.

 August 21, 2007 - A 59-year-old woman was attacked in her home by two Pit bulls who had entered through her doggy door.  She was trying to break up a dog fight.  The dogs had seen a neighbor’s Jack Russell terrier enter the home.    She was hospitalized with severe injuries. This incident was reported in over two hundred and thirty (230) articles in national and international newspapers, as well as major television news networks, including CNN, MSNBC and FOX.

This is clearly an over reporting on Pit Bulls. Of course if you base a “study” on dog attacks from media accounts it will come up filled with Pit Bulls and Rottweiler’s, those two breed types are the ones the media over emphasizes.

My question then is; why did the media ignore all the other stories of dog incidents, including the death of a small child. Because they have a predisposed mindset to sensationalize anything Pit Bull related. It is proven time and time again.

The media still to this day despite what we learned from Vick’s dogs and what we have for reputable sources on dog bite incidents will report on anything that smells like a pit bull incident. When other dogs do things objectionable it is clearly not as newsworthy.

Ask the CDC about the report they did on breeds and dog bites based on the media, they retraced that report and issued a statement saying they were not accurate.

If you think I’m exaggerating take a look at the media’s reporting on dog bite incidents since 1864 up to our current media driven times. This was compiled by Karen Delise author of The Pit Bull Placebo.

Chronological look at the media’s dog attack reporting

1864 – 1899 - 145 stories in 35 years.

1960 – 1975 - 155 stories in 15 years.

1987 over 800 newspaper articles on “Pit Bulls”.

2004 – Over 900 “Pit Bull” stories.

2005 – Over 1,700 “Pit Bull” stories.

2006 – Over 2,800 “Pit Bull” stories.

Between 1985 – 09 estimated 14,500 plus articles with “Pit Bull” in the headline.

2010 ?

There are talk radio DJ’s fomenting the fear of pit bull dogs on a daily basis across the US and off course let’s not forget the idiotic talk show hosts and the last century celebrities spouting nonsense about Pit Bulls such as Judge Judy, David Letterman and Nancy Grace, all of whom have said ignorant, ridiculous and prejudicial things against Pit Bulls. These folks should stick to what they know, and leave the discussion about dogs to people that actually know what they are talking about.

Dr. Karen Overall said something very interesting when I interviewed her. “If you have charisma you must be careful when you open your mouth and speak, because people will listen and you’ll need to know what you’re talking about”.

This is where the trouble is, far too many people talking out of the side of their necks about something they have zero knowledge about and have done zero legitimate research about. Furthermore, these people most likely have had zero conscious contact with pit bulls, IE: they have not worked with, lived with or been around Pit Bulls owned by responsible people. If they have then what they spew as prejudice is even worse, as they should know that it is about the humans in a dog’s life, not a breed of dog the media has maligned.

You’d think that perhaps these “news” people and these talk show hosts would use some of their assistants on staff and some of their access to actually research the Pit Bull issue and the dog bite issue. They do not; they just jump on the anti dog bandwagon and spout nonsense. It gets them attention, gets them viewers and then dogs suffer. This is what makes them culpable in the Pit Bull Holocaust. More on that later….

With all the news these days about bullying and prejudice, you’d think these people would have the good sense not to malign a dog or a breed of dog. I do not care if it’s verbal abuse or actual physical abuse, it is still abuse and it has ripple effects that decimate the collective consciousness of communities and shelters. It keeps the cycle of fear alive, it raises euthanasia rates, it causes places to ban dogs, which costs millions and quite frankly it needs to stop.

Here are some numbers to consider

5 million dogs are euthanized each year in the US.

It is estimated that over half of the dogs in shelters are possibly pit bull type dogs.

2 million “pit bulls” are euthanized each year.

That breaks down to 5,479 “pit bull type dogs” being euthanized a day.

This is what media hysteria has caused, this is what banning “pit bulls” has caused.

It seems the only source for the media as far as anti pit bull rhetoric is Mr. Ken Phillips of dog bite law dot org. Because he is an attorney and has been great at self promotion he gets to spew his view point and it’s clearly not a sober or sane logical view point.

I would relish the opportunity to debate Mr. Phillips or Judge Judy et al…and ask them some questions so the world could see their complete lack of knowledge on the subject of dogs, pit bulls, and incidents that result in serious injury or death.

Take a look at this list of esteemed and educated individuals and organizations that say otherwise, that say dogs are safe and breed is not the issue but the humans and their behavior towards the dogs.

The Centers for Disease Control, the American Veterinary Medical Association, The Journal of American Veterinary Medicine , Dr. Karen Overall UPenn, Dr. Nicholas Dodman Tufts, Dr. Ian Dunbar, The Department of Justice, American Temperament Testing Society and then there are the millions, yes millions of dogs that are sound and their owners that are not reckless and irresponsible.

Hmmm…which side would you believe…a lawyer, some crackpots on the web and TV talking heads or credentialed and respected people that do actual legitimate research in dog behavior and the criterion surrounding dog bite incidents?

So why is the media not calling on some of our most valued and trusted resources to come into the “debate”? Because they know that they are being unfair and sensationalizing the incident. They don’t want to educate, they don’t really want a debate, because they know they do not have the knowledge, what they want is to sell headlines and in Mr. Phillips case he wants to get clients. In truth these anti pit bull folks would be made to look like fools if they had an actual debate based on facts not feelings.

The media and the anti dog lobby love to focus on the few tragic incidents and illustrate the breed of dog that they think it might be. They ignore the facts that out of 74 million dogs in the USA only a handful get into really serious incidents.

Recently the media has been focusing on bullying and hate crimes directed at children. As they do this they also attempt to provide an educational slant and provide some support for the kids out there that may be suffering from this prejudice. However when it comes to dogs the media has done squat to educate the public. They keep fanning the flames of fear about “pit bulls”. Why? Because it sells, it’s that simple.

Now back to Mr. Ken Phillips of dog bite law dot org.

An attorney has to do one thing, get clients and get them paid, in order to do that he must promote his services. Mr. Phillips has decided to take on the niche market of dog bites, and what better dog to focus on than the Pit Bull. He is clearly jumping on the bandwagon that was started some 25 years ago by the media.

That is ok, I do agree that people that have been mauled by dogs or when a child is killed in a dog incident that the dogs owners or care takers should be held responsible.

However when you look at Mr. Phillips website it is not merely a website for his legal services, it is a website that has a bias slated to be against Pit Bulls Rottweiler’s and Huskies. If it was a website about his legal services and that he specialized in dog bites, well ok. But to have irrelevant “studies” and a compilation of media reports that get passed off as “research” is misleading and quite frankly out of his depth of knowledge and should not be in his range of services.

What troubles me and others that work so tirelessly to defend, protect and educate dogs and their owners is that the media is NOT helping to educate the public, they just keep the fear alive. When was the last time you saw or read any news reporter talk about these truths?

  • It is estimated that 1 out of 600 “pit bulls” are adopted out of shelters.
  • 2 million “pit bulls” a year are euthanized, 5,479 dogs a day.
  • On average 20, 25 or 30 people die from dog bite related injuries each year; this includes all breeds of dog. Most fatalities are small children left alone unsupervised.
  • 200 or fewer people receive serious medical attention due to dog bites.
  • 4.5 million People get treated for dog bites each year. The vast majority have injuries are on par with a kitchen or play ground accident

Now look at these statistics.

  • 2000 children die each year due to parental abuse. That is 6 times a day.
  • 36,000 people die from the flu.
  • 20 people are killed by horses in the US each year.
  • 53 people a year are killed by bee stings.

Thousands of “pit bulls” are abused and breed into horrendous situations. Yet despite all the crappy and downright horrible things that these pit bull dogs endure; they only kill on average a handful of people, mostly small kids less than 16 years old left unsupervised, which is clearly parental negligence.

Dog bites and dog bites that result in deaths are NOT an epidemic. If they are, we'd better start worrying about fatal bee stings too. See how silly it becomes?

This is not the topic for talk show hosts and media pundits to speak on, unless it is how to reduce the number of already low fatal and lethal dog bites through proper education. By fomenting hate towards a dog breed all that is accomplished is the further maligning of the dogs breed and the subsequent fear of those dogs which leads to increased euthanasia, banning of the dogs and the cost associated to that ban, which is in the millions and unfair persecution of an innocent animal.

What everyone on both sides of the Pit Bull issue is concerned about is dog behavior. However there is only one side of the debate that actually understands dog behavior in a non emotional, factual and scientific way and that is the side that is working to educate people, the pro dog lobby.

The anti dog lobby is not educating people they are simply throwing out the numbers they like, from the one source they have, dogs bite dot org; based on one study of media accounts that the CDC has already said that is not a reliable way to research dog bites or determine anything about the breeds involved. That is why we have an organization called The Centers for Disease Control, to asses’ risks and let us know the truth about them.

If you want to trust a lawyer to educate you about dog behavior, well that’s like asking a carpenter about dentistry, they might have nice teeth, but they are not qualified to give you dental advice. So why would anyone take advice from non credentialed sources when it comes to dogs?

Some people feel compelled to spew their opinion about dogs even if it is made up in their heads and has no basis in reality. Sadly some people will follow along because fear has friends and those friends are insecure and uneducated.

We see this with certain politicians and other news media people, you know FOX, Beck, Palin and O’Donnell et al…all great at opinionated fear mongering not very good at legitimate education or knowing about the subject matter they are speaking about. These are the times we live in where critical thinking has been replaced with opinion and personal agendas regardless if the truth is told as long as they get their way or their 15 minutes of fame then they are happy.

It is more important for them to keep their agenda of fear alive than actually debate on factual information from credible sources. Check this gem out from Ken Phillips. It has been accepted that dog bites have become too frequent and too violent to be ignored.”

Really now….accepted by whom? Not the CDC, Not the American Temperament Testing Association, not The AVMA. None of these organizations are cited on his website. Yet they have all done legitimate research on dogs, breeds and bites.

 Ken Phillips calls fatal dog incidents “canine homicides”.

Interesting…Homicide is defined by the dictionary as 1 - The killing of one human being by another. 2 - A person who kills another; murderer. There is no mention of dogs.

Again this is the problem with humans. They make stuff up to suit their agenda.

In one breath Ken Phillips says “don’t blame the weapon, blame the person behind it”. He infers that dogs IE: Pit Bull dogs are “weapons”. Then drops out information based on one report from one guy.

This crackpot says he has “zero tolerance for dog bites”. Well guess what Mr. Phillips and the rest of the anti dog lobby that will never happen. Dogs bite because they have teeth and they aggress out of fear.

When a dog does kill a human, the thing to look at is what the humans that owned the dog were doing or not doing which led the dog to behave that way. What is the dog’s history? This will always show that the humans in some way were negligent, reckless or uneducated about their dog. This is where the media and journalists have failed miserably.

Dogs do not have the same moral intellectual capacities of humans and you cannot judge their behavior legitimately unless you factor in what the humans in their life were doing or not doing to keep the dog sound.

Dogs are genuinely and generally kind creatures, and they do not want to harm humans, but let's be real people humans are in many ways clueless and not proactive in obtaining the proper information about dogs so they stay sound. Yet despite that dogs are still an amazingly safe risk.

This is the sane and legitimate course of thinking. This is the message from the legitimate dog behavior people and the CDC. This is where we need to obtain our information, not from self serving lawyers and sensationalistic talk show hosts looking to boost ratings.

Again I will repeat the stats…The CDC says 4.5 million dog bites are reported each year to emergency room departments. Out of that maybe 25 – 30 are fatal.

What Mr. Phillips the media and the other canine phobic people don’t ever want to factor in are the common criterion surrounding fatal or serious dog bite incidents. Well here they are compiled by The National Canine Research Council (NCRC)

ž Function of dog is for protection – fighting - breeding – guarding i.e. resident dog.

ž Negligent or Reckless Owners – substandard pain training, not recognizing behavior issues & treating them humanely – not socializing dogs.

ž Adults not supervising children. 1965 – 2001 there were 90 fatal incidents involving “pit bull type dogs” 50 of those were due to parental negligence not supervising kids and dogs.

ž Dog is chained or housed or fenced in all the time. Creates frustration, anxiety, fear and aggression.

ž Dog is not spayed or neutered. Dogs get touchy and protective around litters and when mating. 2000 – 05 there were 131 fatal dog incidents in the USA 92% involved unaltered dogs not spayed or neutered.

ž Multiple dogs. 1966 – 2005 35% of all fatal dog incidents involved more than one dog.

ž People push boundaries. Both dog owners and people in general due some pretty stupid things sometimes.

ž Domestic Violence. Franklin County OH showed that the zip codes with the most domestic violence had the highest percentage of dog bites.

These things matter and many times when you look into the life of the dog that was involved in a fatality or serious bite incident you see one or more of these criterion present. Also we need to ask was the dog ill or sick in some way?

Yet the anti dog lobby does not factor these criterion in or use them to show how education of these factors can prevent future incidents. They are not taking into account the biggest variable in a dog’s soundness, the humans in the dog’s life.

If it is the “pit bull genes” why then not all of them?

Because genetics don’t work that way, and environment and humans have a bigger role in any dog’s temperament or behavior than genes. As Patricia McConnell says “Genes are written in pencil”. Genes are not carbon copies. Breeding is a crap shoot, so that old myth about genetics and pit bulls is patently false.

If you are going to go after a dog breed you had better know your stuff because there is a mountain of evidence to prove dogs are a safe risk. There are the behavioral sciences, there is the math of dog bites and there is the history. 

These people that are sounding the alarm are nothing more than dog phobic bullies. Yes, bullies. They are picking on dogs, they are targeting dogs and they are causing some people to fear dogs. They are no different than the people that are anti gay, anti black, anti Muslim, they are fear mongers and they should keep quite unless they can back up what they say, and of course they cannot. It’s all based on how they feel.

Lawyers are like plumbers, it’s great when you need one, but when you don’t, and they have no purpose you don’t want them mucking around with the pipes. Also some plumbers are just average handy men that are pretty much just waiting for a pipe to burst; they have no real purpose unless there is an emergency. Many lawyers are also like this as well.

Mr. Phillips makes his money off of people that have suffered from an injury due to dog bites. He is what is known as an ambulance chaser. He preys on and profits off of people’s fear and pain and suffering and he creates fearful scenarios in order to further his agenda which is to make money.

If Ken Phillips or anyone else in the anti dog lobby was really and sincerely concerned about lowering dog bite fatalities, lowering serious dog bites and dog bites in general they would be aligning with credentialed and legitimate sources that do educate people about dogs and how to interact and train them humanely.

Blaming a dog or a breed of dog and not holding the humans accountable is delusional and easily identified as a prejudice. Because the math and science of dogs shows them to be a safe risk, despite all the horrible and downright crappy things that dogs endure, I’d say dogs are conducting themselves quite admirably.

Let’s close out this blog by taking a look at the level headed and sober assessments of people that focus on education and not sensationalizing bad situations to make a dollar.

AVMA Task Force Report in the JAVMA
June 1st 2001
“Statistics on fatalities and injuries caused by dogs cannot be responsibly used to document the “dangerousness” of a particular breed…” (p. 1736)

Journal of American veterinary Medicine   October 2010

Gary J. Patronek, VMD, PhD, and Amy Marder, VMD, CAAB, of the Center for Shelter Dogs, Animal Rescue League of Boston; and Margaret Slater, DVM, PhD, of the ASPCA, have applied one of the most valuable and well-recognized tools of evidence-based medicine to this question.

Number needed to treat (called NNT) measures the effectiveness of new medicines or treatments. It asks the question: How many patients have to take the medicine or get the treatment in order for one patient to avoid a bad outcome? The fewer patients that have to be treated in order to avoid a bad outcome, the more effective scientists consider a medicine or treatment to be.

But what if we had to treat thousands of patients to avoid even one bad outcome? Would we bother with a new medicine if the number of people we needed to treat to prevent one bad outcome, was 10,000? If we could only identify 9,900 people suffering from the disease, we could not treat enough people with the new medicine to be sure that even one of them would avoid the dreaded symptom.

This is precisely the result that Patronek and his colleagues obtained when they applied this evidence-based method to estimating how many dogs a community would have to ban to prevent a single, serious dog bite. They called their mystery number the number needed to ban (NNB). Using dog bite injury data from the Centers for Disease Control, the State of Colorado, and other, smaller jurisdictions, along with guestimates of the population of various breeds or kinds of dogs, the authors calculated the absurdly large numbers of dogs of targeted breeds who would have to be completely removed from a community, in order to prevent even one serious dog bite.

For example, in order to prevent a single hospitalization resulting from a dog bite, the authors calculate that a city or town would have to ban more than 100,000 dogs of a targeted breed. To prevent a second hospitalization, double that number.

JAVMA concludes BSL is not effective in reducing dog bites.

“It is our belief, that BSL is based largely on fear, and it has been emphasized that appeals to fear have their greatest influence when coupled with messages about the high efficacy of the proposed fear-based solution.” October 1st 2010

People are allowed to be afraid of a dog or a breed of dog that’s their right.

However when people start fomenting that fear, and it turns into hate and prejudice and it bleeds into the media, the sheltering world and dogs are misunderstood and euthanized due to that fear it is called xenophobia and it results in canine genocide. There is a Pit Bull Holocaust as a result of the media’s irresponsible actions.

If you are promoting that in any way you are culpable for the cities and towns that are banning dogs and taking millions in tax payer money to do that. In these harsh economic times that is downright foolish. But as long as YOU get paid, Mr. Phillips, and as long as you get paid Letterman, Judge Judy, Nancy Grace et al…it’s all good right?

I would suggest a new assurance and a new optimism in the ranks of the pro pit bull pro dog lobby. Those of us that have studied the opposition and have added up the people and organizations that are working to educate people and protect dogs and owners can see the list is astoundingly legitimate and incredibly educated. We have the best and we have the truth. So we can be comforted by the facts, the truths and the army of real experts and real evidence.

Conversely the anti pit bull crowd has no one of note, no organization that can be taken seriously. They have no one. There were a few credentialed experts that have spoken out against “pit bulls” but have been refuted by others that have more juice in their credentials and make more sense in their assessments of dog bite incidents. So even the two and there are only two people that can even remotely be considered credentialed, have been shot down.

Dr. Alan Beck was shot down by Dr. Karen Overall and Gary Wilkes has been silent and declined to have a conversation with me regarding his fears of Pit Bulls. Beck also has not responded to my email query. Hmmm, I wonder why? Because it’s based on how they feel.

Mr. Phillips and the anti dog forces may have seen some bad things and read about some bad things surrounding dogs, but what he and the entire anti pit Bull crowd cannot refute, or even argue with is that out of some 74 million dogs and 300 million humans and an estimated 4 million “pit bull type” dogs, only a hand full are causing serious injury or death.

The CDC says there is a 0.0002% chance of being killed by any dog of any breed.

That is not an epidemic, hell that is not even a problem, it is an anomaly that could be even lower in risk if the people in this country that have some power, money and influence in dog culture would get off their butts and educate on a mass scale about dog bites and about how human behavior is directly related to dog behavior. These people in dog culture that have the platform need to stop being so passive and get involved financially to work within the media system to combat these negative stereotypes about “pit bulls” and about the vast majority of dog bites being non fatal and non lethal. They have the truth, the proof and the platform, now they just need the gumption to take on the challenge.

Here is what the Department of Justice recently released in regards to banning dogs.

"The Department of Justice has issued an opinion that makes very clear that municipalities that might already have a breed specific laws on the books or may be considering it do so at their own peril," Bob Barr.

The more they try and prove us pro dog, pro pit bull people wrong the more ridiculous they look. I say go ahead do what you feel and say what you feel, because we have the truth and the truth is you are just bullying dogs and you need to stop that, because everyone knows bullying is wrong, even the ones who are doing the bullying know in their hearts it is wrong. So do the right thing and educate don’t payer hate or legislate.

There is nothing more despicable than someone picking on defenseless and innocent animals. If that is how you want to be looked upon by the masses then keep it up you anti dog people.

But remember us pro dog pro and pro pit bull people have the truth, we have the best minds in canine behavior saying, it’s not about breed, it’s about humans getting legitimate information through proper education.

All you have is how you feel. Does it feel good to hate an innocent creature? If so it says allot about you as a person.

My message to the Anti Pit Bull crowd – “You will never win with fear and intimidation; you will never be able to convict a dog breed as a credible dangerous threat when math, science and history prove dogs are a safe risk”. Drayton Michaels CTC 2010


An interview with Dr. Karen Overall

American Temperament Testing

Denver Pit Bull Ban Costs Millions

The Pit Bull Hoax DVD

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