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by foa Wednesday, Jun. 08, 2005 at 10:28 AM

Controlling an animal as deadly as a weapon

Ingrid Newkirk
Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Most people have no idea that at many animal shelters across the country, any pit bull that comes through the front door doesn't go out the back door alive. From California to New York, many shelters have enacted policies requiring the automatic destruction of the huge and ever-growing number of "pits" they encounter. This news shocks and outrages the compassionate dog-lover.

Here's another shocker: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the very organization that is trying to get you to denounce the killing of chickens for the table, foxes for fur or frogs for dissection, supports the shelters' pit-bull policy, albeit with reluctance. We further encourage a ban on breeding pit bulls.

The pit bull's ancestor, the Staffordshire terrier, is a human concoction, bred in my native England, I'm ashamed to say, as a weapon. These dogs were designed specifically to fight other animals and kill them, for sport. Hence the barrel chest, the thick hammer-like head, the strong jaws, the perseverance and the stamina. Pits can take down a bull weighing in at over a thousand pounds, so a human being a tenth of that weight can easily be seriously hurt or killed.

Pit bulls are perhaps the most abused dogs on the planet. These days, they are kept for protection by almost every drug dealer and pimp in every major city and beyond. You can drive into any depressed area and see them being used as cheap burglar alarms, wearing heavy logging chains around their necks (they easily break regular collars and harnesses), attached to a stake or metal drum or rundown doghouse without a floor and with holes in the roof. Bored juveniles sic them on cats, neighbors' small dogs and even children.

In the PETA office, we have a file drawer chock-full of accounts of attacks in which these ill-treated dogs with names like "Murder" and "Homicide" have torn the faces and fingers off infants and even police officers trying to serve warrants. Before I co-founded PETA, I served as the chief of animal-disease control and director of the animal shelter in the District of Columbia for many years. Over and over again, I waded into ugly situations and pulled pit bulls from people who beat and starved them, or chained them to metal drums as "guard" dogs, or trained them to attack people and other animals. It is this abuse, and the tragedy that comes from it, that motivates me.

Those who argue against a breeding ban and the shelter euthanasia policy for pit bulls are naive, as shown by the horrifying death of Nicholas Faibish, the San Francisco 12-year-old who was mauled by his family's pit bulls.

Tales like this abound. I have scars on my leg and arm from my own encounter with a pit. Many are loving and will kiss on sight, but many are unpredictable. An unpredictable Chihuahua is one thing, an unpredictable pit another.

People who genuinely care about dogs won't be affected by a ban on pit- bull breeding. They can go to the shelter and save one of the countless other breeds and lovable mutts sitting on death row. We can only stop killing pits if we stop creating new ones. Legislators, please take note.

Ingrid Newkirk is president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ( and the author of "Making Kind Choices" (St. Martin's Griffin, 2005).

by human companion Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 12:25 AM


by repost Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 1:45 AM

by Vicki Hearne

Prompted by reports of recent "pit bull" attacks - four in three weeks - Boston is talking about a ban on the entire breed, thrusting itself into a debate taking place in communities across the country.

Outlawing any breed not only violates the Constitution, it draws on ignorance and myth.

Most often in America today, the phrase "pit bull" appears in two contexts. Either it is used by someone knowledgeable to refer to the older genuine breed (e.g., the American pit bull terrier, which was bred to fight), or it is a vague term trusted to generate a kind of hysteria. News of "pit bull" attacks fill people with horror. But I've researched enough cases to know that the media often gets it wrong.

In the late 1980s, I testified as an expert at a case involving one such attack. After enduring several taunts, Pete, one of many guests at a picnic in Rochester, N.Y., chomped down on his tormentor's thigh. Newspaper reports the following day claimed the man died after the dog tore off his leg. According to photographs and eye witnesses, not only was the bite minor, but the man died after doctors mishandled his case.

More often than not, dogs involved in "pit bull" attacks are not true pit bulls, but some other breed, as was the case with Bandit, who was impounded and almost put to sleep by Connecticut officials in 1987 for biting an intruder. While there can be a deviant bull-breed dog, these animals should not instill fear. Studies show that cocker spaniels, Rottweillers, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and chows are more likely to bite and with greater severity than a bull breed. Unfortunately, media coverage of attacks by these other breeds lags far behind its coverage of "pit bull" attacks.

Once revered as the national dog, American pit bull terriers stood for courage, loyalty, and intelligence. They were useless as police patrol dogs, but invaluable as nanny dogs and companions to people such as Helen Keller. A famous World War I poster features an American bull terrier, the most common bull breed, draped in an American flag, with the following quote: "I'm neutral, but I'm not afraid of any of 'em."

These dogs were an indelible part of American culture. Mark Twain's "Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" includes a yarn about a bull pup named Andrew Jackson. James Thurber had more than a weak spot for Rex, an American bull terrier. Theodore Roosevelt had a pit bull in the White House, and there were at least two in Coolidge's Cabinet.

It wasn't until the 1970s that the breed went from cherished to maligned. Spearheading efforts to magnify and outlaw dogfighting, groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) perpetuated myths about the dogs in the press. Unsubstantiated claims that the breed was trained on declawed kittens or weaned on Tabasco sauce and gunpowder struck a chord with certain young males eager to put these methods to the test. Just as ridiculous were assertions about the breed's legendary double jaw.

By the 1980s, humane societies' campaigns against dogfighting had completely altered Americans' attitudes. No longer viewed as victims of abusive trainers, Americans now attributed an innate viciousness to the "pit bull." This new image even created a lucrative market for bull breed dogs. Demand skyrocketed, especially among men who saw glamour and status in owning a dog with purportedly bionic strength.

Proposals to outlaw an entire breed should alarm anyone concerned with basic civil rights. Americans need to change the way they think about dogs in general. Like people, dogs want comfort and friendship from humans.

Well bred bull breed dogs are the best cuddlers in the canine world. However, like cockers or any breed, they are vulnerable to careless breeders who promote rotten dispositions. Popular images of dogs as sickly sweet or supernaturally savage - neither of which is accurate - only reinforce misunderstanding.

Vicki Hearne is a dog trainer and author of 'Bandit: Dossier of a dangerous dog' (Harper Collins, 1992).

by dog person Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 3:19 AM

it is disturbing to see the parade of people testifying for the local news, who know absolutely nothing about dog behavior/ or the breed they are commenting on.

in 99% of these cases look to the owners for providing motivation for most of these attacks. As the mother up on charges for the death of her son. anf did any one get a load of the father. talking to the news, no shirt- jail house tatoos of nazi swastika... what a fine parent he must be. one only wonders what he was doing with this dog that the children had to be locked in the garage.

by sane dog person Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 3:18 PM

Tues, 6/28: SFChron - Five chihuahuas under quarantine after attacks

"Five chihuahuas remained under quarantine Tuesday following separate attacks in which children and other dogs were bitten, authorities said.

"All of the incidents occurred within an hour of each other Monday and were the latest in a string of such attacks seen in the Bay Area in recent weeks.

"In the most severe of the incidents, a 5-year-old boy’s hand was bitten by as many as three male chihuahua mix dogs on the 1400 block of Sunshine Court in East Oakland, said Officer Danielle Ashford, police spokeswoman. Neighbors rushed to help the boy, corralling the dogs in three yards by the time police arrived shortly after 6 p.m. The dogs, none of which had been neutered, were not aggressive when officers arrived and were confiscated by animal control officers.

"About 30 minutes before in San Francisco, a chihuahua chased a 12-year-old girl as she rode along the 1400 block of Palou Avenue on her bicycle, said Sgt. Neville Gittens, police spokesman. The girl fell from her bike, and the dog bit her arm several times, Gittens said. The girl’s father ran to her aid when she called for help, and the dog’s owner pulled the dog away from her, police said. The owner was cited for owning a biting and unlicensed dog.

"At about the same time, a 5-year-old neutered chihuahua named Blackie leaped from the window of a motor home in Rohnert Park and charged toward a man walking his two boxers."

Okay, it wasn't chihuahuas, it was pit bulls in the story above. The switch was made to show the ridiculousness of asserting that pit bulls in general are no more dangerous than most other breeds.

Speaking of dog breeds in the press. Why didn't the press report all of the attacks by Chows throughout in the Bay Area this Monday? Chows do bite more often than pit bulls, right? And they inflict bigger damage, right, Vicki? So, surely there must have been a half dozen or more Chow attacks Monday. Vicki wrote: "Studies show that cocker spaniels, Rottweillers, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and chows are more likely to bite and with greater severity than a bull breed." Well, talk about myths. How about seriously undocumented claims? I can't remember a single death by Chow in my entire lifetime. Can you? We've all heard the claims that other breeds bite more (yet to see the proof though) but now Vicki claims that retrievers and chows bite with even greater severity than pit bulls. What a load of bull. Where's the evidence? Where's the proof? It's ironic this piece of Vicki's was published on a site that touts "science-based research" in decisions effecting the management of animals. Yes, Vicki, it's not that the dogs were a favorite choice of dog-fight organizers, as they were bred to fight other animals including 1000-pound bulls, or that the dogs frequently attack other animals and people. It's not that that earned them a bad rep, it's the HSUS's campaign against dog fights. If the HSUS had just kept their mouths shut, then pits could continue fighting eachother for human sport and attacking people and other animals and they'd have an unblemished rep. Let's all just stick our heads back in the sand now, ignore the victims, and remember that pits are "best cuddlers in the canine world." Pure science.

by JennSTX Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2005 at 6:05 PM


I am appalled that someone with your resources would not only back such an ignorant act but perpetuate the ongoing myth of the breed primarily due to your one bad experience.

There are many articles against over-breeding and misuse of almost every breed of dog – not just protection breeds. Brittany Spaniels have been so over-bred that that “Sudden Rage Disorder” is now just as prevalent in that breed as blindness is in Dalmatians. Many owners have been severely bitten and their children attacked with absolutely no provocation because of this genetic anomaly. Are you saying that instead of putting the onus on breeders who over-breed these spaniels and making them liable, that we should instead ban this breed into extinction?

What about the millions of dollars that are spent on Schutzhund training? Trainers & experts praise this practice which uses “live” bait wrapped in padding. Shouldn’t THIS practice be heavily regulated instead? Shouldn’t the 50 ads in the back of every canine oriented magazine that advertise selling aggressive dogs, attack training, etc. be targeted FIRST.

Breed Bans due absolutely nothing in terms of discouraging bad dogs. The problem is not with the dogs, it is with people. Even if you ban bull terriers and succeed in eradicating the breed – another breed will take its’ place in seconds because you haven’t fixed the real problem.

I hope that you have been formally reprimanded for this article as it is irresponsible, lacks facts, and hurts the already fragile image of your much maligned organization. Your organization is too important in fighting the REAL animal issues for people like you to set it back 20 years. I hope you think about that before you use their good name to spout your personal opinion.

by repost Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2005 at 12:55 PM

n response to a series of fatal dog attacks, the City of Denver, Colorado, is now going after the animals, specifically Pit Bulls, but actress Linda Blair says Denver has got it all wrong.

When dogs attack, Blair says they unfairly bear the brunt of the blame. "It is not the breed, it is the deed, the deed of the owner," she told us. "Irresponsible ownership is the worst problem that we have in America for any dog or pet owner, and they're the ones we need to go after."

She added, "Because of fear in society, people sometimes create bad laws."

Linda introduced us to Max, a 1-year-old Pit Bull rescued by her World Heart Foundation. He's a member of a breed Linda says has been misunderstood for years. "I know the dog as cuddling, loving, humorous, the greatest companion," she told. "They are, some say, the closest to a human's emotions."

Denver officials would disagree. On May 9th, animal control officers began to enforce a citywide ban on Pit Bull ownership in Denver. According to Linda, "They're going door to door, and they are saying, ‘We are here to confiscate and euthanize your dog."

The ban allows officers to put a Pit Bull to sleep if its owner has previously committed Pit Bull violations. Otherwise, officers will give the owner a chance to relocate the dog. But in any case, man and best friend must part ways.

The ban is being enforced after a bitter battle between the City of Denver and the State of Colorado. Last year, the state determined that breed-specific bans were unconstitutional. Denver sued the state and won the right to enforce its Pit Bull ban.

"These are their companions," Linda insisted to us. "They feel that every Pit Bull is going to hurt you, and it's not. They were never, ever bred to be human aggressive."

Howie Rodriguez of California K9 is one of the nation's most respected animal trainers. He believes the answer is education. "Dogs don't bite for no reason," he insisted. "They bite for a reason. They are provoked."

And Rodriguez is not alone in his opinion. Tia Torres Cardello runs California's Villalobos Pit Bull rescue, the largest of its kind in the country. "We've been working with these dogs for 15 years," she said. "Myself, including my children and my employees, have never been bitten by a Pit Bull."

"Simply put, what's going on in Denver is a form of prejudice," Rodriguez said. "It's a form of genocide. It's unconstitutional. It needs to stop."

And Denver Pit Bull owners like Ben Wilson, agree. "We don't want Buddy to get euthanized," Wilson insisted to us. "Our city is not going to be any safer because of the breed ban. We need to target the owners of these dogs that make them mean."

"Go after the criminals," Linda begged. "Please leave the good Samaritans alone who have registered their dog."

Visit these websites to learn more about the Pit Bull ban and how you can help save dogs:

• American Canine Foundation and Education:

• Linda Blair's Animal Outreach:

• California K9 Academy:

• Villalobos Rescue Center:

by Davin Andrews Wednesday, Jul. 13, 2005 at 4:19 PM

I have known anybody bitten by a pit bull...but I myself have been bitten by a CHOW!!!! My sister also got bit by a CHOW!!! Not the same CHOW...but 2 totally SEPERATE CHOWS. So therefore...YOU don't make sense to me.

by human companion Wednesday, Jul. 13, 2005 at 10:30 PM

Not only is breed sp...
pitbulldistromap.jpg, image/jpeg, 600x444

in the case of San Francisco's Pit Bulls, it *is* racist, classist, too.

by anything to make a point? Thursday, Jul. 14, 2005 at 9:59 AM

There is not a whole lot of difference between 8 and 9% and 10%. 16% *seems* significantly higher (haven't run an analysis on it to know if it is *statistically* significant). One should also consider the actual numbers of dogs and numbers of people in each zip code. What is the actual per capita distribution of these dogs? It could very well be that a zip code that has "7%" registered pit bulls has twice the actual number of the dogs as a "10%" zip code and 50% more or less attacks. What number of pit bulls are even registered versus non-registered? This diagram addresses none of those issues.

The Chronicle did choose to put some poorer areas with higher percentages of registered pit bulls in bright red and red is always cause for excitement (code red, etc.). As for the racism charge, can it be said for certain that the red areas have higher percentage of minorities than all other non-red areas? Of course, Pacific Heights or the Marina would most likely have fewer, but it's a big city, still relatively diverse in racial breakdown throughout most of its geography. Can it be said the red areas actually have the most numbers of pit pulls?

This is just one way to look at numbers and obviously the creators of this graph chose to sensationalize registered dog data with their percentages by displaying in "red" the poorer neighborhoods. Looking deeper into the numbers here, which the authors did not reveal, or numbers elsewhere might very well reveal other patterns with higher statistical significance. For example, another factor to consider is that 27% of dog bites or dog attacks were done by pits or pit-mixes, across the city. It has been reported that large percentages of unadoptable dogs in shelters are pits or pit-mixes and that they make up a signficant portion of those euthanized every year relative to their numbers in the overall dog population.

To declare something as outright racist, one should provide a little more information showing the direct connection between race and the action being accused as such. To transfer this from a dog issue to a racist issue should not be made lightly or without further documentation.

by close, but no cigar Thursday, Jul. 14, 2005 at 10:07 AM

27% of *reported* dog bites or dog attacks were done by pits or pit-mixes

>To transfer this from a dog issue to a racist issue should not be made lightly or without further documentation.

You've never *been* to Hunter's Point, have you?

by 321 Thursday, Jul. 14, 2005 at 10:15 AM

Anyone who wants to ban Dogs is a woosie.

I have been bit numerous times by different types of dogs and you

dont see my crying like a baby.

by anything to make a point? Thursday, Jul. 14, 2005 at 10:24 AM

Absolutely correct, those "reported." Now you're starting to get this whole use of numbers thing, to be able to look at them critically, and not just fall in line with an overly simplistic Chron graph that uses red to imply significance. But when the number of pits/mixes is under 10% citywide, I would venture a guess that these reports of attacks are more significant statistically than the Chron's zip code/registered dog graphic. It would only be a guess, though, and I would never base a serious charge on it.

Since you have chosen to personalize this the moment anyone says boo about your outrageous claim (Karl Rove school of debate, I suppose), I will tell you that have worked with numerous teenagers and their families in the Sunnyvale housing projects, and a couple from Hunter's Point. African American and Samoan mostly, if you care to know their racial identities.

How intimate is *your* knowledge of the people and area other than to get juiced up over Chron graphs and make overly broad racial generalizations?

by pit bulls Thursday, Jul. 14, 2005 at 10:29 AM

Actually, when german shepherds were the dog of choice for irresponsible-wanna-be tough guys, they were the most responsible for bites/attacks--same with rottweilers--now it's pit bulls--the problem is the owners, not the breed