You are on page 1of 6

Rethinking 'Pit Bulls'

Don Cleary is the Director of Communications and Publications for the National Canine Research Council. Don is an expert on the myths of canine aggression and how they negatively impact contemporary animal welfare policies that result in discrimination, barriers to adoption and breed bans.

Don Cleary opens his seminar with We need to rethink dogs, not just pit bulls. He explains that many advo ates !o us on pit bull type dogs be ause o! their misrepresentation and demonisation, but as a whole we must rethink dogs in general. "his will allow the !o us to shi!t !rom the dog to the responsibility o! the owner. #$it bull# is a term used to des ribe a group o! dogs. %t is not a registered breed. #$it bull# is not re ognised as a breed by kennel lubs, dog registries or ompanies that o!!er D&' analysis. (ane )erkey, $resident o! 'nimal *arm *oundation, %n . states that the term pit bull des ribes a group o! dogs that in ludes 'meri an +ta!!ordshire "erriers, +ta!!ordshire )ull "erriers, 'meri an $it )ull "erriers, an in reasing number o! other pure breeds, and an ever,in reasing group o! dogs that are presumed, on the basis o! appearan e, to be mixes o! one or more o! those breeds. (Berkey 2009) Cleary explains that the publi believe that there is a breed alled the #pit bull# and that this breed displays aggressive and vi ious behaviour. "hese views have been developed !rom. print media, ". news reports and radio . advi e !rom pro!essionals- shelter managers, veterinarians and behaviourists . laims o! injured parties . poli ies o! ommer ial providers /landlords, dog day are, airliners0 . statements o! the law "he publi have been in!luen ed by these people and groups to expe t parti ular behaviours !rom #pit bulls# and even their own dogs, based only on stereotyping and breed bias. Cleary dis usses the myths about pit bull type dogs. they bite di!!erently and produ e injuries like no other dog . they an lo k their jaw when they bite . they atta k without warning and are unpredi table . i! raised as pets they turn on their owners. they !eel no pain or have and in reased pain threshold

Page 1

"hese myths are made !rom judgement and not s ien e. "o state that one parti ular vertebrate mammal has an absen e o! pain is nonsensi al. 'nd to treat one parti ular vertebrate mammal as though it does not experien e pain or has a higher pain threshold, brings obvious and serious ethi al impli ations. )reed +pe i!i 1egislation /)+10 is a law that dis riminates by breed and breed generalisations, but not by parti ular behaviours that a dog displays and a ts upon. "he !undamental basis o! this dog legislation is to remove parti ular breeds !rom so iety with the rationale that it will improve publi sa!ety. "his is why )+1 is in reasingly known as breed dis riminatory legislation /)D10. Cleary explains that there has never been any eviden e to suggest that breed bans or restri tions improve publi sa!ety. %n 2334, the &etherlands repealed its breed ban and in 2335, %taly repealed its breed spe i!i regulations be ause it had not de reased dog bites. %n 'ustralia, breed regulations di!!er !rom state to state. "hey range !rom outright bans o! parti ular, to a menagerie o! ontainment, mu66ling and other restri tions that restri t the dogs so ialisation. )reed dis riminatory legislation is not supported by the 'ustralian .eterinary 'sso iation and state that they do not support breed spe i!i legislation !or dog bite prevention, be ause experien e in other ountries has shown that su h legislation has !ailed to redu e the !re7uen y o! dog bites. (AVA) &or does the 8+$C' support )D1, 8+$C' believes that dogs should not be de lared dangerous on the basis o! breed. (RSPCA) "he 'ustralian Capital "erritory does not have )+1. "heir laws !o us on the responsibility o! the owner and the behaviour o! the dog. "he Dire tor o! 8+$C' 'C", 9i hael 1inke who owns pit bull type dog alled Dahlia, /pi tured right0 is anti ipating that 'C" will lead the way in publi sa!ety and responsible pet ownership. )rad :riggs, Dire tor o! 9elbourne based Canine +ervi es %nternational, spe ialises in anine behaviour and aggression, obedien e training and law en!or ement training and has appeared on ". morning shows dis ussing his reasons !or opposing )D1. :riggs states that %n my pro!essional experien e, breed onsistently proves to be a poor predi tor o! aggression. )reed !o used approa h to dog bite prevention ontinue to make the publi more unsa!e ea h day, as it removes well behaved, well adjusted dogs, based on appearan e and overlooks genuinely problemati and dangerous dogs be ause they do not !it a ertain visual des ription. "here is no do umented eviden e to substantiate that )D1 in 'ustralia has de reased the in iden es o! dog bites and has reated a sa!er ommunities. :riggs explains While the animal management ommunity is !or ed by poor legislation to en!or e laws that !o us on breed instead o! individual temperament, the publi is lulled into a !alse sense o! se urity that dog bite prevention starts and ends with a hand!ul o! breeds. (Griggs, 2012)
Brad Griggs on Sunrise, Channel 7

Page 2

"he media ategorise dog bites as #epidemi s# and dis uss dog bite statisti s. Cleary says there is no dog bite epidemi . He explains that not all people that are bitten or atta ked, regardless o! severity, do not attend the ;mergen y Department !or treatment. "here!ore, ;mergen y Department are not a true re!le tion o! dog bites within the ommunity be ause they are in omplete. *urthermore, i! a dog breed is do umented it is never !ollowed up with a D&' analysis and it is never as ertained that the breed or breed mix do umented is a urate. Cleary states that "he '.9' "ask *or e /233<0 autioned the readers o! their reports that dog bite statisti s are not really statisti s and do not give an a urate pi ture o! dogs that bite. 'lso, we do well to remember that dog bites are not some kind o! disease, but a so ietal problem o! human behaviour that puts people and other animals at risk. ' +outh 'ustralian newspaper alled The Advertiser released an arti le on 'ugust 2=, 23<2 titled >et 'nother Dog 'tta k 's .ets (oin Community $ush *or 9andatory Dog "raining written by D. (ean and 9. 9ilne. (Jean, i!ne, 2012) "he arti le uses a :oogle image o! what is per eived as a vi ious dog, that does not relate to the story, nor does the dog reside in +outh 'ustralia. "his imagery is sensational and provides no aptitude to in!orm and edu ate the ommunity to assist with a redu tion o! dog bites. "he arti le dis usses an atta k, whi h later des ribes the sustained injury as a super!i ial la eration. ' Coun il woman had said they had sei6ed three +ta!!ordshire "errier ross dogs, and there was no eviden e provided to spe i!y i! the dogs were this breed mix or i! they were !amily dogs or residen e dogs.

The National Canine Research council defines a family dog as dogs whose owners keep them in or near the home and also integrate them into the family unit, so that the dogs learn appropriate behaviour through interaction with humans on a regular basis in positive and humane ways.
"he &ational Canine 8esear h Coun il de!ines a resident dog as dogs, whether confined within a dwelling or otherwise, whose owners maintain them in ways that isolate them from regular, positive human interactions. The isolation and lack of e posure to the family unit results in the display of behaviours different from !amily dogs. "NCRC# "he arti le states "he survey was in response to a number o! serious atta ks in the past month in luding- . :erman +hepherd Cross . $it )ull . 9asti!! Cross . 'ustralian )ulldog "he arti le does not indi ate whether these breeds were the total sum o! breeds in the resear h or why they only hose to uses these !our breeds. &or do the authors give re!eren e to where the statisti s were generated. ' !urther atta k was mentioned. "he dog was labelled as a #$it )ull#, even though the breed does not exist. Cleary des ribes that this type o! journalism, with the use o! ina urate and in omplete data, la k o! re!eren e and use o! breed guessing, as supporting and assisting to reate poor :overnment poli ies like )D1 and in!luen es so ietal dis riminations. Cleary explains that in the ?nited +tates, the popularity o! #pit bull# type dogs with people who want a good ompanion as a !amily pet is growing. "he attitudes towards #pit bull# type dogs and what onstitutes responsible pet ownership are shi!ting. "his is re!le ted in positive hanges to the laws in @hio, *lorida and 9assa husetts.

Page 3

9ore about how media an in!luen e a negative approa h to spe i!i breeds and how these breeds have !allen vi tim to dis riminatory legislation and a poor publi portrayal, please read "he $it )ull $la ebo authored by Aaren Delise. ("e!ise, 200#) "he $it )ull $la ebo is !ree to download at www.national anineresear h oun il. om, under the tab #$ubli ations#. :uessing a breed or breed mix o! a dog !rom an unknown origin is a standard pra tise in sheltering and res ue organisations, even though resear h has !ound that there is little orrelation between breed guesses and D&' analysis. 9oreover, ina urate breed labelling retards adoptions and hinders return to owner !or lost pets. Dr. .i toria .oith !rom the Western ?niversity o! Health + ien es states that there are large disparities between visual identi!i ation and D&' analysis and justi!i ation o! urrent publi poli ies pertaining to breed spe i!i regulations should be reviewed. (V$ith, 2009) (anis )radley, 'sso iate Dire tor o! Communi ations and $ubli ations at the &ational Canine 8esear h Coun il is the author o! "he 8elevan e o! )reed %n +ele ting ' Companion Dog. )radley explains that ross breeds o!ten do not resemble either o! their parents, and !urther generations reveal a diversity among the o!!spring. (Brad!ey, 2011) "his is based on a study by + ott and *uller in <5BC that studied geneti s and dog behaviour. (S%$tt, &'!!er, 19()) %mage ' is a mated pair D )asenji male and Co ker !emale. %mage ) is a !emale and male hybrid. %mage C is the *2 litter.
Image A Image B

"he images reveal the di!!i ulty in guessing the breed or breed mix o! a dog. %n a shelter, image C dogs would most likely be labelled as 1abrador mixes. )radley states We annot attribute predominant breed identi!i ation to any dog based on appearan e, no matter how striking the resemblan e. (Brad!ey, 2011)
Images taken from Scott, JP, JL, Genetics and the Social Behaviour of the og! "Chicago, IL# $niversity of Chicago %ress, &'()*

Image C

Page 4


%t is re ommended !rom resear h that shelters and res ue organisations do not breed label dogs !rom an unknown origin. $eople are doing dogs in general a disservi e i! they ontinue to assume breeds and breed mixes o! dogs, in luding their pets. Disputing the e!!i a y o! breed dis riminatory legislation remains di!!i ult when the general publi , media and organisations that are selling animals !or adoption are ina urately breed labelling dogs. ' breed identi!i ation study was ondu ted in !our di!!erent shelters in the ?nited +tates. %t on luded that D&' analysis !ailed to on!irm pit bull type breeds in more than hal! the dogs identi!ied as #pit bulls# by shelter sta!!. "his means that in a +tate that kills these types o! dogs, these shelters would be killing dogs that were not in !a t #pit bulls#. "he study showed that one in !ive dogs geneti ally identi!ied as #pit bulls# were missed by shelter sta!! and there was a la k o! breed identi!i ation onsisten y amongst sta!!. /@lsen, 1evy, &orby, 23<20 %t is re ommended that shelters and res ue organisations market their dogs !or adoption based on the dogs needs and attributes rather than an ina urate breed label. "his enables a better person,dog mat h, whi h results in in reased su ess!ul adoptions and de reases the resurrender rate. 'lso, breed labelling, whether a urate or not, brings breed spe i!i behaviour expe tations o! the dog. "his leads to mismat hed adoptions and hinders potentially mat hed persons even viewing the dog. %! a member o! the publi visits a shelter or a website to pur hase a dog !or a pet, whi h type o! marketing do you think would re!le t the needs and attributes o! the dog and a urately portray them as their pro!ile !or a li!e ompanionE

Image taken -y Arica orff

Image taken from Google Images

Could a person know i! Hoo h ould suit their li!estyle, !amily re7uirements and work ommitmentsE %t makes sense to advertise in!ormation that will enable people to !ind their mat h and even look at shelter pets that they would not have otherwise onsidered, based on breed generalisations and bias. 'my 9arder, ..9.D. 'nd Dire tor o! the Center !or +helter Dogs, 'nimal 8es ue 1eague o! )oston, states that "here is so mu h behavioural variability within ea h breed, and even more within breed mixes, that we annot reliably predi t a dog#s behaviour based on breed alone. ;a h dog is an individual. ( arder)

Boom the dog from Working Terriers

Cleary loses the seminar with, %! you are going to proje t your moral obligation to help animals, you have a moral obligation to be orre t.

Page 5

'ustralian .eterinary 'sso iation !"#reed"specifc"legislation )erkey, ( Dog )reed +pe i!i 1egislation- the ost to people, pets and veterinarians, and the damage to the human, anine bond (uly 2335!$.%Berkey%$&'$%())*.pdf )radley, ( "he 8elevan e o! )reed %n +ele ting a Companion Dog. &ational Canine 8esear h Coun il, 11C, ?+', 23<< Delise, A /233F0 "he $it )ull $la ebo- "he 9edia, 9yths and $oliti s o! Canine 'ggression 'nubis $ublishing, 8amsey, &ew (ersey :riggs, ) personal ommuni ation, +eptember, 23<2 (ean D, 9ilnes 9 >et 'nother Dog 'tta k as .ets (oin Community $ush *or mandatory Dog "raining "he 'dvertiser, 'ugust 2=, 23<2"over"dog"attack/story"fndo +)#" ((6,!,-6).(( 9arder, ' )reed 1abeling Dogs o! ?nknown @rigin .iewpoint'arder/()viewpoint.pdf &ational Canine 8esear h Coun il 8esident Dog vs *amily Dog , What is the di!!eren eE /()2amily%revised/()3an/()() 4.pdf @lson, A., 1evy, (., &orby, ). /23<20 $it )ull %denti!i ation in 'nimal +heltersGposterH 9addie#s +helter 9edi ine $rogram, ?niversity o! *lorida, ?+' , Department o! 1arge 'nimal Clini al + ien es, 9i higan +tate ?niversity, ?+' + ott, ($, *uller, (1 :eneti s and the +o ial behaviour o! the Dog. Chi ago, %1- ?niversity o! Chi ago $ress, <5BC "he 8oyal +o iety o! $revention o! Cruelty "o 'nimals"is"the"R789$s"position"on"#reed"specific"legislation%,*-.html .oith, . ' Comparison o! .isual and D&' %denti!i ation o! )reeds o! Dogs. $ro eeding o! 'nnual '.9' Convention, +eattle, W', (uly <I, 2335

Betty Crocker was rescued from a cruelty case in Georgia, where her former owner was accused of dog fighting. Betty now lives in her dream home, with a ten year old girl as her best friend and another AFF Alumnus, Captain Crunch, as her sidekick. ast, summer, her family drove an !" down the east coast to #isney $orld, bringing Betty along for every minute and truly proving that dogs are family.% This poster and more found at

Page 6