I've been wanting to write these articles less frequently as with my current time limitations, I'd much rather focus on the positive of dogs, and of things going on at our shelter, than on tragedies. Dogs are such an important part of the lives of many of us and I love celebrating the dogs in our lives.
However, a simple fact remains that the bond between dogs and humans is still broken at times when politicians pass laws based on the hysteria of the moment instead of looking deeper into the causes of high profile fatal attacks. This trend has certainly improved, as many cities are now looking and comprehensive animal control laws and enforcement that are focusing on the behavior of owners and dogs, and not on what dogs look like. This is great news to be sure.
So I'm going to do a little catching up this week, as we had several incidents that should be discussed (plus, I have a couple from early January I'm going to add to the end). The incidents follow the typical story lines and include multiple of the following: unsupervised children, dogs that are resident dogs (vs family dogs) and thus not well-socialized with the family, dogs roaming at large, low-income areas where other social issues exist, and dogs with a history of aggressive actions and have gotten loose from their kenneling before.
There's still a lot of information that will hopefully come out of this one, but in Paterson, NJ, a 115 lbs Bull Mastiff went after two 13 year old boys. The boys fled in opposite directions -- one boy had a bite on his hand, the other was found dead in a wooded area behind the dog's home. When the dog's owner came out to get the dog while officials were there, the dog bit the owner on the hand also -- and the owner stabbed the dog multiple times before animal control took the dog.
Neighbor's have reported that the dog had jumped over the fence before and bitten a child previously and that it was often somewhat aggressive. Neighbors report that the dog lived in the back yard of the home and never came indoors except for during Hurricane Sandy, including this winter's freezing temperatures. One neighbor noted that kids would often provoke the dog and try to get it to jump over the fence.
At this point, authorities are not commenting on whether or not the dog was provoked in this case, but it's particularly worth noting that it is important to impart on children the importance of respecting dogs and specifically not to taunt them. It also helps demonstrate that dogs that are left alone in a back yard where they cannon flea from taunting, etc can often become very defensive and will act out on their own accord.
Not much is known about this one either, so I'll update as more reports come in.
Based on the current media reports, a two year old boy was tragically killed in Killeen, TX. The young toddler was walking home from the park with an 8 year old girl and an 18 year old boy when the dog, described as a bull mastiff, ran from out of a garage and attacked the children. The dog apparently went after the 8 year old girl first, but once people came to help her, the dog turned on the 2 year old and inflicted fatal injuries.
In Tallassee, AL, a four year old girl was alone outside playing in her own yard when two dogs who were roaming at large attacked the young girl. The girl's grandfather went out to check on her and found one of the dogs, described as a "white german shepherd mix" on top of the young girld. The two dogs fled when the grandfather came outside. The other dog, which may or may not have been involved in the incident is being described as a "lab mix".
The young girl succumbed to her injuries.
Neighbors say the owners of the German Shepherd mix tried to keep the dog pinned up, but it often got out. Other neighbors have reported that the dog had previously eaten their chickens and was known to be aggressive toward people. It's also worth noting that there is no leash law in Tallasee.
Tallassee, AL is an area of very high poverty, with more than 43% of its residents living below the poverty line. I've noted before that in areas with high poverty tend to have significant breakdowns in their social structures and that the dog attacks tend to be a symptom of the struggling social structure. That appears to be the case here, where an inability to be able to maintain proper fencing seems to be an ongoing problem here.
There isn't a lot of information about theis incident, but Braelynn Coulter wa s 3 year old girl that was tragically killed by the family pet. The dog is being described as a "pit bull," and by most reports, appears to have been an indoor family pet (unlike most of the other dogs described here). It is worth noting that one of the major sections of a 10 year dog bite fatality study was that dogs that lived with the family were less likely to be involved in dog attack fatalities than outdoor dogs that lacked the human interaction to properly be able to read human behaviors.
The dog was said to have been aggressive before - -having broken through a fence to attack (and kill) a neighbor's dog. No information about the events that led up to the fatal attack on young Braelynn have been made available.
This story is from a couple of weeks ago, but 2 year old Je'veah Mayes wandered outside the home unattended, and walked up to a dog that was chained in the back yard. The dog, described as a 'pit bull' was being watched for a friend. The toddler walked up to the chained dog (the two do not appear to have been socialized together) and was tragically mauled by the dog.
It is also worth noting that the dog was a momma dog that also had two puppies with her that she may have been trying to protect.
I've often noted that young toddlers do not have the ability to read warning signals given by dogs. Thus, they can be very succeptable to attacks like this, particularly if a dog is chained and has no abilty to flee.
Four year old Kara Hartrick was being babysat in her home by her grandmother. The young girl told her granmother that one of the three dogs in the home hurt her, so she began to try to separate the dogs from the girl. During that process, the dogs began to become aggressive and directed the aggression toward the young girl and began attacking her. The girl dended up dying from her injuries.
The family owned three dogs, 2 unaltered males, and one unaltered female. Authorities believe it was the two males that were responsible for the attack. All of the dogs are described as "pit bulls".
This is a truly tragic case where it appears that the person handling the dogs did not really know the dogs well and wasn't able to read particular behaviors well and it ended in tragedy.
The 43 year old Burleson was out for an early morning walk when she was tragically attacked by 3 dogs that were roaming at large. When people saw the woman in danger they came to help but unfortunately arrived too late. All three of the dogs were described as "pit bulls" and the owner of at least 2 of the dogs has been identified.
The attack follows the trend that most healthy adults that are involved in fatal incidents tend to be attacked by multiple dogs -- often roaming at large. While a healthy adult can usually defend themselves from a single attacking dog, a large group of dogs would provide significantly more risk.
The incident occurred in the 77061 Zip Code of Houston which has a 26% poverty rate -- nearly double the national average.
I've worked several jobs in my life. In each of those jobs, I learned from other experts in my field.
When I worked at an advertising agency, I followed the work of the leading agencies and looked for mentors in my field. Now that I work mostly in sales, I read and watch online training programs designed by people with a track record of success. When we began running the KC Pet Project, I immediately sought out advice on medical best practices from the University of California Davis shelter medicine program, and the Maddies Fund Shelter medicine program, and advice about best practices in life-saving from shelter directors that had been successful at life-saving in their own shelters.
This seems like the natural course of action to take -- if you are in a field, learn about what the experts in your field are saying and doing and build on best practices.
Unfortunately, it appears that animal control in Aurora, CO has taken a different approach.
Earlier this month I noted tha the city of Aurora was considering a possible repeal of its 8 year old ban on pit bulls. In that blog posting, I noted that there was a memo written by the Aurora Animal Control that specifically stated that the current "ban on pit bulls continues to effectively work as intended," and they recommended the city keep the ban. This statement was made in spite of the reality that dog bites have gone up in the community, and more than 1,100 dogs have been killed at taxpayer expense. If this is "effective" and "as intended" it seems like maybe someone is missing the point.
Well, Aurora Animal Control has missed a lot of points it turns out. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, I was able to obtain a full copy of the of the memo crafted by animal control and it is, well, embarrassing.
It leads me to question not only where they get their knowledge base of information, but also if they've actually ever interacted with a pit bull beyond sticking a needle in it to kill it.
First of all, let's think for a minute about who you would look to for knowledge and advice if you were the head of an animal control department.
But strangely, none of these resources were included in the memo written by Aurora Animal Control to the city officials. In their six page memo to the city council, the Animal Control Department included NINE citations from THREE different resources. The resources were:
1) A website created by a web developer who's sole experience with dogs is having been bitten by one
2) An article written by a city attorney
3) An article written in the 90s in a trade magazine for city officials.
So in a six page article, the animal control division for Aurora cited three sources with zero of them having any expertise in canine health or behavior, and one of them an article that was written more than 15 years ago. So the information contained in it is neither current, nor credible.
I wish I was joking, but I'm not.
And worse, there are many statements that were made without attribution that are designed solely to scare people into trying to keep the ban, and a few that make you scratch your head and wonder -- have the people who have written this even handled dogs before?
The is a lot in the memo, but here are a few of the highlights lowlights:
"The number of pit bulls euthanized continues to decline. The number of dogs released due to DNA Testing or by court order....remains relatively steady and has even increased over the past two years."
I think this was intended to be a positive, but really, after killing 650 dogs in 2006, and another 200 in 2007, of course the number killed will go down because you've already killed them all. Meanwhile, this also acknowledges the amount of taxpayer resources getting tied up in court orders for dogs that shouldn't have been prosecuted is increasing, and that their ability to breed ID dogs isn't very reliable.
"To date, the number of issues stemming from Pit Bulls has not increased, and the intent of the ordinance remains effective."
The number of dog bites are up. The number of animals killed has increased. And the amount of money being spent in court that are being overthrown due to DNA and false breed IDs is going up. "Effective" seems like not the right word.
"Staff is concerned that if Aurora's ban is repealed, it is liekly the pit bulls banned in Denver, Commerce City, Lone Tree, Castle Rock, Louisville, & Fort Lupton will move into our city and the serious injuries might resurface."
Fear mongering much? Over the past 3 years more than 50 communities have repealed their breed-bans and guess how many have reported this issue? Zero.
If this were true, surely a city like Boulder, CO, which has never had a breed ban, would have seen an influx of aggressive dogs coming into their city from the same cities mentioned and yet their number of dog bites per capita in Boulder is 1/3 of that of Denver (which has a ban). Heck, Aurora itself repealed a ban on 7 breeds of dogs 2 years ago and is not seeing any influx of those breeds taking over the streets of Aurora. This has never been documented to have happened, even in their own city.
And then, more fear-mongering recalling back to when the ordinance was enacted:
"At that time, pit bulls were the dogs of choice for gang members....breeding them, fighting them and abandoning them....For safety reasons, Animal Care Officers could not respond to service requests at addresses for known gang members or in areas heavily frequented by gang members withou an accompanying police officer."
Wow. But now animal control officers feel safe around gang activity now?
Here's the thing folks, if someone is involved in gang activity, which usually involves felony gun and drug activity, your misdemeanor dog law isn't going to solve it. Nor should animal control be the ones to take the lead. Leave that to the SWAT team.
"At any given time, 70% of the kennels in the Aurora Animal Shelter were occupied by pit bulls with pending court disposition dates or with no known owner. That number has dropped significantly and now only 10-20% are occupied at any given time by pit bulls."
This is because you've killed 1100 of them in the past 6 years and are making no attempt to save them. Killing them instead of them being in kennels looking for homes isn't a success story.
There is more there, including some strange behavioral information that anyone with any dog handling experience (at all) would just laugh at...including:
"Pit bull breeds, unlike other dogs, often give no warning before they attack" - This myth has been around since the early 80s and continues to get perpetuated even though no dog trainer/handler would agree with this sentiment.
"Pit bulls, compared with other breeds, generally have a higher propensity to exhibit unique behavioral traits during an attack". -- Aggressively being attacked by a Germand Shepherd, or Akita, or Rottweiler, or a pit bull, all are the same unsocial, not normal behavior.
"In the legal case against Denver, the court cited one study which reported that over 13% of pit bulls attacked their owners, as compared to just over 2% for other dog breeds." Cory Nelson was the source for this one (go figure). I don't know where this study comes from, but it is a direct contradiction to peer reviewed studies that show much less owner-aggressive response from pit bulls than most other breeds such at this study and this one. But hey, don't let peer-reviewed science get in the way.
It's a really frustrating memo because they have abandoned listening to any actual expertise and instead have relied on an old article, a propaganda website and a city attorney as their basis for information. It's now up to the council in Aurora to actually dive into the sources used to cut through the utter BS that is this memo.
I'd also hope they'd ask their animal control who they look to for training to do their jobs and best practices. I wonder if they'll answer the expert sources but then get questioned or why they didn't get feedback from those sources on their stance on breed bans? Or maybe they do get their professional advice from an attorney and a non-professional website...which would dramatically decrease any credibility they might have.
It's a lot to ask a city official to challenge their paid staff on something like this....but given their research and choice of sources, now seems like a really great time to do so.
-- 3.5x higher incidences of Mast Cell cancer in male & female dogs, regardless of age of neuter.
-- 9x greater incidence of Hamangiosarcoma in neutered females, regardless of age of dog at the time of neuter.
- 4.3x higher incidence in Lymphoma in both neutered males and females, indpendent of age at the time of neuter.
- 6.5x higher incidence of all cancers combined in neutered femal3, 3.6x higher incidence of all cancers in neutered males. Typically, the younger the age at which the dog was altered, the young the age at which the dog was diagnosed with cancer.
Also, the study notes that dogs altered before the age of 6 months had a higher-likelihood of developing a variety of behavioral issues including: separation anxiety, fear of noises, timidity and fear biting. Altering after 6 months did not appear to create increased risk.
This study adds to the growing list of research on the negative health impacts of spay/neuter in large-breed dogs. The studies have specifically found similar results plus increased incidence of hip dysplasia and Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears in Golden Retrievers, and osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in Rottweilers. It also follows similar issues found in previous behavioral studies on the impacts of spay/neuter.
The results have been very consistent, and show that not only is spay/neuter more likely to cause negative health impacts long-term, but that juvenile spay/neuter (before 6 months) heightens the risk.
When Science gets in the way
For several decades, rescues and shelters have been reliant on spay/neuter to decrease the number of unwanted pets as a way of controlling animal populations, and thus the number of animals that end up in animals shelters. By decreasing total populations, the goal is to minimize the number of animals killed in shelters.
However, if we are to really consider ourselves "animal welfare" professionals, we need to understand what science is telling us and to consider the trade-offs of the short-term and long-term impacts on our decisions on the pets we are responsible for.
Unfortuantely, in this case, it appears that the long-term health impact of spay neuter, particularly juvenile spay/neuter, is at odds with the short term goal of slowing pet population growth and minimizing the number of animals killed in our shelters every year.
The two are seemingly at odds with each other. Certainly I've read the arguments that in spite of the potential health impacts of spay/neuter, the greater good of decreasing the number of pets killed at very young ages in shelters outweighs the pet-longevity issues that may exist by spaying/neutering early. I can certainly see this point, and in many cases completely agree.
However, just because that is the case today, doesn't mean that we have to accept the status quo as the only solution and not be actively seeking out more viable alternatives. It seems clear that there is room for some middle ground here -- and I think it's up to the animal welfare community to acknowledge the issues and actively seek out that middle ground.
There are a lot of different stakeholders to this -- and I think everyone has a role in trying to do what is best for the animals that are in our care. First and foremost, it means acknowledging that the science exists. We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand - that's how you get to let other people address the issue for you. And it's more than just the science that shows correlations -- but it makes biological sense that removal of growth hormone-producing gonads (especially at a very young age) would lead to long term growth and development issues. This completely passes the sniff tests, and we should take it seriously.
Where do we go from here?
It's a complex problem to be sure, and there are a lot of people with a vested interest in coming to the table with their part of the solution.
-- For the breeding community, I've seen a fair amount of talk about calling for the end of spay/neuter. Obviously this is self-serving to their needs. This community MUST acknowledge the sheltering realities that exist and that some form of population control is currently necessary in order to help maintain the drops in shelter euthanasia that have taken place over the last 2 decades.
-- For the lawmaking community, stop making laws mandating spay/neuter. It was never a good idea, but especially in light of the current research, there are many good experts in the field that are in disagreement with what the right solutions are. Please leave spay/neuter to the veterinary community so they may make judgment calls based on the best science available. Mandating spay/neuter does not do that. I've seen many a law that is requiring sterilization at very young ages and it seems evident that this is not in the best interests of the pets we claim to be protecting.
-- For the science community, we now have 3 studies that examine the impacts on dogs. All three have been on large-breed dogs. We need more research to also include small dogs, and cats, to determine if the risks are as severe with those as well. The more we understand about the scale and scope of the problem the better.
-- For the veterinary community, let's begin teaching other methods of sterilization. Zeuterin certainly seems to have its proponents and is one solution. But an even simpler one may be to begin performing vasectomies and tubal ligations instead of neuters & spays so that growth hormones can remain in place. However, most vets do not currently perform these proceedures. That needs to change and quickly.
-- For the shelter/rescue community, maybe we need to start waiting to alter puppies until they are older? Do we really need to alter 2 month old puppies? Would we be better off waiting until they were at least 6 months of age? The same purpose would be served, but for every month you wait, the less of an increase in many of the health risks you have -- especially for large breed and giant puppies. It certainly seems like there is a happy medium here.
This is a gnarly and complex issue -- and definitely a lot that is still unknown. But if all parties are willing to come together to acknowledge the risks, on all sides, I think a viable solution is out there. But it must first start with acknowledgment and open communication.
Yesterday morning, 57 year old Klonda Richey was killed by her neighbor's two dogs.
Richey was outside her home when the dogs attacked, and her body was discovered on the sidewalk in front of her home.
Mark Kumpf, the Animal Resource Center director, says the dogs were mixed breed dogs that he believes are part Cane Corso. Photo evidence would indicate that this is true of at least one of the dogs.
The owners of the two dogs, Andrew Nason and Julie Custer were taken into custody and are being held pending charges of reckless homicide. This is good of course, to hold the owners accountable. It's bad, of course, that it had to get to the point of someone being dead before something was done.
Turns out that the victim called the authorities many times on these dogs. Authorities have noted that there have been at least 9 complaint calls about the dogs responsible for the woman's death -- at least 5 of those complaints were made by the victim. Several of the complaints are abotu the dogs roaming at large, and one specifically from Richey notes that the "dog is straining to get to water and food that are empty, advised is ongoing". This would indicate ongoing problems, and from the sound of it, a significant amount of time being tethered.
Unfortunately, in none of the cases did animal control do anything and now the dogs are responsible for killing the woman.
This is the 3rd fatal dog attack in just the past 18 months in Dayton. One other also involved a Cane Corso, and another involved the mauling of a 93 year old woman, Elizabeth Hirt, by two Boston Terriers. Of significant note here is that in the incident involving Ms. Hirt in 2012, the media never covered her death, and thus, this incident never showed up in any dog attack fatality reports for the year. I've now added it to mine.
This story is amazingly tragic, and highlights a whole lot of reasons the way we currently look at dangerous dog issues is tragically flawed.
-- A strong, proactive, breed-neutral dangerous dog law would have had a strong likelihood of helping save Ms Richey. The dogs were a known problem. The owners were known to let their dogs roam at-large. These dogs and owners were known problems, and yet, there was nothing that was done to intervene. This is why good, proactive, breed-neutral laws are essential.
-- This incident further reinforces that dogs just don't decide to attack one day. Attacks like this usually follow a series of undesirable and aggressive behaviors over time.
-- This should go without saying, but, competent animal control is also important.
-- Dayton, as a community, has had 3 dog attack fatalities in the past 18 months. There have only been around 50 in that time in the entire nation, so three happening in one relatively small community is pretty amazing. Dayton has a very high poverty level (39%) that is nearly triple the national average. The Crime rate is also nearly double the national average. Dangerous dog issues tend to follow other socio-economic problems and to see a cluster here is not terribly surprising. Treating dangerous dog issues as if they are a dog issue, and not a part of a larger socioeconomic issue is missing a major factor.
-- Since 2008, there have been only 3 fatal dog attacks involving Cane Corsos in the entire US. It's interesting that two of these attacks happened in Ohio - a place that until recently had targeted "pit bulls" as being inherently aggressive. For years, experts have said that if you focus on breeds, or types of dogs, that irresponsible owners, or people who want aggressive dogs, will turn to other breeds. It's a small sample size, but it seems that that is what happened in Ohio when they targeted specific breeds.
-- It's also interesting to note that the tragic death of Elizabeth Hirt went virtually unnoticed by the media until it was mentioned briefly in one of the articles yesterday. It shows exactly how some of these "studies" based solely on media reports are not comprehensive, nor statistically relevant. This is why listening to experts on the topic of dangerous dog issues is essentialy instead of basing information off of the ramblings a of a handful of non-experts with webpages.
Last night, Garden City, KS (population 27,000) became the latest community to repeal it's breed specific law. The law had previously designated American Pit Bull Terrers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers as being "vicious".
The mention of breeds has been removed from the ordinance and now the definition of vicious is based solely on the behavior of dogs -- including dogs that have a propensity to attack or have bitten.
"Pit Bull" owners will no longer have to post "vicious dog" signs and can now walk their dogs without muzzles.
Congrats to Garden City on their wise decision and in joining 5 other cities so far this year in repealing their breed-specific laws. The tide really is turning.
So far, at least 2 of the city's 10 city council members (Barb Cleland and Renie Peterson) have spoken out in favor of a repeal.
In response to the movement to repeal, the Denver Post wrote an editorial speaking out against the move to repeal. In it they note:
"Since Aurora instituted a pit bull ban in 2006, the number of bites attributed to restricted breeds has gone down from several dozen to just a few a year. So the logical move would be to....recind the city's breed bans? No, it doesn't make sense to us either."
Errors of omission are common. It's a way to provide an accurate data-point to support your point of view and then brush past all of the data that completely opposes your viewpoint.
In this case, there is a pretty major error of omission.
Here is the reason Aurora is considering a repeal of its breed ban: It's failing.
If you look at the TOTAL number of dog bites in the community, they are actually INCREASING. And increasing at an alarming rate. From 2006 (when the ban was passed) to 2010, Aurora actually saw a 67% increaese in the total number of dog bites -- a number that based on news reports continues to grow. While the number of bites by "restricted" breeds has decreased, it has come at the expense of a 71% increase in bites by non-restricted breeds (which always made up 80-85% of bites in the community in the first place).
That's right. 1158 dogs killed and an increase in dog bites. Everyone should be livid that this has gone on for as long as it has.
So it is this error of omission that the Denver Post is guilty of in trying to persuade public opinion that the ban in Aurora is a good idea. It's such a major error that might make one ask: why would they make such a glaring omission?
My guess is that they realize that Aurora repealing its ban would put even more pressure on Denver to repeal its ban. Denver continues to stubbornly holds onto even though they have a higher a hospitalization rate (per capita) from dog bites than other communities in Colorado, they've suffered a long series of court legal battles over the ban at taxpayer expense, and overall have seen their pit bull ban fail also.
Was the intent to raise dog bites in the city? Was the intent to wholesale slaughter more than 1100 dogs at taxpayer expense? If that's their intent, they should all be fired.
People defending them might note that the law was only intended to impact pit bulls, and not the other 85% of the bites in the community. And of course, if you wholesale slaughter ever pit bull in a community, you'll have fewer bites by pit bulls because you'd killed them all.
But here's the deal: there are opportunity costs for enforcement. Every time an animal control officer spends time, money and effort to round up and kill an innocent pit bull, that same officer is not spending that same time on stray or aggressive dogs of other breeds. Meanwhile, as negligent dog owners replace their pit bulls with another type of dog, bites by those breeds go up because you didn't solve the actual problem of irresponsible and reckless dog ownership. This happens EVERY.SINGLE. TIME. a city passes a breed ban: see Sioux City, Council Bluffs & Omaha as prime examples.
Last night, Clayton, MO (Population 16,000) in suburban St. Louis UNANIMOUSLY voted to repeal its ban on "pit bulls". Instead, the laws will now deem any animal to be dangerous "based on demonstrated conduct and characteristics and not mere assumptions...."
I've not read the full context of the bill, but it sounds like they followed through with details for behavior-based standards, as well as an appeal and hearing process to protect owners as well.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Bradford City (Population 9,000) passed a measure to remove "pit bulls" from it's dangerous dog list. In this case it was brouth to the city's attention that the law violated Article V Sec 459-509A of the Pennsylvania State statutes that prohibit municipalities from enacting laws targeting specific breeds.
Thus, the city solicitor and the police chief looked at the issue and said they wanted the law "off the books." And now, it is.
Then, 11 days ago, Waterloo, WI passed a repeal of its breed specific law.
This is FIVE communities already this year that have repealed their breed bans in favor of breed-neutral, behavior based laws. It's January 29th. Others, like Aurora, CO; are also currently looking at repeals.
Six years ago it was rare for a community to repeal its breed ban. However, now, cities are overwhelmingly deciding to replace their breed-targeted laws with breed neutral laws that focus on the the bahavior of the dogs (and owners). Having five communities in a single month (which isn't over yet) repeal their bans is a huge testiment to how quickly the tide is turning.
Logic, common sense, and the advice of experts is taking priority over the "hysteria of the moment." This is good for communities. And good for dogs. And good for pet owners. It's great to see the turning tide.
Earlier this week, I posted a report from an advisory group from an advisory group that was appointed by the Bonner Springs, KS City Council. In the report, they provided a very detailed explanation as to why they unanimously favored repealing the city's 24 year old breed ban.
One of the things they noted was that there seemed to be very little support for breed bans -- and that said support was based off of websites that relied solely on media reports for their data. I'm going to post their statements again:
"The research for articles and statistics presented difficulties as the majority were anti Breed Specific Ordinances. The few that were in favor of BSOs generally justified their positions with statistical data generated by dogsbite.org. Research of this website found the data to be extremely distorted with many myths presented as facts....because no one, including the CDC, maintains statistics of attacks by breed, the party who maintains the website gathers statistics based on a review of newspaper articles for reports of dog attacks. This method would not be embraced by any statistician, as this would lead to greatly skewed and inaccurate results."
I was glad to see this called out, as this is true of dogsbite.org and is even more true in the absurd Merrit Clifton Report. Both rely entirely on news reports to compile data, that they misinterpret statistics. They're not.
To demonstrate this, I thought I'd share an example from a completely unrelated area that a came across a few weeks ago.
Apparently, Slate was working on a report on gun violence in the United States and was calling on media reports to gather data. However, when they were done, they realized that their database of people killed by guns was roughly 1/3 of the CDC count of the number of people killled by guns.
Why the discrepency? Turns out, it's suicides. That because the media seldom reports suicides (I think the rationale is justified BTW) basing analysis of gun deaths based on media reports showed a completely distorted view of gun violence in America. Here are a couple of charts from Marginal Revolution:
The Media’s Picture of Gun Violence (suicides in red)
The CDC’s Picture of Gun Violence (suicides in red)
As you can see, the media reporting in this case is neither a comprehensive portrayal of gun violence in America, nor is it a statistically representative sample. In fact, statistically, it's entirely misleading.
The same is true for dog bites of course. The media doesn't attempt to cover every dog bite that happens in this country (nor should it), nor does it necessarily attempt to cover every major dog bite in this country. There is even evidence to suggest the media doesn't even cover every fatal dog attack.
And then there are the ridiculous stories like this one about a child that was "attacked" by a pit bull. You can see the child's devastating injury from the "attack" at the left (click to enlarge). (Thanks Dog Hero for pointing me to the story).
I think we could all agree that if the media reported ever dog bite story that was equal to severity to this one we'd get very little accomplished on our local newscasts.
This, and others, highlight exactly why anyone who forms their opinions on dangerous dog policies based on media reports (or based on the opinion of anyone who does) is destined to be making an inaccurate conclusion based on data that is neither comprehensive nor a statistically representative sample.