Friday, March 9, 2012

The story of Blue

In the spring of 2007 an American Paint Horse was attacked by a pit bull in North Olmsted, Ohio. Fortunately, he survived, but was psychologically damaged by the attack. From our vantage point nearly 5 years later, it's instructive to take a look at the events of the attack, its aftermath, and the propaganda war that followed.

When Carol Miller took her horse, Blue, for a Sunday ride, it began peacefully enough, but what should have been a quiet Sunday morning ride turned into a nightmare. There was no hint of trouble as they approached a pit bull, sitting calmly and quietly at its owner's feet alongside the trail. Carol, an animal lover, was happy to see that the dog was behaving calmly, and was just about to say "good dog" when the pit bull "somehow" broke free from its leash and attacked Blue, sinking it's cruel jaws mercilessly into the sensitive flesh of the horse.

Both horse and rider tried to defend themselves. "He bucked, he kicked," recalled Miller. "I just grabbed a tree as one went by, and pulled myself on the tree." The pit bull pressed the attack, chasing Blue down the path. After half an hour, rangers found the traumatized horse a mile away, bleeding from the wounds on his neck, belly and hind legs, which required 26 stitches.

Two witnesses to the attack, each of whom provided park rangers with their names and contact information, remain anoymous here, for their protection.

Witness #1 -
 “Driving on parkway south near pond on right hand side of street between Maple Grove  and Lagoon Park, opposite to beginning of Fisherman’s Wall, the older white car stopped in front of me.  To the left a light brown horse with a saddle on was whinnying frantically.  There was a dog about 50 to 60 pounds, a (chestnut ) light brownish color hanging from the horse’s back leg.  The dog fell off the horse’s leg and continued chasing the horse.  The dog was jumping up trying to grab onto the horse’s legs and upper tail area.  I called 911 and gave location and was told to stay where I was . The horse ran down the bike trail going toward Cedar Point Road and I lost sight.”

Witness #2 -
“I was parked in a small lot past Maple Grove after walking my dog, sitting in my car. I heard and saw people stopping to see what the noise was. There coming down the trail was a horse running, he was wimpering running scared, alone and no rider as he came down my side of the car, I noticed a dog chasing him biting at his legs, the horse was lifting his legs trying to get away, he came past my car and ran back towards Maple Grove in the street with the dog still chasing him, jumping up on his lower legs trying to grab them.”

Cleveland metro parks rangers began an investigation, and charges were brought against the pit bull owner. But the pit bull owner claims the attack never happened. He insists that the pit bull slipped out of its collar and approached the horse out of an innocent curiosity.. He called what happened next "a blur," but said both animals seemed spooked and reacted accordingly. Claiming that he never saw the dog bite the horse, the pit owner speculated that the horse injured itself running through the woods, adding that "Animals did what animals do."

The pit bull activist community took to the Internet with damage control tactics as soon as news of the mauling became public. The official response from the pit bull advocacy community was outright denial, as seen in this thread at 

In the version of reality insisted upon by online pit bull advocates, there simply was no attack, period The idea that a pit bull would ever attack another animal was dismissed as utterly outrageous, something only an idiot could think possible.

This is the party line: Ms Miller fabricated the attack report, but was "caught in a lie" and retracted her story. The pit bull community's online activists were duly urged to harass the newspapers and news outlets that had covered the attack, and to demand a retraction. Full contact information for journalists and their managers was provided, with a long list of key individuals to copy on the message, and talking points were provided for use in criticising the journalists for publishing such a story. 

Five years later, the pit bull activists still insist that the attack never happened, and that is the message they continue to preach to all who will listen.

We recently had a chance to talk with Carol Miller and ask her about the attack, and how Blue has fared since then. She responded candidly:

"The morning after the attack I took my dog, the dog Blue saw every day, into the barn aisle way. When Blue caught sight of her he started spinning wildly in his stall, and I knew we were in trouble. But I started the rehabilitation process by sitting in a lawn chair on the front lawn, dog sitting quietly, and moved the chair closer to the paddock every day.I would put the dog on a down stay and work with Blue, clicking and rewarding calm behavior."

Now Blue is OK with dogs quietly sitting, or quietly walking, but running dogs trigger a flashback, he can see my neighbor’s dogs through his stall window and has ripped out the heavy metal screening with his teeth. Blue may be developing some arthritis in the worst injured hind leg, which worries me."

"I got back a whole lot more of my horse than I had any right to expect. I always wondered how he escaped being hit by a car while he was on the road but all traffic in the area stopped dead. In the last few years I have talked to other horse owners who were not as fortunate. Their horses died, horrible and terrifying deaths. Horses who can run, like Blue did, may survive.  Very young horses, or very old horses, ponies, or horses confined in barns and small paddocks almost always die without immediate human intervention."

As Miller points out, many other horses have not been so fortunate.The pit bull problem is real, and there is simply no solution in sight. Dawn James tracked pit bull attacks on various animals over a 2 year period between June 2009 and June 2011, recording over 120 equine casualties in that time - horses, ponies, mules and donkeys. Over the past decade there have been hundreds of horrific, and often too often, fatal horse maulings.

How did we wind up here? Up until the 1980s, pit bulls were owned for the most part by dog fighters, who knew how to handle the creatures. There have always been yard accidents and human fatalities, but they were relatively rare. But in the 1980s, the Animal Farm Foundation started pushing pit bulls as family pets, and increasing numbers of pit bulls were taken in by unsuspecting families. Since the 1980s, serious injuries, maiming and deaths from pit bull attacks have skyrocketed.

As dangerous as pit bulls are, they are just the tip of the iceberg. The situation could never have gotten as bad as it is without an organized and well financed plan to push the pit bull agenda. Whenever pit bull victims tell their story, a cyber mafia rises up to bully, threaten and accuse them. Look at any news report of a pit bull attack and if the site allow comments you'll see the same recurring themes - angry accusations and profanity thrown at the victims, insults for anyone who dares voice the opinion that pit bulls are dangerous, exhortations to "educate" oneself. The message is loud and clear: "Shut up and take your mauling, or else!"

In my humble opinion, the people behind the pit bull problem are the real problem. Blaming victims is obscene. Lamenting irresponsible pit bull ownership hasn't changed a thing - despite mountains of blame heaped on all the irresponsible owners of the world, the number and severity of pit bull attacks has been steadily worsening. Until society finds the will to deal with this problem once and for all, it's only going to get worse.

Call me an idealist, but isn't it time to demand some sanity? Isn't it high time to tackle this problem like we really mean it?

Dog safety, doctored images and responsibility

There are a number of large dog breeds which have shown themselves to be generally dependable and safe with children. Here is Apple, an Akita who regularly makes nursing home and hospital visits, shown at a children's Library event.

Apple at the library - Doggie reading day 2012

One can certainly find similar scenarios involving Labs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and other types of dogs, with nary a problem. Unfortunately, not all dogs are as dependable. In particular, the pit bull, created by the dog men of Stafford in the 1800s, specifically to kill other animals for their amusement, has been selectively bred for the past 170 years for sudden, all-out attack and a burning desire to press the attack, ignoring pain and injury as long as it is physically capable of continuing to attack. Refer to This article for an introduction to the qualities pit bull breeders strive for. Consequently, It should come as no surprise that pit bulls have a particularly bloody and violent history with children, attacking suddenly, brutally, without warning, and seemingly at random. 

Pit bull lobbyists have in the past arranged for specially trained pit bulls to be put into situations with the public, often with disastrous results - small dogs brutally killed at the dog groomers, at dog-friendly restaurants, surprise attacks on dogs at public gatherings, and unexpected attacks on humans as well. 

One pit bull activist thought it was a good idea to bring her pit bull to the library where she worked as a volunteer. Not surprisingly, the pit bull mauled a library customer, leading to a $158,000 lawsuit against the library. 

I suppose it's only natural that a pit bull activists would eventually realize that the easiest and least risky way to show pit bulls acting like normal dogs among children is with Photoshop. 

Consider the obviously doctored image below -

I wonder what was in the original picture before the pit bull was photoshopped in...

While one's natural impulse to such a fraud to cry foul, it is in fact a safer way to show pit bulls with children, at least at first glance. But then again, if uninformed people see this picture and try it themselves, tragedy could well result.

What do you think? Is it responsible to circulate synthetic images like this, or is it just too dangerous to tolerate?