Monday, August 19, 2013

What happened to Gavin?

There was a time when Maggie would have heartily recommended a pit bull as a family pet, but she no longer feel that way. Here is how a real-life education about pit bulls changed her mind.

My boyfriend Greg had had a pitbull named Bexar for 6 and a half years. He'd raised him from a pup and Bexar was a very well behaved dog and listened to everything Greg would tell him. Greg and I got together over 2 years ago, moved in with each other and Bexar came too. I instantly fell in love with Bexar. He was my "sweet boy". He would give you kisses for hours, even smiled at us every time we walked in the door.

I got pregnant in April 2011 and gave birth to our son in Feb. 2012. Everyone in my family was very concerned about Bexar. We insisted that he would never hurt anyone ever! (well, at least we were sure Bexar wouldn't ever actually hurt a person - cats and other animals were a different story). Bexar was great with our son Trenton, just as we expected him to be.

Trenton had just started crawling in September 2012. We would let him crawl over to Bexar, pat him on the head, play with his ears, let Bexar give him kisses, etc. Bexar would even sleep in front of his crib. He had been around kids his whole life. Family, nieces and nephews, friends kids of all ages.

Maggie and Bexar

On Saturday November 10th, 2012 my mom came to my house to hang out and visit and brought Gavin, my 5 year old cousin. Gavin had stayed with us many times before playing with everyone all day, including Bexar, who he loved to play with. Eventually about 10 visitors had arrived at the house and were in the backyard socializing while Greg and I were inside trying to put Trenton to sleep. 

The backdoor was open and suddenly we heard people screaming from outside. Bexar, with zero warning, had lunged at Gavin, and his jaws were clamped down on Gavin's face, right in front of everyone. Let me point out that there were 8 people within arms reach of Gavin when Bexar attacked. This is a critical point, because I have heard from many people about this, who say that they would never leave their children “alone” with "any" dog. Gavin was far from being alone when this attack happened. Even 4 grown men were unable to pry Bexar's jaws off of Gavin's head. Greg ran out and was finally able to get Bexar to release, saving Gavin's life.

Gavin was rushed to the hospital, then transported to Texas Children’s due to the severity of his injuries. He's since had multiple surgeries on his face and jaw and will need more in the years to come. Bexar barely missed his temple, barely missed his eyeball, and barely missed the main artery in his neck. Greg and I took Bexar and had him put down that night.

In retrospect, we had felt supremely confident that Bexar would never do anything like that - ever. We'd argued with many about pit bulls and told them that "it's all how you raise them". I know that there are people out there who still think it's all in how you raise them, and my goal is to educate and raise awareness of the breed, in the hope that future tragedies can be averted. 

We never want to see what we went through happen to someone else's loved ones. I wouldn't wish the pain that our family has gone through, and more importantly, the pain and suffering that it has caused for our sweet Gavin, on my worst enemy.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sudden, Random, Unprovoked & Violent: LA Times Opinion

It is clear to anyone looking objectively at all the data that we have a serious pit bull problem. It's a public safety issue, and it's a humane issue, as pit bulls are causing injuries and deaths to both humans and animals in amounts drastically out of proportion to their numbers. When we say "out of proportion", what sort of proportion are we talking about? We're talking about a type of dog that constitutes a very small minority of the overall dog population but causes more death and mayhem than all other types of dogs combined.

"321 humans have been killed or disfigured by dogs during calendar year 2013; 316 of those 321 fatal or disfiguring attacks were by pit bulls" (and the human casualties are just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of innocent family pets being killed by pit bulls)

The quote above comes from an article over at the SRUV blog which takes a look at the positive pit bull propaganda coming out the LA times in the wake of numerous horrific attacks; Please feel free to read more at the URL below:

Sudden, Random, Unprovoked & Violent: LA Times Opinion

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How pit bulls changed my life

In response to repeated, horrific maulings committed by pit bulls, the city council of Watertown, Wisconsin has been considering breed specific ordinances to address this breed specific problem. Naturally, pro pit bull organizations have been bombarding the city with threats and propaganda, and attempting to create the illusion of massive grass roots support for pit bulls. Hopefully, the concerns of normal people will not be drowned out in the shrill cacophony of strident pit bull advocacy. Here is an open letter that one Wisconsin resident sent to the Watertown city council. This poignant letter represents the side that sorely needs to be heard in this debate.

Good Morning,

My name is Jennifer Scott. On April 8th, 2009, my life changed forever. 

At the time I lived in a very nice apartment in Pewaukee and adopted a golden retriever puppy, Ruby. We walked to the lake every single day, even most weather couldn't keep us from doing what we both loved best. We’d run, jog, and walk, loving every minute. Then, one day, 2 pit bulls escaped a fenced-in area of their yard. I thought they were coming to meet my puppy. I never thought to be scared. I will make a very long story as short as I can. These dogs ripped my puppy apart, and threw me to the ground. It took 6 men to get them off of her. 3 were holding the pit bulls heads so that they couldn't shake her to death. Others trying to keep my puppy stable. I was in shock, utter disbelief. I have never heard a dog scream. Ruby screamed so loud that neighbors from 4 blocks away could hear her. That day will haunt me forever. It took 6 surgeries to heal my poor puppy who had done nothing wrong. The owner of the dog told the judge that his dogs were merely punishing my dogs because we were trespassing. The judge gave a bewildered look, and said, “Trespassing? I thought you said Jennifer and her puppy were walking on the sidewalk?” The owner stated the sidewalk belongs to him since he shovels and takes care of it. Unfortunately, this type of education level seems far too common with those who own and advocate for pit bulls. 

Fast forward to March of this year. I couldn't believe my ears when I turned on the television. A DJ whose music I came to like, had a young boy, Dax Borchardt, who was mauled by 2 pit bulls - mauled to death! 

I am still in shock. I hadn't even gotten over my own attack from 4 years before. I cannot take a walk without taking an anti-anxiety pill. I live in fear…every time I see one I go into panic mode. I have gained weight because I am simply scared to exercise outside like I used to. It’s hard to explain unless you've seen for yourself. But you can see for yourself; the proof is in the research. Any dog can attack, this is true. But when a pit bull goes to attack, it does so to kill. It will do anything it can to do just that. If you’re lucky, you may just have horrific scars or missing limbs. 

In a moment of honesty, forgetting perhaps how much he is being paid to say otherwise, Cesar Milan said this true word about the pit / bulldog types: “Yeah, but this is a different breed…the power that comes behind the bull dog, pit bull, presa canario, the fighting breed – They have an extra boost, they can go into a zone, they don’t feel the pain anymore. … So if you are trying to create submission in a fighting breed, it’s not going to happen. They would rather die than surrender. If you add pain, it only infuriates them…to them pain is that adrenaline rush, they are looking forward to that, they are addicted to it… That’s why they are such great fighters. Especially with fighting breeds, you’re going to have these explosions over and over because there’s no limits in their brains".

Quote again, just in case you missed it. "THEY WOULD RATHER DIE THAN SURRENDER". My dog had over 90 puncture wounds. I cannot even imagine the grief that Jeff and his wife, Kim, are going through. I beg you, to please look at the facts…the facts that will prove to you that the only way to keep Watertown a safe community is through BSL.

Here’s a picture of what they did to my dog. Please let me know if you need anything else from me or have questions.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Breedism: what is a breed?

What is a breed, anyway? It may seem like an inane question, but it's a good idea to be clear about what we mean. It can be rather frustrating to take part in a discussion where each party is using the same terms and assumes they mean the same thing to everyone, but where each party attaches radically different meaning to those terms.

A quick consultation with Google provides this basic definition of the noun "breed": A stock of animals or plants within a species having a distinctive appearance and typically having been developed by deliberate selection.

It was popularly believed that our domestic dogs descended from wild wolves tamed by humans, but more recent research indicates that domestic dogs evolved gradually from canine ancestors in response to conditions in their environment, adapting themselves to a niche on the fringes of human civilization. 

These canids differed from wolves in that they were less fearful of humans. They scavenged food from human garbage dumps, living in close proximity to man. These early "village dogs" would have been killed off had they presented a threat, but because they were able to coexist peacefully with humans, their destiny connected with ours, and Canis Familiaris became man's best friend.

Since the appearance of the early dogs, the remarkable flexibility of Canine DNA has given rise to a diverse collection of domestic dog types, with an incredible range of size, appearance, temperaments  and behaviors, which we've grouped into over 400 breeds. If humans displayed same range of diversity as canids, we could have adults ranging from 1 foot tall to 17 feet tall, and we'd have drastically different body types, temperaments, and mental capacities. 

Of course, there is no such range diversity in human biology. What diversity of human appearance does exist is extremely minor compared to that found among the population of the domestic dog. We're all humans, and respond in similar ways to given environmental conditions. In other words, there is only one human race, and the concept of different breeds as in the domestic dog simply has no parallel in humanity.

But I digress. The point I want to make here is that Canid DNA is incredibly adaptable, and that the various breeds of domestic dog have taken on distinct, breed specific characteristics, in response to deliberate efforts by humans to select for those very characteristics. For instance, pointers were bred to point to waterfowl, while retrievers were bred to retrieve downed waterfowl, with a soft mouth. Sheep herding breeds arose from selection for the ability and inclination to herd sheep. Livestock guardians were bred to protect weaker creatures under their care. Each of these working breeds was equipped, over time, with the skills to do it's specific job, from birth. 

Beginning in the Elizabethan era, bull dogs were bred by selecting for temperament and physical characteristics useful in dogs which would torture animals - for instance de-horned bulls or de-clawed bears - for "sport".

When bull-baiting was outlawed in 1835, the "sportsmen" turned to dog fighting, and bred specifically for those characteristics best suited to a life in the fighting pit, tearing apart dogs (A bit of terrier was added to the bull dog for more energy, creating the "bull & terrier"). Such characteristics, copiously documented in diverse places, include, but are not limited to, a hair trigger attack reflex, a determination to continue attacking the victim, ignoring signals of submission, as well as injury to itself, and a freakish insensitivity to pain. This collection of traits characterizes the "pit bull", or the "pit fighting bull dog", which, though called by various names over time, has always displayed the distinctive traits which speak of its original purpose.

There's an old saying "You can take the dog out of the fight, but you can't take the fight out of the dog". Just as frustrated border collies without sheep to herd will take to herding children, frustrated pit bulls, without opponents in the pit to attack, will escape confinement and go looking for neighborhood pets to kill. The propensity for a pit bull to jump out of a moving car or a second story window to attack and kill a little dog is well documented, as is the rather breed specific pit bull behavior of finding ways into other people's houses to torture and kill the animals inside. There have been several such cases just within the past few weeks, and such nightmares are truly heartbreaking for anyone who has the least bit of compassion for animals. 

The foregoing sets the stage for the question: If we have deliberately bred lines of dogs for centuries to produce breed-specific characteristics, why is it somehow "racist" to note the existence of these very breed specific characteristics which we've deliberately produced?

If we can accept the fact that, for instance, border collies must have a job to do, and their job is herding, because it's in their DNA, why do we deny all genetic influence when it comes to pit bulls? These bully breeds are working dogs too, and their work is killing. I'm at a loss as to how the pit bull propaganda machine continues to condemn "breedism", as though there are no genetic factors in a dog's behavior. They speak as though a pit bull were no different from a lab.

Why does the pit propaganda machine shout "racism" and speak nonsensically of "condemning a breed for the actions of a few" when that's not the issue at all? At issue here is our ability to recognize that specific breeds were created with specific purposes. We deny reality at our peril - a quick look at the statistics for serious and fatal injuries from dog attacks over the past 30 years makes it clear that breed, more than anything else, is the most relevant factor, not the owner and not the upbringing.

Bottom line: It's absurd to pretend that breed specific characteristics which were deliberately created by humans don't exist. And to call those who recognize these breed specific characteristics "racist" reveals a profound ignorance on the part of the accuser.

A final thought: When someone speaks of the unfairness of "killing off a breed" what they are actually talking about is eliminating a specific set of characteristics which have proven to be a problem. The fact that sadistic humans created a "breed" to torture animals is no mandate to continue the existence of said breed. Nobody has suggested killing off the domestic dog - only those man-made expressions of temperament and behaviors which have proven to be harmful and cruel.

References - 
Coppinger, Dogs, from
Semyonova, The 100 silliest things people say about dogs, from