August 1, 2007

"Boundless, staggering ignorance" alert!


"As a professional dog writer, I am an expert on the general public's boundless, staggering ignorance about dogs. Moreover, I'd often noticed that many people who knew absolutely nothing about dogs were highly educated types who knew a lot about everything else and consequently assumed that they knew a lot about dogs, too."

Susan Conant penned it, writing in the voice of her creation Holly Winter, and I think I am going to trot out this excellent quote whenever the stupid-on-stilts behavior of people who know absolutely nothing about dogs gets on my nerd [as a friend's son used to say].

L.A. City Councilmembers Dennis Zine and Janice Hahn, and "Animal Issues" activist Phyllis Daugherty: your post has arrived.

That pit bull training and adoption center planned by L.A. Animal Services? It's on hold while the L.A. City Council "demands more details." There will be a hearing this Friday.

One concern is the hiring of parolees to work with the dogs --- something lead trainer Tia Maria Torres has done for years. The union representing city employees has raised an objection, and there's nothing stupid about that: city employees' concerns should be addressed.

No, it's Janice Hahn who brings of the stupid: "I have a fundamental problem with pit bulls. There are too many instances of them attacking. They're difficult to rehabilitate."

And Dennis Zine: "Pit bulls are controversial and are trained to attack."

And Phyllis: "You cannot change the temperament of a dog," Daugherty said. "They're talking about working with the animals that are the most aggressive. Their time could be better spent working with good dogs."

It's a trifecta of stupid! A hat trick of boundless, staggering ignorance.

Yes, Janice, you have a fundamental problem, but it has nothing to do with dogs. Education is the cure. Your assignment is to read the AVMA task force report, A community approach to dog bite prevention, and answer the following questions [key below]:


  1. Which groups do the AVMA task force members represent? Thought question: is it possible they know more about dogs, dog bites and dog behavior than you do?

  2. Fill in the missing word from the report's introduction: "_____-driven portrayals of a specific breed as 'dangerous.'"

  3. "Doing so ignores the true scope of the [dog bite] problem and will not result in a responsible approach to protecting a community’s citizens." Doing what?

  4. "A dog’s tendency to bite depends on at least 5 interacting factors." List them. Is "breed" included?

  5. Fill in the missing words from the Preventive measures section: "Concerns about 'dangerous' dogs have caused many local governments to consider supplementing existing animal control laws with ordinances directed toward control of specific breeds or types of dogs. Members of the Task Force believe such ordinances are ________ and _______."

Dennis: the war in Iraq is controversial. Pit bulls are dogs. Dog behavior is something you can study, evaluate, predict and shape. Some Malinois* are "trained to attack." So are some pit bulls. Most aren't.

Phyllis: [Is the "Animal Issues Movement" just you? Because the group's website hasn't been updated for two years. I would love to hear more about the pit bulls your rescue group fostered and placed in good homes.] The pit bulls in question have good temperaments to begin with, or they wouldn't be candidates for adoption. They are good dogs. How odd that you missed that.

Did I mention that the CDC hasn't tracked fatal dog attacks by breed since 1998? According to a CDC spokesperson, breed "is no longer considered to be of discernible value."

Thank God for BAD RAP.

I was looking forward to the opening of the L.A. Pit Bull Training Academy and Adoption Center, and hope the employee issues will be settled quickly. I hope Dennis and Janice will take the time to meet some of the good pit bulls up for adoption. While they're waiting for the center to open, they can read Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker classic, Troublemakers: What pit bulls can teach us about profiling. [I keep a link in the sidebar.] Because of all the fundamental problems a politician can have, prejudice is one of the worst.

[*See Comments.]


Answer Key:

1. Which groups do the task force members represent? The task force included representatives from the American Veterinary Medical Association; the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American College of Emergency Physicians; the Professional Liability Insurance Trust; the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists; the American Medical Association; the National Animal Control Association; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the Humane Society of the United States. And yes, Janice, they know more about dogs, dog bites and dog behavior than you do.

2. Fill in the missing word from the report's introduction: "media-driven portrayals of a specific breed as 'dangerous.'"

3. "Doing so ignores the true scope of the [dog bite] problem and will not result in a responsible approach to protecting a community’s citizens." Doing what? "Singling out 1 or 2 breeds for control."

4. "A dog’s tendency to bite depends on at least 5 interacting factors." List them. "Heredity, early experience, later socialization and training, health (medical and behavioral), and victim behavior." Is "breed" included? No. [Poor temperaments in any breed are a result of irresponsible breeding --- that "heredity" thing.]

5. Fill in the missing words from the Preventive measures section: "Concerns about 'dangerous' dogs have caused many local governments to consider supplementing existing animal control laws with ordinances directed toward control of specific breeds or types of dogs. Members of the Task Force believe such ordinances are inappropriate and ineffective."

2 comments:

kabbage said...

You wrote: 'Malinois are "trained to attack." So are some pit bulls. Most aren't.' Could you please change this to "Some Malinois..."? I own a Malinois, and like many Malinois owners, I'm very concerned that our breed could be next on the list of breeds targeted for breed bans due to media reputation, strong likelihood of poor breeding practices by those who want a "macho" or "killer" dog, and current use as a police/military dog. Malinois are a tricky breed to own anyway, since they tend to be very high energy, very sensitive to their handlers, and highly aware of everything in their environment. Mine is a sweetheart with humans and other dogs but will hunt darn near anything else that she's not been told to leave alone.

Name: Luisa said...

I'll change it, with a note to see your comment.

I meant [and didn't make clear] that people use dogs of a number of different breeds for police work, protection sports and as guard dogs. (And yes, I know that in Schutzhund [for example] the dog is focused on the sleeve and not being taught to "bite people.")

Laura Noll, a friend of mine who trains stockdogs, has worked with a number of Malinois and likes them very much. Still purpose-bred, many of them, and not yet ruined by conformation breeding...