March 24, 2009

Merritt Clifton list: updated, still with chox-mix goodness

The latest version [as far as I know] of Merritt Clifton's list of selected dog attacks has been posted here, at Scribd, by someone who sucks at Photoshop.

The chox mix is still listed, along with the buff mastiff, the Dauschund, the East Highland Terrier and the Weimaeaner. The Australian cattle dog, the Australian blue heeler, the Blue heeler and the Queensland heeler are still listed as separate breeds.

One big change: the Analysis section of the report has been removed. And in his brief introduction, Clifton adds a paragraph defending his numbers. Click for big:

Seriously, I could beat my head on rocks. Merritt Clifton has no idea how many dog attacks there are each year by any given breed. No one does. The last time I checked, not one state kept track of dog attacks by breed. We do know that over 6,000 people were hospitalized as a result of dog attacks in the US in one year:
From the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: “Of an estimated 333,700 patients treated for dog bites in emergency departments (EDs) in 1994, approximately 6,000 were hospitalized.
For the record, Clifton's latest report states that "Pit bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios, and their mixes" were responsible for a total of 1894 attacks "doing bodily harm" in the US and Canada from 1982 to 2008. Clifton still lumps every sort of mixed breed with "purebreds" [while stating that "only attacks by dogs of clearly identified breed type or ancestry are included"]. This approach has no basis in science or anything else.

Related — I think:
Law enforcement officials classified the dog in the Jan. 3 attack as a pit bull, boxer and black lab mix.

One magazine editor simplified this classification of dog.

“It’s a mongrel basically,” Wash.-based Animal People editor Merritt Clifton said.

He also said insurance representatives and dog wardens will often classify the dog by what type of dog it looks like. This classification has little to do with genetics, he said, because often shelter operators are simply attempting to determine the risk the dog will fight with other dogs.

Though some might label pit bulls as aggressive, Clifton said pit bulls are often reactive because of the fact they were originally trained to hunt rats on ships. However, because of their size and their inability to pull large amounts of cargo from ships, they were not considered apt for either job and instead began being bred for dogfighting on the docks.

This rat-killing, he said, has made them more reactive.

He also talked about the head-shaking mechanism pit bulls would use to kill the rat, which in bites causes the tearing of skin, causing more damage than other dog bites. However, he said this can be combated by pushing the arm or other appendage further into the dog’s mouth, which will force a release. [Source]
Inconceivable. Really. Big hat tip to the most excellent Caveat for the link to that, er... fascinating article.

March 23, 2009

The awful truth: our secret hidden agenda revealed

Mind like a steel trap, that Kory from Denver. He's outed us all:

Veterinarians, animal welfare organizations and the "animal control officers" trained and connected to such groups are biased and will never admit the truth (see "The Emperor's Clothes" by Hans Christian Anderson) because they are all chasing a reducing pool of financial donors who easily succomb to the hidden agendas and propaganda offered up by pit bull breeders, owners and their financial supporters. As these groups often accept donations for their lobbying efforts from unknown entities, they are deliberately indifferent to the real and present danger that dog fighters are using them as "strawmen" for their own illicit agenda. Can they really guarantee anyone that not one $ was donated by Michael Vick or his associates?
Same stuff, toned down a bit here:
Kori [sic — how fitting is that, I ask you?] Nelson, a Denver assistant city attorney who led the city’s fight to re-enact its ban on pit bulls in 2004, called pit bulls a unique breed with inherently dangerous characteristics.

He said the ban is working as evidenced by the fact that there has not been a serious attack since the ban was enacted.

“I don’t know anyone who argues that pit bull bans or restrictions are designed to prevent all dog bites,” he said. “It’s designed to prevent maulings and death attacks by pit bulls.”

Comparing pit bulls to grenades, Nelson said the purpose of banning the breed is to prevent unprovoked attacks.

“Once a grenade goes off, the damage is already done,” he said.

The assistant city attorney also suggested a “secret hidden agenda” behind anti-BSL groups like the Coalition for Living Safely with Dogs and the Humane Society of the United States. Nelson pointed out that such groups rely on donations for their efforts, especially when the economy is down.

“It’s politically incorrect for them to admit the truth of this, which is that pit bulls are more dangerous,” said Nelson, who added that donations could come from anywhere, even including leaders of dog-fighting rings.

The ban is working in my home town, too! No "pit bull" maulings since forever! Oh, wait [slaps forehead] — we don't have a ban! Silly me.

I know I should be ashamed that dogfighters have been using my blog as a "'straw man' for their own illicit agenda," but damn, pit bull lobbyists make good money. I guess I'll have to take the dogfight promos down, now, and stop selling puppies. I knew I should have kept my day job.

March 21, 2009

It's California: water, and a wolverine

"Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much." [Alan Paton]

He had me at "California drought."

Ari Kelman of the most excellent Edge of the American West responds to "several requests for some California drought blogging," and I am so there. West coast water is a topic near and dear to my heart. We used to depend on well water every summer up at the cabin, for one thing. For another, I love roses. And hate high water bills.

Ari turns the blog post Parched over to "a friend who works on state water issues and writes about water and climate change at On the Public Record." Both "Parched" and "On the Public Record" are good reads.

"If you’re a salmon in California, this drought could well be the end of you. This year’s salmon returns were historic lows, and tepid reduced rivers may finish them off. However, if you’re a wildfire in California, dying forests in the Sierras are waiting for you!"

If you’re a farmer in California, or dependent on farming, the story is very different. The combination of drought and enforcement of the Endangered Species Act means that farmers are getting almost no water from the water projects this year (that may be revised to getting 5% of their usual water, because of the February rains). For many of them, this drought means putting in wells and fallowing everything but their orchards. Cattle and dairies are thinning their herds, because dry pastures are too sparse to feed their cows. Farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley are taking the hardest hit, with unemployment over thirty percent in some towns.
I'm not dependent in any financial sense on my livestock, and don't have enough sheep to talk of "thinning the herd," but I'm giving up all but a few of my Cheviots — I can barely afford to feed them. Hay prices are unreal.


Drought? But... but... there's snow in the Sierras! Which isn't the same as "snowpack," unfortunately. You can see the white stuff in this short vid of a wolverine posing for a camera trap northwest of Lake Tahoe. Video from, where you can read more about the handsome critter. I heart wolverines.

California Drought: Snowpack Inspires Consumers, Worries Water Experts, from Circle of Blue | WaterNews.

Link Liberation

It will pay for itself: save on energy costs with a solar birdhouse from OOOMS.

Check out the skein of geese at A Walk Through Durham Township, Pennsylvania. Spring is here. Ye gods, what a photo. Here's another good one — one of many good ones — by Kathleen Connally.

Heather Havrilesky wrote "an ode to loud, stinky, filthy canines and the pathologically needy people who love them" for Salon last month, and of course it's terrific. I LOL'd.

All real! Amazing tilt-shift vid:

Very cool bookstore door on Flickr. [H/T: Rag & Bone Blog]

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook repays a debt — in blood. Mmm, blood...

God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It.

Bill Would Allow Texas School to Grant Master's Degree in Science for Creationism.

smARThistory: a totally terrific art history web book. With sheep! [H/T: Vagabundia]

Extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields disrupt magnetic alignment of ruminants. [H/T: Ars Technica]

Live by the sword, die by the sword: Horse falls, crushes attacking pit bull. That was after the SUV collision. And the horse walked away with a few scratches...! No word on the rider.

Old [Feb.] but cringe-errific: Stimulus for bloggers.

This is animal husbandry: raccoon butt shelf. Don't miss the comments.

And, um, bringing up the rear: a massive “floor sticker” in an Jakarta shopping center, best viewed from above:

Eeeww! Designed by Perwanal Saatchi & Saatchi in Jakarta, Indonesia; photo from the cool hunter.

March 19, 2009

State of the Birds 2009

Peregrine falcon soars across Morro Rock in Morro Bay, California. Photo by kevincole on Flickr: click for big.

A beautiful video and an impressive, informative web site - check both out here: State of the Birds - the 2009 Report.

From the Foreword:
Birds are bellwethers of our natural and cultural health as a nation—they are indicators of the integrity of the environments that provide us with clean air and water, fertile soils, abundant wildlife, and the natural resources on which our economic development depends. In the past 40 years, major public, private, and government initiatives have made strides for conservation. Has it been enough? How are birds faring?

In an unprecedented partnership, government wildlife agencies and conservation groups have come together to produce this first comprehensive analysis of the state of our nation’s birds.
Thanks to:

North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Committee

American Bird Conservancy

Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Klamath Bird Observatory

National Audubon Society

The Nature Conservancy

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

U.S. Geological Survey

I should add that hunters' groups like the most excellent Ducks Unlimited have done an extraordinary job of preserving, restoring and protecting habitat. Falconer, author and blogger Rebecca K. O'Connor just joined DU's Sacramento team -- you can read her fine blog here.

March 17, 2009


Cim Smyth and his team reach Kaltag after 150 miles on the frozen Yukon River, mushing into winds of up to 40 mph. Wind chills during the Iditarod this year have reached -45 degrees F. "Brutal winds have slowed the 37th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to a crawl." ADN photos and race coverage here.

Three dogs dead, so far. Two from Lou Packer's team died during an awful night on the trail. Packer described the situation for a reporter, and I listened to the audio ["Lou Packer discusses the life-threatening weather"] and thought, two good dogs died on account of this chucklehead?! Packer zipped himself into his sled bag and apparently left the dogs outside in the blizzard to fend for themselves. From the ADN:
Iditarod officials confirmed the dog deaths and said necropsies were planned to determine how the animals died. Thin-coated huskies have been an issue of concern among Iditarod veterinarians in recent years. Concerns have been growing that such dogs might fall victim to exposure.
Gosh darn it [slaps forehead] — now you tell us!

Dunno if the Iditarod is still the race I hate to love. The race I hate to hate, maybe. No belt buckle is worth a dead dog.

Iditarod links, and a moment of silence, dammit

Patricia McConnell on breed recognition and breed-based behavior predictions

The most excellent veterinary behaviorist/trainer/author Patricia McConnell [on the left with one of her working border collies] has a most excellent blog, and she reports here on the recent IFAAB [Interdisciplinary Forum on Applied Animal Behavior] meetings in Tucson.

"All this is good ammunition against breed bans… who can be sure a dog is a “pit bull” anyway? This study has the potential of providing good science that can be used to fight breed bans, which I am adamantly against."

There were two very interesting talks about breed recognition and breed-based behavior predictions. Victoria Voith, one of the first board certified veterinary behaviorists in the country, enrolled us in a study she is doing on breed identification. Given that breed bans are based on, well, breed identification, she and others are gathering breed identifications [...] Most of the dogs shown came up as mixes of mixes: 25% this, 12.5 % that.Very few came out as 50% of one breed and 50% of another.

I’ve always wondered why people tend to describe mixed breed dogs as the offspring of two pure bred parents, and I’ve long believed that it is VERY difficult to guess parentage of a mixed breed dog. I came to that conclusion after reading Scott and Fuller’s study, and looking at the photos they have of some of their crosses (beagle/cocker for example.) If you look at all their photos, some of the pups look like their father, some their mother, and others look like just about nothing at all (or another breed altogether.) Dogs are so structurally labile, surely it is truly hard to predict exactly what a mix is going to look like.
Read the whole post here.

HSUS: masters of the ironic fundraising ploy

'Shameless' doesn't come close. Click for bigger.

"It is time to STOP THE KILLING NOW!"

Why, yes. Now that you mention it, it is.

[Hat tip to my awesome cuz for mailing this material to me. She sent some thoughts on the irony of it all to the HSUS.]


Lime green is my favorite color on earth. Actually, pretty much any type of green is my fave. The current blog background would be lime green, if not for those ugly threats is a sort-of green which I created myself, yay me.

Topic: it's Paddy's Day. President Obama, lucky man, got to listen to Liz Carroll [a super-nice person and a great musician] and John Doyle:

For recordings of the best Irish traditional music you can't do better than Green Linnet. There's Liz, of course, and I recommend anything by the brilliant Clare fiddler Martin Hayes with Dennis Cahill on guitar, anything by John Williams, and on and on. Martin Hayes was at the Plough and Stars last Thursday — lots of great musicians there, she said enviously.

Sentimental Oirish vid for the day: Into the West. I love it.
Kids' book: The Selkie Girl, by Susan Cooper. Best retelling of a story that makes grown-ups weep. A film version - Secret of Roan Inish - lacks the magic of the book, if you ask me, but still worth your time.

Quote: "Gandhi used nonviolence and got rid of the British in forty years. The Brits have been in Ireland for what, 800 years now?" [Singer in an Irish trad band — as prelude to a song about fighting the Black and Tans.]

A green dish for your Oirish pup:

And a green hoodie:

And a fave vid.

They must get some rain:

March 4, 2009

Count Aldrovandi's cur-dog

Smoky as Renaissance mastiff. Aldrovandi Dog [Norton Simon Foundation, via the NY Times]. Click for big.

Huge thanks to Janeen of the most excellent Smartdogs for sending me a link to this portrait of my cur pup an image of Aldrovandi Dog, painted in 1625 by Guercino [Giovanni Francesco Barbieri].

From the link sent by Janeen:
Although the dog’s name has been lost to time, we know that Count Filippo Maria Aldrovandi (1598–1644) owned the white and brindle mastiff because its elaborate leather collar bears the Aldrovandi coat of arms. The dog’s facial scars and white hair above the mouth suggest that he is old and has seen his share of violent encounters. His ears have been trimmed, a custom fashionable in England and continental Europe during the early seventeenth century. A villa, bathed in golden sunlight, rises in the distance atop a grassy hill alongside other imposing structures that sweep across the lush vista. Dark clouds break on either side of the canine’s head, seemingly chased by the sun-drenched white clouds that hover over the land and surround the dog’s silhouette like a vaporous halo.
Big whoop, says Smoke: I have a pearl necklace with a silver locket, and I am often bathed in golden sunlight. Though Mom says if she ever catches me with a vaporous halo I'll rue the day, whatever that means.

Back when he was small enough to model a present for Princess Lilypug. Those days are long gone.