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Letter to the Editor of The Toronto Star

Babs
August 31st, 2004, 11:35 PM
Dear Editors,

I am thoroughly disappointed that an esteemed newspaper such as yours would write biased, unresearched and uninformed material as was found in the Editorial, "Time for cities to ban pit bulls (http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1093903811288&call_pageid=970599119419)". I truly wonder if your staff does the necessary footwork required before writing, and publishing your material. Do you realize how foolish this information appears to the knowledgeable community?

Not surprisingly, it is not the first time I have been outraged at material of this nature published by your newspaper. Given the dire situation as it stands today, I am finally taking the time to let you know how many Canadians like myself feel about your journalistic approach to dog bite stories. As I write this letter, many informed and concerned Canadians are finally taking a stand against reporting similar to your article in question. We are contacting the media, government officials, collaborating to correct the mess that bad reporting like yours has been terrorizing Canadians with.

The responsibility your paper has to the public is immense. News that you publish impacts the perspectives and opinions formed by the public. Unless you are aspiring to become another version of "The Enquirer", I encourage you to read the following corrections to this Article that you published, and any that relate to it. Indeed there have been many. In addition, I encourage you to advise your staff to perform more thorough research before publishing nonsense.

As I mentioned to you, I have also taken the liberty to provide this factual news lead to other agencies. It will be interesting to see who will be the first one to pick up the Torch of Truth.

The topic of Breed Specific Legislation, (BSL) has become one of the hottest news topics lately. As a direct result of the growing number of news articles involving dog bites naming Pit Bulls, interest is mounting in cities throughout Ontario to pass breed specific legislation as a solution to reduce the number of Dog Bite incidents.

It is believed the mass hysteria originated through the spread of biased media reporting that projects generalized, misinterpreted dog breed attacks.

I have been conducting research for the past few months on this issue. I have been in contact with officials in Ottawa at the Canadian Federation of Human Societies (CFHS). I have made inquiries to Health Canada trying to find dog bite statistics in cities like Kitchener where BSL has been imposed for a few years.

What I have discovered is astonishing.

- Despite both my efforts and those made by the CFHS, Health Canada Dog Bite Reports from specific cities like Kitchener, where BSL has been in force since the late 1990's has not been made available. This begs the question... "why not?". It would appear something is being hidden, but perhaps not by Health Canada. The CFHS believes that Health Canada may not have accurate, or any reports provided by Kitchener since BSL was introduced. Officials at the CFHS have stated that very little, if no follow-up has been performed by officials to track bite incidents in Kitchener since the BSL was passed in the late 1990's. It is as if the problem was given a band-aid, and then forgotten.

This evidence is not surprising. They banned Pit bulls in England, yet the numbers of dog bites have increased by 25% in the year 2002-2003. They banned them in a small town in California and over 12,000 Pit Bulls were put to death, and yet the numbers of bites didn't change. This is probably also the case for Kitchener, and why the facts have not been made readily available.

- Esteemed Veterinary professionals have stated that it is impossible to correctly identify the breed of a dog, without knowing its breeding origin. Not even through DNA testing can this information be identified. Very few individuals are qualified to make an educated guess, and this very rarely includes Veterinarians because generally, they do not specialize in specific breeds. Police Officers have absolutely no qualifications necessary to identify dog breeds, and have mistaken breeds such as the Jack Russell Terrier, calling them Pit Bulls during investigations of dog injuries. More information on the innacuracy of identifying breeds can be found at http://www.goodpooch.com/MediaBriefs/GPpitbulls.htm

- Many Media reports cite that Pit Bulls have "Locking Jaws", or "Powerful Jaws unlike other breeds". Neither of these points are based on any factual evidence, nor are they true. Pit Bulls are no different physiologically from any other type of dog. Dr. I Lehr Brisbin of the University of Georgia states, "To the best of our knowledge, there are no published scientific studies that would allow any meaningful comparison to be made of the biting power of various breeds of dogs. There are, moreover, compelling technical reasons why such data describing biting power in terms of 'pounds per square inch' can never be collected in a meaningful way. All figures describing biting power in such terms can be traced to either unfounded rumor or, in some cases, to newspaper articles with no foundation in factual data." Furthermore, Dr. Brisbin states, "The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of 'locking mechanism' unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier."

As a concerned humanitarian and animal lover, this issue touches me deeply. I personally see BSL as nothing more than a hysterical, holocaustic and generalized human act based on their fear of short haired dogs. BSL is not a solution. Dogs will continue to bite provided irresponsible ownership is permitted. The more breeds that are banned, the more hybrids that will be bred. It is inconcievable that some day all dog breeds will be banned... but with BSL in force, this is entirely possible for the future.

This public terror and hysteria surrounding Pit Bulls is the direct and absolute result of uninformed, unresearched and generally bad reporting by trusted sources. The fact that most dog bite news involving Pit Bulls could in many cases have been several other breeds of short haired dogs is even more disconcerting. In one recent case, the featured Pit Bull was actually a Jack Russell Terrier.

For your own amusement, see how quickly you can identify the Pit Bull image located on this page: http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.html. It took me 13 tries before I could identify the right dog, and I've been following Pit Bull BSL for months.

The unfortunate result of this mass hysteria is that now we have elected city officials who will make decisions based on Public Opinion. Naturally, to keep their elected positions they need to do what the public wants. If that Public Opinion has been formed upon one-sided and inaccurate information, then legislation that will ensue is not only unfair, it is ignorant, unethical and unhumanitarian.

The media needs to report both sides of the story, and there is indeed a story here that needs to be investigated and revealed before major decisions are made. Specifically:

1) Why are statistics not being followed up on in Kitchener?

2) Why can't Health Canada provide City-specific statistics where BSL has been imposed?

3) Why are members of the Police and the Media allowed to incorrectly and assumptively state the breed of a dog without having prior authoritative consultations before publishing news about breed-specific dog attacks? Why aren't they looking for the story behind the owners of these dogs... where the true problem lies?

4) Myths about Pit Bulls like "Locking Jaws" and "Powerful Jaws" need to be dispelled. Here are a couple links with solid facts regarding Pit Bull Myths: http://www.austinlostpets.com/kidskorner/2October/pitbull.htm
http://members.aol.com/bstofshw/facts.html
http://www.badrap.org/rescue/myths.cfm

I would appreciate if you could publish a retraction of this and all related articles that are not based on fact. I truly hope that you are interested in publishing the truth, and would consider following the stories behind the points I have mentioned within this email.

Sincerely,

Concerned Animal Rights Advocate