Monday, May 24, 2010

Bryce Dixon Has Something to Say About Utah and Pit Bulls

Dixon thinks Southern Utah cities should ban Pit Bulls.

Pit Bull owners are accused of relying on emotional rhetoric to sway public opinion (cause it's worked so well for us, amirite?)

Instead, we must focus on analytical data that proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt something important, I'm sure. Dixon presents us with such evidence:
Pit bull owners fight hard with an emotional arsenal, but the pit bull lover cannot win a reasoned argument. Merritt Clifton, editor of "Animal People," (an online journal for animal lovers) conducted study of dog bites from 1982 to 2006.
Merritt Clifton writes and edits "Animal People". "Animal People" is the National Enquirer of the animal rights movement. I read it for giggles (I don't subscribe). Clifton likes to write copious and angry tirades. He rarely bothers with little things called facts and instead masks his opinion as reality. He also claims you cannot make a German Shepherd stop herding or a Chihuahua stop barking, ergo Pit Bulls cannot be stopped from eating people.

You can read the "dog bite study" here.

Merritt Clifton appears to think he is a dog breed expert. He seems to believe that people tail dock Pit Bulls to make them harder to read behaviorally. This was untrue in 1982 as in 2009, the range of years in which Clifton "studied" dog bite reports.  German Shepherds get a free pass because they don't ever bite hard - they are but gentle nippers, holding on kindly to wayward children. This is why they make great police dogs, right? Hurting is almost never, according to Clifton, a German Shepherd's intent. Clifton is also a dog psychic. Amazing, really.

His "study" is perhaps one of the first I've read that include such gems as "this is hell of a problem" and dog owners are getting "clobbered". I prefer my scientific studies to be full of obscure terms and dry, boring language. So do peer-reviewed journals, none of which I know of have accepted Clifton's "study".

Clifton uses news reports. He makes up his own subjective idea of what constitutes a mauling or just a regular bite. He excludes dogs of unknown breeds because apparently they just aren't as important. Bites by police dogs, guard dogs and "fighting dogs"are also excluded because these dogs apparently cannot misbehave (they are just expected to misbehave?)

More importantly - NEWS REPORTS! Can you imaging trying to get published in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal with your entire data set composed of news stories? Or you share with the committee that, well, you don't have any sources or statistics with 95% confidence intervals? Or that you just made up your own rules for the methods and data?

Clifton is not a dog bite expert. He is not a dog breed expert. His report is an opinion based on faulty and fallacious information. That is fine - just market it as such. Don't be a silly "journalist" and present it as analytical data that is sound and valid.

Other companies have a vicious dog insurance exclusion, which, of course, includes the American pit bull terriers and their cousins. You have probably received an endorsement in the mail excluding your homeowner's coverage for damage done by pit bulls.

Anti dog zealots loves to point out that insurance companies exclude Pit Bulls.

They neglect to mention those same insurance companies exclude:
* Akitas
* Chow Chows
* German Shepherds
* Rottweilers
* Dobermans
* Huskies
* Malamutes
* St. Bernards (in some cases)
* Great Danes (in some cases)

Is Dixon proposing that being excluded from getting an insurance policy makes your choice in a dog a bad one? Or that exclusion from a homeowner's insurance policy means all members of that dog's breed is dangerous? If so, then Dixon needs to be honest and just say "the inability to acquire homeowner's insurance indicates a dog's level of aggression and danger to society". I love magic logic.

We all love dogs, but a group of people love all dogs more than they love humans. Their passion for dogs prevents reasonable minds from taking proper action to eliminate totally the danger to our children from pit bull attacks.
 First off, we don't all love dogs. That's silly.

Second, if you are trying to argue rationally and logically, don't commit the same appeal to emotion fallacy you blasted the opposition for earlier. Dixon says if you want Pit Bulls, then you must also want mauled children, and how utterly awful is that? Feel ashamed.

Dog bite fatalities are exceedingly rare. Dog bites requiring hospitalization are very rare. When dogs bite, they tend to show incredibly restraint. You may find sources for those truths that don't include "hell" or "clobbered" and are published in peer-reviewed journals (or that, at the very least, use objective and agreed upon measurements of behavior). True facts are clearly less interesting than hyperbolic, made up ones.

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