Monday, June 21, 2010

San Bernardino - Press-Enterprise Mis-Reports

Calgary with it's 150 dog bites a year should just stop what they're doing and look to San Bernardino where the Press-Enterprise reports that there have been a grand total of six dog attacks (all the dogs are accused to be Pit Bulls, including these five mixed breed dogs).

In response, San Bernardino County wants to castrate all Pit Bulls and Pit Bull Mixes.

My response would be - do whatever San Bernardino is doing, because hey! they only have 6 attacks every six months!!

Except that isn't true, of course. The Press-Enterprise is lying to you. True fact!

Actually, San Bernardino is lying to you. Here's what I assume is what the Press-Enterprise is using for their story.

First Claim: In the past five years, there have been four dog-bite related fatalities, ALL attributed to Pit Bulls:
* 2006, Phelan, San Bernardino County: A man who trespassed with his girlfriend onto the property of a meth lab was killed by the 8 Pit Bull Mixed breed guard dogs living there.
* 2007, Yerma, San Bernardino County: A woman walking was attacked by four dogs. The dogs were owned by a man who had multiple, previous complaints against him and these four dogs. Apparently, SB Animal Control didn't do much. The dogs are first identified as Pit Bulls, then Pit Bull mixes, then Pit Bull types, then breed isn't mentioned.
* 2010, San Bernardino A toddler was killed by a resident Pit Bull who had been with the family 3.5 months. The father had left the child alone with two dogs, he was killed by one. The dogs are not pets. They lived in a backyard their entire lives.
* 2010, Apple Valley, San Bernardino County, A toddler is killed by the family's Pit Bull after the child is left alone in the backyard together with the dog.

Second Claim: In the past six-months there have been a grand total of six vicious dog attacks, all by Pit Bulls:
* This includes the two fatalities.
* The other four attacks?
  • See above - 5 mixed breed dogs, none of whom were Pit Bulls, several had merle coloring (not a APBT coloring) escaped and mauled three children.
  • 1 dog-dog attack fatality
  • 1 dog-dog attack
  • 1 attack by 3-loose dogs, identified as Pit Bulls
So, one of the attacks wasn't inflicted by Pit Bulls at all. Two were dog-dog attacks. One was a Pit Bull attack, so far as the media and witnesses are concerned.

But the heart of the claim is that there have only been six vicious dog attacks in San Bernardino County, and only by Pit Bulls.

Not true.

From 2008-2009, there were 686 dog bites. 20% were from dogs identified as Pit Bulls, but as we have already seen, officials in San Bernardino county have a problem identifying Pit Bulls.

Apparently none of those victims qualify as "vicious enough" to be included in San Bernardino's attack on the testicles and uteruses of dogs who look a certain way. If only they had been bitten by possible Pit Bulls, then they too could have been in the news. As it stands, none of them got their chance at 15 minutes of fame. If it isn't a Pit Bull, it just isn't sexy enough to sell.

I'm not sure what San Bernardino is attempting to do with their proposed legislation. They are not going to reduce dog bites. They are not going to improve public safety. They are probably not going to put much of a dent in the Pit Bull population, either. Places with BSL, contrary to what certain anti-dog zealots might say, don't see improved public safety, don't see money well spent, don't see elimination of Pit Bulls or biting Pit Bulls. But places like Calgary do. Why emulate a systemic failure when there are paragons of success easily available?

1 comment:

Luisa said...

I spoke with Supervisor Derry up at Big Bear Lake on Saturday. Few things:

1) San Bernardino County has a 'potentially dangerous dog' law much like the excellent one in Minneapolis that Brent has written about here. Chief difference is that in Minneapolis, it's enforced [with good results]. In SBC, no one seems to know it exists, least of all the county ACOs.

The SB County law basically states that a dog does not have to bite anyone or anything for the owner to be required to meet all the provisions [escape-proof pen, dog muzzled when in public, unannounced ACO visits, etc.] of the 'potentially dangerous dog' ordinance. If the dog's [repeated and unprovoked] aggressive behavior is bad enough to concern reasonable people, that dog's owner can be required to appear at a dangerous dog hearing. And the dog can be designated 'potentially dangerous,' with all that implies for the owner.

As I said, though, this ordinance is not just unenforced, it seems to be unknown. I told the Supervisor this, and sent him [Derry, I hope -- not an office wonk] an email with more info. Hope it helps.

The Supervisor was interested to hear that Minneapolis restricts people convicted of violent felonies from owning dogs over 20 pounds. [This might do a lot to solve pit bull issues in a county with the highest percentage in the U.S. of people on parole, if you ask me.] SBC could adopt such an ordinance without conflicting with state law, as far as I know.

The ordinance will be enforced not through door-to-door testicle searches, but by applying it to dogs that are found wandering loose, unlicensed, etc. The ordinance will be revisited in 6 months to see whether any good has come of it. The breed-specific aspect [as opposed to a universal spay/neuter law] was not something he pushed for. Law-abiding citizens walking their leashed, licensed, intact pit-bull-mixes have nothing to fear. All this from the Supervisor.

'Any dog possessing a Canine Good Citizen certificate' may be added to the list of exemptions.

2) The local press is utterly hopeless when it comes to pit bulls. I've dealt with them for 20+ years, and on this issue they are willfully ignorant and dishonest. Which calls all their reporting into question, doesn't it? But that's another rant.

Seriously, these are newspapers where an editor's curt "Labrador retrievers never bite" signals the end of discussion. They would rather sell papers than help keep the community better informed and more safe. If they only knew how they are regarded by local ACOs... as if that would make any difference [sigh].

3) The head of Animal Care in SBC is the cause of much despair. During the fight over statewide spay/neuter he told me not to be concerned about puppy mills, because there are laws that prevent puppy mills from mistreating dogs. I am not making this up.

Believe it or not, Bill Bruce from Calgary has met with the leaders of both San Bernardino and Riverside County Animal Control. Speaks volumes that SBC and RC have gone on to adopt such draconian and ineffective legislation.

Poor San Bernardino. Poor victims of dog attacks. Poor dogs.