As animal welfare and rescue groups across our province work tirelessly to advance the welfare of animals, it seems at times, our biggest enemy is not a lack of government support, but rather, it is the media. According to Mr. Hume,
“Pit bulls, Rottweilers and wolf crosses are the bazookas of the dog world. Perfectly safe as long as they don’t go off; devastatingly lethal when they do. And nobody, least of all their owners, seems to be able to predict when they will go off.”
It seems gone are the days of responsible journalism, where reporters ensure that their sources are accurate and credible before they publish. It seems, in fact, that the sole purpose of journalism is to create a passionate reaction from readers, regardless of the potential consequences of such irresponsible reporting. For example, on May 7th of this year, the Vancouver Sun published an editorial by Shelley Fralic that claimed she was ‘forced’ to buy a kitten from a pet store because there were no domestic kittens available for adoption.
I would like to redirect your attention to part of my response to that ridiculous claim. You can read the full response here.
A search on petfinder.com on May 8th, 2012 for kittens in British Columbia came back with 207 kittens available through rescues, shelters and the SPCA. In fact, Hazel, a DSH who looks almost identical to Maxine (who Fralic purchase for over $300 at the pet store), is currently at the Coquitlam SPCA waiting for a home. Yesterday, Karen Duncan, Founder and President of Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) wrote to Fralic informing her that they currently have 97 cats and kittens available for adoption and 188 coming soon (the majority which are kittens). In addition, the Richmond Animal Protection Society has recently taken in a litter of orphaned kittens, along with the over 700 cats currently living at the sanctuary. There is no shortage of homeless kittens and young cats, one only need to have some patience and be willing to do some leg work to find them.
In the past few weeks, due to a couple isolated dog attacks, the media has been on what can best described as a witch hunt to ban Pit Bulls (and in some cases, Rottweiler’s, wolf-hybrids, I am sure the list will grow). And despite the fact that the overwhelming response to this media attack is against any sort of ban and the acknowledgement that 1. it is an issue of responsible pet guardianship, not inherently aggressive breeds and 2. the media is largely responsible for this hysteria for only reporting attacks by pit bulls and other powerful breeds, the media continues to push. And in all this fear mongering, there has been little effort to contact credible and reputable organizations and data to support the argument that certain breeds should be banned, but rather, look to beauty queens for validation of their point.
In fact, in Hume’s most recent article, he cites data from a website called dogsbite.org . This website is essentially one women’s mission to ban pit bulls and has no credibility in the animal welfare community. For more information on this site, please read this very informative piece. The data on this website is entirely based on media reports of dog bites and as recently acknowledge by CBC Producer, Matthew Lazin-Ryder, the media has a definite bias towards reporting Pit bull attacks compared to any other breed. Despite the fact that we have local experts at UBC and BCSPCA, Hume does not consult with them. But rather uses sources that cite Youtube videos as part of their data collection method. Without doubt, everyone has an opinion about Pit Bulls and many of the loudest are the least informed. (such as Dogsbite.org). Unfortunately, the paucity of empirical research on this issue encourages the debate to become one of emotion and anecdotal information.
Despite the fact that there is little empirical evidence that can inform the community on the vicious dog debate, there are experts who can help fill the knowledge gap. Organizations that are often the first responders to calls of dog attacks and/or are the temporary custodians of these dogs have firsthand knowledge of the extent of the issue. In the United States, “every mainstream national organization that is involved in canine/human interactions is opposed to laws targeting specific breeds of dogs”. The BCSPCA has also spoken out against breed specific bylaws.
And finally, when this breed is a victim of abuse, the story will be reported with no mention of the dog’s breed, as we witnessed earlier this month when a pit bull puppy was found abandoned in Surrey with tape and burn marks all over her face and bone deformities due to lack of nutrition.
On behalf of animal welfare and rescue organizations across the province, we are challenging you to be accountable for your reporting. We have partnered with HugABull Advocacy and Rescue to bring to Vancouver the documentary, “Beyond the Myth”. Following the screening we have a panel of experts to discuss the issues surrounding breed bans, dangerous dogs and responsible pet guardianship. The movie and panel will be held on October 20 and 28th at Vancity Theatre and we are inviting you to join us with a complimentary ticket.