Saturday, November 18, 2006

Slow news day?

Someone just e-mailed us an inane Reuter's article that makes the claim that "vicious dog owners may be vicious too," then goes on to cite some half-baked study that samples a whole 355 dog owners in Ohio (a BSL state), noting that "[a] study of 355 dog owners in Ohio showed that every owner of a high-risk breed known for aggression had at least one brush with the law, from traffic citations to serious criminal convictions."

I mean, honestly. *YAWN*

Now, I must admit: I have a pit bull and a mix. And - yes, it's true - I have recently obtained a parking ticket from BART police for parking in the permit area of the lot, because I didn't see the sign. I know, I know - my social deviancy should remain hidden for PR purposes, but here I am, outing myself as a sign-ignorant and serially unpatriotic criminal hellbent on reducing my eco-footprint by inserting myself in a metal tube and hurtling myself under the bay into San Francisco, rather than being a true law-abiding flag-waving American and driving some sort of gas-guzzling land yacht through traffic (while, of course, obeying all traffic laws) while blasting my A/C and drinking a Big Gulp out of a styrofoam cup. Oh, woe is me. I am indeed a criminal.

Now that we've established that the writer of this blog is a pit bull owner and unconscionable parking renegade (with the additional sin of a speeding ticket 10 years back - surely, I should be locked up), let's get back to Reuters and the various ridiculous things about this article.

We'll start with the fact that the study takes place in Ohio, a BSL-ruled state that criminalizes people just for owning pit bulls. Note to Reuters: lots of responsible pit bull owners out there would never move to freakin' Ohio, because the state has a lot of silly laws restricting our pets.

Then there's the 355 number, which is so laughably small and arbitrary that I'm wondering how anybody could call this a sample. (Hell, my dogs have more than 355 dog pals on Dogster. Pandora has over 2000 pals, and Gunther is hanging in at 1600.)

Let's revisit the pit bull overpopulation explosion, which makes the breed arguably the most populous breed in this country. Anyone who doesn't buy that pit bulls are the most represented breed in this country clearly hasn't been to a public shelter lately. With so many dying, it's a wonder they keep showing up in such numbers, but those breeders are awfully busy.

Reuters also mentions that the authors of this study "used public records to check on the criminal pasts of dog owners. They used agreed definitions of vicious dogs used in writing local ordinances. "A 'vicious dog" means a dog that, without provocation, has killed or caused serious injury to any person, has killed another dog, or belongs to a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog," they wrote in their report."


Apparently the authors of this study and Reuters (a news source, oh the irony) didn't hear about the Tellings case, which reversed the constitutionality of the state and local vicious dog laws. Most specifically to this study, the case concluded that:

"The trial court erred when it held that Toledo Municipal Code §505.14 and Ohio Revised Code §955.11 and §955.22 were constitutional because the statutes violate the defendant's rights to equal protection and substantive due process because there is no rational basis to single out the American Pit Bull terrier as inherently dangerous."

This case took place in Toledo, so I'm guessing that the sample/study took place somewhere else in Ohio, quite possibly somewhere that pit bull ownership is retricted. If that were the case, all the owners of pit bulls might de facto be having a "brush with the law."

In any case, is it really so hard to grab a small sample that's going to prove whatever you want to prove? I too could prove that most pit bull owners had criminal records if I chose my 'hood wisely. I could also prove that most cat owners made over 100k/year, if I decided to pick 355 owners from Darien, CT.

Here's the thing:

It's really no secret that bad guys are attracted to pit bulls. I mean, hello - watch MTV for 5 minutes, people. Sheesh.

But to take some small sample of people in a BSL-ruled state to try to prove that all owners of pit bulls are criminals is just plain silly. And this kind of argument is implying that it's the fault of the dogs.

I am sick and tired of lazy reporters and ego-driven media whores using pit bulls as a springboard to get a headline, a study, or their name in a journal. These kinds of articles and studies seem to always be authored by people who have no real interest in the public safety.

It's so much easier to use scare tactics and big bad monsters (oooh, the magic pit bull word) to make yourself look important and get a headline. I mean, really - what was the purpose of this study/article? It would seem that the entire point was to get an article or on the news - so congratulations to its authors! Mission accomplished: your lazy and meaningless study was mentioned on CNN.

Truly, I must now admit that this study has served the public good, because CNN has to make up news 24 hours a day, and Lord knows those poor downtrodden CNN employees must get tired of changing the color on terror alerts, simulating earthquakes and shoving rain-jacketed reporters into wind tunnels during hurricanes.

Here's the reality:

Pit bulls are a convenient and very marketable proxy, representing the shadow part of society that reporters, media-whores and polite society don't want to directly confront or discuss. Indeed, it’s much easier to transfer your fears and anger about overwhelming social problems onto a dog breed.

Don’t look it in the eye! Walk away slowly… now run! Phew. That was a close one.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go participate in the weekly Bad Rap carjacking so that we have a getaway vehicle for the bank heist.


Anonymous said...

I believe this absolutely horrible study (methods bad, very bad) was done in Hamilton County (Cincinnati), which of course has criminalized pit bull ownership since the early 1980s. You may note in the study they had less than 40 pit bull owners of which they “did no have complete information” on most of them. Cases with incomplete info were dropped from the statistical analysis. So basically they lump in and highlight pit bull owners even though the results are based mostly on the other “dangerous” dogs. There was no separate analysis of just pit bull owners, yet the title of the articles and the abstract make it sound like they actually did test this hypothesis.

It is studies like this that make you question peer review.

Abby-Kansas City Dog Advocates
and embarrassed academic.

Anonymous said...

I too am a criminal pit bull owner, with two pit bulls and one parking ticket. Luckily I'm not a repeat offender like the author of the article with TWO traffic citations... I'm sorry, but this study is ridiculous, and how did the so called 'good dog' owners get away with never being pulled over in their cars. The small sample size alone should be enough to disprove the findings.


Anonymous said...

Leslie, sarcasm is more effective when said sarcasm is well written and relevant.

Red state / Blue state sterotype trafficing?

Is Bu$hitler going to make an appearance next?