Friday, July 23, 2010

The media has a field day

"Having dogs is my fault. That is my burden I will carry for the rest of my life," Hayashi said. "It's my responsibility to make sure things like this (do) not happen." Source San Jose Mercury News.

The step-grandfather of young dog attack victim Jacob Bisbee has admitted fault and acknowledges that he knew at least one of his dogs was aggressive. He explained that he wouldn't allow the children around the dogs without supervision. He's cooperating with authorities and is behind bars today, facing two felony charges.

Meanwhile - as of 9am Friday morning - over 263 news sources have grabbed onto the story of the Concord boy's death.

We're reminded of NCRC's work tracking media reporting on dog attacks. From their most recent hand out on Media Reporting:

Consider the extreme differences in the media reporting of four separate fatal dog attacks in 2008

December 2008

An Arizona woman was killed by one or two dogs identified by authorities to be Labrador retrievers. One local newspaper published an article following the discovery of her body.

A California man was attacked and killed by one or two dogs that the media identified as his grandson’s pit bulls.
This incident was reported by at least 285 media outlets, both nationally (in 47 U.S. states) and internationally (in 8 other countries). MSNBC, Forbes, USA Today, Fox News, CBS News, and ABC News all picked up the story. (One dog was later reported to be a mastiff-pit bull mix)

September 2008

A New Jersey infant was killed by a dog reported to be a Siberian Husky.
The incident was reported only in the local media, in approximately a dozen articles. All reports described the incident as an unfortunate accident. The infant was reported to have been simply “bitten” by the dog. The dog was described as “non aggressive.” One headline read “Dog that killed infant only intended to be playful.”

A Nevada infant was killed by two dogs reported to be pit bulls.
More than 200 outlets around the world reported this incident, most with the words “pit bull” in the headline. Television news reports and a recording of the 911 call are still available online. Stock photos of pit bulls baring their teeth illustrated many of the newspaper accounts. All articles reported the dogs to be “vicious,” and/or “aggressive.” The dogs were reported to have either “burst,” “barged,” “forced,” or “broke” into the home from the backyard, in order to “maul” the infant. (One month later officials revealed that the dogs had gained entry into the home after one dog, “used a paw to open the living room sliding door.”

And here we go again.

Our hearts go out to the family of Jacob Bisbee. Not only for this horrible loss, but for the exploitation that is taking place right now as this boy's sad story is jetted around the world in hundreds of news stories.


Dianne said...

It's even on the front page at
I couldn't pull it up -- which probably means lots of people are hitting on it.
That poor little boy.

Jennie Bailey said...

I'm actually surprised that the grandfather is taking responsibility for this. We live in a society where that doesn't happen. It's impressive to see someone stepping up and acknowledging their role, though so very sad to see it has to be in a situation like this. He's acknowledging one of the dogs was aggressive. That doesn't help the grandson now, unfortunately.

I hate the media circus. I'm sure they'll drag out BSL again. But this man owned a ferret, illegal in California, so I'm not sure that making his choice of dog illegal would have actually saved his grandson's life. He might have chosen to skirt that law as well. It's just sad all the way around.

J.M said...

What sickens me is that the Media and forum posters will generalize from the few dogs involved in tragedies to millions living in homes with families when a preventable tragedy occurs but they don`t generalize from dogs like this to the millions.

That poor little boy.I have my doubts whether these were family pets.

TrinaD said...

There's been a big twitter convo this morning involving @tomprete @brittneyg @willharperSF & me @missTdJ re this issue. @VerbalCupcake then posted this Malcolm Gladwell article re "Pitbulls & Profiling" in response
Fascinating & insightful read.
"A pit bull is dangerous to people, then, not to the extent that it expresses its essential pit bullness but to the extent that it deviates from it."

Donna said...

Anon 12:23 - I would value a conversation with you, but would rather not do the anonymous thing here. If you could re-post your thoughts with your identity, I'd appreciate it. Thx.

Sue said...

I think what the media and public understand is that this isn't just a few dogs causing a few tragedies but a constant barrage of similar stories. One story fades from memory quickly, these things all roll into one and never go away.

D and L said...

Yes, "Here we go again," indeed! Two dead from pit bulls within just a couple of days. What's it like to be STUCK ON STUPID, pit advocates?

I don't see how he is "taking responsibility," Jennie. The fact is, he's ducking responsibility by claiming ignorance. He's claiming that he actually believed pit bulls just got a "bad rap." As it turns out, he needed to have a grandchild killed to appreciate the extraordinary hazard of pit bulls.

Jennie Bailey said...

You're right. He hasn't taken responsibility. He doesn't see why he should have to pay for not socializing his dog, not training his dogs, not fixing his dogs - I just listened to him. These dogs were rotated between a backyard, a chain in the front yard and the garage. These weren't family pets. They weren't socialized like my dog, didn't live in the house like my dog and won't react in the same way my dog does around children because she is always around them. Owning a dog, like having children, is a responsibility. If you choose to have one in your life, you have to accept responsibility for their actions especially if you're not going to choose to do anything with those dogs to make them good dogs. As I teach in the classroom, good dogs don't just happen. They have good owners who put an incredible amount of time, energy and effort into them to get them where they are. Anyone can have an aggressive, out of control, untrained dog (they're all over my neighborhood, most of them small). That takes NO effort at all. Having a good dog of any breed takes a lot of time and effort. If someone isn't willing to put in the time, they shouldn't be allowed to have a dog. It's really that simple.

Donna said...

@ D and L
It must be terribly frustrating to people who have a vendetta against pit bulls that the only incidents that come up in the media involve troubled dogs with known behavior issues and irresponsible homes. That must be maddening.

It must be equally frustrating to haters that hundreds of thousands of pit bull owners live without fear or incident.

I'm leaving your post up because you represent a point of view that dazzles me. I couldn't imagine living life mired in so much fear or hatred... It has to eat away at your gut, waiting, watching for the next news event ... hoping for another death so your world view can be confirmed.

Unknown said...

D and L--

May I be so bold as to suggest a book that will help alleviate your debilitating fear? Do spend some time with Karen Delise's "The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths, and Politics of Canine Aggression." It is available for free--yes, FREE!--online at

While you are studying up, I will be at my local shelter, snuggling with some of the nicest pit bulls ever to have the misfortune to be owned and abandoned by stupid non-pit advocates.

Donna said...

@ Sue
You're right .. Dog-related incidents have captured the media's interest for decades. The breeds change, but same story repeats over and over and over because the world keeps pointing at the DOGS .. even when the owners call out in the news, "It's all my fault!" We are a society that is blinded by our love of a good werewolf story.

Here's some fascinating history on the spin cycle that keeps repeating:

Ken Foster said...

Bonnie has a few thoughts on this which she will share once she is finished resting.

J.M. said...

And if reading isn`t your thing,may I suggest you watch the excellent NCRC presentation based on the Pit Bull Placebo.

Link is at the bottom of this page

I wonder what D&L tell themselves about the other Fatalities that don`t back up their hatred of pit type dogs?Circumstances?Individual dogs?Irresponsible owners?Or do they just not care about those deaths?

Anonymous said...

D and L - I'm sorry that your prejudice and fear run your life in regards to pit bulls. I do realize that its much easier to demonize a dog breed than it is to accept the roles that humans play in the scenarios. I would bet that this prejudice and fear runs amouck in other areas of your life and again, I am sorry for you.

lynn in N. Cal

The Foster Lady said...

Sadly, people who are prejudiced against a breed, can also be prejudiced against a race, hence the wonderful 'Racial Profiling is Wrong' bumper sticker on my car. I can't waste my time anymore trying to convince these folks. I feel sorry for you, for your ignorance, for your refusal to educate yourself. I say this as someone who WAS YOU, in 2004, and now understand the extent of my ignorance and have spent the last 6years of my life, making up for it. Now, I'd rather use my energy exercising my dogs....all of them pitbulls.


Anonymous said...

Donna, thank you for posting these blogs.

D & L - you are clearly ignorant and know nothing about pit bulls. I have a pit bull, I knew those pit (MIXES) involved Jacob's death, and your words sicken me.

Thanks to everyone else for their insight. In the end, there were 6 victims' lives lost.

Jody said...

I read through a good number of comments on the SF Gate website following their story. I was stunned at the number of ridiculously ignorant comments being made generalizing pitbulls and pitbull owners. It scares me to think about how many completely uneducated people there are out there, and the media seems to salivate at fanning the flames. Thank you to all the organizations out there working to educate the generally uneducated public!

Rescued Pittie Family said...

Just makes me sick to my stomach.

Maybe we can propose SAW do a movie with people in the media who love to sensationalize and capitalize on things that bring people such hurt.

When I hear of a dog attacking a person it saddens me for the person and the dog. No matter the race, creed, color and/or breed of either.
They are both victims.
And it sickens me that the media refuses to tell the real story.

Anonymous said...

Could someone direct me to some more information on the December 2008 Arizona fatality that is mentioned? The one where one or two labs apparently killed her? I'd like to see more information and some details about that.

Dianne said...

Actually, D & L, these dogs were in precisely the type of situation that NCRC says causes dogs to bite. They were constantly tethered outside or locked in the garage away from the family. Doesn't California have a tether law? In DC it is illegal to tether a dog for more than an hour.

I'm going to the No Kill conference next weekend, and was going to skip the legal sections on Dangerous dogs because I went to them last year. Now I think Karen and Ledy may have a few new things to talk about.

Anonymous said...

Diane, hope you share what you hear with us when you get back! Can't make it to the conference! Unfortunately, Calif does allow tethering for up to 3 hours at a time.

Lynn in N. Cal

Donna said...

Anon 2:52

I couldn't find the report either, although if only one newspaper reported it, it might not be on the net anymore.

This is one of the sources I use to check back on bites and fatalities, although it isn't here..

You might want to contact NCRC for more info. They're usually very responsive to inquiries: Please report back if you do.

Anonymous said...

In looking at the news story link This guy had a female pitbull bitch that he said he got from the Humane Society pregnant.

He kept two pups from that litter who are now 18-months old - Max and C.J. - (don't know if this is two brothers, or a brother and sister.) Then the bitch had another litter, because they have two pups, Kiwi and Jake, that are one year old. They spayed the bitch after the second litter but that's it - none of the young adults have been spayed or neutered according to the owner. It doesn't take much to assume that the bitch was probably bred back by her now 18-month-old son to produce the second litter. Then you've got four young adult unneutered/unspayed dogs locked in a garge, or out in the backyard.

Does anyone think this creates a real problem and has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BREED OF THE DOGS?


Diane said...

D and L --

You should educate yourself if you truly care so much about this issue.

A good way would be to volunteer at your local shelter. I volunteer at the East Bay SPCA where we have an adoptions facility and an adjoining vet clinic that serves the public.

Watching people come and go from the vet clinic with their animals, it is plainly clear the difference between a well-socialized family pet versus the dog that spends its life tethered on a chain or locked in a yard with no human leadership or companionship. These under-socialized dogs they can be snarly and scary but they are victims, and they can come from any breed. If there is a trend with respect to breed (the breeds I see most often are German Shepherds and Pit Bulls) this does not reflect a breed characteristic but rather the preferences of cruel and irresponsible owners.

(I know all of you who already know all of this think I am silly to spend 15 minutes of this beautiful Sunday writing but I had to do it even though I know there is little hope of reaching D+L. At least on my block, the three resident pit bulls -- three separate households -- have won a lot of hearts and changed a lot of minds and we weren't even trying!)

Anonymous said...

Yet another tragedy. One child and 5 dogs losing their lives. So senseless when common sense precautions could have avoided so much loss.

In my opinion, the grandfather is not taking responsibility. "Responsibility" is what you do to avoid a tragedy.... as mentioned: training, socializing, spaying/neutering, not keeping more dogs than one can manage, ASSURING children are NEVER left unsupervised around animals, treating dogs as cherished family members, etc.

What is happening now is the grandfather is being held ACCOUNTABLE for his actions (or lack thereof), not responsible.

Pit Bull haters will continue to hate, regardless of the facts and explanations. They don't understand; they don't want to understand.

My heart goes out to the family...


Diane; The Dog Diva said...

This is why we have a section of our pit bull ed class called: Pit Bulls in the Media!

ingrid said...

What a horrible horrible story, I feel so bad for that family. What a terrible thing to have to live with.

d&l has a bit of a point; pit bulls come with more than just a badrap - they, like many many dogs, come with the reality that you are living with a creature that has strength and teeth.

There are those, like d&l who are filled with fear, and the other extreme; those who believe dogs just get a bad reputation and are really harmless and low maintenance.

I get frustrated with people on both extremes because they do nothing to help the endless problems in the world that revolve around our human responsibility towards animals.

Mostly though, I feel sorry for them.

greyhound rescue said...

"it is plainly clear the difference between a well-socialized family pet versus the dog that spends its life tethered on a chain or locked in a yard with no human leadership or companionship. These under-socialized dogs they can be snarly and scary..."

Or they can be the most gentle and well-behaved dogs you've ever seen if we are talking about racing greyhounds, the most widely abused, under-socialized dogs who spend their lives in a small crate. So yes, it is plainly clear how genetics has influenced dog behavior, and how each breed reacts differently to poor conditions. Breed and genetics is the primary factor, not how the owner treats the dog.

Anonymous said...

Hi...I just wanted to share this blog post by a Denver Post reporter who takes a look at his profession when it comes to reporting about pit bulls.

german shepherd care said...

As a dog owner, it is really our responsibility to look out for our dogs. Since one of his dogs was aggressive, he should have given more attention to that dog. My dog, a German Shepherd, tend to have more dominant personalities than some breeds. That's why I put more attention to its actions. Or else, he may just bark at any dog. Worst, at any stranger person.

Anonymous said...

pit bulls are the sweetest dogs on the planet. hands down.

Anonymous said...

Any dog can be either sweet or vicious. It is how they are treated. You treat them like a second class slave, being chained up and isolated from human contact, and they will not learn the behaviors of humans. Test them like a cherished family member, and they will die trying to protect you. A dog, any dog, is a wonderful animal. It is our responsiblity to teach our dogs love and good behavior.