Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Karen Delise: The Pit Bull Placebo

This is a must read for anybody in a variety of professional fields: journalism, law enforcement, medicine, dog training, dog walking, and animal sheltering.

The book itself reads like a text book, but this is as it should be. Karen Delise has provided us with the first study, case-by-case of fatal dog attacks that goes beyond the media version of the incident. She starts in the 1800s and reviews each incident up to the present day. Analyzing both the trend in the incident and in the media coverage of the incident, Delise leaves no stone unturned. The media has always been fascinated with dog attacks, we learn. However, up until the 1970s, media reporting of dog attacks included both entertainment value and information on what went wrong between the victim and man's best friend. Now, stories of dog attacks (and let's be clear- the only stories that make the news are stories that feature the magic words "pit bull," whether or not they are attacks) have severed all notion of a relationship between man and dog. This has the added benefit of ridding the humans involved of all responsibility. It must have been those "vicious" dogs (read: pit bulls).

Really? Suddenly in the last 30 years we've lost control of dogs? There are millions and millions of dogs in this country (Delise gives stats), but in a few dozen cases a year, there are unpredictable dogs who we have no control over? Hmmm.... Delise points out that we have lost all common sense and chosen to believe the hype. This is dangerous- we have chosen not to educate ourselves in order to prevent more serious bites and fatalities. It is also very depressing. Communities who are buying the hype are willing to sacrifice entire populations of dogs (read: pit bulls) rather than evaluating their personal responsibility in the fatalities that they are eager to blame on a handful of dogs.