“Pit Bulls” Bad Rap From Journalists
As a Los Angeles certified professional dog trainer (CPDT) and certified dog behavior consultant (CDBC), I read a lot of misinformation, from uniformed and incorrect journalists and animal “experts.” Primarily because dog training, behavior, and the entire pet industry are completely unregulated!
I was saddened at reading an article written by confused academic writer Stanley Coren, a blogger for Psychology Today. The article was fraught with inaccuracies and half-truths about “Pit Bulls.”
Like many journalists, Coren has a case of “selective facts”. The omission of facts is highly irresponsible for an author or journalist.
Although obfuscation and misinformation come out all the time, (here’s another example of pure and utter ignorance and the height of irresponsible journalism from a doltish Time article) as an animal expert and professional who trains and works with American Pit Bull Terriers, I have a responsibility to inform the public about facts vs. opinion.
Below is my response to Coren’s myopic half-truths about “Pit Bulls”. Coren’s ad hoc approach and article is atavistic and characterized by unctuous remarks throughout.
“Pit Bull” Journalism
Both articles above were very disappointing and strewn with incomplete and misleading data that was very superficial and lacked substance. Especially when considering that more than 70% of experts (veterinarians, behaviorists, ethologists, who train, breed, and study canids for a living) misidentify the breed.
Which makes the questions of, “who identified these dogs as “Pit Bulls?” Irrelevant and their entire articles moot.
Did the police who took the bite report label the dog as a “Pit Bull”? The hospital staff or administration? The ambulance EMT? The bite victims? In the end, it really doesn’t matter who took the reports and claimed that the dog who bit someone was a “Pit Bull” because as mentioned above the most informed experts in the world cannot tell a dog’s breed over 70% of the time. Those are the facts.
It is strikingly shocking and irresponsible to propagate incomplete stories as “facts.” As per Coren“What is striking in this report is the fact that of all of those injuries where the dog’s breed was identifiable, 50.9% were due to pit bulls (55.7% if we include crosses).” A moot point when the breed “identification” is incorrect. Breed-specific or looks specific?
Another notion that also needs clarification is Coren’s vague, and misleading sentence: “Aggressive tendencies are part of those breed-specific differences in a dog breed’s personality.” Maybe, however, this assumption takes away the development and nurture (phenotype) component out of the question and ignores the fact that genotype AND phenotype play a role in every organism.
Coren sums up his confusion in the comment section “Scientists report data. Sometimes the data does not agree with what one might have wanted the outcome to be, or believed previously. However the data say what they say, and editorializing does not change the collected facts. “
Yes, just as if you asked a color-blind scientist to report on the colors of a rainbow one may call his findings “fact.” But wouldn’t it be responsible to report those “facts.” Instead, we can act by providing more color, integrity and to provide a full account of the context and what took place. It isn’t always so black and white (all puns intended). To mislead readers is negligent.
There are many ways to rid society of Breed Discrimination Legislation, BSL, myths and to debunk half-truths. Propagating breed discrimination legislation, fears, and misleading numbers is the wrong way to help anyone and an abdication of animal rights.
Finally, I am not the guardian of, nor am I defending my “Pit Bull” as Coren smugly and curtly claims his detractors are in this half-truth and ill-thought-out article.