Monday, May 28, 2012

The Toledo Blade

The Toledo Blade must be considered a major force in the push to deregulate pit bulls in Ohio. The Blade has relentlessly promoted the breed but interestingly, does not admit the breed exists. Any article in the Blade that deals with the breed will always refer to them as "pit bulls." Checking the Blade's website, if one enters "pit bull' in the site search you will find 99 pages of articles and each page lists 9 or 10 articles dating back to 11/21/2002. Using a generous 9 articles per page, this gives the Blade at least 891 pit bull articles in the last ten years. All of the Blade's coverage of pit bulls is strongly pro pit, some is mind numbingly so.

A recent article titled "Many Shelter Dogs Mislabeled" describes DNA testing on six 'pit bulls,' with DNA test kits purchased from the Mars Company, maker of the Mars Wisdom Panel DNA test. The Blade paid for the test kits. The Blade is not reporting news, it is attempting to create it. The article is simply silly, using a test that does not test for what you are looking for, so you might claim that it does not exist is not worth the time and money the Blade invested.

DNA testing is adored by pit bull advocacy. I am going off on a short tangent to talk about DNA testing. Please bear with me. It is a matter of controversy if these tests are an accurate diagnostic test or simply a vanity for the owner of a mixed breed dog. Accuracy is highly suspect. The companies producing the kits are reluctant to get into the pit bull controversy. They do not desire liability for an analysis that might result in the euthanasia of a particular dog, or vouching for the safety of a dog that might cause serious injury or death. It must be noted that the Mars test does not identify pit bulls, they are not on the list of breeds in the database. This statement is taken from their website "Due to the genetic diversity of this group, we cannot build a DNA profile for the Pit-bull." One could test every dog in Toledo and not identify a pit bull, the DNA is simply not in the data base. The tests did, however, identify the DNA of Black Russian Terriers, Chinook, Glen of Imaal Terrier, Border Terrier, Catahoula Leopard Dog, American Eskimo Dog and Dogue de Bordeaux, along with breeds that one might expect to find in an urban environment.

A search of the Classified ads for registered puppies available in the AKC Breeder Classifieds, found on the AKC website on May 27, 2012 gives us a snapshot of exactly how rare these breeds are. For the Chinook, there are zero litters in a nationwide search. For the Black Russian Terrier, there are currently two litters available in a nationwide search (12 pups). For the Glen of Imaal, zero litters available nationwide. The Border Terrier shows 8 litters in the United States (36 pups). The Dogue de Bordeaux shows 5 litters (31 pups total) in a nationwide search. The Catahoula Leopard Dog is going to be a problem for a determined buyer, zero litters nationwide are listed. American Eskimo dog? Two litters (9 pups). Contrast this with Labs at 331 litters available, Golden Retrievers with 175 litters and German Shepherds with 269 litters. This comparison is not exact, we know that top breeders do not need to advertise their dogs, they have waiting lists and all pups produced are expected to land in show homes. This comparison does, however, indicate rarity. Given the numbers of pups available, how many of these rare breeds might be roaming the streets of Toledo, randomly spreading their very expensive genetic material? The cost for Mars DNA tests run between $69.99 to $95.00, so these tests cost the Blade between $419.94 and $570 . The Blade would have made a better investment if it had simply made a cash contribution to the Lucas County Pit Crew.

The Blade's owners and editorial staff brought considerable power to relentless efforts at changing both local and state laws. The Blade's animal rights reporter JC Reindl wrote endless articles on the issue, working very closely with former Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop in an effort to drive Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon from office, remove Toledo's BSL, and allow adoption of pit bulls from the County Shelter.Reindl and Konop were a regular feature in the Blade, the professional and personal attacks on Skeldon were brutal. The effort was eventually successful. Pit bulls were no longer regulated, Skeldon retired and was replaced with mild mannered Julie Lyle.

The Blade was as proud as a new father, gushing over the success. A January 31, 2011 article written by JC Reindl summarizes the first year of the new "kinder and gentler" Toledo dog regulations. The article titled "County dog euthanasia falls considerably" included this quote "Service calls to the dog warden rose last year to 5,427, a 162 increase from 2009. The number of attack investigations rose to 434 from 357." It is difficult to find increases in the number of attacks and service calls as a positive. As a side note, both Reindl and Konop left Toledo shortly after the change in local law.