Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nobody can identify a pit bull?

There is no particular reason for this post other than irritation at reading the constant statements from pit bull advocates and Animal Control professionals influenced by those advocates, that pit bulls just can't be identified.  Everybody is qualified to pick a Beagle out of a doggy line up.  Poodles are unable to hide.  Bassets and Bloodhounds?  Not a problem.  GSD v.Malinois ?  Simple.  Every dog show ever held has been run on a visual identification system.  Judges not only visually identify breeds but also rate subtle differences from breed standard to the dogs in the ring.  Only the pit bull attains the mystical status of the unicorn.

Breed specific advocates have a strange inability to identify their own breed of choice.  This deficit turns up in comments posted on news stories after every pit bull attack.  This is a laughable tactic but it is not limited to fatuous news story comments, it also turns up in testimony in City Council meetings all across the United States, State Legislatures and in the courts.  The courts, and elected lawmakers deal with the "find the pit bull" game very differently.  I find these differences significant.

When a breed specific advocate turns up in a city council meeting with the find-the-bull game such as the one provided by the Animal Farm Foundation (link below) a sensible skeptic might think " hmmmm, DNA tests do not test for pit bull DNA.  Pit bull DNA is simply not in the test data base.  I'm being manipulated here."  The skeptic would be right.  Unfortunately many lawmakers do not give this silly tactic too much thought.


The identical material is also found on the website for the National Canine Research Foundation.

Both the Animal Farm Foundation and the National Canine Research Foundation are owned by breed advocate Jane Berkey.

Unfortunately this nonsense is also produced in State Legislatures.  State Senators and Representatives don't give it much thought either.  Professionals like Ohio veterinarian Megan Geldhof, who brought this very find-a-bull game to a hearing in the Ohio Senate making it  part of her testimony in the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee in December of 2011, should be embarrassed to to state in public that they are unable to identify common dog breeds.  Members of the Judiciary Committee of the Ohio Senate accepted this admission of professional incompetence without question.  The ASPCA, AVMA, HSUS, Best Friends Animal  Society, and the National Canine Research Council (a subsidiary of the breed specific advocacy organization  The Animal Farm Foundation) also agree that pit bulls cannot be identified.  The claim that nobody can identify a pit bull has become bedrock for pit bull advocacy.

When this claim enters the judicial system pit bull advocacy does not find the same warm reception. Both void for vagueness and pit bull temperament as well are dealt with in many rulings.  These are just a few of them.

The 1991 Ohio Supreme Court ruling State of Ohio v. Anderson deals with the concept of void for vagueness, the concept of nobody can identify a pit bull.
When I read this ruling I get the sense that the Justices were insulted by the parade of dog owners and their advocates claiming that they could not identify the dogs at the ends of their own leashes.  Below is a quote from that decision.  Please note that the Ohio Supreme Court uses the words "a dog owner of ordinary intelligence" as the criteria for identification of pit bull dogs.
 "In sum, we reject the appellee's contention that the phrase "commonly known as a pit bull dog" is so devoid of meaning that R.C. 955.11(A)(4)(a)(iii) is unconstitutionally void for vagueness. Pit bull dogs possess unique and readily identifiable physical and behavioral traits which are capable of recognition both by dog owners of ordinary intelligence and by enforcement personnel. Consistent and detailed descriptions of the pit bull dog may be found in canine guidebooks, general reference books, state statutes and local ordinances, and state and federal case law dealing with pit bull legislation. By reference to these sources, a dog owner of ordinary intelligence can determine if he does in fact own a dog commonly known as a pit bull dog within the meaning of R.C. 955.11 (A)(4)(a)(iii). Similarly, by reference to these sources, dog wardens, police officers, judges, and juries can enforce the statute fairly and evenhandedly. Consequently, we find that R.C. 955.11(A)(4)(a)(iii) is not unconstitutionally void for vagueness.

In 2012 the Maryland Courts stated that pit bulls are inherently vicious.  The Maryland Supreme Court decision in the Treacy v. Solesky case makes this clear.  http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/coa/2012/53a11.pdf.

The  Florida Supreme Court ruled in The Florida Bar v. Pape, 2005.  This case deals with advertising by a legal firm.  The firm compared their services to pit bull tenacity.
This is a quote from that decision and there is no quibbling about breed.
"The referee found that the qualities of a pit bull as depicted by the logo are loyalty, persistence, tenacity, and aggressiveness. We consider this a charitable set of associations that ignores the darker side of the qualities often also associated with pit bulls: malevolence, viciousness, and unpredictability." 

This lengthy quote comes from Matthews v. Amberwood,  Maryland Court of Appeals, 1998. This court has no difficulty in identification of pit bulls. 
"Thus, the foreseeability of harm in the present case was clear. The extreme dangerousness of this breed, as it has evolved today, is well recognized. "Pit bulls as a breed are known to be extremely aggressive and have been bred as attack animals." Giaculli v. Bright, 584 So.2d 187, 189 (Fla.App. 1991). Indeed, it has been judicially noted that pit bull dogs "bit[e] to kill without signal" (Starkey v. Township of Chester, 628 F.Supp. 196, 197 (E.D.Pa.1986)), are selectively bred to have very powerful jaws, high insensitivity to pain, extreme aggressiveness, a natural tendency to refuse to terminate an attack, and a greater propensity to bite humans than other breeds. The "Pit Bull's massive canine jaws can crush a victim with up to two thousand pounds (2,000) of pressure per square inch—three times that of a German Shepard or Doberman Pinscher." State v. Peters, 534 So.2d 760, 764 (Fla.App. 1988), review denied, 542 So.2d 1334 (Fla. 1989).[4] See also Hearn v. City of Overland 
128*128 Park, 244 Kan. 638, 650, 647, 772 P.2d 758, 768, 765, cert. denied 493 U.S. 976, 110 S.Ct. 500, 107 L.Ed.2d 503 (1989) ("pit bull dogs represent a unique public health hazard ... [possessing] both the capacity for extraordinarily savage behavior ... [a] capacity for uniquely vicious attacks ... coupled with an unpredictable nature" and that "[o]f the 32 known human deaths in the United States due to dog attacks ... [in the period between July 1983 and April 1989], 23 were caused by attacks by pit bull dogs"). Pit bull dogs have even been considered weapons. See State v. Livingston, 420 N.W.2d 223, 230 (Minn.Ct. App.1988) (for the purpose of first degree assault); People v. Garraway, 187 A.D.2d 761, 589 N.Y.S.2d 942 (1992) (upholding conviction of pit bull's owner of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree).[5]

From Toledo v. Tellings, Ohio Supreme Court ruling  in 2007, The Ohio Supreme Court appears to have no trouble with breed identification.
"{¶ 27} The evidence presented in the trial court supports the conclusion that pit bulls pose a serious danger to the safety of citizens. The state and the city have a legitimate interest in protecting citizens from the danger posed by this breed of domestic dogs.

From the U.S. District Court S.D. Florida, American Dog Owners Association v. Dade County, 1989 comes this quote,  seen below.  The Court is not fooled by the lunacy of the testimony of the American Dog Owners Association.  
"The Ordinance regulates a group, the dog owning public, that has a special knowledge of the matter being regulated. The uncontradicted testimony of the various veterinarians in this case reflects that most dog owners know the breed of their dog. In fact most dog owners look for and select a dog of a particular breed because of their knowledge of or interest in a particular breed. For this reason, too, the Ordinance is subject to a less strict standard of review. Fleming v. United States Department of Agriculture, 713 F.2d 179, 194 (6th Cir.1983) (“When the persons affected by the regulations are a select group with specialized understanding of the subject being regulated the degree of definiteness required to satisfy due process concerns is measured by the common understanding and commercial knowledge of the group.”)
There was ample testimony that most people know what breed their dogs are. Although the plaintiffs and their experts claim that the ordinance does not give them enough guidance to enable owners to determine whether their dogs fall within its scope, the evidence established that the plaintiffs themselves often use the term “pit bull” as a shorthand method of referring to their dogs. Numerous magazine and newspaper articles, including articles in dog fancier magazines, refer to pit bull dogs. Veterinarians typically refer to the three recognized breeds and mixed breeds with conforming characteristics as pit bulls. In addition, the veterinarians who *1540 testified stated that most of their clients know the breeds of their dogs.  

If the courts can can identify pit bulls, and are aware of the need to do so, why can't the owners of these dogs and those who advocate for them do the same?  When will elected officials consider the needs of their constituents over the desires of special interests?

Find the Pit Bull