Proving once again that dog ignorance and breed bigotry knows no partisan, ideological nor erudition boundaries, a bunch of conservatives are spreading false anti-pit bull propaganda. As is often the case, they don’t know what the hell they are talking about.
The impetus was an anti-pit bull abuse organization citing the work of Ann Linder, a Legislative Policy Fellow with Harvard Law School’s Animal Law and Policy Program, who wrote a paper, “The Black Man’s Dog: The Social Context of Breed Specific Legislation,” that argued that pit bulls have been unfairly tied to “gang violence by urban youths, as well as the hip-hop music scene.” The group then made the leap to arguing that anti-pit bull restrictions in the many American cities that have them are racist. Well, that’s demonstrably idiotic: the reason for all of those ignorant laws isn’t racism, but that the legislators passing them know zilch about dogs and are pandering to public hysteria. The hysteria is spread by the news media, popular culture, and a lot of otherwise intelligent people who should know better but don’t, and are too lazy and irresponsible to educate themselves. This group includes Conservative law prof and conservative pundit/blogger Glenn Reynolds. Shame on him.
Here’s the way it goes: since the pro-pit bull group cited a race-baiting Harvard scholar, that meant that the group must be made up of progressives, and thus wrong about everything in Instapundit Land. Conservative site College Fix posted about the foolishness of the “racism” claim. Instapundit host Reynolds snarked to his millions of followers:,
“Academics say fear of pit bulls is linked to… racism? I thought it was more about the biting: “Despite accounting for just 6.5% of all dogs in the United States, pit bulls were responsible for 66% of total fatal dog attacks between 2005 and 2017.” Why aren’t these academics following the science? I think they should be banned for “spreading misinformation.”
HA HA HA! Good one, Glenn! Why isn’t this academic checking his sources before making a high-profile ass of himself by spreading misinformation? As anyone with a smattering of canine education knows, there is no breed called a “pit bull,” but anywhere from four to eight distinct breeds that are lumped together as “pit bulls” by people, apparently like Reynolds, who don’t know a dog from a garden hose.
There are also several breeds and mixed breeds that even some dog experts mistake for pit bulls breed. My sweet, funny, gentle dog, Spuds, was sent on his awful journey through three abusive owners and two rescue organizations when Prince George’s County designated him as a “vicious breed” because he looks like he might be a “pit bull.” Indeed he might, but I have photos of nearly identical dogs that are American Bulldogs (not a pit bull breed), Dogo de Agentino (a mastiff breed, also not a pit bull breed), American Pit Bull Terriers (one of the pit bull breeds) and several mixes, some including the breeds lumped as “pit bulls,’ some not. It will take a DNA test to determine what he is, but there is no question at all that if a dog that looked like Spuds bit someone (no matter what the provocation), the police and media reports would attribute the episode to a vicious attack by a “pit bull,” thanks to confirmation bias and breed ignorance.
Ethics Alarms has an extensive series of pieces on the issue of dog breed bigotry and ignorance, which you can read here so I don’t have to rehash them. Do it. Don’t be like Glenn. People who casually advance this false narrative get dogs killed…dogs like Spuds.
Where did the stat quoted by College Fix and Instapundit come from? They didn’t track it down, but I did. College Fix took it from a three-year old piece in Forbes, whose lazy, dog-breed ignorant writer Niall McCarthy got it from…Dogsbite.org, an Ethics Alarms designee for Unethical Website of the Month in 2015. That site, the work of a dim-bulb phobic whose version of advocacy is to distort facts and cherry-pick statistics from sources almost as disreputable as her website, is infamous among knowledgeable dog owners. That original post, which I re-posted last year, is the all-time Ethics Alarms record-holder for comments. The defenders of the website have not only been thoroughly mocked and vanquished in the threads there, but metaphorically run through the brambles naked and bleeding.
Using a quote coming out of that source and calling it science is an embarrassment, and the whole sequence that has a respected conservative pundit passing off bad facts as reality is an excellent example of how bias makes us stupid.
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, Forbes and College Fix owe Spuds an apology.
17 thoughts on “This Ethics Alarms Rebuke Of Instapundit Is Brought To You By Spuds”
What an actor! How did you get him to pose as if he were about to burst into tears? Shake an empty box of doggy treats in front of his nose? Not let him sleep on your bed? Stop and talk to a neighbor too long instead of paying attention to him – or worse, paying too much attention to someone else’s dog? Of course, he can’t help looking like some pugilistic pup just poked him a paw in the eye, but really, just title the portrait “Sadness” and sell it to an art gallery..
That’s Spuds’ “Please let me crawl up into your lap so I can crush your naughty bits into hummus as I fall asleep” expression. It’s annoyingly persuasive.
Jack is a long time theatrical director known for getting whatever the situation calls for out of his cast members.
Trust me, I’m a dog lover. We put down our last two dachshunds (until I looked it up just now, I’m not sure I’ve ever known the correct spelling!) within the last few years. Forty years of dogs (not counting family dogs as I grew up, i.e., Blackie, poisoned by a neighbor down the street, and Fritz, lost when he jumped out of my Dad’s truck while my Dad was distracted trying to attend to a traffic problem, from which loss I’m not sure my Dad ever recovered) has been enough for Mrs. OB and me. Our grandchildren now have their own dogs.
But living in Arizona with a significant Mexican population, I am sure there is a problem with Mexican guys weaponizing dogs. If that makes me a racist, so be it. To many goofball, insecure, idiotic Mexican guys treat dogs as junk yard protectors and macho dick extenders. It’s hideous. In addition, believe it or not, there are roving gangs of chihuahuas on the west side of Phoenix because the dogs are essentially left to be feral. Certain demographics treat dogs as pets and part of the family. Other demographics treat dogs as curs. Islamic societies don’t allow dogs in their homes. Ever been to India and seen the mangy, feral dogs, everywhere?
Do gangbangers use dogs to intimidate people? You bet. Two words: Michael Vick. Virtually any dog can be made vicious. Staffordshire Terriers were called Nursery Dogs. As a dog lover, I can’t blame dogs but I sure as hell will blame the humans who abuse them.
Yet this aspect is completely ignore by the “dangerous breed” mob. Any dog can be made insecure and vicious; pit bull breed mixes are chosen for fighting and aggressiveness because they are strong and intimidating, but the breeds themselves, undamaged, are among the friendliest and least aggressive of dogs. As I wrote in my very first post on the topic, the generalizations used to denigrate pit bull breeds is exactly like racism, and just as unfair and illogical.
True but stay away from that tail – it can clean off a table top from 20 paces.
Tell me about it. Spuds’tail has actually bruised my leg. It’s like being whipped by a leather belt.
Yep. Emma was wapping Lord Remington with her tail yesterday and he was not amused. Stoic, but not amused.
Other Bill: I’m a recent convert to dog-lover status, and our dog (my first in a half-century of life) came to us from our son two years ago, who also lives in Phoenix. He needed to find an owner for her (Bailey) after a minor incident involving his ten-month-old daughter. He absolutely refused to advertise Bailey on Craigslist because of the tendency for dogs to be picked up as bait dogs in dog-fighting rings.
I think your comments about “weaponizing dogs” are good. I don’t think that domesticated dogs are inherently vicious – they need to be treated and trained for that behavior. Sometimes I think about Bailey’s fate had our son not known the dangers of advertising the dog, and I get angry almost to the point of being violent. I look at her when she’s sleeping and imagine her being mistreated and beaten to condition her for fighting and it’s just disgusting.
I’m with you…if there are cultural mores that cause certain societies to mistreat dogs (or any animal), there is zero reason for me to accept or even tolerate that. Those cultures need to change.
Jack: Thanks for posting another photo of Spuds. What a great looking dog! Honesty compels me to write that I’m “breed ignorant”…well, maybe “a breed novice with a desire to learn” is a better phrase, but I will go back and read the pieces you referenced in this one.
I have learned that the vast majority of the public, even long-time dog owners, know little about dogs or breeds. This is one reason so many people adopt the wrong kind of dogs for the lifestyle, and end up mistreating or giving up the dogs. When I hear someone say they adopted a Great Dane or a ST. Bernard that was given up because the original owner “didn’t think it would get so big,” or a Jack Russell that was “too energetic,” I want to strangle those owners. From Google to Animal Planet’s “Dogs 101” the evidence is out there. Dogs are a feature of life, and everyone needs basic knowledge about them.
I agree with you. I am not a dog lover, preferring cats. That being said, I am aware of many friends/family having “pit bulls” and Rottweilers, and firmly believe they are very dangerous (/sarc). After all, they will slobber you to death if your hand ever gets near their fur, and if that hand/fur thing stops, even for a moment, they will promptly climb directly onto your lap cutting off all blood supply to your legs for the foreseeable future, just to ensure that the petting resumes, at which point the slobbering resumes. A friend once called the lap dogs in big dog clothing. However, the Indians on the Reservation I grew up near would steal these gentle dogs, beat them, and turn them into actual killers, and set them up in dog fights.
Dogs rarely hurt people, but people often destroy good dogs. I blame humans too.
Jack wrote, “The hysteria is spread by the news media…”
It would probably be much more accurate if you wrote “The hysteria is spread by the advocacy news media…”
Propaganda advocacy rules the roost in 21st century “news media”.
Remington Winchester Burger, Esq., Dog of Letters, is impressed by Spuds and his typing skills:
Spuds has an advantage. How can anyone see that type with the “eye patch” face and not be at least tempted to grin?
As has been noted, the poor pooches are victims of demographic influences just as good people in ghetto neighborhoods are. The two pit-types that went after my son’s & DiL’s mini-poodle, in his yard, turned out to be owned by a neck & face-tattooed Hispanic guy. (To further reinforce the good dog/bad dog stereotype, the poodle was saved partly by their golden retriever.) There are recent incidents nearby of sketchy-looking people showing up at dog parks, letting their pit-types attack other dogs, and then bundling them up and taking off in the confusion. Jesse Jackson famously commented that hearing footsteps behind him he’d regretfully “…turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” It’s not their fault, but it’s not a completely unfounded prejudice.
If dogfighters, wannabe gangstas & tough guys, etc. are prone to pick them (or their lookalikes) to abuse and turn into monsters, then they’ll show up disproportionately in attacks, and it’s understandable that people will be wary when they see dogs that look like that, no matter what their official DNA makeup. I’m not sure how this can be easily solved.
Let’s face it: dogs are not completely predictable. I think that’s one of the things my parents and extended family adults were sure to teach my brother and me and all our family contemporaries when we were young. Our daughter’s long adopted reservation dog Lucy all of a sudden had our last, long-lasting (17 years) dachshund Penny in her (Lucy’s) mouth by Penny’s neck and pinned to the kitchen floor. She immediately let loose of Penny when everyone yelled at her, but genes and breeding can take over. To a large extent, dogs are like guns in so far as responsible and vigilant ownership is indispensable. But the risk is simply worth it. After all, it is fair (albeit trite) to say dogs are man’s best friend.
Jack I think you are too absolutist on this one as there are parts off the US like Phoenix where they have reached levels of not only danger but economic impact due to “pits”. Being career military, dog owner, being stationed around the country and daily user of dog parks I have witnessed in my own personal experience, the dogs I personally know of friends who have had drastic changes in demeanor are nearly all “pits”. Often the trigger for the change could be identified but the degree and persistence of the change is what is concerning.
The data and expert analysis just don’t support that, though. There isn’t some magic “pit bull” gene: dogs behave like dogs. A great deal is confirmation bias thanks to the anti-pit bull breed narratives. We had a Basset Hound suddenly become aggressive—he was damaged, but somehow those stories don’t become part of the Basset Hound narrative…it’s an anomaly. All the pit bull breeds are some mix of terriers and bull dogs. Bull dogs are strong placid. Terriers are smart and challenging. The four breeds that qualify as “pit bulls’ have different temperament traits, and a Staffordshire-Lab mix is no more pit bull than Lab. If it has an aggressive incident, it’s a pit bull. If it doesn’t, it’s a Lab.
I’m only an absolutist as far as requiring data rather than emotion and bias.