Ethics Dunce: Ann Althouse

Bad, bad Ann. I’m very disappointed and surprised. In a post this morning, the usually reliable if eccentric law professor bloggress highlighted the anti-“pit bull” propaganda of DogsBite.org, an Ethics Alarms Unethical Website of the Month, and a vile purveyor of bad information that shares responsibility for the destructive “dangerous breed” laws around the country, discriminatory home-owners insurance rates, and the deaths of thousands and upon thousands of innocent, loving dogs.

Like the execrable website and the incompetent Times article it highlights, Althouse never clarifies the critical fact that there is no such breed as “a pit bull.American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire TerriersStaffordshire Bull Terrier, and any mixture thereof, plus a number of breeds like American Bullys, Corso Canes, Doggo de Argentino, and especially American Bull Dogs are all lumped together as “pit bulls” by ignorant reporters and police, and even veterinarians, making the website’s assertion that a disproportionate number of dog attacks come from that “breed” a statistical whopper. Yet Althouse, whose husband once had a blog dedicated to dog photos and who is a dog-lover herself, just goes along with the deception, and worse for a lawyer, never points out the “evidence” is absurdly flawed. If you combine many breeds into a single “breed,” of course that “breed” will have a disproportionate share of whatever dog incident one is counting.

Disappointingly, virtually all of Althouse’s commenters follow in her missteps in their comments, referring to “this breed” and relying on anecdotes. One cites an example of a neighborhood “pitbull” killing a cat. In the Dogs Bite.Org post, I noted as an example Denver’s “dangerous breed” law language defines a “pit bull” as “an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one of those breeds.” Similarly, Colleen Lynn  inspires her deadly band of anti-dog owner fanatics on her website by informing them, “If it looks like a pitbull, then it is one.”

Yet the Times hypes her statistical distortion, and Althouse passes it along.

It’s lazy and irresponsible blogging. I’m writing this as Spuds snores away with his heavy head on my lap. He was victimized by the ignorance Ann Althouse is enabling: his first owner had to surrender him to a shelter because of Prince George’s County’s “dangerous breed” law, then he was adopted by a moron who assumed that a dog that she thought looked like a “pit bull” would protect her from an abusive boy friend. Then she gave the dog to that abusive boy friend, who named him “Macho” and kept him locked in a bathroom or on a short chain in the back yard.

I know I’ve written a lot on this issue; it upsets me. I certainly didn’t expect Ann Althouse to compound the problem.

6 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Ann Althouse

  1. I have not studied doggery (although I did study doggeral some years ago), but it seems reasonable to me (sometimes) to lump a few breeds of dogs together, provided there are enough shared characteristics. Lord knows we do that with any number of other things. Thus we talk about whites or blacks or hispanics as a group, and there is some utility to that. We can see, for example, that the group we call Asian seems to fare better in academics than those in our other groups.
    Likewise, it may be true that a group of dog breeds will exhibit a characteristic to a greater extent than a different group. So retrievers, as a group, may be better at swimming and at bringing a ball back to the one who threw the ball. Hounds may be better at pursuing live prey.
    But, there is a tendency to think of a group as all one thing and to ignore the diversity within groups and the overlap between them. To do so is either ignorant or stupid, whether we’re talking about humans or dogs.
    On the other hand, profiling may be useful when encountering a strange dog. I tend to give all strange dogs a wide berth, a legacy perhaps of the severe bite to the face I suffered some 70 years ago (by an unknown breed). But, I would be even more cautious around one of the breeds presumed to be more vicious. Unfair to that sweet, gentle, American pit bull terrier? Perhaps. Or, perhaps wisely judicious.

  2. We bred dogs growing up.

    German Shepard’s
    Doberman Pincers
    English Springer Spaniels
    And…
    Pit bulls!

    Besides the spaniels… we had the scary dog breeds house!

    We lived on 5 acres smack in the suburbs and not ONCE did our dogs EVER bite a person, dog, or anything except a chicken that got out and once a baby lamb it thought was a toy.

    The pit bulls were the moist loving, beautiful tempered ones of all.

    The spaniels were pretty active…

    All were awesome.

    My aunts poodles and other relatives poodle mix bit constantly.

    It was crazy how the fear of pit bulls started and grew.

    The people who fought them I think are partly responsible. That happened where we lived. Was so sad.

    People are pretty ignorant about most things, including dogs.

    And then perfectly innocent ones suffer.

    Ann should know better.

  3. I got into an argument online about this, where someone claimed “pit bulls” were bred to be vicious for 100’s of years. When pressed, he said since the 1800’s. I then asked how 200 years of breading overcame 10,000 years of domestication. I then got accused of being unscientific.

    • When I was a kid, nobody ever talked about “pit bulls” as scary dogs. It was all Dobermans and German Shepherds. Not until dog fighting caught on in the inner city was “the vicious pit bull” even a thing. In the Our Gang” comedies, “Pete,” the gang’s dog, was an American Pit Bull Terrier, and nothing was scary about him.

    • There was an experiment in Russia by Dmitri Belyaev where he took wild silver foxes and over 40 generations of selective breeding produced a completely tame breed of fox. If a wild animal can be bred into a tame animal, then I can see no reason why a tame animal can’t be bred into a vicious animal.

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