With 331 comments and still active, my 2015 post about the anti-pit bull site “Dogsbite.org” features the longest-running debate on Ethics Alarms. It isn’t much of a debate, really: on one side are people who know something about dogs and understand that the hysteria over “pit bulls”—really several breeds that dog-ignoramuses lump together–is utter, destructive, cruel nonsense, and opposing them are the hysterics, who give a vivid example of the brain malady defined by the statement, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts!” with every comment.
As explained in multiple EA articles, one of the primary reasons people who aren’t paying attention think there is a deadly monster dog called “the pit bull” is that police and journalists so frequently misidentify the breed of dogs involved in attacks on humans. Amazing as it seems to those of us who love dogs, most people have minimal knowledge about dog breeds: they call any large or strong dog with short hair and a broad muzzle a “pit bull,” including boxers, American bulldogs, and Mastiffs, as well as mixed breeds and mongrels. As I have related here before, my first Jack Russell Terrier, the kid-loving Dickens, terrified a woman when he was a seven pound puppy by happily bounding up to her toddler in the park. She scooped up the child as if death were imminent and started screaming, “IT’S A PIT BULL!!!!” I replied in kind with “YOU”RE A MORON!!!!” She was, sadly, more typical than not.
In today’s news is a revealing story of breed misidentification that, interestingly, does not involve defamation of pit bull breeds and what I refer to as dog racism. It’s a nice change from the norm: for once, at least, another breed is being falsely blamed for an attack.
“Woman Mauled To Death By Great Danes In Ohio” is a typical headline about the death of Elayne Stanley, mother of three. Her ex-husband told reporters that the dogs had always been vicious, and that he “never wanted to have Great Danes.” Well, he didn’t have Great Danes. The two dogs involved in the attack are pictured above. They are obviously mixes, and not even mixes of the the same breeds. One appears to be some kind of St. Bernard mongrel, and the other looks like a Dogue de Bordeaux mix, the variety of mastiff that starred in Disney’s “Turner and Hooch.”
This is an uncropped Great Dane:
Oh, never mind: Great Danes, pit bulls, what’s the difference? Dogs don’t sue for slander and libel, and lazy journalists don’t think that properly identifying the dog breed in an attack is important, just as they usually don’t care why an attack occurred (most of the time they involve abuse or negligence of the dogs, and, as in this case, pack behavior). Great Danes are among the gentlest of breeds, but any breed can be dangerous under certain conditions. For example, here is a September story about a woman mauled to death by her coonhounds (another gentle breed) in New York—if they were coonhounds, You simply cannot trust these stories. If those dogs in the Ohio attack can be called Great Danes, then those coonhounds might be poodles.