Friday, September 29, 2006

Speaking of dangerous dogs...


Mozart and Schiller
Originally uploaded by kfoz.
This is Mozart, a Tallahassee pit bull who loves his cats. His owner was at my reading on Tuesday night at the Warehouse, and shared this photo with me. The following day she emailed a whole series of photos of Mozart and the cats (this is Schiller with him on the chair).

Unfortunately, the day I left town, two other dogs, identified as pit bulls by the police, ran loose and killed a cat. The police shot and killed the dogs. The Tallahassee Democrat has run two stories on this in two days. In the second of them, the report opens with the sensational suggestion that if the cat's owner had been outside, she too would have been killed. The evidence to support this: they had killed the cat, and MAY have bit a man on the leg earlier. The bite on the leg is reported as "not serious." To leap to the certainty that they were bound to kill the cat's owner is really, really crappy reporting. Although it wouldn't surprise me if they make the same kind of projections based on human race as well.

Meanwhile, I want to make clear that there is no excuse for dogs of any breed running loose, or killing a neighbors cat. Or chomping on a leg. It just doesn't mean that they would have certainly done anything more. Dogs frequently have issues with cats.

One of the patterns of press coverage of pit bull incidents is that they open with a charge that has nothing to do with what actually happened. Many times they actually reveal a few paragraphs in that the dogs weren't pit bulls after all. Then, at the very end, they actually have some useful information, for those that get that far. This one includes the following: "Ziegler said his office receives about 500 calls a year about dog and cat bites. This year there have been 69 incidents of bulldog and bulldog-mixes (which includes pit bulls) biting people, Ziegler said." In other words, pit bulls account for perhaps 10 percent of all cases. But they are likely to account for 100 percent of cases reported in the press.

1 comment:

ct said...

It doesn't matter the breed, it's the instinct. I have a pitbull mix and a dalmatian who live with 2 cats. Once they know the cats belong it's different then the ones they see roaming the streets. A territorial instinct kicks in, and both my dogs will chase down cats they do not know. My dalmatian is more likely to kill than my pitbull mix. Fortunately she hasn't killed any cats but she has possums and hens that get in the yard. My pitbull will not go near them.