I felt a bit mean in putting up that post about my encounter with Stanley Coren at the All About Pets show on Easter weekend but I got over it.
He put up a rebuttal at the Psychology Today page in which he made a few assumptions, the most hilarious being "As a psychologist I suspect that I know what is going on in her mind."
I guess what I said directly to him about his flawed sources was just a neurotic attempt to hide my real agenda. Apparently, in arguing against the stereotyping of dog owners I'm similar to a mother whose offspring is arrested for holding up milk stores but pleads with the court for mercy, since she's a good kid. Denial is a bitch.
But so am I. Here's his article (comments available at the end where it says 'join the discussion'):
"On the second day of the event, a woman accosted me and began to harangue me about statements that I had published about pitbull terriers. The statements which so offended her were reports of research published in respected scientific journals that found that pitbulls, and pitbull crosses accounted for a disproportionate number of dog bite related injuries and deaths.."
Here's the study he mentions in his post. Obviously I have a problem with the breed ID which I don't see as relevant and I dispute Stanley's new assertion that "pit bulls" make up only one percent of the dog population in Philadelphia, but overall it looks like decent enough research.
Pediatric dog bite injuries: a 5-year review of the experience at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa 19104, USA.
The objective of this study was to characterize the nature of dog bite injuries treated over a 5-year period at a large tertiary pediatric hospital and to identify relevant parameters for public education and injury prevention.
Investigators performed a retrospective review of emergency room records of a single tertiary pediatric hospital. Records of all patients who were evaluated for dog bite injuries between April of 2001 and December of 2005 were reviewed. All demographic, patient, and injury details were recorded.
The rest of the abstract is available at the link.
Here's the thing. Nobody is disputing that dogs bite. Nobody is disputing that children tend to be bitten around the head and neck often, due to their stature and way of interacting with dogs.
Nobody is saying that "pit bulls", however you define them, do not bite people. Quite the opposite (by nobody, I mean those of us who don't believe myths spread by 19th century crooks).
What people who study the issues say is that all dogs are capable of inflicting injury if poorly socialized or poorly trained, or exposed to poorly trained people in unsupervised situations who hurt or frighten them, usually unintentionally.
As someone pointed out in the comments at Stanley's post, "pit bull" is the only dog type where a bunch of breeds are lumped together and then any mutt that may resemble them is included so they all become one breed. Any statistics based on this flawed method (which are hearsay) are skewed right off the bat. Nobody is verifying the breeds of dogs involved in bites, attacks or fatal maulings, mainly because nobody, anywhere, can determine the ancestry of a mutt to any degree of accuracy. It's all just smoke.
I wish we could unring that CDC bell from hell, but we can't. What we can do is move forward, start talking about dogs instead of perceived breeds and look for better ways to prevent nasty incidents.
As I said over at Stanley's place, I doubt we will ever reduce serious maulings or fatal attacks much below what we have now because they are already incredibly rare. Unfortunately, there will always be people who either don't care or don't know enough to behave responsibly around dogs (or much else). I think that with some education for parents, kids and public workers, we can definitely reduce nuisance bites and make things better, not only for people and dogs they include in their lives but also for people who don't own or don't like dogs. That is what has been shown to work in Calgary, the home of the best nuisance owner control system in North America.
Karen Delise did a great critique on a hospital study from Texas where they postulated a conclusion and then 'proved' it. It's well worth reading; you can find it here: