The many problems with Charlotte Alter’s TIME article about Pit Bulls

First, it is horrible that KFC kicked out that 3-year-old girl due to people being “scared” of her face, if that’s indeed what actually happened. Other versions say that the child’s mother was actually causing a massive scene inside of the restaurant and that’s what initiated the KFC staff to ask HER to leave, not the child (it’s now been investigated twice and numerous sources state that the incident didn’t happen at all). But regardless, Time writer Charlotte Alter’s focus was clearly on disparaging Pit Bulls. So my focus will be pointing out the many problems in her article…

Problem #1: Alter provided no description of what led to the attack on the little girl, no circumstances (10 dogs, they were all running loose, the little girl was unattended), no details of the environment that the dogs were living in prior and during (9 of the dogs apparently were yard dogs), nothing whatsoever. Kind of relevant and important information if actually wanting to further the concept of public safety.

Problem #2: Alter claims that Pit Bulls “make up only 6% of the dog population,” which she has absolutely no way of knowing or confirming. Why not? Because there’s no accurate way to peg the number of dogs from any breed or “type.” Further, because there’s no specific or consistent definition of what a Pit Bull is or is not, quite the opposite. The reality of labeling Pit Bulls is subjective, ambiguous, vague and all-encompassing in nature, especially by those wanting to exploit a tragedy as a way to further their anti-Pit Bull agenda. That notion then needs to swing both ways when calculating any total number of “Pit Bulls” in existence, meaning: You can’t conveniently overreach in an effort to label every dog involved in anything as a “Pit Bull mix,” and then turn around and not use that same formula when calculating a total number of possible Pit Bulls or Pit Bull mixes. At least be consistent with your erroneous tactics.

Problem #3: Visual identification is not scientific, wrought with errors and inaccuracies, and these identifications are often made by unqualified people and then printed/reported in the local/national news, which is then used as “facts” for unsubstantiated claims.

Problem #4: Mixed breeds are not a breed at all.

Problem #5: Even if the 6% figure was true (which it’s not even remotely close), in a country of 75 million dogs that would mathematically equate to almost 5 million Pit Bulls. By any count, 99.9% of those dogs have never mauled or killed anyone.

Problem #6: Alter sources Merritt Clifton.

Problem #7: Alter sources alleged percentages coming from Clifton, which aren’t based in reality, evidence or science, and are instead selectively chosen from unsubstantiated media reports. Total bias bullshit, a misrepresentation of the truth, and nothing more than arrogant claims being made when such claims aren’t even possible to ever accurately be made!

Problem #8: Alter tells the audience that the CDC stopped collecting breed-specific information but failed to mention WHY they stopped collecting breed-specific information… I’ll let the CDC explain:

A CDC study on fatal dog bites lists the breeds involved in fatal attacks over 20 years (between 1979 and 1998). It does not identify specific breeds that are most likely to bite or kill, and thus is not appropriate for policy-making decisions related to the topic. Each year, 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs. These bites result in approximately 16 fatalities; about 0.0002% of the total number of people bitten. These relatively few fatalities offer the only available information about breeds involved in dog bites. There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill. Many practical alternatives to breed-specific policies exist and hold promise for preventing dog bites.

Problem #9: Alter references the NOT peer-reviewed 2011 Annals of Surgery study titled “Mortality, Mauling and Maiming by Vicious Dogs,” which has been thoroughly discredited. Why? Because it was done by non-animal experts who were looking at photographs of injuries and then concluding, based solely on the photographs and medical records, which breeds of dog caused which injuries. But 1 problem: They never saw any of the offending dogs! So not only did they skip the shoddy visual identification process, but they never laid eyes on the dogs. And yet, they were so arrogant as to breed-label the injuries anyways. Preposterous.

Problem #10: Alter implies that all Pit Bulls and their owners should be collectively blamed for what allegedly happened to the little girl at KFC. Wow, I wasn’t at KFC that day and neither was my dog! If she was treated in such a way then it’s the fault of the person that treated her that way.

Problem #11: Alter mentions the dog from Arizona named Mickey, but again provides no description as to what actually led to that attack, no circumstances, nothing whatsoever. She then proceeds to claim that more people were concerned about the dog than about Kevin Vincente, as if a person couldn’t be simultaneously concerned for both, or as if concern or thoughts about 1 cancelled out concern or thoughts about the other.

Problem #12: Where are Merritt Clifton’s sources supporting his asinine claims about “shelter dogs” that span 151 years going back to 1858? No nod to the obvious difference in technology and communication capabilities from the 1800s/1900s in comparison to today. No nod to anything, just a made up number that is utterly unverified but that’s being presented, both by Clifton and by Alter, as if it’s fact.

Problem #13: Alter sources Colleen Lynn from the anti-Pit Bull hate group DogsBite.org.

Problem #14: Colleen Lynn is not a geneticist, nor is she genuinely knowledgeable about dog behavior.

Problem #15: Merritt Clifton states that “not every kind of dog responds to neglect and abuse by killing and injuring people.” Um, just by the way that he phrases this statement he implies 2 utterly wrong concepts: That all Pit Bulls would respond by killing and injuring people and that all non-Pit Bulls wouldn’t respond by killing and injuring people. Way to be a simpleton, Merritt! It’s an obvious fact that dogs are individuals and not objects, sentient beings and not manufactured products that come off of a conveyor belt. Clifton must believe the opposite. 99.9% of all dogs from any breed or type HAVE NOT mauled or killed a person!

Problem #16: Clifton’s proclamations as to what makes a “good” and “bad” Pit Bull is nothing more than a soundbyte meant to blame the dogs and not the people that put them onto the chains he speaks of. Just because a dog is on a chain doesn’t make it a “badass” (vicious, fighter) anymore than Clifton picking up a water hose makes him a firefighter. What chaining your dog does do is isolate it, frustrate it, make it territorial, and take away its option of flight, among other cruel things depending on the circumstances. Some dogs subjected to this type of shit are no less friendly than non-chained ones, as each remains an individual and deserves their right to be properly evaluated. Point being, it all depends. But chaining a dog (any dog) CAN LEAD TO TRAGIC INCIDENTS, especially when involving unsupervised children. What’s also interesting is Clifton claiming there are “good” Pit Bulls, yet he makes his living off of egregiously exploiting them and pushing fabricated statistics onto politicians who then serve up ideas for bans and regulations.

Problem #17: Alter embeds a bar graph from the hate group, spells their website wrong, and then provides no further explanation as to where the numbers come from. I’ll tell you: It’s from Colleen and Merritt, using their tactics of cherry-picking through unverified media reports. Further, what’s the definition of “attack,” or for that matter, “maiming”?

Problem #18: Lynn goes all land shark rhetoric on everyone, threatening that there will be a “disfigured child” in every school. Total fearmongering nonsense. 5? 15? 25 million Pit Bull-type dogs in the country? The definitions become so vague that that latest number is not to be discarded out of hand. What I do know is that reality does show that we have a lot of responsible people and really great dogs out there. Try as you might to ignore this fact, it’s still a fact.

Problem #19: How in the hell does Merritt Clifton assume that 80% of all dogs are sterilized, but then that 80% of all Pit Bulls aren’t sterilized? There is quite literally no way to know this information. Is this silly guy the Oracle? Does he kick it on the weekends with Santa Claus? Does Santa take him down the chimney, notepad in hand? I mean, I’m sorry, but this guy is totally full of shit.

Problem #20: Alter writes as if Colleen Lynn actually cares to prevent having more Pit Bulls euthanized. Haha. Earth to Charlotte Alter: Colleen Lynn wants Pit Bulls ERADICATED by any means necessary. You’ve been played like the neighborhood jukebox. A little something from her Facebook page…


Problem #21: Alter sources PETA, who rules the roost on animal-related doublespeak and lobbies for both Pit Bull bans and “no adoption” policies for the Pit Bulls coming into shelters. They promote the ideology of “killing them to save them from abuse.” This is completely ludicrous and the fact that they are still being given a platform on this issue speaks to how lazily Alter’s piece was slapped together.

Problem #22: Holding Colleen Lynn, Merritt Clifton and PETA up as examples of compassionate advocates for the well-being of Pit Bulls (and bigger dogs in general) is like putting the head of the Ku Klux Klan in charge of African American reproductive systems.

Problem #23: You mean to tell me that no other organization wanted to comment for this article? Alter magically produced the only animal welfare organization in the United States that is pro-BSL, and yet failed to produce more statements from the hundreds that are against BSL? Wow, that’s awful convenient! This is probably to give the illusion that the debate is actually equally split. The opposite is true however, as damn near every professional animal/safety-related organization is openly AGAINST breed-specific legislation.

Problem #24: Pit Bulls are dogs, therefore they ARE like any other dog, no matter what Daphna Nachminovitch/PETA or any other demagogue wants to claim.

Problem #25: Breed-specific sterilization for Pit Bulls is not done for overpopulation purposes or to help shelters kill less animals, although those are 2 obvious ends that might eventually come out of a move to incrementally eliminate 1 of America’s most popular types of dog. The truth? It is done as a secondary move when banning dogs by breed or type is not supported by the community or viewed as being unfair or too extreme. Same rhetoric, same sensationalism, same intent, always. Pay attention.

Shall I keep going? I’ll stop.