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Humane Education Leads to Progress
For Informed Dog Owners

Vision Statement: We envision a society free from discrimination, where responsibility, education, love and compassion allow humans to fully respect and understand man's best friend.

Friday, January 2, 2009

"Dogs returned to shelter after attacks"- Columbus Dispatch

The Columbus Dispatch has recently run a few rather critical stories on the Franklin County Dog Shelter, the latest published December 30th titled “Dogs returned to shelter after attacks.” HELP FIDO would like to examine a few points from this latest story in a bit more depth.
Ohio State veterinarians cited the adoption of pit bulls and other dangerous dogs as a concern in a 2007 memo, which also described animal suffering, altered medical records and disease at the shelter, 1731 Alum Creek Dr. Soon after, OSU's veterinary college stopped training students there and providing the shelter with free services.
To point out, this is the second time the Columbus Dispatch has reported this information in a way that might have the reader believe OSU discontinued it’s service to Franklin County Dog Shelter based on ‘problems.’ In the first article it is stated that OSU decided to instead train students at Capital Area Humane Society due to the fact that at CAHS, the students would be exposed to a broader scope of animals and not just dogs. It would seem that this decision was made in the interest of broader educational opportunities and not to due to shelter conditions.
"We're not putting pit bulls up for adoption," Wahoff said.

Dr. William Gesel, a veterinarian who authored Columbus' dangerous-dog ordinance, would beg to differ. Twice this month, two unsuspecting clients brought in pit bulls that the county adopted as Labrador mixes. He asked the clients, both Labrador lovers, 'What are you doing with a pit bull?' "
A veterinarian’s first and foremost concern should always be the health and welfare of the animal he or she is treating, not necessarily the owner's choice of ‘breed’ or in the specific cases quoted in the article its ‘look.’
Gesel said it isn't all that complicated to properly identify pit bulls. He once explained to a judge, "Any kid on the street can tell you if it is a pit. If it has the characteristics, it's a pit."
It’s important to point out that many institutions including the American Veterinary Medical Association would contest Dr. Gesel’s position on the ease and effectiveness of breed determination based on physical characteristics.

Although the colonial selectmen of Massachusetts might disagree, breed determination is not as simple as ‘’throw it in the water, if it floats, it’s a pit bull.’ It’s a wonder how many Labs and Boxers (let alone the dozens of other look-a-like breeds) have been misidentified and killed in US shelters because they‘looked’ like or had “physical characteristics of” a pit bull. Just as there is no way of determining a man’s predisposition toward violence or criminal activity by looking at his physique, haircut, or skin color, there is no way of determining a dog’s personality or temperament by the way it looks. To be effective, laws and policies regarding vicious and dangerous animals MUST be based on actions, and behaviors. To focus on anything else will be wasting resources and ultimately will lead to a decrease in public safety.

And again many organizations not limited to the American Veterinary Medical Association, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The National Animal Control Association, and many DVM’s have hardline positions against breed specific legislation because it has been found to be among other things, discriminatory, ineffective, cost prohibitive, and counter productive.

The timing of these defamatory articles should be noted, the first being published on Dec. 21st, (article link within our response) just in time for Christmas. While many will debate whether or not a dog under the tree is a great way of introducing a new pet to the family, surely this article secured many animals fate’s for a Christmas morning behind the bars of the County’s kennels instead of warm loving homes. How many people didn’t look to adopt that week, or worse how many people decided not to call Animal Control to get help for that abused or neglected dog because of this article?

Lastly and quite troubling is Columbus Dispatch editor Ben Morrison’s blog entry “Shelter Story Sparks Response,” where he takes a rather negative stance toward those readers who expressed their dissatisfaction with the article on Franklin County Dog Shelter. He accuses shelter volunteers of a letter writing campaign. While in every shelter environment there is surely room for improvement, these stories seem to push the boundaries of a smear campaign. It appears that the Dispatch has chosen to raise their flag on one side of the drawn line, which is a shame for the readers depending on unbiased reporting. This is all too common of an occurrence in news media these days. While the print and broadcast media are wondering why there is such a decline in their outlets, it is curious why an editor would choose to chastise readers who express their discontent, if a reader isn’t welcome to share their opinions by writing to the editors, perhaps they will choose to voice their concerns by means of another canceled subscription.

If you are having behavior issues with a pet please don’t wait for a serious accident to get help. There are many people who can help you get your pet's naughty behavior under control. The Columbus Dog Connection has a great page on behavior and also has compiled a great list of trainers and behaviorists who can help.

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