Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dangerous dogs: here we go again

A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending the HSUS conference in Orlando. While I was there, I attended many seminars and visited booths galore. When I returned from there, I wrote a blog item for the paper about what I had seen and learned.
The disinformation attributed to newspapers and dogs who bite was and is so overwhelming, I said I was embarrassed to be working in the media, since truth is supposed to be the main idea.
Fast forward several years and you find I am no longer employed by the media, thanks to massive layoffs but many still retained their jobs. Young reporters, fresh out of school can be hired a lot cheaper in place of seasoned journalists, but they don't fact check and seem to write more for the shock value than for newsworthiness.
I will begin by saying all dogs bite. Period. No question about it. Most bites do not get reported to authorities unless they are serious. So when the chihuahua causes you to get stitches, you don't tell the hospital where they came from. Maybe you tell them a stray dog bit you and you have no idea where he lives. But let a large breed dog nip your hand and you run to the phone immediately to report it.
This story out of Baton Rouge irritated me. First, because there is so much bad information in it. Second, the headline does not reflect the story, and third, it is obvious to anyone who works with rescue, the journalist has very little experience with rescued dogs and didn't even try to get the correct information.
Bully breeds are exactly what the term implies: American bulldogs, pit bulls, American Staffordshire Terriers, Boxers, English Mastiffs, English bulldogs, Neapolitan Mastiffs, these are all bully breeds.
German Shepherds and Rottweilers are working dogs, originally designed to work livestock, although Rottweilers can also pull carts and things like that.
My final word is about the headline. "Dangerous dogs are filling up the animal shelter in Baton Rouge. Dangerous according to who? If you watch the video and read the print, the dogs in this shelter are no different than the dogs in our shelters. They are there because of IRRESPONSIBLE OWNERS. It reads more like a story about what to do if you are confronted by a dangerous dog. It did not list any dog attack or bites to warrant the story. It spoke of socializing your animals, whether they were a pit bull or a poodle which should be standard when adopting a dog. I have two rescues. I can tell you Betty will kill a squirrel before you can blink. Even with her crippled leg, she moves like lightening. I can also tell you Buzz will kill a cat. I know. I have seen him show his teeth and lunge when one is on my fence. He has never caught one, but I have never seen him react to another animal that way. Are they dangerous? Nope. Dogs are animals and react to other animals in different ways.
So please read these reports with a jaundice eye. I can tell you shock sells. I know because I worked in the business a long time. I also know headline writers can be good or bad as can editors. This one was pretty bad.
Maybe I should suggest to some friends of mine who were laid off the same time I was to apply in Baton Rouge. It is apparent they need better journalists and editors there. I wonder how their design staff is doing?

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