Friday, April 27, 2012

Damage control

The longer I am involved in animal rescue, the more I find myself disgusted by the media. This reveals a lot because the media paid my bills for over 35 years.
I would like to think the reporters and editors I was involved with during that time had more integrity and brains than the ones being churned out today, but maybe I am biased.
One of the most important aspects of a news story was truth.  Gossip and innuendo were not published and if you did not check your facts, you did not keep a job very long. A good editor could spot laziness a long way off.
The continued bashing of larger breed dogs by the mainstream media concerns me. I believe many of these misguided reporters have never been around many of these types of dogs and have preconceived notions about them, including fear of the unknown and acceptance of other uneducated reporters.
Did you know the number one reported dog bite in Florida is the Labrador Retriever? No? Perhaps the reason dog bites are so high from Labradors in Florida is because they are also the number one dog breed owned in Florida. Guess what the number two breed is? If you said pitbull you would be correct. So guess what the number is for dog bites from pitbulls? Number two.
Okay, let me ask you this: If you were bitten by a chihuahua or a pomeranian, would you report it? What if it was your daughter's dog? A neighbor's? A stray?
As the owner of several rotties, I had my share of people who were afraid of my dogs.When I first moved into my house in Sarasota, my calm, couch potato dogs alerted me to something in my backyard. Now I have a privacy fence, but when I got out back there were two adolescent boys sitting on the fence throwing things at the dogs and generally getting them riled up. I spoke to the dogs and my neighbors and it never happened again. What if it had? What if one of those boys had fallen in my yard and been bitten? Would my dogs have been taken and destroyed? They were doing what has been bred into them. They were protecting my yard from intruders. Do you think they understood the difference in teenage boys and serial killers? Do we give them credit for knowing the difference or destroy them for being a dog?
I believe many media outlets use dog stories with shocking headlines to grab readers. They don't really care if the facts were checked and verified. They take something they may have found on a website and print it as the truth.
When I read this story in Jacksonville, I was appalled the station actually printed the story on their website. For now, it cannot be found. I hope the pressure put on this station caused them to remove the story. I believe it was pure laziness on the part of the reporter. The problem is many people will read a story condemning a certain breed of dog and believe it, even when the reporter did not have a clue what he was writing about.
A few days ago, the guy who marks the ground for buried cable came to my house before they install a new back fence. I was out by the pool and both of my dogs were with me. He opened my gate and came inside and Betty, my hound/Florida Brown Dog charged at him. I don't believe she would have taken a bite, but she could have. I put the dogs in the house so he could mark the ground and as he was leaving he commented on my "boxer" and how he had heard they could be mean. Boxer? I don't have a boxer. He thought Betty was a boxer. I have no doubt had he been bitten, he would have reported a boxer bit him.
Improper identification runs rampant by John Q. Public and the media. It is too bad people are not educated in dog breeds and continue to report erroneous information about them.
Thanks Janet, Rosemary, Leigh, Joel, Susan, Michelle, and all those bosses I have had who demanded correct information in stories. It is a sad day for me to have to tell you there are not many of you left.

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