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This version of NSU News has been archived as of February 28, 2019. To search through archived articles, visit nova.edu/search. To access the new version of NSU News, visit news.nova.edu.

This version of SharkBytes has been archived as of February 28, 2019. To search through archived articles, visit nova.edu/search. To access the new version of SharkBytes, visit sharkbytes.nova.edu.

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Division of Public Relations and Marketing Communications
Nova Southeastern University
3301 College Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33314-7796

nova.edu/prmc

SharkBytes Archives

Contact

Division of Public Relations and Marketing Communications
Nova Southeastern University
3301 College Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33314-7796

(954) 262-5353
(800) 541-6682 x25353
Fax: (954) 262-3954
communications@nova.edu

The Victims Become the Villains: Pit Bulls and the Law

NCRC’s Kara Gilmore busts the myth about pit bulls being unpredictable and more likely to attack.

Born killers or family pet? How is it that a small group of dogs with similar physical attributes is labeled “pit bull,” and why are they demonized in society? The answer to those questions, were given in a presentation from National Canine Research Council (NCRC) director of communications Donald Cleary and general counsel Kara Gilmore at the Shepard Broad Law Center on Feb. 24. The culprit, they said, was availability bias (making something that is a rare occurrence into something regular – such as an isolated dog bite becoming an epidemic) leading to outright panic.

Beginning in the 1970s and intensifying in the mid-1980s, pit bulls became the focal point of media attention, and then the target of hungry legislators aiming to take advantage of a social climate where dogs – which are often the victims of animal abuse – were being portrayed as the aggressors, when they are more often simply acting out against their abusers or others.

According to NCRC, seven factors led to the false stereotypes surrounding pit bulls: public attitudes, myths of behavior, media bolstering the negative images (much the way the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin did for Blood Hounds), broad-based view of different dogs being characterized as a single “pit bull” breed, media stimulation of a non-compassionate view, inaccurate academic studies (often relying on unsubstantiated or fabricated information), and political/legislative motivations.

Donald Cleary, Director of Communications, National Canine Research Council; Jason Manocchio, president, NSU Student Animal Legal Defense Fund; and Kara Gilmore, general counsel for NCRC.

Many people do not know that “pit bull” is not actually a breed of dog, rather a grouping of similar looking dogs – usually American Stafford Terriers and their cousins. Legislation, such as that outlawing pit bulls in Miami-Dade County, has led to much confusion and there is a lot of litigation ongoing now to try and de-stigmatize these animals, which when raised as a family member or pet instead of a fighting animal, are no more or less dangerous than your average poodle. One breed of dog is not more likely to attack, or be more vicious. Dobermans, terriers, poodles, Labradors, dachshunds – they are all dogs, and they all behave differently based on a number of variables. Not unlike humans, who often look and sound different, but all act differently too.

A copy of Kara Gilmore’s e-book, The Pit Bull Placebo: Media Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression, is available for a free download at: http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/ncrc-publications/

The Animal Legal Defense Fund was born of a bold and singular vision: that the lives and interests of animals in research labs, on farms, in the wild and in our own communities — would one day be recognized and protected by law. That day draws closer. Since 1979, the ALDF has been pushing the U.S. legal system to end the abuse and cruelty visited upon countless animals each year. ALDF has made great strides but has really just begun to make the case for those who cannot speak on their own behalf. For more information about the Animal Legal Defense Fund go to: www.aldf.org