Tag Archives: Pit Bull

Joey and the Pit Bull


People who have autism are often misunderstood.  So are Pit Bulls.  These two make a great pair.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

The mis-labelling of pit bulls

DNA results show that shelter workers are often mistaken when they label a dog as a pit bull, with potentially devastating consequences for the dogs, a new University of Florida study has found.

DNA pit bull study

Dr. Julie Levy holds a dog currently up for adoption at the Alachua County Animal Services facility in Gainesville, Florida

“Animal shelter staff and veterinarians are frequently expected to guess the breed of dogs based on appearance alone,” said Julie Levy, D.V.M., Ph.D., a professor of shelter medicine at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and the lead author of a study published recently in The Veterinary Journal.

“Unlike many other things people can’t quite define but ‘know when they see it,’ identification of dogs as pit bulls can trigger an array of negative consequences, from the loss of housing, to being seized by animal control, to the taking of the dog’s life,” she said. “In the high-stakes world of animal shelters, a dog’s life might depend on a potential adopter’s momentary glimpse and assumptions about its suitability as a pet. If the shelter staff has labeled the dog as a pit bull, its chances for adoption automatically go down in many shelters.”

The past few decades have brought an increase in ownership restrictions on breeds including pit bulls and dogs that resemble them. The restrictions are based on assumptions that certain breeds are inherently dangerous, that such dogs can be reliably identified and that the restrictions will improve public safety, the study states.

The study focused on how accurately shelter staff identified dogs believed to be pit bulls. ‘Pit bull’ is not a recognized breed, but a term applied to dogs derived from the heritage breeds American Staffordshire terrier or Staffordshire bull terrier. The purebred American pit bull terrier is also derived from these breeds and is often included in the loose definition of ‘pit bull.’

The research team evaluated breed assessments of 120 dogs made by 16 shelter staff members, including four veterinarians, at four shelters. These staff members all had at least three years of experience working in a shelter environment. The researchers then took blood samples from the dogs, developed DNA profiles for each animal and compared the DNA findings against the staff’s initial assessments.

“We found that different shelter staffers who evaluated the same dogs at the same time had only a moderate level of agreement among themselves,” Levy said. Results of the study also showed that while limitations in available DNA profiles make absolute breed identification problematic, when visual identification was compared with DNA test results, the assessors in the study fared even worse.

Dogs with pit bull heritage breed DNA were identified only 33 to 75 percent of the time, depending on which of the staff members was judging them. Conversely, dogs lacking any genetic evidence of relevant breeds were labeled as pit bull-type dogs from 0 to 48 percent of the time, the researchers reported.

“Essentially we found that the marked lack of agreement observed among shelter staff members in categorizing the breeds of shelter dogs illustrates that reliable inclusion or exclusion of dogs as ‘pit bulls’ is not possible, even by experts,” Levy said. “These results raise difficult questions because shelter workers and veterinarians are expected to determine the breeds of dogs in their facilities on a daily basis.

Additionally, they are often called on as experts as to whether a dog’s breed will trigger confiscation or regulatory action. The stakes for these dogs and their owners are in many cases very high.”

Dog breeds contain many genetic traits and variants, and the behavior of any individual dog is impossible to predict based on possible combinations.

“A dog’s physical appearance cannot tell observers anything about its behavior. Even dogs of similar appearance and the same breed often have diverse behavioral traits in the same way that human siblings often have very different personalities,”Levy said.

Even though most pet dogs are of unknown mixed breeds, there is a natural inclination among pet owners to speculate on what their dog’s breed heritage might be, the authors said.

“This has fueled an entire industry of pet dog DNA analysis,” Levy said. “These tests are fun, but they won’t help predict behavior or health traits. Shelters and veterinary clinics are better off entering ‘mixed breed’ or ‘unknown’ in their records unless the actual pedigrees are available.”

As for legal restrictions on dogs based on their appearance, Levy said public safety would be better served by reducing risk factors for dog bites, such as supervising children, recognizing canine body language, avoiding an unfamiliar dog in its territory, neutering dogs and raising puppies to be social companions.

Source:  University of Florida media release

See also my 2013 post on Visual identification of breed – one reason why BSL doesn’t work

See something, do something

Dr Sue Ettinger is on a mission to help pet owners detect tumors early.  Her inspiration for this new program, called See Something, Do Something, was a 10-year old white pit bull named Smokey.

Smokey

Smokey

Dr Ettinger had aspirated approximately 10 masses from Smokey over the years and all came back as benign; so she wasn’t particularly worried when Smokey presented with another lump.  The clinic was so busy on the day he came in with his vet tech owner, that he never got tested that day and waited another week before returning to the clinic.

When it was aspirated, it wasn’t a lipoma and testing revealed a soft tissue sarcoma.  It hadn’t spread to other parts of the body, but a 7 cm mass with 3 cm margins was a very big surgery; they got it all and so Smokey was out of the woods.

But Dr Ettinger combed through literature to find out if there were guidelines for vets and owners about diagnosing lumps and bumps.  There weren’t and she decided to take action.

So she’s come up with:

See Something?  If a dog or cat has had a lump that is larger than a pea and has been there for more than a month…

Do Something! Go to a vet and get it aspirated or biopsied.

and even a shorter call to action:  Why Wait? Aspirate!

Simple rules that could save the life of your pet and also avoid needless pain and suffering.

Sue Ettinger is one of approximately 300 board-certified veterinary specialists in medical oncology in North America. Dr Sue is a staff oncologist and initiated the medical oncology service at the Animal Specialty Center (ASC), a private practice specialty hospital in Westchester, just north of New York City.

Sue Ettinger is one of approximately 300 board-certified veterinary specialists in medical oncology in North America. Dr Sue is a staff oncologist and initiated the medical oncology service at the Animal Specialty Center (ASC), a private practice specialty hospital in Westchester, just north of New York City

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Buffy the Three-Legged Pit Bull

Picture by Gracia Lam

Picture by Gracia Lam

Read Buffy’s Story Here (courtesy of The Boston Globe Magazine)

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Is that dog a pit bull?

A recently published Open Access article “Is That Dog a Pit Bull? A Cross-Country Comparison of Perceptions of Shelter Workers Regarding Breed Identification” asserts that shelter workers operating in areas restricted by breed-specific legislation (BSL) are more likely to consciously mislabel a dog’s breed if they felt it were to increase the dog’s chances of being adopted and/or avoid being euthanized.

The study, published in Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, compares the breed identification process between workers in the United States and the United Kingdom, noting that often the process relies on the individual worker’s intuition and prior experiences with other dogs. A survey with photos of the same twenty dogs were sent to shelters in the US and UK. American shelter workers were more likely to consider a dog a pit bull than their counterparts in the UK.

These are the photos that the research subjects were shown:

Pit bull identification photos

The pit bull terrier is banned or restricted by BSL in parts of the United States and throughout the United Kingdom. Shelters in both countries are often tasked with accepting unwanted animals and finding new homes for them; many of these animals are pit bulls or other bull breeds. BSL restrictions may include a total breed ban, or some lesser rules such as (but not limited to): higher licensing fees, registering the dog as dangerous with local governments, liability insurance coverage, mandatory sterilization, muzzling on public property, placement of warning signage on private property, and standardized caging requirements.

Shelter workers in areas affected by BSL know that a dog’s identification can influence micro-level trends such as adoption rates, but also macro-level trends such as breed perception nationally and even globally. The study highlights the fact that there exists a lack of consensus on what exactly a pit bull is, and calls to question the validity of determining breeds based on visual assessment.

Source:  Taylor & Francis media release

Dog walks in place of graduate

Sometimes, I just have to share stories that bring a tear to the eye.

Josh Kelly’s service dog, Cletis, would accompany him to classes in Geology at Idaho State University.  The young man, who suffered from seizures, was due to graduate this year.  Sadly, he passed away in February.

However, Cletis attended the graduation ceremony for Josh.  Cletis is a Pit Bull, by the way!

Image

Wordless Wednesday, part 31

Honeybun