Friday, October 30, 2009

pit bulls, coyotes, and the rhetorical games "experts" play

today i was reading the news online, as i do daily, when i came across an article on a young woman who was fatally attacked and killed by coyotes. the headline of the article,"fatal coyote attack: how dangerous are coyotes?," was followed immediately by an attention grabbing rhetorical statement: "but attacks are rare and, statistically speaking, coyotes are far less of a threat than pit bulls."

talk about a wtf moment. needless to say, i was flummoxed.

here we have an article ostensibly about both the rise of coyote attacks and the tragic death of the young hiker. the article gives lip service to divergent viewpoints--mainly those who argue public worry is overblown as these are wild animals that tend to avoid people and others who claim both the animal population and our human trespassing into their environs are exploding, making attacks such as these inevitable.

then, i guess to assuage any hysteria or worry this piece may have caused about the likelihood of being mauled by coyotes, one "expert" asserts "the number of cases involving coyotes biting people is small – far less than the number of humans killed or badly injured by pet pit bull dogs."

um, chalk it up to me being an out and proud pit bull baby mama sociologist, but where's your evidence, player? where are your statistics? and also, how is this relevant? and again, just generally: wtf??

this quote is directly followed by this soothingly explanative statement: " 'Those coyotes in Canada must have been very habituated to humans, very likely the result of them either having been fed by people or having close associations with hikers,' Crabtree says."

ok, so let me see if i'm clear on this. "pet pit bull dogs," attack and subsequently "kill[ed] or badly injure[d]" way more people than coyotes do. (there's no sort of measurement in the article or statement that i can find--we don't know if this is annually, hourly, or what).

but back to cases. people's pet dogs--in this case, pit bulls--their domesticated companion animals, attack people more often and more fatally than coyotes, who are wild animals. coyotes are so wild and undomesticated, according to the article, that "there is a general avoidance that goes on between them and humans." but it makes sense to say that pit bulls, domesticated pets widely known to crave human attention and bond closely with people, attack people more than animals who are wild and whose very relationship with people is one that doesn't exist insofar as it's based on avoidance.

this argument, as part of a broader social context in which pit bulls are stigmatized, has multiple implications. it functions to make the pit bull into a wild creature, rather than a domesticated pet and one which is, (hearkening back to what my daddy said), "just a dog."

but if the public sees them as wild animals and not pets, campaigns to legislate them away can flourish. animal shelters can continue to deem them "unadoptable" kennel trash whose unwanted bodies rot in landfills. rescue groups can continue to deny taking them in because even the most prominent animal rights' groups know that "nice families rarely come to a shelter seeking pit bulls." and if you're a pet and peta and the h$u$ don't stick up for you, you are fucked. people's rights as pet owners will continue to be infringed upon. and the lives of countless sweet, wiggle bottom big grinning goofball babies will be over before they ever got a chance to start.

this argument is also nonsensical. why is there even a need to mention pit bulls in this article? as i see it, there's no logical cause or real relationship between the two. this is an article about wild animal attacks and facilitative causes with some unsubstantiated anti-pit bull rhetoric thrown in for good measure to increase the shock value of this horrible event and shamelessly exploit it in doing so. the pit bull thrown in is a total rhetorical red herring. and i call bull shit.


  1. If you read on, he says, "coyotes are far less of a threat than pit bulls, which are far less of a threat than automobile accidents". He then goes on to state that this coyote attack should be a call to arms against General Motors.

    Exactly, WTF?

  2. It seems everyone wants to jump on the anti-Pit Bull wagon. If you're a "journalist," you can't write an article without sensationalism. Facts don't appear to have a place in reporting, period, and the Average Joe takes their word as gospel.