Latest bite incident rekindles passionate viewer debate over pit bulls

Drew the pit bull wound up back in quarantine after a second attack.

Latest bite incident rekindles passionate viewer debate over pit bulls

CREATED Jan. 23, 2013

Notes and commentary by:  Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director

Experience over the last two years has taught us the following:  Mention the words "Pit Bull" and "attack" in the same news story, and it will draw a very predictable reaction.  Just like the famous Pavlov experiment showed that you can get a dog to salivate at the ring of a bell, some pit bull supporters will froth at the mouth at the mention of the words "pit bull attack" in any news story, venting their spleens against the media and against other posters.

Their responses tend to fall into several broad categories, regardless of the facts of the story.

1.  Any news story that mentions the words "pit bull" in connection with an attack on a human amounts to intentional slander of the breed, done for ratings purposes.

2.  No pit bull is ever to blame for any attack.  The owners or the victim are to blame.  Coverage that fails to point this out is biased.

3.  The coverage is biased because it fails to point out that other breeds of dogs bite, too.

4.  The coverage is biased because it fails to point out that most pits are loving and gentle.

5.  The coverage is biased because it fails to point out that Chihuahuas are more dangerous.

6.  The facts of the story in question are probably false or inaccurate (these posters seem unwilling to believe that a pit bull might have attacked a human).

7.  Those savagely attacking the media and passionately defending the breed almost never express any concern for the human victims. Their sympathy is reserved entirely for the dog.  Often they suggest or state outright that the victim, not the dog, is to blame.

This latest round of responses is no different, but it did add in some new nuances.  One commenter actively cheered on the dog.  (Don't believe me?  The comment is posted below).  Others want to quibble about whether a dog bite that left a wound requiring stitches constitutes an "attack."  And, my personal favorite:  one commenter concluded that since KGUN9 is biased against pit bulls, it must be in favor of gun control, too.   (Question:  why would this pit bull defender place pit bulls and guns together in the same category?  What factor has he identified that pit bulls and deadly weapons might have in common?  I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.)

All of these reactions came in response to an initial story that simply relayed to you that sheriff's deputies were reporting that a pit bull had bitten someone after having been released for a previous incident of aggressive behavior, and that as a result, the dog was in quarantine for a second time.  That's it.

Although the passionate criticisms on KGUN9's Facebook page naturally are directed at KGUN9, we are not alone.  Other media outlets and competing reporters in town who have covered this topic tend to get the same treatment.  The main difference for KGUN9 is that, because we believe in holding ourselves accountable to the public in accordance with our Viewers' Bill of Rights, we do not delete such negative comments from our Facebook page (provided that they are civil).  Instead, we leave them up for the public to see and, when appropriate, we respond via our Viewers' Voice feature -- hence today's posting.

In the wake of past attacks, I have responded in detail to each and every criticism from the pro pit bull crowd. The criticisms have not changed.  Nor have my responses.  If you're interested you can look them up on  Bottom line:  KGUN9 stands by its reporting.

Knowing what would happen the moment we posted a story about a pit bull attack, I took the following steps:

1.  I checked into the source of the claim that the attacks had been carried out by a pit bull, and learned that this came from the investigating officer's official report.

2.  I reminded our reporters to make sure they attributed this statement to its proper source, so that our viewers could judge for themselves the quality of this information.

3.  Knowing that investigating officers are not necessarily animal experts, we assigned a reporter to check with Animal Control to verify that this officer's initial report was accurate.  Subsequently, an Animal Control officer confirmed that the dog in question was indeed a pit bull.

4.  I immediately placed a posting on KGUN9's Facebook page explaining the steps we were taking.  Also, being mindful of the fact that past pit bull debates have grown ugly, I reminded everyone about our terms of use and asked that commenters play nice.

That's how we see it.  Here's what some of you have to say.

The following comments appeared within minutes of the initial story going on line, when little was known other than that a pit bull was in quarantine for a second time following an attack:

Vanessa Rossi:  "It's true that pit bulls are very strong in physical realm.  But don't criticize the animal.  It's wrong to kill these creatures.  They can be an asset.  Open your mind.  Pit bulls are gorgeous.  To take them and kill them is WRONG!!!!!!"

Rick Parker:  "Great timing.  After leading with PITBULL ATTACKS! and adding the scariest picture to run with the story.  Pathetic ratings driver at the expense of an entire breed of dog. You are guilty of pandering and fear mongering."

Jenni Wwjd Morgan:  "Always picking on the breed.  I bet if it was a golden retriever it wouldn't be news now would it?" 

Jeff Huntsinger:  "KGUN you are a joke..."

Rachel Goldin:  "KGUN, you've got some nerve telling US to play nice when you're the fear-mongers who put that horrifying picture of fangs up by the headline. Shame on YOU, you hypocrites."

Steve Marquez:  "Kgun9 many people are tired at the over dramatization and the spin the media portrays or adds to the story. Yeah I like a healthy discussion when it warrants. I think it is important that the public keep the media in check when they spin a story or add a juicy BUZZ word in a headline just to get people going."

Christine Warren:  "When I was bitten by a cocker spaniel and he was quarantined, that didn't make the news. Wonder why? And don't think it was a mild bite.  The dog nearly took an eye."

Adam Vincent Hernandez:  "The dog could have been PROVOKED. I have been bitten quite a few times by my own dogs. All were accidental because I felt the need to step in a dog fight to break them up."

John Briolat:  "Why not just stick to less provoking news, like gun shootings?"

Ashley Meier:  "Pits are no different than any other dog. Aggressive dogs are raised that way.  It has nothing to do with breed. I actually have a pit bull and he is the sweetest dog you will ever meet. In fact I have a picture of my daughter when she was 5 days old lying on him. He has never once shown aggression towards her, and she adores her dog. Chihuahuas have a higher bite rate than pit bulls.  Labrador dogs also have a higher bite rate. So unless Chihuahuas and Labs are going to be considered dogs of a vicious nature, pits shouldn't be either."

Eric Brown:  "This clearly is a bid to boost ratings.  Sure it'll work but it'll be temporary. If you want to earn the people's trust, respect, and expand your viewer/follower market why don't you ditch these old tactics and listen to the people instead of trying to incite them? You have a responsibility as a news agency to present unbiased subjects concerning the community. Tucson has a huge pitbull following as well as pitbull population problem. Why don't you do a story on the hundreds of pitbulls massacred monthly due to lack of adoption? Or report back on every other breed that mauls someone in the community? You ask people to play nice while orchestrating a venue clearly biased towards a breed's stereotypes? Are you stupid or just that shallow?"

Cathy Humphrey Finne:  "It's not the breed, but the way they are raised! KGUN, you do a fine job on your reporting.  Don't sweat the small stuff!"

John Zarzorian:  "If any kind of dog bites someone, that person had it coming!!!"

Connie G Scammell:  "The dog had been quarantined earlier for being aggressive. I don't care what breed this dog is, an aggressive dog is a nuisance."

Kathy Cecena:  "Here we go again. We don't know if it was a Pitty or a mix breed.  Quit always making the Pittys the bad guys. And it all depends on the situation was the dog scared or hurt, poor baby!!"

Raul Gonzalez:  "It's just the media in general.  Whenever they hear a pitbull they want to post it on the news."

Janelle Warichak:  "It's only back in the news because it is the only breed of dogs you care to report about! You start the controversy when you don't even have your facts straight!"

Loree Martinez:  "They have such a bad rap, you can't give them away.  THANKS TO MEDIA NEGATIVITY!"

Jayne Paul:  "Kgun 9 on your side, if you want objectivity and fairness, why don't you report all dog attacks regardless of breed? And why do you insist on sensationalizing it with a photo like you did?"

Keith Keydoszius:  "There was no attack, just boys provoking a dog and got a little too close.... Just a scrape to the girl's thigh [editor's note:  the "scrape" required 9 stitches].  Hopefully the boys will get a good talking to and the family gets their pup back.  Come on KGUN 9. Report what it actually is.  -- Proud parent of 3 rescue pitbulls."

Greg Dukowski:  "Give up on the pits already. That's just plain breed discrimination."

Roman Figueroa:  "I was attacked twice, once when I was 2 years old, second when I was 10.  And even though a pit almost ended my life, I trust them more with my life than any other breed. It really depends on who raises the dog; conditions, environment, interaction and attention, hell even diet in some cases. Demonizing pitbulls for the actions of a few is comparable to some of the bigotry that occurs in our society. Ignorance.  Don't be so quick to jump the gun people.  Relax."

Judith Coran:  "I am so disillusioned with the media and the local media which includes KGUN 9 News. You are not journalists. You twist things, you sensationalize things and you waste our time on stories that are not news worthy rather than going after what is really important.  What, do we have to tell you how to do your job?"

Brad White:  "As you can see Mr. Carr, these nutters put a call out on any article that is posted. How many of these people are from Tucson? Anyway, should a dog be allowed to attack 3 times before it's put down? Someone needs to look into the pro pit bull PACC. Someones going to end up dead again, and I hope they sue the PACC..  This way they would have less money to hoard pit bulls."

Matt Hootman:  "Kgun I'm very ashamed of the way way you report news and title everything. Yes it was a pitbull bit the title of this leads everyone to believe all pits are aggressive. I will be removing you from my Facebook. Not just this story; seems you're buying into the liberal agenda of weapon bans as well."

Chris Kmotorka:  "Hey! We here at KGUN haven't actually checked this story out or done our jobs yet, but, hey, let's see if we can get the yahoos on Facebook all riled up. We'll get around to that responsible journalism stuff eventually. Well, maybe not!"

Eric Hoishman:  "I just find It amazing how out of all the dog bites around the country we only seem to hear about pit bulls. Thanks kgun 9 for throwing fire on the stereotype. Way to go."

Viewers posted the following comments in reaction to our follow-up story, which revealed that the family owning the pit bull had not followed advice from Animal Control regarding handling of the dog after the first incident.

Sith'ari Jule:  "Poor puppy.  I hope the owners face criminal charges."

Stephen C LaBounty:  "Aw, what a poor innocent puppy.  Such evil kids making that poor little dog attack them."

Wesley Smith:  "I think things like this are very biased. you never hear about dog attacks when it's any other kind of dog, only pit bulls. Then it becomes a big thing."

Patricia Ellefson:  "Any dog can bite! I've never had, but have known and love pit bull dogs when they have responsible owners. I have never known closely a pit bull that bit anyone and my nephew raised 4 different ones."

Michelle Lauren:  "So sad. People need to be responsible with their pets. An innocent life will be taken because the owners were not careful enough. The dog wasn't taught how to act, and quite frankly, he is still a puppy. They often act instinctively. Puppies need training so they behave properly. It's especially important with pits because they have such a bad rep. Such a shame that he wasn't given a better opportunity with a better owner."

Jenny Tozzi:  "It was a family pet! This little girl didn't seem the type to be training the dog to fight or attack. I keep hearing people say it's not the dog, but the owners.  This is a puppy with a loving family, and look what happened (3) times in a month!"

Charidy Williams:  "Sounds to me that the owners are to blame. How dare them expect the kids to walk if they didn't take the time to train him. I would remove any other dogs from this home. The OWNERS are the idiots not this poor sweet soul. Is there ANY way that he can be pulled by a rescue and rehabilitated??????  .... KGUN:  NO one was ATTACKED. your headline makes it sound a lot worse.  Sheesh."

Shannon Feldman:  "I'm sorry but a pit bull attack is not okay. I'm glad the threat is gone. I don't know much about pitbulls except they are always in the headlines for attacks on humans or other animals. I also watch court shows and majority of the time it's a pitbull attack on a person or another dog. So there is a trend here and it can't be overlooked."

Mellie Barbalaco-Baze:  "Pit bulls are dangerous, plain and simple. See Facebook page 'Walk For Victims of Pit Bulls and Other Dangerous Dogs for more proof."

Robin Rodriguez:  "It's a puppy. Guess what puppy's play and tear things up. I do not think the puppy meant to hurt anyone. We have no idea is this truly was attack or if the kids were horse playing with the dog and it got a bit excited."

KGUN9 welcomes civil viewer feedback.  Post your comments at the bottom of any story you see posted on, or log on to our KGUN9 Facebook page.