Ellen Taft, Seattle’s most famous dog hater, recently wrote a column in City Living Seattle entitled “Public needs protection against pit bulls.” In her latest hysterical rant against pit bulls, Taft, as usual, says that all pit bulls are dangerous simply because of their genetic makeup.
But before I get into that I should provide some context regarding Taft’s activism against animals in general, and pit bulls in particular, during her 20+ years in Seattle.
Her campaign against dogs began after she was bitten by 2 of them (not pit bulls) when she lived in Minnesota.
Since living in Seattle Taft has has:
- fought a measure allowing people to have Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs as pets.
- called for“a ban on dogs at the Folklife festival and other Seattle Center events.”
- testified before the city council against a measure to allow pet pygmy goats in the city because, “We’re going to have goat feces in restaurants, in bars, in supermarkets.”
- said greyhounds shouldn’t be allowed to be service dogs because they’re “stupid”.
- tried (and failed) multiple times to get signatures on petitions to ban pit bulls and other “fighting breeds” from Seattle.
- tried (and failed) to get pit bulls banned from Seattle parks.
- tried (and failed) to prevent the dog-friendly Barking Dog Alehouse in Ballard from allowing dogs inside.
In a Seattle Weekly article which called her the “Pet Gestapo,” Taft said, “The U.S. Constitution does not grant dogs, pigs, or animals any rights whatsoever, nor does it guarantee dog ownership as a right of the people.”
But to her credit, she takes a new tack in her latest argument about the dangers of pit bulls by saying that Seattle’s liberal animal control policies are dictated by “the quasi-religious attitudes of rich, white Americans toward dogs, particularly toward pit bulls.”
Furthormore, these rich white people “deify” their pit bulls at the expense of “the cultural values of African Americans, Asian Americans and recent immigrants from Africa, Asian and Eastern Europe.” She calls this phenomenon “petophilia.”
Sure, lots of people pamper their pets, but how does that harm the cultural values of African Americans, Asian Americans, and recent immigrants exactly? She never really explains it.
She goes on to say that once rich white people (who she says are the only people that can afford pets) began to own pit bulls, they magically transformed these dogs from being “evil” to being “respectable” and “misunderstood victims.”
They then “hijacked the civil rights agenda and rhetoric” by equating laws to abolish pit bull ownership to laws that restricted the rights of African Americans.
But predictably, she eventually steers her rambling theories about civil rights, white privilege, immigration, and petophilia to the supposed danger of pit bulls pose to the public by saying that “a nine-year study ending in 2013 concluded that 62 percent of all dog bite-related fatalities were caused by pit bulls. There is a clear correlation between breed and fatalities. All breeds bite, but not all breeds kill.”
Conveniently, she didn’t provide a link to the study so I don’t know what dog behavioral “experts” conducted it.
But I do know that in this response to a misleading article in Time Magazine about pit bulls, the pit bull advocacy group BAD RAP noted that a report published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) outlined a number of “key circumstances” lead to dog bites, including:
- No able-bodied person present to intervene (87.1 percent)
- The victim had no familiar relationship with dog (85.2 percent)
- The owner failed to neuter/spay dog (84.4 percent)
- The victim’s compromised ability to manage interactions with dog (77.4 percent)
- Owner kept dog as resident rather than pet (76.2 percent)
- Owner’s prior mismanagement of dog (37.5 percent)
- The owner’s abuse or neglect of dog (21.1 percent).
Four or more of these factors were present in 80.5 percent of the cases – breed was not a factor.
In an article from 2013 in Seattle Met, University of Washington animal behavioralist Dr. James Ha said, “Many years ago German shepherds were the ‘bad’ dogs, because people kept them for protection, and criminals held them for protecting property. Then it was Dobermans, then Rottweilers, now pit bulls. All of these breeds have equally high aggression drives and can be trained, or mistreated, into becoming dangerous animals.”
He went on to say that, “pit bulls have no different threshold for aggression than those other breeds.”
Of course no animal behavior experts I cite will change Taft’s perception of pit bulls, and I expect she will come up with more wacky theories about them.
Fortunately, public perception about and acceptance of these dogs has shifted from Taft’s hype and unsupported claims to a more reasoned approach based on scientific research and facts.
I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next. It might not be true, but it will be entertaining.