TORRINGTON, Connecticut––Torrington deputy fire marshall Richard Prince was demoted to firefighter in December 2013 and his pay was cut from $69,700 a year to $59,000 after an internal affairs investigation of comments about how to kill pit bulls that Prince posted to Facebook on November 10, 2013.
“Prince, a lifelong Torrington resident, has worked for the Torrington Fire Department for 25 years. He worked as a firefighter for 24 years until he was promoted to deputy fire marshal in July 2012,” reported Bruno Matarazzo Jr. of the Torrington Republican-American. “The investigation, obtained by the Republican-American with a Freedom of Information request, found that Prince’s descriptive anti-pit bull comments caused the fire department to ‘lose public trust.’ Additionally, the investigation found, Prince posted the comments on Facebook using a fire department computer and cell phones when he was supposed to be working. ”
Prince posted to Facebook in response to a posting by ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton, which brought together into a single statement the advice he has offered on many occasions about how best to respond to a dog attack. The Clifton posting read in entirety:
“I recommend fire extinguishers as the safest and most humane tools for interrupting a dog attack, since using a fire extinguisher does not require closely approaching the dog, it does not have to be aimed very accurately to have a deterrent effect, it does not quickly run out of ammunition, it does not produce an erratic ricochet, and is non-lethal. But if the fire extinguisher is exhausted while the dog attack continues, the empty cylinder can be used as a shield, a club, or a bite stick, as appropriate.
“Besides the deterrent effect of the fire extinguisher’s contents, which tend to make animals quickly short of breath without lastingly harming them, most animals, including most dogs, retreat from the snake-like hiss of a discharging fire extinguisher.
“There should be a fire extinguisher in every kitchen, near every fireplace, in every car, near the driver in any bus, truck, or taxi, and prominently and visibly located in every public building or place of business.
“Fire extinguishers have about a 70% success rate in stopping pit bull attacks. Guns have only about an 80% success rate at stopping the dog with the first shot fired.
“Among the other popular non-lethal devices used to stop dog attacks, pepper spray and Mace must be relatively accurately directed, and are typically carried in small containers meant for use at close range. Pepper spray and Mace have about a 40% success rate in stopping pit bull attacks.
“Tasers are often useless against fur-covered animals. Tranquilizer darts must be placed very accurately to be effective, difficult to achieve when a dog or other animal is in attack mode, and then the tranquilizer can take several minutes to work, during which time the animal can do significant damage.
“Once a person is bitten, what can be done depends entirely on the severity of the bite. I learned from the late Guy Hodge of the Humane Society of the U.S. many years ago to push against a bite instead of pulling away. This forces most dogs to open their mouths, and enables the victim to avoid the sort of ripping injuries that result from pulling away from a dog’s serrated teeth. While Hodge’s advice has served me well in many situations, it may not be universally applicable to all dog bites.
“In fatal and disfiguring attacks, quite often the first bite disables the victim to some extent, and pulls the victim down. The victim may then not be able to push against the bite, or hunch up and protect his/her face, or do any of the other things that are conventionally advised.
“Most dogs bite defensively, and will bite, let go, and retreat, but pit bulls and other “bully” breeds bite offensively, and will not let go. Instead, they bite and shake. This behavior produces the degloving injuries that are so frequent in pit bull & Rottweiler attacks, in which skin and muscle are stripped from the bone. The only effective defense against that attack mode is to prevent the attack from occurring in the first place.
“One way to do this is to use any accessible object as a “bite stick,” to thrust into the dog’s mouth. While the dog is biting the “bite stick,” the dog will not be biting anything else.
“I often hear of people trying to fend off a dog attack by swinging an object such as a baseball bat or a golf club at the dog. Unless one has major league bat speed and power, this usually will not work. Typically the dog dodges the attempted blow, the person is off balance, and the dog then severely injures the person.
“The correct way to use a bat or golf club is as a bite stick, held in such a manner as to keep the dog at maximum distance from oneself.
“Incidentally, it is also futile to try to pound on a dog’s head to make the dog let go of someone else. Most animals respond to a blow to the head by clenching their teeth, which is why prize fighters wear mouthpieces, and among pit bulls this tendency is even more pronounced. To make a pit bull let go of something, it is necessary to pry the dog’s jaws apart with a bite stick––and to do this safely, the person doing the prying should be behind the dog, with face out of reach of a quick snap.”
Prince responded by recommending duct-taping an attacking pit bull’s head, stabbing the dog in the eyes, tying the dog’s rear feet together, choking the dog with a ratchet strap, hitting the dog’s spine with a sledge hammer, counter-attacking the dog with a chainsaw, and a variety of other cruel and usually impractical suggestions, including trying to trick the dog into falling down an open manhole.
Alerted to the Prince posting two hours later, Clifton responded, “The only one of Richard Prince’s recommendations above that has any history of success, and the only one I can endorse even with qualification, is lifting the pit bull’s hind legs off the ground. This often breaks off an attack on another animal, if the other animal stands lower than the pit bull, or on a person if the person is already lying on the ground, but can cause the pit bull to redirect aggression at the person doing the lifting. In other words, this can be done, but is high-risk.
“Inflicting pain on the pit bull, regardless of how it is done, is almost always completely ineffective, apart from being inhumane, and I really have to emphasize how ineffective and useless it is, because pit bulls respond to pain by intensifying their attack. If they already have a grip on someone, this means gripping and shaking harder. Any number of pit bull attacks are made much, much worse by the futile efforts of would-be rescuers to make the pit bull let go of the victim by inflicting pain. This is simply pouring gasoline on the fire. The more pain is inflicted on the pit bull who has a grip, the worse the damage to the victim is likely to be.
“To break off an attack, it is necessary to startle the pit bull out of the kill-or-be-killed mental framework of a fighting dog. This is why fire extinguishers work: they provide an unexpected distraction which, unlike pain, requires a different type of response from the dog.”