by Merritt Clifton
Time tends to put adversity into perspective.
When I broke into journalism more than 45 years ago, and was soon assigned to the “poop beat,” as the animal and environmental news beats then were called, many leading humane organizations still opposed sterilizing dogs and cats. Some vehemently opposed vaccination, despite the dramatic success of vaccination in all but eradicating canine rabies. The hottest debate within the humane field was over whether abandoned puppies and kittens should be killed by decompression or gassing.
I promoted both spay/neuter and anti-rabies vaccination, statistically demonstrated that both decompression and gassing could be abolished by doing enough s/n, and was vilified at the time by some of the noisier voices of what was then still a small cause.
Animal advocates could claim few tangible gains over the preceding several decades, but drafts of the Animal Welfare Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and legislation to protect wild horses were all under discussion in Congress.
Successes eroded & lost
Meanwhile, asked to cite humane successes, veteran humane workers would mention the near abolition of dogfighting and, with the decline of rabies, the reduction of dog attack fatalities to just 15 in the entire 1930-1960 time frame. All of us were unaware, then, that both achievements were already beginning to be eroded by pit bull proliferation and the rise of organized pit bull advocacy.
Last week I logged the 305th human death and 2,199th disfigurement caused by pit bulls since 1982. Thirty of those deaths have occurred just this year, along with more deaths and disfigurements by pit bulls from shelters (33) than were inflicted by all shelter dogs combined from 1858 to 2009.
I also reported about how organized pit bull advocacy had already mobilized against the city of Oakland hiring Rebecca Katz to head the city animal control department––because during her previous tenure in San Francisco, she authored the bylaw mandating pit bull sterilization which has made San Francisco the only major city to achieve a decrease in pit bull shelter intake since 2000.
Finally, I reported about how an attempt to repeal the pit bull ban in Aurora, Colorado failed by almost a 2-to-1 margin, and barely attracted the support of even a third of the residents who keep pet dogs.
Pit bull advocates responded with threats of boycott that cost ANIMALS 24-7 an advertiser––the Home 4 the Holidays adoption program, which rehomes about 1.1 million cats and dogs per year, including about 170,000 pit bulls.
Silencing exposure and criticism clearly means more to those pit bull advocates than saving the lives of the pit bulls they claim to speak for; but ANIMALS 24-7 knew that already.
Pit bull advocacy is at root about perpetuating pit bull breeding––producing a million surplus pit bulls per year who are dumped on animal shelters––and providing cover to dogfighters, whose “sport” thrives on a perpetual abundance of easily obtained and easily disposed of pit bulls.
Many of the pit bull advocates who celebrated our loss of an advertiser anticipated using similar tactics to shut down ANIMALS 24-7 entirely, hoping thereby to erase awareness of the realities documented by by 32 years of logging the data from fatal and disfiguring dog attacks.
But ANIMALS 24-7 could survive without any advertisers at all, if need be, because we have your generous support, as individual conscientious donors who think for yourselves.
Taking the heat
Back in 1982, when I began my dog attack log as a rural Quebec newspaper reporter, and for the first few years I kept it, I was also writing reams about the health effects of asbestos.
The world’s largest asbestos mines were within our circulation radius, and when I started had just reported annual profits of $96 million. Quebec exported $600 million worth of asbestos per year. The asbestos industry was supported and defended by both the federal and provincial governments. Government agencies defending the industry had invested multi-millions of dollars into producing bogus studies purporting to whitewash asbestos of causing lung cancer.
Because the combination of asbestos exposure with tobacco smoke was known to increase the risk of lung cancer ninefold, some of those bogus studies were produced in collaboration with the equally bogus “scientific” false fronts for the tobacco industry.
Exposing bogus studies
My specialty, as investigative journalist and statistician, was exposing bogus studies––over and over and over again.
The asbestos industry and allies in government came after me with everything they had. They cost me several jobs. But they never shut me up. Eventually other journalists learned to recognize and help expose the misleading asbestos industry claims––often at cost of their own jobs. Most of us just found new media and kept right on reporting.
Tens of thousands of asbestos exposure victims suffered and died, but at last the truth won in the court of public opinion. The last Quebec asbestos mine closed in 2011. The last of the government subsidies for asbestos ended in 2012.
Dust & smoke
Compared to the asbestos industry, pit bull advocacy is all dust and smoke. The flak the pit bull advocates throw at ANIMALS 24-7 is hot air beside the fury of 1,000 miners who have just been told that they have been laid off because of a media report about a danger that they don’t realize is killing them too.
With your help, I will continue to comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, print the news, & raise hell on the animal end of “poop beat” for many more years to come.
Your donations, whether $10, $25, $50, $100, $1,000 or more, affirm that you value what ANIMALS 24-7 does and want us to keep right on doing it, for you and for the animals.
Merritt Clifton, editor, ANIMALS 24-7.
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