Once again, pitbulls are the target of slow news day filler. On December 19, Gerald Adelmund, 60, of Riverside, California was reported by the Associated Press (AP) to have been mauled to death by his two “pit bulls.” Several details of the case went unreported.
For starters, imediaethics.org was told only one dog attacked. According to the Riverside County Animal Control office, it was “a Neapolitan Mastiff” not a pit bull or pit bull mix. Associated Press (AP) got it wrong. Such errors come at a price.
While Neapolitan Mastiffs are one member of what are called the bully breeds, reporting that all bully breeds are the same is analogous to lumping all terriers together. No one would confuse an Airedale with a Yorkie!
This is another instance of the media fingering pit bulls in an attack really committed by another dog and it doesn’t fly. In the canine world it’s the equivalent of racial profiling. See our previous reports: Here and here. It’s as dishonest as reporting that every crime was committed by a member of a single race simply because races are “close enough” or attributing a quote or action to the wrong person.
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As a result of the high exposure pit bulls have had, several states including California and Ohio are considering banning them based on hysteria and not statistics.
According to the Center for Disease control, between 1979 and 1994 there were 57 pit bull bite fatalities in the United States – that’s less than four a year for the entire country. If it helps put things into perspective, in 2000, there were eleven fatal shark bites globally. That’s right, you’re more likely to be mauled to death by a shark than a pit bull. Even stingrays kill more people, with approximately 17 fatalities reported worldwide. As a matter of fact, you’re even more likely to win the lottery than be killed by a pit bull given that there are winners daily.
When it comes to murderous mutts, pit bull headlines draw clicks and advertising revenues. Pit bull reportage has taken a bite out of media accuracy and ethics as it is failing to report the true risks encountered by the public while preying on people’s fears.