The KRMG Local News AP headline blares–“Woman mauled by large pitbull‘– in Tulsa, Oklahoma, October 30, 2008. A photo of a black and brown dog’s head accompanied the story. The problem was the shelter described the dog that attacked as “white and brown”? A further problem was that the dog depicted in the photo, wasn’t a pit bull, but a Rottweiler. StinkyJournalism has previously reported on this ongoing media error . The press often sees “mean dogs” as all the same, despite their distinct breed differences .
Indeed, the media loves pit bull news stories. Whether the report is about pit bulls attacking, or on occasion, rescuing people, the pit bull hysteria creates lots of web traffic .
After I informed KRMG editors of their error, the Rottweiler photo quickly disappeared and a notification was posted without explanation: “Editor’s Note: Story/picture edited from original post.” But what does this mean?
So was it a pit bull that attacked as the story claimed or was it a Rottweiler? StinkyJournalism spoke to Rose Wilson, the Lawton animal control officer quoted in the AP story. Wilson wondered, as I did, how and why a pit bull attacked a family member living in the same home? There was no history of this 65 pound, almost 7 year old intact male, showing aggression before. I called the owner in Lawton to find out more. He sounded like a nice man. He was very upset that his mother-in-law was severely injured and still in the hospital.
Was this another case of an unpredictable pit bull that in a media report, out-of-the-blue, maims without reason? The answer, it turned out, was a simple, “no.”
The owner’s mother- in-law had just moved into their home one week before the attack. She was alone in the house one morning. Jiggling the door handle to the area where the dogs were located, she unwittingly incited them to bark. When she finally entered, the dogs, unfortunately, judged her as an intruder. The white and brown pit bull acted to protect his home and attacked. This was human error and a tragic accident. No sensational story here; but the dog still paid the price and was destroyed.