AK Pit Bull Attack:  Media’s Bad Job and Breed Labeling

AK Pit Bull Attack: Media’s Bad Job and Breed Labeling

The recent pit bull attack and resulting death of a man in Jefferson County, AK, has made news in some national and quite a few international publications. Most of the local coverage has been done by KATV. As in several other pit bull attack stories that have happened before, media has done a poor job in doing enough to present a full story with all facts reported. At the same time, the way the story has been presented makes it look like anther sensationalist attempt to demonize the pit bull breed while failing to put the story in a relevant context and ask important questions.pit bull

The KATV story, originally posted March 21st, tells that of the seven pit bulls involved in the attack, 4 were shot dead, 2 were captured and taken to the animal control, and one escaped. An update on the story page (posted Monday, March 23rd) later added that the escaped pit bull returned to the garage Monday morning, and was spotted and shot dead by a deputy because “deputy said the dog showed signs of aggression”. Now, a number of questions remain unanswered. First and foremost, have any of the shootings been captured on video/camera or in pictures etc? How would we be able to independently verify that the any/all of the dogs behaved aggressively? In the past, in more than one instance, deputies have been caught lying with video evidence available of them shooting friendly or non-aggressive dogs on the dogs’ own property.

All stories report the time the police/authorities got the call for help was shortly before 10 in the morning. The incident happened at C.J.’s Garage at 300 North Thomas Road in Jefferson, County according to KATV, where De’trick O. Johnson stopped to have his car fixed and was attacked by the group of pit bulls owned by 63-year-old John Chester Smith, father of a friend of Johnson’s. A neighbor Tom Calvert speaking to 5 News is shown saying his daughter called him to come to the garage and bring his gun to help the victim. When he got there, a deputy was already there and Calvert saw him shoot a dog that reportedly had charged at the deputy. According to Calvert, an older lady, also a neighbor, had called 911.

The most basic question that is left unanswered in these stories so far is why the owner of the dogs hasn’t been given a chance to tell his side of the story. Was he at the scene of the incident when it happened? He was supposed to because he had an appointment with the victim whom he had asked to bring his car to the garage to have it fixed. But he is notably missing from all media stories except for his name and picture. If he was at the garage, did he do anything to help Johnson? Did he intervene? Did he call animal control or 911? Or was he not even aware of what was happening and was busy elsewhere, or even absent? These are important questions that should have been answered by the online media by now, but haven’t.

Yet another key question that has been pointed to somewhat directly in the Inquisitr.com story title is the question of breed restriction and the presence of these pit bulls in the area. While the incident reportedly happened in an unincorporated community of the county, the county seat Pine Bluff animal law has been quoted as relevant to the story. By law, pit bulls can’t be kept in the city unless pre-approved by the animal control – and they test the dogs to see if it’s” vicious”. Now how come these pit bulls were still there in the area when according to the neighbors the dogs had already attacked other people and animals? And more particularly how come they didn’t take any action when the dogs were reported to be able to get out under the fence? The animal control that did become involved finally after the tragedy could have been involved before to have the pit bulls removed, maybe separated and re-homed elsewhere to more responsible owners. Isn’t it the administration’s bad that despite their own law – which of course is breedist and irrational – they didn’t do the needful specified by their law?

What about the victim? His death is tragic and indeed shocking for he died young and apparently without any fault of his. I do not want to blame him for the incident, which could have been just an accident of some sort, and we won’t know until full investigation is done (and objectively). But if the pit bulls were known as vicious or aggressive already, if the fence had space to let them out, and given that he was a friend of the garage owner’s son (he reportedly lived with him in the same house), would he not be careful in approaching the property? Common sense tells he would be careful and make sure the dogs were secured while he arrived. Just a question that can’t be ignored here.

Many unanswered questions here. Yes, the incident is tragic and even scary, though not more than the horrors people inflict on other people in and out of this country daily – and in much greater numbers and intensity than any animals could even come close to; yet, a certain race or ethnicity of people doesn’t get labeled as vicious. Why pit bulls then? Maybe because they can’t get in big groups, storm streets in protest, and “fight” for “civil right” like people do. They are too easygoing and too lacking in viciousness and bitterness to do it.

When “professional” media talks about vaccination’s risks, it always promotes vaccines as safe and only having rare or minor side effects – despite scores of contrary evidences; yet, when it comes to pit bull attacks, they don’t mention that most pit bulls remain peaceful, harmless, friendly, and even heroically protective of their human families. None of these media stories has bothered to add the background of expert opinion commending the pit bull breed on its overall friendliness and harmlessness. By omitting this important part of the breed history, media creates sensation, fear, and prejudice of pit bull breed, something that has demonized the breed to the degree that many ignorant people consider pit bulls as something inherently dangerous. It’s time for media to stop executing its cheap sensationalist agenda and finally turn to reporting fact – long overdue already.

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