Excerpt from Pit Bulls – Five Part Series , La Presse, Montreal
Investigative report on the Montreal pit bull ban and the influence of the pit bull lobby
By Marie-Claude Malboeuf, August 13, 2017
English translation: plus.lapresse.ca
French: Qui Veut Sauver Les Pitbulls
Also see: http://blog.dogsbite.org/2016/10/montreal-pit-bull-ban-veterinary-report-pit-bull-lobby.html
WHO IS PULLING THE STRINGS? The US pet industry is worth 16 billion dollars. Without pit bulls to sell, to rescue, to rehabilitate, to care for and to feed, a lot of people would see their revenues plunge, denounced Jeffrey Borchardt, who lost his baby when he was torn from the arms of his babysitter by two pit bulls. Since this tragedy, the American DJ and other victims have worked to expose the gears of the powerful pit bull promotion lobby. Who pulls the strings? Portrait of a tightly woven network.
Level one: Financing source
ANIMAL FARM FOUNDATION
Run by an American millionaire, Animal Farm Foundation has for its motto: “Equality for pit bulls.” The pressure group devotes itself entirely to combatting against any regulation targeting its dogs. After inheriting a fortune from her father, Jane Berkey, who also owns a literary agency, turned over at least $6 million to her group, $2.85 million in 2013, according to government records. She pays 9 employees (one of whom, the director, makes more than $100,000 a year) and finances numerous groups that share her philosophy.
Level two: The researchers
NATIONAL CANINE RESEARCH COUNCIL (NCRC)
To produce studies, AFF bought a private research body in 2007. The acquisition was kept secret until the victims’ group Dogsbite discovered this during litigation. The National Canine Research Council (NCRC) was created by a veterinary technician, Karen Delise. Neither an academic researcher nor a veterinarian, she self proclaims as the “greatest national expert on deaths caused by dog bites.” An “action fund” permits the organization to engage in lobbying, according to a government registration. The NCRC is linked to several advisors and consultants. This is the case for Gary Patronek, the veterinarian who co-signs (NCRC) studies, and in the case of the Page ~ 16 former chief animal control officer of Calgary, Bill Bruce, who was still employed in that civil service job at the time he accepted his association with NCRC. The agency already had consultant Glen Bui on board, whose heavy criminal record can be found online (illegal weapon possession, obstruction of justice, domestic violence and harassment). Still, thanks to millions from Animal Farm, the NCRC finances like-minded researchers—notably on the issue of identification of pit bulls, information available on their website.
[Editor’s note: See footnote on National Canine Research Council]
Level 3: Publication
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (JAVMA)
The American Veterinary Medical Association publishes NCRC studies in its journal. On its own website it proposes sample letters [for readers to write] contesting any law aimed at pit bulls. Moreover, its site has a link to AFF. The Association added the following introduction to a famous 2000 study: “In contrast to what has been reported in the news media, the data contained within this report CANNOT be used to infer any breed-specific risk for dog bite fatalities. [To reach that conclusion] it would be necessary to know the numbers of each breed currently residing in the United States. Such information is not available.” Even if they are opposed to a breed ban, for practical reasons amongst others, the authors of the study—seasoned in the ministry for Health and government institutions—nevertheless concluded: “In spite of potential bias and the lack of data on the canine population, pit bulls seem to be implicated in 42% of fatal tragedies. We do not believe that in the United States, the proportion of pit bulls amongst the dog population even comes near to approaching 42%. We therefore believe that the disproportion of deaths associated with pit bulls is real and escalating.”
Level 4: The political lobby
BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY
The studies of the AFF network allow [lobby] groups to put pressure on politicians. They propose regulations [they favor] and try to overturn those they dislike. Sometimes with success. The central facts about Best Friends Animal Society are that it manages $60 million and has for its motto: “Save them all,” for it is opposed to all euthanizing of animals. Its senior advocate, Ledy VanKavage sits on the board of AFF. The website of Best Friends Animal Society indicates that she paid an ex-economist from the tobacco Page ~ 17 industry, John Dunham, to create a fiscal calculation scheme designed to advise governments on the cost of breed banning. [Dunham’s] calculations were attacked in the Texas Tribune in 2011. The following year, before a referendum on pit bulls in Miami-Dade, a government committee discovered that the real costs incurred in targeting dogs was 65 times lower than those claimed by Dunham. “With all its money, the lobby [can afford to] finance lawyers and harass elected officials. And if it doesn’t get what it wants, it threatens to finance the campaign of their political opponents!” denounces Angela Provo, whose son Beau Rutledge was killed by a family pit bull.
Level 5: The distributors
THE ANIMAL CARE INDUSTRY
All the lobby studies are abundantly distributed by animal-based companies like shelters, breeders, trainers, etc. In Montreal, they are [distributed] by, amongst others, the SPCA, whose mission is to avoid euthanizing dogs and whose two most senior executives are themselves owners of pit bulls. On social media, pit bull owners deploy these studies relentlessly and accuse all their opponents of ignorance. Certain more aggressive ones have even threatened the mayor of Quebec City with death. Unfortunately, some militant activists have come to a tragic end, killed by their own fighting dogs—notably Darla Napora, at the time 8 months pregnant (California, 2011) and Rebecca Carey (Georgia, 2012)
The National Canine Research Council is not considered a reputable source of information. The Quebec Association of Veterinarians apologized for submitting National Canine Research Council studies to legislators:
“Studies that the Quebec Association of Veterinarians submitted to the Quebec government committee responsible for examining the control of dangerous dogs should have been excluded from the report, the president of the organization admitted. The studies in question were the work of activists funded by the millionaire pit bull promotion lobby, as La Presse revealed Saturday.
The day after the publication of the La Presse report – “Who wants to save the pit bulls? and what was not said to the government” – Dr. Joël Bergeron, President of the Quebec Association of Veterinarians, acknowledged that the organization he represents has placed itself in a conflict of interests situation and plans to send a clarification letter directly to the committee.
“There have been five studies [on dangerous dogs] that may have required some nuance or even should have been excluded from the report,” Dr. Bergeron said yesterday.
The College did not mention in its report to the committee that some of the studies on which its report is based were funded by pit bull lobbies. The president calls this a dumb mistake. “It’s something we missed, we should have done it. For an organization like ours, credibility and transparency are our first tools to fulfill our duty to protect the public, admitted Dr. Bergeron. It was a mistake.”
Pit bulls: Quebec Association of Veterinarians apologizes
Audrey Ruel-Manseau, La Presse
15 août 2016