The Media: A Reliable Source of Information on Dog Attacks?
Yes, I'm on my high horse about those evil vicious pit bulls today. They had a piece on the local news about pit bulls, which always leads me to defending them to my coworkers.
July 25, 2008: WLBT News in Mississippi ran the following headline, "Pit Bull Victim Favors Ban." The article then goes on to recount the experience of a "pit bull victim." The victim is quoted as saying: "I parked my truck and before I got 6-foot in front of my truck, a 200-pound pit bull come out and got me."
It is difficult to comment on this, other than to say that if this man encountered a 200 lb. Pit bull, he should be contacting the Guinness World Book of Records instead of the local TV news channel, because this definitely would be a World Record weight for a "Pit bull."
Apparently the local news, WLBT, also didn't recognize, (or care) about the significance of this very unbelieveable claim, as they had no problem headlining the words "Pit bull" in their story about a man bitten by a "200 lb." dog.
On June 4, 2008, at least 29 news articles were run on a story about a Los Angeles boy "mauled by a Pit bull." Some of the headlines were:
"LA toddler hospitalized after being mauled by Pit bulls" - Fresno Bee
"2-year-old stable after pit bull bites his face" - LA Times
The Mercury News even reported that two Pit bulls attacked the child. Another article described the dog as the "family Pit bull." The Los Angeles Times reported the boy in "critical condition after he was bitten by a pit bull."
Perhaps the media should not bear the brunt for this serious error, as the source of the breed mis-identification was found to have originated from the Los Angeles Police Department.
The LAPD should not attempt to identify breeds of dogs or comment on canine behavior. The average police officer is no more skilled in breed identification than is the average reporter. Perhaps in the realization of this, the LAPD later referred all inquiries on the dog involved in this incident to the city's animal services department.
The Los Angeles Department of Animal Services released a statement declaring the dog involved in the attack on the boy was "in fact a shepherd mix."