When appearances are outlawed, only outlaws will have appearances!

Dogs with a pit bull "appearance" are illegal in Kansas City, Kansas:

Under the city’s ordinances, it is illegal to have any dog with predominant characteristics or appearance of Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers or any combination of those breeds.
There's a huge uproar in Kansas right now because a[n alleged] thug was keeping some dogs with a pit pull appearance in an [allegedly] uninhabitable house where he apparently [allegedly] fed them from time to time -- and a dog he now claims was a stray attacked an elderly woman living next door.

From the looks of this story, it doesn't appear that pit bull ban is working very well:

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Charges were filed Friday in connection with a pit bull attack that killed a 71-year-old woman Thursday.

Police said Derrick D. Lee, 32, was charged with involuntary manslaughter. He is being held on $100,000 bond.

Officers said Lee owns the house next to Jimmie May McConnell. She was in her garden Thursday morning at 3100 Longwood Ave. when a dog jumped the fence and mauled her. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Officials said McConnell had a heart condition, and she couldn't recover from the stress of the dog attack.

There are a lot of news reports stating that the woman was mauled to death, but according to the medical evidence, the bites were not fatal:
Preliminary autopsy results indicated McConnell died of a cardiac arrhythmia brought on by the trauma of the attack, Wyandotte County coroner Alan Hancock said.

McConnell had extensive bites on her limbs and torso, "but not one of the bites were such that you could say one was responsible for her death," Hancock said.

The bite marks will be examined by an expert to determine if more than one dog attacked McConnell.

Animal-control officers tranquilized the dog in McConnell's back yard and took it away. A second dog was taken from the house next door.

Police would not confirm that the dogs were the ones responsible and were trying to determine the dogs' breed. But neighbors identified them as coming from a home next to McConnell's and believed they were pit bulls.

The problem with the pit bull ban legislation is that not only doesn't it matter whether your pit pit bull is the most loving animal in the world (or you the most careful and responsible owner), but your dog doesn't even have to be a pit bull! A Boxer/Dalmation cross would qualify under the "appearance" standard. In the haste to blame a breed, not much attention seems to be paid to the, um, "owner." In this case, the [alleged] thug claims he isn't the owner, and little attention seems to be paid to the obvious question of why the dogs in his care behaved this way; all that matters is the appearance of a breed:
Lee, on his way into court for a hearing in an unrelated case Friday afternoon, told The Kansas City Star he had nothing to do with the attack.

Lee said he had lived at the house where the dogs were found but hadn't been staying there for three months. He would return to the house to feed one of the dogs and another dog - the one involved in the attack - was a stray that would come up and steal food. He didn't know who the dog belonged to and thought it lived by a nearby creek, Lee said.

Oh, well obviously the creek was at fault then. I'm wondering how they would ever prove that he knowingly violated an ordinance prohibiting a dog with an appearance. To arrest the man was easy; he was already facing other criminal charges, and all they had to do was arrest him in court:
Police said Lee was arrested at the Wyandotte County Courthouse where he had appeared on unrelated charges of possession of crack cocaine and battery of an officer.
Any previous problems with the same house, same dogs? Of course!
"She was so scared of the dogs. This has gone on for over a year. Those dogs have acted like they want to come through that fence," Chris McConnell told KMBC. "She worked in the garden every day, and they would growl and bark aggressively at her. She said, 'One day, one of those dogs are going to get me.' They finally got her."

KMBC reported that this wasn't the first time that neighbors have had problems with this neighbor's dogs. According to a representative with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, animal control officers found two pit bulls at the neighbor's home in 2004.

Code enforcement officers deemed the neighbor's house uninhabitable because there are no utilities hooked up inside.

Pit bulls are banned in Wyandotte County, Kan., where the attack took place.

Police said they have not been able to contact the dog's owner. Officials said they are investigating the case as a homicide. (Emphasis added.)

What kind of dog owner keeps his dogs in an uninhabitable house and doesn't know what dogs are eating the food he occasionally feeds them? From what I can see, this man exercised little to no care at all, as these dogs had previously showed up at neighboring residences. (Probably looking for food.)

To recap, a dog neglected by a[n alleged] thug in a derelict house roams the streets and terrifies the neighbors, finally attacking one who later dies of heart failure.

And the focus is not on the [alleged] criminal, or on how he treated the animal he won't admit he owned. No. The focus is on a particular breed, so that dogs can be identified and taken away from law-abiding responsible people.

Based on their "appearances," of course.

I'm sorry, but the illogic and the insanity involved here defy analysis. My dark side wonders about the human psychology underlying the anti-pit bull hysteria coupled with breed specific legislation.

Might the lowly pit bull be a permissible scapegoat for something else?

I've spent enough time on this that I might as well upload pictures of the "suspects":


Yeah, yeah. Presumption of innocence and all that.

(But at least we know the pit bull is guilty! Reassuring, isn't it?)

UPDATE: My speculation about possible unconscious motivations was neither original, nor (it seems) unfounded. Not according to CHAKO Dog Blog:

Donald Butler, a member of the Public Safety Committee for Horicon, Wisconsin, believes that Horicon should ban Pit Bulls. His rationale for wanting Pit Bulls out of Horicon is simple, if shockingly discriminatory.

"Horicon is not a ghetto. This is one breed of dogs we do not need."

Many educated dog advocates, attorneys, and scholars have stated that breed discrimination is often a guise for classism. Never before, however, has a public official come right out and admitted such a thing!

We applaud Donald Butler for his bravery. It takes guts to admit that the sole motivation for wanting to get rid of Pit Bulls is because one believes that only "ghetto" people own Pit Bulls. Is it possible that Mr. Butler believes that, by banning Pit Bulls, all the people with darker skin will leave Horicon with their beloved Pit Bulls?

Mr. Butler, despite his bravery, made quite the ass of himself for such assumptions. Even if true, he has shown himself to be a racist, pure and simple. However, Mr. Butler's belief that Pit Bulls are "ghetto" is, of course, erroneous. People like Helen Keller, Michael J. Fox, and John Stewart own Pit Bulls.

One of these days I'll figure out in which "ghetto" I belong.

MORE: In my quest to be fair to both "sides," I should point out that Slate's Clara Jeffery has examined whether pit bulls themselves can be racist. Apparently so! And amazingly enough, so can other breeds.

Believe it or not, such things depend on training!

AND MORE: The pit bull racist symbology is older than I thought. From the New York Times, 1991:

At the core of the book is a strangely baroque dog story. Bandit, Ms. Hearne writes, "belonged to an old man in Stamford, Connecticut, an old black man, Mr. Lamon Redd." On July 9, 1987, Mr. Redd's tenant and next-door neighbor, "one Mr. Johnson," quarreled with his girlfriend. She went home to her mother, Effie Powell, who in turn came over to Mr. Redd's yard and clobbered Mr. Johnson with a broom, an attack "which Mr. Johnson seems to have deserved," Ms. Hearne asserts. "Bandit brought the assault on his friend to a screeching halt, with his teeth." For six weeks or so, he "did time in the pound." And when he came home he was "in a sorry state." He "wet on the porch, was whupped, and bit Mr. Redd. At this point a neighbor called the police, Bandit was seized again, and a disposal order was issued."

This is where Ms. Hearne enters the story. When Mr. Redd appeals the disposal order (he blames himself for Bandit's second attack, since the dog warned him repeatedly before biting), his lawyer calls Ms. Hearne as an expert witness. At the time, no one -- not Mr. Redd, not his lawyer, not the state's chief canine control officer and not Bandit -- knew what they were in for. Ms. Hearne's legal mission is to save Bandit's life. And this she does. But her mission as an unrepentant trainer of both dogs and people is far bigger. That is why "Bandit" is not only a dog story but also a deeply eccentric lesson in justice, linguistics, racism and teleology.

It is hard to tell at any given moment where Ms. Hearne's argument, or even one of her sentences, is going. Nonetheless you feel you are being led by her playful pedantry to a place where you will be shown to be wanting.

Ms. Hearne has a lesson for everyone. For the judge who handed down the disposal order, she has a linguistics lesson: "I do not think you can execute someone who does not know what an execution is." For those who testified in court against Bandit -- claiming that "pit bulls" like him have "vicious genes" and "the Jekyll-Hyde syndrome" -- she has a lesson about bigotry. "The pit bull 'hysteria,' " she writes, "is one of the cleverest pieces of racist propaganda." Today, people are invited "to make the leap from socially unacceptable inner city males to pit bulls." That much was clear, she writes, when Mr. Redd tried to defend his dog by saying "the white ladies like him, too."


My often narrow focus on matters of logic makes me miss things like racial symbology. I hate to think it was staring me in the face for so long.

Sometimes, logic can be a shortcoming I guess.

UPDATE: I forgot to link to the famous "FIND THE PIT BULL" test. There's only one pit bull there, and even I had trouble spotting it. But that doesn't matter to today's dog grabbers.

UPDATE: In breaking news story linked by Drudge, 68 pit bulls were found living in a dilapidated house -- with children:

WICHITA, Kan. -- Two Kansas children are in protective custody after authorities found 68 pit bulls living in their home.

Police said the children -- an 11-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl -- were found living in deplorable conditions.

The dogs were living inside and in the back yard. Many of the dogs have scars and were probably used for fighting, authorities said.

The children's father was arrested on various charges, including resisting arrest and child endangerment.

68 dogs kept for dog fighting in a single house under filthy conditions with children?

And the breed is at fault?

But of course!

(Will someone please tell me whose culture war Coco and I are supposed to be fighting?)

posted by Eric on 07.29.06 at 08:59 AM


Do these people really think that if you abuse and underfeed a german sheperd, they'll just be kisses and sunshine?

Jon Thompson   ·  July 29, 2006 2:55 PM

The nature of any dog is that it tends to do what its master wants it to do.

That is no more an argument against larger or powerful dogs than it is an argument against guns. (It is only an argument against bad dog owners or bad gun owners.)

Eric Scheie   ·  July 30, 2006 10:09 AM

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