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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 22 June 2006 Issue

June 17, 2006: The American Pit bull extermination program at MCAS continues: mothers and puppies first

The focus on eliminating unredeemed pit bulls and pit bull types from Multnomah County through lethal means continues at MCAS where at least 95% are destroyed. Nationally the American Temperament Test Society has tested around a thousand pit bull type dogs. Eighty-four percent of the pit bulls that have been given this ten-part standardized drill have passed ("Troublemakers," The New Yorker, February 6, 2006). This average is similar to that reported at the Tompkins County SPCA in New York State, a facility at which 86% of all pit bulls passed and were adopted despite requirements that they be friendly to children, other dogs, and cats.

At MCAS, pit bulls and suspected mixes, from puppies to nursing mothers, are failed on a non-standardized temperament test when they achieve the same "scores" that allow all other breeds to go to adoptions. In a county where a breed-specific extermination program would probably never be approved, the same result is being achieved in secret.

This secret program is expedited through use of a "formula for killing" developed by Director Michael Oswald and Shelter Manager John Rowton and applied in a merciless manner by "animal behaviorist" Linda Powers and other designated senior staff assessors. Thoughtful discretion through consideration of context, circumstances, intervention or judgment is forbidden. Staff are ordered to follow the rules and set aside any of the subjective feelings that provide the bases for judgment, compassion, and morality.

The following are recent examples from public records that exemplify the lengths to which this agency will go to insure death for members of this breed.

Topanga, a heavily pregnant female pit bull, was impounded at MCAS on April 14 for being loose and "aggressive," the lowest "potentially dangerous" designation (at large, scared somebody). The owner was given two weeks to build a concrete based kennel. MCAS refused to release Topanga until the kennel was built and, despite the fact that the owner was moving and had no money, refused all extensions and alternatives.

The kennel was not completed by MCAS's deadline. On May 5, 10 days after she had given birth to 7 puppies, MCAS killed Topanga. The records contain no mention of the puppies' fate. They were most likely killed for the same reason usually given: "too young to survive without mom." The last minute entry ORPTS, "owner requested euthanasia," is most likely false. The agency secured an owner surrender. The owner surrendered for lack of options and money not out of desire to see his dog killed.

Not at any time did MCAS seek humane interventions, or offer reasonable interim solutions to the owner. They rushed to find excuses to destroy.

Here is another mother and puppy kill. A black and white mother pit bull was "temperament tested" (Again, professionals don't test mothers with puppies for previously noted reasons: hormonal fluctuations associated with pregnancy and nursing interfere with validity and mothers are naturally more protective when they have young ones) and declared "unfit" to live. These were the notes: " 06/03/06: separated from puppies. They are old enough to be on their own and she is not getting much to eat because of them...06/03/06 B/A done Tier 3 (a designation allowing all other breeds rescue/foster alternatives). ER 6/6/06." Well, now this hapless little pit bull need worry no more about "not getting enough to eat." Death is a sure cure for hunger.

Her 8 week old puppies fared no better. They too were "temperament tested" and destroyed despite the fact that temperament testing is not performed on puppies this young. They have committed no crime against society other than being born, apparently an agency designated "untouchable" condemned breed. A "test" given at this age is simply not valid. They never stood a chance.These are the agency's notes along with its "decision": " 6/3/06 B/A done. Tier 2, puppy (1) was very unsocial, struggles wildly, very mouthy, does not like restraint at all. Due to breed feel behavior will get worse as ages. ER 6/6/06." Puppy (2) fared no better. "6/3/06 B/A done Tier 2. Puppy very mouthy, resists restraints of any kind. Very disinterested in people/unsocial. Due to breed/behavior ER 6/6/06."

These are puppies taken from their mother. Nothing about their conduct goes beyond excited puppy behavior. In no other setting would this qualify for killing to protect society.

A third example concerns a young brindle pit bull puppy, clearly scared, but useful for transfer to Blue Mountain Humane Society for "euthanasia training." Although she "passed" at Tier 3, again a designation that permits rescue for all other breeds, this "score" condemned her as a pit bull. The items "failed" are all consistent with fear not "unsocialized" (head ducking, must be coaxed to leash, must go into kennel to leash, repeatedly ducks out of range...," To no one with any training and skill would these behaviors justify the label "untreatable and unrehabilitatable."

These are the agency notes: " unsocial pup, took several times to try to leash dog and dog repeatedly ducked out of range and tried to bite leash, I walked puppy to [staff member) as stranger and dog paid no attention to her even when she picked the puppy up to say hi and there was no acknowledgment of the puppy. Puppy was continually trying to go toward other dog. ER." Maybe this puppy sought comfort in and found familiarity with other dogs. The fact that the puppy permitted a stranger to pick it up and evidenced no aggression was unmentioned.

There is no doubt. MCAS has an extermination program focused upon pit bulls that it attempts to hide through publication of false statistics and mislabeling individual dogs as "not good will ambassadors," "unadoptable," and "untreatable." MCAS chooses to mask its own incompetence by destroying the breed, not seeking the progressive successful humane options in effect elsewhere. "Saving Pets, one at a time" is the cynical propaganda slogan that covers up this agency's covert activities.

For original documents of temperament testing go to: 

Return to Animals in Print 22 June 2006 Issue

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