Two words guaranteed to start a fight: "Pit Bull"
KGUN9 viewers draw battle lines in the debate over pits
"Roxanne" submitted this picture of her pit "Ace" cuddling with a stuffed toy
Leandra Aguirre's pit bull cuddles with her child.
Trista Lashley's pit bull shares a tender moment
The pit/lab mix that mauled and killed owner Michael Cook languishes at the pound prior to being euthanized.
Notes by: Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director
Arizona politicians normally are pretty good about orating on hot button issues, the kind of topics that get voters stirred up and perhaps motivate them to go to the polls on election day. But if the reaction to recent KGUN9 News stories is any indication, they're missing a good bet. One "sleeper" issue that KGUN9 viewers are very passionate about turns out to be: pit bulls. Mention the phrase and you're liable to start a fight.
A very brief story posted on KGUN9's Facebook page Wednesday morning mentioning an upcoming story on the topic garnered more than a hundred comments within minutes. The 9 On Your Side story at 10pm then talked to advocates and defenders on both sides of the issue and presented the dry facts about dog bites. Since the story aired, more comments have been pouring in. In fact, the high volume of commentary on our Facebook page about this issue is completely without precedent.
Viewers do not agree on this issue and have drawn firm battle lines, sniping at each other and at KGUN9 News. In general, pit bull defenders think the KGUN9 News report was a hatchet job, while those on the other side of the issue think pit defenders are ignoring reality.
"DeJay54" writes via KGUN9 com: "I have had 2 pit bulls as well as other breeds of dog. The bull dogs have been great with our family and our other dogs. Use the golden rule and treat them with love and they will love you back."
"Sandie B" writes via KGUN9.com: "Once again another negative newscast from channel 9. I think from now on I will watch channel 13. At least channel 13 covers more positive stories about pitties."
"TruthShallSetUFree" writes via KGUN9.com: "Even more alarming that Ch9 would use the ONLY source out there that supports a canine-holocaust."
"weownpb" writes via KGUN9.com: "Over aggressive dogs should be put down no matter what the breed. It is well known dogs jaws do not lock, they are very strong. There is no such thing as 'Lock Jaw.' This article is full of misinformed people."
"vanessa24" writes via KGUN9.com: "I really do think they should ban Pit Bulls. MY little cousin got bit in the face by one when he was 3 years old. He had to had several stitches to his face. Those dogs are a big liability to everyone, especially the owners."
"nanadori" writes via KGUN9.com: "We have a 2 yr old pit bull, he is part of the family. As a matter of fact he is an indoor dog, sleeps on the bed with us and is always surrounded by children. We believe that a dog reacts in situations to the way it is treated and brought up."
"DeeKidd" writes via KGUN9.com: "I am so glad there was some focus on this issue. Much research missed on this one though. 75% of shelter dogs are pits. Due to the much larger population than other dogs, stands to reason there would be more incidents involving them."
Jason Lopez writes via Facebook: "There is no such thing as a bad dog, only irresponsible owners. Dog are like children they ONLY know and do what they are taught. So great job to KGUN for another misleading story about pit bulls. Maybe you guys should show the stories about pit bulls saving lives or better yet cover a story like a pit bull being drug behind a truck and left for dead. Let's find the people that do cruel things like that to animals and euthanize them."
Leandra Aguirre posted a picture our Facebook page showing her pit cuddling with her small child (shown at left) and added these comments: "This is my 16 month old son with our loving family member Rocky. We rescued him from the PACC and are very happy we did. He has added so much love and compassion to our family and we adore him. He loves my son more than anything and cuddles any chance he gets. It is ignorant to base behaviors from a breed concept. There are innate behaviors that are genetic in everyone (including people), but this can be manipulated by the environment. Stigmas have destroyed human population in our history. Have we learned nothing??"
Trista Lashley also posted a cuddly picture on our Facebook page and added this comment: "I have to say I have 2 pit bulls Nikki is 6 years old and Zeus is 10 months. Added to the mix is Tank my 4 year old min pin. After the newscast last night we all got into bed with my husband and my min pin actually snapped at my husband. So I guess I should call KGUN 9 so they can run a report on how vicious min pins are, right?"
Debbie Lee writes via Facebook: "Stupid is as stupid does. I have rescued ABUSED pitbulls for 12 years and have been bitten by 3 chihuahuas on my walks with my dogs. My dogs did nothing. The owner of the chihuahuas just sat there and said their names and petted their dog after biting me. It's not the breed that should be banned. It's the OWNERS!!!"
Donald L Holsten writes via Facebook: "I am amazed and quite frankly shocked! I just stopped by and cannot believe the special people on this page that actually support allowing these mentally twisted animals to even exist! All this after I have been offering a bounty on their heads for the last several years!"
Elida Guidry Burnette also posted a cute picture and sent in a long comment. Here's an excerpt: "I am absolutely broken hearted about the coverage that KGUN gave pit bulls on the news last night! ... Almost every pit bull attack will have the headline 'Pit Bull Attack' or 'Vicious Pit Bull Kills Owner' while other dog attack headlines usually don’t include the breed and read something like 'Dog Attacks Child in Park' or 'Dog Mauls Woman in Home'. This is complete demonization and discrimination of this breed... I really hope that KGUN will give us the chance to tell a more fair and balanced story about these wonderful dogs. I will be posting this discussion to KGUN’s website as well as their Facebook page."
Melissa Barbalaco-Baze writes via Facebook: "I think it was important for KGUN 9 to do this story on pit bulls. I know all the pit bull lovers hate it when someone tells the truth about this breed of dog, but it needs to happen. Pit bull lovers will get mad and defensive, and try to defend a dog that has ripped a child to shreds, just because they don't want to admit that their favorite breed of dog would do such a thing. It's pretty upsetting to have to listen to someone defend a dog for ripping a child to shreds! and YES, pit bull lovers, it has happened, by your favorite dog, more than once! Pit lovers say, 'blame the owners not the breed,' but whenever some horrible tragedy is perpetrated by a pit bull, the owner always says, 'I don't what happened, he was always such a sweet baby, and never aggressive.' What does that say? It's the dog! They are very unpredictable."
Three of our viewers, Veronica Bernal-Rios, Mitzi Acker, and Michael Santo, had this exchange on Facebook, which sort of summarizes the whole debate:
Bernal-Rios: "America Kennel Club has showcased some of the most beautiful pit bulls and have actually won first place trophies. Villalobos Rescue, Pit Bulls and Parolees, Dog Whisper, just to name a few. And also Pit Bulls were the poster dogs during the WWII era as well."
Acker: "Well if you say so but one just killed his owner."
Bernal-Rios: "That was a horrible tragedy and I am sincerely sorry that this happened to this family, but this does not define every single pit bull."
Acker: "I'm sorry too, but the fact of the matter is it happens all the time to small dogs and children."
Santo: "The convenient thing they left out about that dog: he was originally classed as a LAB/Pit Bull Mix. Guess the Lab part wasn't good for ratings."
Editor's note: It is true that some of our early stories about the mauling that led to Michael Cook's death did not mention that the dog was a mixed breed. Subsequent stories did mention this after the family stepped forward and facts about the dog became more clear.
What do you think? Watch the story, then add your comments there, here or on our Facebook page.