Can We Talk?

About Nancy Grace’s coverage of the child who was mauled by a Pit Bull recently?
For those of you who didn’t read or watch the story, a little boy was being watched by a babysitter, and while the details aren’t completely clear, what is known for sure is that he came into contact with a dog named “Mickey” who was in his owner’s backyard on a chain.
We dog owners/lovers already cringe, right? Chained, unsupervised dogs are not a good thing. We never want to see a dog kept on a chain. It can lead to aggression as well as being considered abusive and neglectful by most of us.
But, I digress. Very sadly, the little boy attempted to touch or take one of the dog’s toys, allegedly, which is when the dog grabbed and attacked him, causing serious injuries to his face and eye. That is horrible, and obviously no one ever wants to see something like this happen.
Indeed, this should not have happened at all. The dog should not have been left unsupervised on a chain, and that sitter should not have allowed the boy near the dog. It’s too late for that now, though.
What the hot button topic is at the moment, is a huge petition circulated to “Save Mickey” by people who feel he should not be put to sleep, and see him as the victim of neglect and abuse.
Whether you agree with that position or not, people are all entitled to an opinion, and many petitions are circulated all the time for all sorts of things, right?
The case will no doubt be handled soon enough, and whatever the outcome, many people are upset by Nancy Grace using terms like “Evil Pit Bull” and “Devil Dog” to describe Mickey.
It is not only Pit Bull owners upset at her reckless hyperbole about an entire breed of dog, but just lots of people in general.
Personally, I don’t feel it was responsible or tasteful reporting, because of the way she demonized the entire breed rather than sticking to this incident, and discussing that. Too, she seemed to really go for the viewer’s guts when she conjured up a bit of mist in her eyes and said “I can’t even look at the photos without imagining one of my own children..”.
She does tend to say that no matter the topic, so I suppose it’s just a Nancy-ism, but still.
Does hysteria like this actually help a case move forward, or make anyone feel better? And does extreme rhetoric serve any useful purpose?
Her Facebook page exploded with comments, many of them horrible comments from people either blaming the dog or the child.
I’d love it if we could discuss cases like these without blaming children or dogs, but rather look to why it happened, and how it might have been prevented. For instance, what if that dog had been inside, behind a locked door while his owner was away?
Assuming the sitter was not visiting at that house and just happened to wander over as the kids were playing (I’m led to believe there may have been no fence), then could this have prevented the dog and child from getting anywhere near each other?
The dog owner surely knows her dog is a resource guarder. I have one myself. He’s a 14 year old Black Lab mix named “Buddy”. He has never bitten anyone in his life, but when we’ve had children around, did I ever allow them near him when he had food or a toy?
Nope. Not even one time.
In fact, back when I was an Army wife, I babysat to make a bit of income when I lived in the middle of nowhere. I made it a point to feed Buddy in his own bedroom, which he actually had, and to keep all of his toys in his room. This way, if I brought him out around the child, there was nothing for him to guard, and I of course never, ever left a child unsupervised with him for even a moment.
If I needed to do something somewhere else, I put Buddy in his room or outside and kept the child with me.
Blame has no place in cases like these unless we’re blaming the people involved. Sometimes, it’s the owner who left a dog chained and unsupervised, or an owner who allowed his dogs to run loose and couldn’t care less what happened. Sometimes, it’s a dog owner who missed signs of aggression in their own dogs, and weren’t careful with their children, and sometimes (but not often) it’s just a tragic accident.
The Retriever who was playing with a six year old girl and accidentally strangled her on her scarf comes to mind. He never meant her any harm at all, but he was much bigger and stronger than she was, and didn’t realize he was hurting her. Things like that can and do happen, but again- accidents are just more rare.
Now, I know shows like Nancy Grace rely on high emotion and drama to sell ratings, and believe it or not, I don’t dislike her entirely, I just think she uses some cheap gimmicks to drum up that emotion and outrage from her viewers. I find that to be in bad taste.
Whatever your feelings about dogs, or Pit Bulls may be, I hope we can all at least agree that any story of this kind should be handled responsibly, and with minimal rhetoric.
We just saw a headline about 15 Pit Bulls found tied together and shot on a beach, did we not?
Casual hatred toward anyone or anything is not helpful to a single soul.
Here’s hoping Nancy will consider toning it down!
For more on this story and the reactions to it:
There are much older headlines I could dig up that show a real history of Nancy Grace referring to Pit Bulls as “Evil” “Devil Dogs” and so on, and here is a super brief one from 2007 on Youtube:
I am absolutely, 100% passionate about responsible dog ownership, responsible childcare, and wish that every child and pet could be loved, safe and happy. We don’t live in that perfect world yet, but until we do, I hope we can at least try to remain rational and cut back on some of the vitriol.

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