TIME Companies

SeaWorld Chief Resigns After Blackfish Film Damages Firm’s Reputation

Killler Whale Calf At SeaWorld San Diego
A baby killer whale calf nurses from its mother at SeaWorld San Diego's Shamu Stadium on Dec. 4, 2014 in San Diego Getty Images

The enterprise’s share price dropped by more than 40% in 2014

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s chief executive Jim Atchison announced plans to resign this week as the company struggles to attract visitors to their parks since the release of the 2013 film Blackfish, according to the BBC.

The critically acclaimed documentary revolves around the alleged mistreatment of the amusement park’s orcas and the gruesome deaths of several of the animals’ trainers.

SeaWorld’s current board chairman David D’Alessandro is set to serve as the corporation’s interim chief executive and will help manage a reorganization that aims to save $50 million by the end of next year.

[BBC]

TIME Courts

Chimpanzees Are Not Entitled to Human Rights, New York Court Says

ICOAST-ANIMAL-ZOO
A chimpanzee holds a lettuce at the zoo in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on June 12, 2014 Sia Kambou—AFP/Getty Images

The chimpanzee at issue is not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus allowing him freedom from his cage

A chimpanzee does not have legal personhood and is not entitled to human rights, a New York appeals court has decided.

The three-judge Appellate Division panel ruled unanimously on Thursday that the owner of Tommy, a chimpanzee, is not obligated to release him from what an animal-rights’ group has called unlawful detention.

The Nonhuman Rights Project had sought Tommy’s freedom from a cage in upstate New York, arguing that the animal’s living conditions, selected for him by his owner, equated to unlawful solitary confinement. The group, which planned to move Tommy to a sanctuary, did not seek to have the chimpanzee declared a human, but to obtain legal personhood, a status that would entitle him to a writ of habeas corpus and merit his release.

A trial level court had in October denied the Nonhuman Rights Project’s effort, when the group’s lawyer, Steven Wise, argued that Tommy, 26, is best compared to a human child who “can understand that he does not want to be imprisoned for his life in a cage,” but, unlike a human adult, cannot be held legally responsible for his actions. The judge, Michael Lynch, had noted that legal personhood comes with “responsibilities” and it would be unwise “to foist any responsibilities on this chimpanzee.”

In its decision, the appeals court reiterated the lower court’s findings that chimpanzees, though intelligent, are unfit take on the legal implications of personhood, ruling that, “unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions.”

“In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights — such as the fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus — that have been afforded to human beings,” reads the decision.

Tommy’s owner, Patrick Lavery, told the Guardian that he finds the Nonhuman Rights Project’s argument for his pet’s legal personhood “ridiculous.” Lavery, who has not attended any of the proceedings, called the chimpanzee’s living quarters “an excellent home” that includes a TV and in which the chimpanzee is “happy.”

The Nonhuman Rights Project did not allege that Lavery had violated any state or local laws in keeping Tommy as a pet. The appeals court concluded that if the group believes that current legal protections for animal welfare are insufficient, they should seek improved legislation on the issue, not legal personhood.

TIME Science

Humans, Chimps and Why We Need Personhood for All

Tommy the chimpanzee 2014 Pennebaker Hegedus Films, Inc.

Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist at the College of William and Mary.

We accord rights to babies, the profoundly disabled and elderly people with dementia. Is Tommy the ape that different?

Advocates of animal rights are eagerly awaiting the results of a case brought before a New York state appellate court in Albany earlier this month that will decide if a chimpanzee named Tommy is a person. The judge’s decision may be handed down at any time between late October and December. If, in the eyes of the law, 26-year-old ape Tommy is deemed a person, he will be released from the small cage where he is kept in isolation by his owner near Gloversville, New York, and sent to an ape sanctuary in Florida.

Tommy would then become the world’s first non-human animal to be legally granted personhood.

The idea behind the court case, argued on October 8th by lawyer Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project, rests upon Tommy’s right to determine what happens to his own life. And that idea in turn rests on what researchers in my field, primate behavior, know to be true: Our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom (along with their close cousins the bonobos), chimpanzees, are conscious, intelligent and emotional beings. In the wild in Africa, they plan ahead by making tools and carrying them to a site where that technology enables them to get better food; remember details of past encounters according to features like kinship status and dominance rank of their social partners; and cooperate with each other in hunting monkeys and sometimes in carrying out acts of brutal aggression against apes of neighboring communities.

Field researchers across Africa, including Jane Goodall at Gombe, Tanzania; Toshisada Nishida at Mahale, Tanzania; Christophe Boesch at Tai, Cote d’Ivoire; and Jill Pruetz at Fongoli, Senegal, have published abundant evidence in support of these conclusions. This information becomes significant beyond the learned journal and the college classroom when we think about chimpanzees like Tommy who aren’t living in their natural habitat but instead in harsh confinement: It tells us that Tommy isn’t meant to live alone, without companionship, mental stimulation or, at its most basic, freedom to make choices about his own actions.

I’ve never met Tommy, but know that if I were to do so, I’d soon come to see him as a unique personality, an animal with characters traits and likes and dislikes conveyed to those around him–just as I have been privileged to know certain other non-human primates over the years of my own observational studies. There’s no question in my mind that Tommy deserves our help. But is Wise’s approach the best path forward?

In first reading about Tommy, I concluded that we humans need to ramp up our responsible actions toward apes rather than bestowing rights of personhood upon apes. This perspective is beautifully articulated by the philosopher Lori Gruen. And the questions tumble one upon the other when we consider what might happen if Tommy and other apes were to become persons in the eyes of the law. How exactly would they participate in the determination of their own lives? Yes, they are smart creatures, but they are relentlessly non-verbal. Will our observation of their behaviors be enough for us to know what they want? What if they want what we can’t give them (a great deal of space to roam, let’s say) or isn’t good for them (unhealthy but delicious sugary foods)? How would we begin to think about the interrelationship of apes’ rights and responsibilities? What could it even mean for apes to have responsibilities to society?

But I began to wonder, are these questions of mine the most appropriate ones? After all, we protect the rights of many humans who contribute to society simply through their own valued existence: babies, the profoundly disabled, elderly people with dementia. It’s well past time to create new ways of relating to other creatures who are sentient without language.

Having gotten this far in my thinking, I asked Wise to clarify for me how he approaches the question of Tommy’s ability for self-determination. Wise told me:

At the root of the Nonhuman Rights Project’s arguments that a chimpanzee is a legal person possessed of the right to body liberty protected by a common law writ of habeas corpus is [the view that] they are autonomous and self-determining beings. One of our experts defined autonomous behavior as ‘behavior that reflects a choice and is not based on reflexes, innate behaviors or any conventional categories of learning … [It] implies that the individual is directing the behavior based on some non-observable internal cognitive process.’ Because chimpanzees are autonomous, self-determining and social beings, it is unlikely that a mentally healthy chimpanzee would choose a life of forced solitary confinement in an indoor cage in a Northern clime over a life lived with dozens of other chimpanzees, outdoors, in a Southern clime. As human beings who are mentally unable to make complex decisions because they are too young or otherwise mentally incompetent have the right to make simpler decisions about their lives, so chimpanzees should have the right to make those decisions about their lives about which they are capable.

I find this definition of self-determination, which recognizes the reality of different levels of capability across species, and its application to Tommy’s case, to be persuasive. In the end, I think it’s time now to be bold, to throw open our imagination and envision a different future for chimpanzees like Tommy. This is what visionaries like Wise encourage us to do: to stand apart from the mainstream and pose new solutions. If those solutions come with a set of challenging questions attached, let’s open a conversation about them, and meet them head on.

Animal lives matter, all on their own. This is a wonderful and freeing perspective to embrace as we wait for the judge’s decision regarding Tommy.

Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist at the College of William and Mary who teaches, writes and speaks about animal studies, primate behavior, human evolution and evolutionary perspectives on gender. Her latest book is How Animals Grieve, published in 2013.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Second Career

3 Secrets to Launching a Successful Second Act Career

Adele Douglass created the first U.S. humane certification program for farm animals raised for food Robert Merhaut

Adele Douglass built a non-profit that protects millions of farm animals and gives farmers a new marketing niche.

After a three-decade career in Washington devoted to animal welfare issues, Adele Douglass thought she knew a lot about how bad their mistreatment could get. Still, she was shocked when she began to look closely at the conditions of farm animals in the U.S.

She discovered chickens being raised in cages so overcrowded they couldn’t raise their wings, pigs unable to turn around in tightly packed pens, and animals left unsheltered against outdoor elements.

Douglass decided the best way to improve the conditions of livestock was to push for change herself. So in 2003, at age 57, she quit her job as a non-profit executive for an animal rights association and launched her own organization, Humane Farm Animal Care. “The more I knew, the more appalled I got, and the more I wanted to do something myself,” says Douglass, now 67. “Legislation was not going to solve the problem. It took 100 years for the Humane Slaughter Act to be passed.”

Douglass figured out a way to engage farmers and consumers on the issue—by addressing their growing concerns over eating meat from animals being fed antibiotics. She developed Certified Humane, which is the first certification in the U.S. that guarantees farm animals are treated humanely from birth to slaughter. To get this certification, farmers must allow animals to engage in natural behaviors, provide appropriate space for roaming, and food free of antibiotics or hormones. Farmers who are Certified Humane can market to natural food shoppers and get higher prices for their products, Douglass says.

Humanely raised food appeals to American families of all income levels. “Young mothers want to feed their families good food. Poor people don’t want to feed their families junk” says Douglass.” Following humane practices also improves the environment, since fewer animals raised on more space creates less pollution.

To fund the organization, Douglass cashed in her $80,000 401(k) account. Her daughter, who had encouraged her to make the move, gave her $10,000 and worked at the organization during its first few years. Douglass also received grants from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and The Humane Society. In the first year of operation in 2004, 143,000 animals were raised under the organization’s standards.

Today 87 million animals are in the program, and the non-profit has three full-time employees and two part-timers. Fees for certification and annual inspections cover about 30% of the organization’s costs—the rest comes from donations and grants.

Douglass shares this advice for others hoping to launch a second act career:

Make a plan before you exit. Douglass spent years researching the issue before quitting her job. She was able to get off the ground in just one year because she modeled the certification program after an existing similar program in the U.K. called Freedom Food.

Leverage your contacts. Douglass has a deep list of connections, from animal scientists and USDA officials to fundraisers and academics, as well as contacts in the animal rights movement and veterinary profession. “I had the contacts, knowledge and experience which gave me confidence I could do this on my own,” says Douglass.

Cut personal expenses. Though Douglass’ salary isn’t much less than what she earned in her previous career, her compensation is a lot more volatile. She has willingly taken pay cuts in recent years. Douglass says she hasn’t had to change her lifestyle much. But she reduced her biggest expense—her home—by downsizing to a smaller place, which made it easier to adjust.

At 67, Douglass doesn’t envision retiring. Now living alone, with three adult children and five grandchildren, she says her family is one of her greatest joys. But her work remains an enormously satisfying part of her life too. “Sure, there are days when I am tired and frustrated. But I am doing something that benefits people, animals and the environment. I feel really good about that,” says Douglass.

Adele Douglass is a 2007 winner of The Purpose Prize, a program operated by Encore.org, a non-profit organization that recognizes social entrepreneurs over 60 who are launching second acts for the greater good.

Related:

How to Ace Any Interview and Land the Job of Your Dreams

The 9-to-5 Start-up: How to Launch a Business Without Quitting Your Day Job

How This Former Techie Gave Her Career a Jolt

TIME Courts

The U.S. Supreme Court Upholds a California Ban on Foie Gras

Forbidden Foie Gras Goes Underground At California 'Duckeasies'
A worker performs "gavage," or force feeding, on ducks in the preparation of foie gras at Hudson Valley Farms in Ferndale, New York, U.S., on Sunday, July 15, 2012. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Haute diners in California will have to do without

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld California’s ban on foie gras, refusing to hear an appeal against the state’s kibosh on products made by “force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond a normal size,” Reuters reports.

Foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” is made by force-feeding corn to ducks and geese, a process that animal-rights activists have described as cruel and unethical. The birds’ unnaturally enlarged livers are then harvested for high-end dining.

A Los Angeles-based restaurant group, a foie gras producer in New York, and a group of foie gras farmers in Canada had challenged the ban, calling it a violation of federal protections barring states from interfering in interstate commerce, Reuters says.

The ban was passed in 2004 but went into effect in 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times.

[Reuters]

Read next: The Case Against Eating Ethically-Raised Meat

TIME ebola

360,000 Sign Petition to Spare Ebola Patient’s Dog

Spanish Nurse Tests Positive For Ebola
'Excalibur' barks from the balcony of the private residence for the Spanish nurse who has tested positive for the Ebola virus on October 8, 2014 in Alcorcon, Spain. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images

"Excalibur" is at the mercy of Spanish officials, who want to euthanize the dog after one of its owners contracted the disease

Animal lovers have protested, tweeted and petitioned by the tens of thousands to stop Spanish officials from euthanizing an Ebola patient’s dog.

The outcry began shortly after the patient’s husband, Javier Limon, posted a YouTube plea to animal lovers to help spare the life of “Excalibur”. NBC News reports that Limon has been placed in isolation in a Madrid hospital ever since his wife, nurse-aide Teresa Romero Ramos, became the first person to contract the virus outside of west Africa while caring for a Spanish priest who had returned from the region.

Limon said in the recorded appeal, “I’m in the hospital and I’m sending a call to all the population for them to help me save my dog, Excalibur, who they just want to kill just like that without following any proper procedures.”

There have been no documented cases of dogs spreading Ebola to humans, or vice-versa, though other animals may become carriers.

Animal lovers protested outside the couple’s apartment in a southern suburb of Madrid on Wednesday, where Excalibur had been holed up alone with a bathtub full of drinking water and 33 pounds of dog food, Limon told Spanish daily El Mundo. “Murderer,” several shouted at health workers who had arrived to disinfect the apartment.

Protesters also launched a petition to spare Excalibur which has gathered more than 360,000 signatures to date and flooded Twitter with pictures of their own pet dogs signs reading, “#SalvemosaExcalibur.”

The campaign has intensified amid conflicting reports of the dog’s fate in local media, best summed up by the El Mundo headline “¿Dónde está Excalibur?” The most recent update posted by Limon on Facebook says the dog has not yet been taken away by authorities.

 

TIME animals

Is a Chimpanzee a ‘Legal Person’? Court Set to Decide

Tarongas Animals Receive Christmas Treats
Lisa Maree Williams—Getty Images

Could determine if a chimpanzee has a legal status akin to personhood, thereby making its captivity unlawful

A New York appeals court will begin hearing a landmark case on Wednesday that could determine if a chimpanzee has a legal status akin to personhood, thereby making its captivity unlawful.

Animal rights lawyer Steven Wise filed the lawsuit in 2013 on behalf of Tommy, a 26-year-old chimpanzee kept by a private owner in upstate New York. The lawsuit alleged that keeping the chimpanzee in captivity was unlawful, because a chimpanzee was not merely a possession of the owner, but rather “a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned.”

As such, the case called upon the court to grant Tommy the status of “legal personhood,” thereby extending the fundamental human right of habeas corpus, or the right to not be unlawfully imprisoned, to a primate.

The case grabbed headlines, including TIME’s, for its ambitious attempt to blur a longstanding legal distinction between humans and animals. The organization pressing the case, the Nonhuman Rights Project, has stated that the case will not end with Tommy: “Our goal is, very simply, to breach the legal wall that separates all humans from all nonhuman animals.”

TIME Japan

Japan’s Annual Dolphin Hunt Has Resumed

Fishermen in wetsuits hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji
Fishermen hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji, western Japan, on Jan. 20, 2014 Adrian Mylne—Reuters

The slaughter made infamous in the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary The Cove is still happening

The Japanese coastal village of Taiji has begun its annual dolphin hunt again this month, CNN reports.

The hunt, which runs from September to March, has long been the focus of outrage among environmental activists and was even made into an Oscar-winning documentary in 2009 called The Cove.

However, locals in Taiji, a town in Wakayama prefecture with a population of 3,500, say that hunting dolphins and whales is crucial to the region’s economy.

They appear to have the support of the Wakayama prefectural government, which declined CNN’s request for an interview but referred them to a statement on its website that calls dolphins and whales a legitimate marine resource.

“Located far away from the centers of economic activity, the town has a 400-year history as the cradle of whaling, and has flourished over the years thanks to whaling and the dolphin fishery,” the statement says.

Environmental organizations like Sea Shepherd, which has been broadcasting a live feed of the hunts for the past five years and running a robust social-media campaign against them, say the dolphins are tortured and treated inhumanely before they are killed.

The dolphins are captured and killed using a method known as “drive hunting,” which involves boatmen banging metal poles to cause deafness and disorientation in the dolphins, who then swim away from the boats and straight into the killing cove.

“Once netted into the cove, the dolphins are literally wrangled and tethered, often sustaining bloody wounds … The dolphin hunters use large metal rods to penetrate the spinal cord,” said Melissa Sehgal, Sea Shepherd’s campaign coordinator for the Taiji project.

Sehgal said the dolphins do not die immediately but are left to bleed out or drown in their own blood, a practice she described as “barbaric.”

Although most of the marine mammals are killed and sold for meat, a few choice specimens are captured. Captive dolphins can reportedly fetch over $100,000 from aquariums.

Sea Shepherd estimates that over the past three hunting seasons, there have been nearly 2,600 dolphins killed and a little under 500 taken captive.

[CNN]

TIME Companies

So Long, Shamu: Southwest, SeaWorld End Ties

Southwest Airlines debuts Penguin One in celebration of 25 years
Southwest Airlines debuts its newest specialty plane, Penguin One, in celebration of 25 years of partnership with SeaWorld on June 20, 2013 Stephen M. Keller—Southwest Airlines/AP

The decision comes amid animal-rights backlash, but the two companies insist the break is "mutual"

Southwest Airlines and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment will be ending their 26-year relationship, a decision that comes a year after a documentary film raised questions about the theme-park chain’s treatment of whales.

In a joint statement released on Thursday, the two sides described the decision to end their decades-long co-marketing scheme as “mutual.”

“The companies decided not to renew the contract based on shifting priorities,” read the statement, explaining that the airliner would focus on expanding into international service while SeaWorld is eyeing new opportunities to grow in Asian and Latin American markets.

The press release made no mention of the pressure both companies have faced since the release of the film Blackfish last year. The documentary focuses on the alleged mistreatment of SeaWorld orcas and the violent deaths of several trainers working with the animals.

A petition posted on Change.org calling on Southwest to terminate its relationship with the Florida-based amusement-park chain garnered 30,000 signatures. Attendance at SeaWorld parks dropped 4.1% in the last year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The three Southwest aircraft painted to promote the amusement parks will return to the company’s traditional livery by year’s end.

TIME Pets

The Problem With Pit Bulls

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Pit Bull Square Dog Photography—Getty Images/Flickr Select

It's horrible that KFC kicked out that 3-year-old girl, but let's focus on the real problem: pit bulls were bred to be violent

The social media universe became furious at KFC this week after an employee reportedly asked a 3-year-old victim of a dog attack to leave one of their restaurants because “her face is disrupting our customers.”

Read a response to this piece from the American Pit Bull Foundation.

But it wasn’t KFC employees who broke down the door to Victoria Wilcher’s grandfather’s house and mauled the toddler until half her face was paralyzed and she lost the use of one of her eyes. Three pit bulls did that.

Pit bulls make up only 6% of the dog population, but they’re responsible for 68% of dog attacks and 52% of dog-related deaths since 1982, according to research compiled by Merritt Clifton, editor of Animals 24-7, an animal-news organization that focuses on humane work and animal-cruelty prevention.

Clifton himself has been twice attacked by dogs (one pit bull), and part of his work involves logging fatal and disfiguring attacks. Clifton says that for the 32 years he’s been recording, there has never been a year when pit bulls have accounted for less than half of all attacks. A CDC report on dog-bite fatalities from 1978 to 1998 confirms that pit bulls are responsible for more deaths than any other breed, but the CDC no longer collects breed-specific information.

Another report published in the April 2011 issue of Annals of Surgery found that one person is killed by a pit bull every 14 days, two people are injured by a pit bull every day, and young children are especially at risk. The report concludes that “these breeds should be regulated in the same way in which other dangerous species, such as leopards, are regulated.” That report was shared with TIME by PETA, the world’s largest animal-rights organization.

The little girl’s grandfather shot and killed the three dogs that attacked her, and both he and his girlfriend are facing child-endangerment charges. KFC has donated $30,000 to the girl’s family to help with her medical bills, and more money keeps flooding in. But so far the outrage has been directed at the rude KFC employee, not at the growing problem of pit-bull maulings.

As pit-bull attacks become more and more common, they’re getting increasing attention on social media, but not always in support of the wounded children. In March, a Facebook petition to save Mickey, a dangerous pit bull in Phoenix, got over 70,000 likes. Mickey was facing euthanasia for mauling 4-year-old Kevin Vincente so badly that he cracked his jaw, eye socket and cheekbone. Kevin is facing months of reconstructive surgery, but more people were concerned with saving the dog than helping the boy. Mickey’s Facebook page has now become a social-media landing page to save other dogs that are considered dangerous.

Clifton says he’s seen an unprecedented rise in dog maulings in recent years, as more pit bulls enter the shelter system. Between 1858 and 2000, there are only two recorded instances of shelter dogs killing humans. From 2000 to 2009, there were three fatal attacks involving shelter dogs (one pit bull, one breed similar to a pit bull, and one Doberman). But from 2010 to 2014, there have been 35 shelter dogs who fatally attacked humans. All but 11 were pit bulls.

Supporters say pit bulls are getting a bad rap. Sara Enos, founder and president of the American Pit Bull Foundation, said that it’s wrong to blame dog attacks on pit bulls, because it’s the owners who are to blame. “It really boils down to being responsible owners,” she said. “Any dog from any breed can be aggressive, it matters how it’s treated.” And, as TIME reported in 2013, pit-bull owners all over the country are trying to rebrand the breed, insisting pit bulls can have a softer side when treated humanely.

Many pit-bull advocacy organizations, including BAD RAP, did not want to comment for this story. But there is a growing backlash against the idea that pit bulls are more violent than other dogs. “There is not any breed of dog that is inherently more dangerous,” said Marcy Setter of the Pit Bull Rescue Center. “That’s simply not true.”

But critics say that pit bulls are inherently dangerous no matter how they’re treated, because violence is in their DNA. “Why do herding dogs herd? Why do pointing dogs point? They don’t learn that behavior, that’s selective behavior,” says Colleen Lynn, president and founder of DogsBite.org, a national dog-bite-victims group dedicated to reducing dog attacks. “Pit bulls were specifically bred to go into that pit with incredible aggression and fight.”

“Every kind of dog is neglected and abused,” Clifton agrees. “And not every kind of dog responds to the neglect and abuse by killing and injuring people.”

But there’s another root cause of the rise in pit-bull attacks, one you might not think of: Hurricane Katrina.

Pit bulls are especially popular in Louisiana and Mississippi, and many of the volunteers responding to Hurricane Katrina found themselves saving stranded dogs. Most of the pit bulls they saved had been kept inside and behaved well around the rescuers, Clifton said, because they knew their survival depended on it. The dogs who were rescued were good pit bulls, he says, and “the real badasses, the ones chained outside, were drowned.”

Clifton said that many of the volunteers, who had very little experience with dog rescue, became attached to the breed and involved in pit-bull advocacy. And that helped galvanize the pro-pit-bull movement in the wake of Michael Vick’s 2007 dogfighting scandal. That movement helped encourage more people to adopt pit bulls as lack of sterilization caused the population to grow.

“If you need a marker in your head for when pit bulls got out of control, it’s 2007 with Michael Vick,” Lynn says. Vick’s high-profile trial for dogfighting and cruelty to animals roused a growing sympathy for pit bulls, which led more people to adopt them and bring them into their homes.

Dogbites.org

“We need to get used to mauling injuries, because we’re going to be seeing a lot more of them,” warns Lynn. “Each of us will know a mauled, disfigured child by a known dangerous breed of dog. There will be one in every school.”

But what can be done about the growing number of pit bulls? Some say the best solution would be breed-specific sterilization, which would curb the pit-bull population and reduce euthanasia in shelters. Most dogs of all breeds are spayed and neutered — about 80%, by Clifton’s estimation. But only 20% of pit bulls are sterilized, partly because the population that owns pit bulls tends to resist the spay-neuter message. He notes that there are a number of free sterilization programs for pit bulls, including one run by the ASPCA, but that even the largest programs aren’t sterilizing enough pit bulls to reduce the number of shelter intakes.

Lynn agrees that breed-specific sterilization laws are the most humane and efficient way to deal with the situation and avoid having more dogs euthanized. “If you want to hit that ‘no kill’ status, you better do something about the pit-bull problem.” Pit bulls currently account for 63% of the dogs put down in shelters, but only 38% of the admissions. Lynn says that all pit bulls should be sterilized, except those that come from licensed breeders.

Even PETA, the largest animal-rights organization in the world, supports breed-specific sterilization for pit bulls. “Pit bulls are a breed-specific problem, so it seems reasonable to target them,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s senior vice president of cruelty investigations. “The public is misled to believe that pit bulls are like any other dog. And they just aren’t.” Even the ASPCA acknowledges on its website that pit bulls are genetically different than other dogs. “Pit bulls have been bred to behave differently during a fight,” it says. “They may not give warning before becoming aggressive, and they’re less likely to back down when clashing with an opponent.”

Opponents of sterilization argue that it can be difficult to determine which dogs are pit bulls, and that breed-specific efforts are unfair to certain dogs. “When you discriminate against a breed, you’re also discriminating against good dogs as well,” Enos said. Setter of Pit Bull Rescue Central opposes breed-specific sterilization because she says it’s ineffective, because the laws don’t target irresponsible owners.

But Nachminovitch said PETA stands by breed-specific sterilization as a common-sense solution to what has become a human-safety issue. “These dogs were bred to bait bulls. They were bred to fight each other to the death,” she said. “Just because we’re an animal-rights organization doesn’t mean we’re not concerned about public safety.”

Updated: The original version of this story referred to reports that a girl who had been mauled by pitbulls had been asked to leave a KFC restaurant. KFC, which initially apologized, now says two investigations have yielded no evidence the incident actually took place.

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