Thursday, July 06, 2006

Complaint article to the Toronto Sun Re: Worthington article

I am writing to formally complain about the Toronto Sun, and specifically two columns written by Peter Worthington that are factually inaccurate, prejudiced, biased, and tend to encourage discrimination against an oppressed minority, being owners of pit bulls in Ontario.

The subject matter is two columns written with respect to pit bulls, Ontario ban on the breed, and the character of owners of the dogs. These columns appeared in The Toronto Sun on May 18, 2006 ("Bites' worse than its bark") and on July 5, 2006 ("Pitbull attacks columnists dog").
The articles in question made several unsubstantiated, and in fact false, allegations of fact regarding pit bulls, their owners, and the propensity of the dogs to attack children and other animals.

In the first column on May 18, Worthington made the following false and defamatory claims:

"Despite Ruby's claim that only 4% of all dog bites are done by pit bull types, too often it's this 4% that result in deaths, or the neighbour's kid having his face chewed off."

"Frankly, I think something is basically wrong with people who own these types of dogs. Especially in a city, or in an apartment. Sometimes, one is tempted to say that owners, rather than their dogs, deserve to be "put down."

"So who is likely to own these dogs that Attorney General Michael Bryant has called a "menace," "dangerous" and "a loaded weapon waiting to go off"?"

"Drug dealers seem to like them for protection, as do people who live in risky areas. Others like the idea of a "pet" that intimidates others."

"It's not the fault of pit bulls that they are what they are. They are guard dogs, weapons, not house pets like Tricky-woo, Spot or Lassie."

The above comments incorrectly claim that pit bulls are disproportionately more likely to chew a kid's face off, that there is something wrong with owners of pit bulls, that such owners deserve to be "put down". It also quotes an inflammatory and false statement from the attorney general, without any proof or counter-opinion, that pit bulls are a "menace", "dangerous" and a "loaded weapon waiting to go off". All of the above is stated as fact, without supporting statistics or evidence of any kind.

Worthington then states that pit bulls are "guard dogs, weapons, not house pets like Tricky-woo, Spot or Lassie".

In fact dog professionals know that pit bulls are terrible guard dogs, that they are unlikely to bite or attack humans even when threatened. Also, pit bulls have been family pets for generations, including the famous Pete the Pup of the Our Gang series, and a favourite companion of Helen Keller, among other famous owners. Every professional group of any repute, including dog breeders, kennel clubs and veterinarians have defended pit bulls as stable and friendly dogs.

In the later column published July 5, 2006, Worthington says:

"But pit bulls are dogs with big heads, huge jaws, fearless, and are dangerous to anything that irritates them."

"Even minimal research indicates their prime targets, when they go berserk, are small children and small dogs -- toy poodles, Lhasa Apsos and the like. Rarely does one hear of pit bulls attacking German shepherds, Rottweillers, Doberman pinschers."

"One wonders why people want a dog that by law must be muzzled and leashed - something "Sniper" seems rarely to have endured."

"Often people want them as a secondary defence against police," said Gary Davis. "They are owner-specific, unpredictable and often dangerous."

"As for Clayton Ruby, a skilled lawyer, I'll bet his personal experience with pit bull-type dogs is limited; I doubt he's ever been victimized by one."Here he has claimed that pit bulls are "dangerous to anything that irritates them". He then cites his admittedly "minimal research" as support that small children and small dogs are prime targets for allegedly "berserk" pit bulls. Again, no evidence or research is cited, and in fact no such research exists. Perhaps small dogs may be more likely to be harmed in a fight with a larger dog, but certainly this could not be proof that pit bulls bully small dogs.

He then repeats the urban legend that pit bulls are the preferred dog of criminals. This, along with allegations that they were preferred by members of drug dealers and the Ku Klux Klan, appears to be more a result of attempts to discredit dog fighting than by any real history of the dog breed or its owners. Many respectable people have and do own pit bulls, and in fact this breed has been a popular choice of families for generations.

Worthington then libels Clayton Ruby by claiming that he has taken on the defence of pit bulls with little knowledge of the breed. I am sure that Mr. Ruby is capable of defending himself, but I am also certain that he knows far more about pit bulls than does Peter Worthington. It is disgraceful that Mr. Worthington would defame a renowned lawyer for having the temerity to defend an oppressed group from discrimination.

I have written twice to the Toronto Sun complaining about these columns without response. My emails are attached along with copies of the offending articles.

Mr. Worthington has apparently undertaken a vendetta against pit bulls and the people who love them, perhaps inspired by his limited but negative experience. The Toronto Sun has allowed this to continue and has failed to provide any corrections to the inaccurate and libelous information published, or any balance to the biased and prejudiced reporting of Mr. Worthington.

This conduct is particularly grievous in view of the discrimination faced by pit bull owners in Ontario. This is the only jurisdiction in North America that has seen fit to ban the breed throughout a province or state. The government has itself engaged in vicious and unwarranted attacks on pit bulls and their owners and many pit bull owners have been subject to discrimination in housing and insurance as a result of the public disinformation campaign of the government. The actions of Peter Worthington and the Toronto Sun have shamefully contributed to the oppression of pit bull owners.

Bryan R. Dale
Barrister & Solicitor


Blogger Conners said...

Someone needs to stop Wellington and the Toronto Sun from writing these slanderous articles. I hope by Bryan Dale's letter, it gets a retraction printed in defense of all the damage he has already caused.

5:53 PM  

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