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Media Myths: An Australian Incident

When David Lowe, a local Stafford breeder of an esteemed 17 years, opened the local Herald Sun Newspaper on May 2nd, 1997 he was stunned. In reporting on a local dog attack, not only had the paper misidentified the breed of dog in the attack as a Stafforshire Bull Terrier, they had also fabricated a totally incorrect picture of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Rather than reporting on the wonderful, loving characteristics of the Stafford -- characteristics that are a cornerstone of the breed and indeed are front and centre in the SBT breed standard -- the paper had maligned the breed quite badly.

Disturbed by the incorrect information, and determined to set the record straight, David Lowe wrote a carefully thought out letter based on fact, which he sent in to the offending paper. It would seem that the paper was not interested in the truth, and one can only assume that this either relates to extremely sloppy reporting or to a desire to present a skewed version of the truth to the public. Either way, misreporting of this nature is unacceptable and so we've decided to publish David's letter here, that the truth might be known to all.


The Editor,
Herald Sun Newspapers,

Dear Sir,

I write in relation to the article by Simon Ferguson on page 12 of today's Herald Sun entitled "Bull Terrier Warning".

As a long time owner and breeder of Staffordshire Bull Terriers, it disappoints me to see such misinformed and obviously poorly researched reporting by one of your staff. As a result this article is misleading in the extreme in relation to Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

In the first instance, the photograph that is shown as a Bull Terrier is in fact not a Bull Terrier at all, it looks to me to be of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The article says "...those with bull terrier blood were the most vicious". Presumably this is a reference to the fact that Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Bull Terriers at some point in the mid 1800's shared a common parentage. It should also be noted that in relation to the American Pit Bull Terrier, it is highly doubtful that they also shared this common parentage. However, since this time, some 150 years ago, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Bull Terrier have been developed as completely separate breeds with traits and characteristics totally exclusive to each other, to the point that in 1997, that common parentage is as far removed as the common parentage shared by the various strains of anglo saxon human beings.

The article indicates the gathering of statistics by a veterinarian in Queensland, leading to the conclusions made. In Victoria, there is not one report of an attack by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier on a human being, and I am told by colleagues in Queensland, that this is also the case there. In fact the relationship between Staffordshire Bull Terriers and humans is best summarised by an extract from the official Breed Standard under the heading of Characteristics, ".....Highly intelligent and affectionate, especially with children." In the Midlands of England, the area in which Staffordshire Bull Terriers originated, the breed is dubbed "the nanny dog", such is their reliability with and affection for children. Our own Dr Hugh Wirth from the RSPCA, has gone as far as to recommend Staffordshire Bull Terriers as good family pets.

The article goes further to suggest that the dogs have a level of "untrainability". Staffordshire Bull Terriers are highly intelligent dogs, that are extremely easy to train and excel at the Obedience disciplines. In Victoria there are large numbers of the breed active in Obedience, with quite a number highly qualified. In 1996, there were 2 Staffordshire Bull Terriers represented in the top 12 Obedience dogs that competed for the VCA's Obedience Dog of the year. Staffordshire Bull Terriers regularly now take top honours in All Breeds Obedience trials, and are now a well accepted and highly admired breed on the regular Obedience circuit.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is now a very popular breed particularly with families due to its loving nature and reliability with all humans and children in particular, and its many owners become very distressed at reports of the nature carried in the article discussed. As a widely read media, you have a responsibility to get your facts right, and report a balanced view, something that traditionally has not occurred in relation to Staffordshire Bull Terriers. We trust in future you can ensure that our breed is not wrongly represented.

Yours sincerely,

David Lowe




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