#BSLbytes #115: Decoding Fake News Part 2

Posted by Chantelle Mackney on

Remember all the NOPE we discussed in BSLbyte #114 – specifically, those studies that say things like “75% of serious dog attacks are by pit bulls"?

Today we’re going to talk about something called a literature review. Keep reading! It’s not boring, we promise, and we'll point you towards a study that may be the only citation you need next time you find yourself in a conversation about breed and bites.


A single study should always be taken with a grain of salt, even when it’s a well-constructed study and published in a proper journal. A study can be legit but still come up with a really strange result, because of a mitigating factor the researcher may not be aware of, or simply through chance.

Chance, you say? How can science be derailed by chance? Well, we have an example.

We know that every time we flip a coin, we have a 50/50 chance of getting heads, right?

Right. Now say that 50 different scientists set up a controlled environment and did 100 coin tosses. Every variable is exactly the same.

It’s likely that the majority of scientists would see an average of 50 heads and 50 tails. Some might be 60/40 or around there. But it’s very likely that one or two might see 70 heads and 30 tails.

Now, what if only the 70/30 scientist decided to publish his paper? There’s no reason why he shouldn’t. His methods were sound and the study was legit. And since the results are so unexpected and dramatic, it would likely get a lot of attention. If we took a single study as proof of a phenomenon, none of us would ever choose "tails" again!


Now let’s take this back from coin tosses to dog bites.

If there are 50 studies done on dog bites and breed, and we already know that breed ID is hugely problematic, then we should not be surprised when one or two shows something alarming.

And when there are entire advocacy groups dedicated to maligning a specific group of dogs, we shouldn’t be surprised when they find one and wave it like a banner.

Enter the literature review. 🎉

In 2014, the American Veterinary Medicine Association published a literature review of three dozen peer-reviewed studies on the role of breed in dog aggression. This covered three decades, multiple continents, and various data sources.

The result? Depending on what you choose to study and where you study it, any breed – from the “pit bull” to the Chow Chow to the Cocker Spaniel – can be considered the top biter.

So! Next time someone presents you with a questionable statistic or “study” simply point them to this review. Because what is more credible? A single study? Or three dozen peer-reviewed studies? (If they can’t answer that question, they aren’t worth debating with anyway).

#endBSL #notoBill128 #Canada150 #BSLbytes





#BSLbytes is a joint initiative of Hugabull Advocacy & Rescue Society and Justice for Bullies. 


For background on the #BSLbytes campaign visit the HugABull blog:http://blog.hugabull.com/take-a-byte-out-of-bsl


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