StubbyDog Hero: Karen Delise

October 18, 2011  

Founder and Director of Research for the National Canine Research Council

Q: Can you tell StubbyDog readers about the National Canine Research Council?

A: The National Canine Research Council (NCRC) is committed to preserving the human-canine bond. We publish, underwrite and reprint accurate, documented, reliable research to promote a better understanding of our relationship with dogs.

We make grants to universities, independent research organizations and independent scholars. We also conduct our own research on contemporary issues that impact the human-canine bond, including the dynamics of popular attitudes toward dogs and canine aggression; public health reporting on dog bites; public policy concerning companion animals; and media reporting on dogs.

Q: What motivated you to start the NCRC?

A: In 1999, when I began to write my first book, “Fatal Dog Attacks: The Stories Behind the Statistics,” many of my sources were newspaper articles. I contacted the newspapers and asked permission to reprint their stories in my book, and most of them refused. I then decided I would seek out sources closer to the incident than a newspaper and began to contact investigators, animal control and owners/witnesses. I found that I was acquiring information that either had never appeared in the media or that drastically conflicted with what the media had reported. I founded NCRC to correct the misinformation that was reported about dog bite-related fatalities and to provide more accurate and complete information to assist us in understanding the circumstances surrounding these rare and tragic events.

Q: How has the NCRC evolved and grown so far, and what is your ultimate goal for it?

A: One of the best decisions I ever made was to turn NCRC over to Animal Farm Foundation, an organization whose passion for helping dogs and for accurate information matched mine, and who also had the resources that would advance my mission of making accurate information about dog bite-related incidents – and about dogs generally – available to the public.

Under the direction of Jane Berkey, president of Animal Farm Foundation, NCRC has assembled an outstanding group of advisors on dogs and public policy, an incredible staff and has grown into a national organization recognized for its professionalism, accuracy and compassion for all aspects of the human-canine bond.

(Photos above and below courtesy of

Q: The NCRC benefits all dogs, but with books like “The Pit Bull Placebo” much of your work especially benefits pit bulls. What first got you involved with pit bull type dogs?

A: Many people associate me and my work with “pit bulls”; however, when I began researching dog bite fatalities 20+ years ago, I really didn’t even know what a “pit bull” was. I grew up in an era when Dobermans, Great Danes and German Shepherds were the dogs that were popular. The stark reality of how many ”pit bull” dogs are abused, mistreated and misunderstood shocked me. I might see a case where 12 dogs labeled “pit bulls” were horribly treated and one of the dogs later injured a child. The actions of the one dog would then be represented as proof that “pit bull” dogs were dangerous. But I could not help thinking about the other 11 “pit bulls” that had suffered the worst man could dish out without injuring anyone. Why wasn’t their behavior more representative of the way “pit bull” dogs behave?

Over the 20 years I have been studying dogs and dog-related injuries, I have been continually amazed that the behavior of millions upon millions of non-biting dogs is ignored, while the behavior of a tiny fraction of dogs comes to define all the others.

Q: If there is one thing you could convey to the general public about pit bulls type dogs, what would it be (in one sentence)?

A: Pit bulls are dogs and all dogs are individuals.

Q: I’m sure your work can be frustrating – constantly running into the same backward thinking when it comes to dogs and seeing so much abuse and mistreatment – how do you stay positive and motivated?

A: I find that an increasing number of people understand that “pit bulls” are just dogs, and good dogs at that, and that the stories they hear about “pit bulls” are not representative of any dog other than the dog in that story. And what do we know about the actual circumstances of that dog’s life? Dogs have life stories, just like people do. I am hopeful that most reasonable people understand the role the media has played in vilifying these dogs, that each and every dog is an individual, and that we humans are responsible for the dogs in our midst.

Q: We think you’re a hero. If you could have one superpower to make a difference for pit bulls, what would it be?

A: Thank you. But I am not the hero.

Years of researching dog bite-related incidents has produced an unexpected result: Instead of viewing dogs, and “pit bulls,” as potentially dangerous, I have acquired a tremendous respect for them all. For every dog that I see involved in a fatality, I see thousands of others mistreated, but whom never – in pain, fear, confusion or mishandling – lash out and harm a human.

If I had one superpower, it would be to make all people recognize that these dogs are the true heroes.

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3 Responses to “StubbyDog Hero: Karen Delise”
  1. JeneenBurns says:

    Accurate information makes a difference if you care about the truth. I believe it would make headlines in the news if only the media would cared as much for the truth as much as the easy sell of following in line with hype.

  2. micaelamyers says:

    Karen is definitely one of my heroes! Keep up the great work.

  3. bluebrindle says:

    Definition of hero: (2) a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal:

    He was alocal hero when he saved the drowning child.

    Karen Delise is certainly “regarded as a model” when it comes to dogs. Nice to see her being noted here on StubbyDog. Would love to see more press on Karen in mainstream news media (NY Times, etc) so the word about dogs, pit bulls, and misinformation can reach all people and not just all of us who understand.

    I would personally like to say “Thank you” to Karen Delise and NCRC for their informational and outstandingly researched publications (The Pit Bull Placebo, that sits on my bed stand!) and website. Where would we be without this great, unsung “hero” organization?