Miss Universe Canada Sahar Biniaz visits with four-year Emma Cranford in White Rock a week after a pit bull attack.

Miss Universe Canada Sahar Biniaz visits with four-year Emma Cranford in White Rock a week after a pit bull attack.

COLUMN: Trolls, pit bulls and a universe of misinformation

The story of a beauty queen's efforts to console a four-year-old victim of a pit bull attack continues to incite vitriol.

You had to know it was the kind of news story that would get people talking rabidly about the unfairness of it all.

Pit bull attacks child. Beauty queen calls for breed ban. Dog advocates call for beauty queen’s head.

Problem is, neither the media who reported it nor the pit-bull defenders who mounted a dethroning campaign bothered to find out how much of it was true.

Certainly, when Emma Cranford was attacked in White Rock on Aug. 23 – requiring 30-40 stitches under her chin and up her cheek – her parents called for a pit-bull ban.

And just as certainly, when Miss Universe Canada Sahar Biniaz asked Emma’s family if she could visit the four-year-old to offer moral support, she did so as both an ambassador of pageant royalty and as a dog-attack victim scarred as a young girl herself.

But that’s where propagators took the story sideways.

Fact is, Biniaz wants nothing to do with a breed ban. She told Peace Arch News so when she first visited the Cranford family a week after the attack, and she’s repeated it many times since to anyone who asks.

Sadly, most don’t.

Instead, reporters report, bloggers blog and aggressors mount a campaign. Many use social media to make vicious personal attacks on Biniaz, and they lobby the Miss Universe organization – 6,704 signatures and counting – to strip her of her title.

Coming to their defence – surprising, perhaps, only to those who haven’t met her – is Biniaz herself.

The 26-year-old empathizes all too well with pit bull owners whose pets are under attack. She knows they are being told over and over that their loved ones are vicious and should be banned, if not exterminated.

Following any reported attack, their counterattack is usually swift, starting and ending with allegations of a media conspiracy.

A pit bull isn’t a breed, they’ll point out (often in ALL CAPS). Mistaken identity is one line of defence. Blame the owner, not the breed, is another. And, as a seeming last resort, blame the victim.

True, a pit bull is no purebred, but this is a weak argument in the face of tragedy. The crossbreed was first dreamt up by man 100 years ago, an unnatural selection that created a strong-jawed, muscular canine. And mistaken identity, frankly, seems a bit of wishful thinking from afar.

As for the final two defenses, I suggest there’s more than enough blame to go around. And to those who blame the child – or parents – I only hope you never have to turn that finger back on your loved ones.

Whether pit bulls by design are volatile beasts or misunderstood beings, I leave to you. I only know that when an animal does as much damage as was suffered by Emma, I will endeavour to accurately report what happened, as attributed to witnesses and officials, including breed and circumstances.

There’s your ‘media conspiracy.’

In this particular case, however, the arguments haven’t stopped with the usual vitriol. They branch out to personal attacks and vendettas, all based on misinformation. Ironically, one of the reasons Biniaz was so grateful for being named Miss Universe Canada last May was so she could draw attention to not only aggressive dogs but bullying.

It looks like, in one fell swoop, she’s managed both.

Still, there’s nothing fair about it. It’s unfair to Biniaz, unfair to the dog’s owner, unfair to Emma and, ultimately, unfair to the pit bull itself, who paid the ultimate price.

As for her canine campaign, Biniaz notes – politely but emphatically – that breed bans do more harm than good. Instead, she calls for mandatory muzzles on dogs that are considered dangerous – including rottweilers, pit bulls, dobermans and German shepherds – when out in public or near children.

And for that strong stance, her critics are no doubt ready to pounce again.

But also for that – quoted accurately – she’s willing to live with those battle scars.

Lance Peverley is editor of Peace Arch News.

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