According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs bite more than 4.7 million people each year. Roughly 800,000 of these people seek medical attention, with 386,000 injured badly enough to require treatment in an emergency department. About 16 people die from dog bites annually. Half of all medically treated dog bites involve children, and the CDC believes that dog bite injuries are a “largely preventable public health problem,” suggesting that better education is all that is needed to reduce their incidence. Though they have studied fatal dog bites over the last twenty years, including identifying the breeds of dogs involved, the CDC does not advocate breed-specific policies as a method of reducing dog bite occurrences.
In the eyes of many, however, numbers don’t lie. There were 238 fatalities in which breeds were known during the 20-year period –and the CDC study shows that “Pit Bull-type” purebreds were responsible for 66 of them, significantly more than any other breed. Rottweilers followed with 39, while German Shepherds were responsible for 17 deaths. It is this type of information, along with an increase in media coverage of attacks involving American Pit Bull Terriers and American Bullies, which has led to legislation banning their ownership in many cities across the nation.
But are pit bulls dangerous –just because of their breed? Pit Bull owners and rescue groups say no. They profess that the breed as a whole is good-natured, loyal and affectionate. They state that these comical, lovable canines are eager to please, and good with children as well as adults. According to some breeders, Pit Bulls are naturally aggressive towards other dogs and animals. Yet elsewhere on the Internet you will find pictures of American Pit Bull Terriers and American Bully breeds caring for kittens, cuddling with babies and romping about with much smaller canine companions. Pit Bull advocates maintain that violent incidents involving these animals are the fault of irresponsible dog owners and often sensationalized by the media.
On the other hand, a visit to www.dogsbite.org, an advocacy group for dog bite victims, reveals that this organization and its supporters see the other side of the Pit Bull breed story. From January 2006 to December 2008, they claim that Pit Bull-type dogs were responsible for 59 percent of the fatal dog attacks they recorded. According to their data, Pit Bulls were responsible for 81 percent of fatal off-property attacks during this period. Colleen Lynn, the founder of the organization, was quoted as stating, “The off-property statistical data bout Pit Bulls shows just how dangerous they are.”
So which is the correct answer to this controversial question? Are the violent attacks on humans (often children and senior citizens) the fault of breed alone or wholly due to a lack of training and control on the part of the animals’ owners? We may never have a definitive answer but it behooves us, Pit Bull advocates and victims’ advocates alike, to consider both sides before resorting to name calling, blame throwing or additional breed-specific legislation.
Do you know anyone with a Pit Bull? Do you think it is friendly or aggressive and dangerous? Share with us in the comments!