With two dog attacks occurring this month in our area, pit bulls are back in the spotlight. There are some who think pit bulls are so risky to human safety that they should be banned entirely; others feel specific breeds should not be targeted, that dogs should instead be judged on a case-by-case basis.
Do pit bulls deserve their dangerous reputation? They were originally bred in England to combine the strength of the bulldog with the agility of the terrier, and were used for bear-baiting, bull-baiting and cock fighting. Once those sports were eliminated, pit bulls became the main act in dog fights. While some are still bred for strength and fighting, many have assumed roles on farms to drive livestock and as family companions.
The move to becoming a family dog has been marred by sometimes fatal attacks. The combination of molosser breeds, including pit bulls, rottweilers, presa canarios, cane corsos, mastiffs, dogo argentinos, fila brasieros, sharpeis, boxers, and their mixes, inflict:
- 86% of attacks that induce bodily harm
- 81% of attacks to children
- 89% of attack to adults
- 76% of attacks that result in fatalities
- 86% that result in maiming
- Embody 9.2%+ of the total dog population
To some, those statistics are enough to clamp down on the presence of these dogs in the community. According to Wikipedia, about 550 jurisdictions have enacted breed-specific legislation to either ban or put restrictions on owning these dogs. Pam Ginther-Perry, who trains dogs at All About Dogs, thinks this approach is too broad. She compares it to one German person committing a crime, and every German person subsequently being put in jail. “You should be judged on your individual merit or behavior,” she said.
In many cases, dogs involved in attacks have owners who “don’t understand the breed or don’t train it properly,” she said. It has been documented that owners of high-risk dogs tend to have a history of criminal convictions and anti-social behavior.
For the Love of Pits is a pit bulls rescue group based here in Cleveland. The group focuses on pit bulls because “they are exceedingly people friendly, even with strangers, and are extraordinarily affectionate and devoted.” In addition, they feel pit bulls are the most in need of help. “Pit bulls are subjected to cruelty, abuse and mistreatment both to a degree and on a scale that no other breed has ever had to endure. They are victimized by an undeserved reputation created by abusive owners, criminals, irresponsible owners and, of course, the media,” according to the website. The group takes dogs selectively and offers low-cost support and training for new owners.
Many pit bulls spend a much longer time in shelters waiting for homes due to the breed’s reputation. There are currently several pit bull mixes who have been at Rescue Village for months, as potential families choose breeds they consider safer. Would you take a chance on a pit bull? Have you had any personal experiences with a pit bull? If a friend or neighbor had one, would you still go over their house, or let your child play there? Would it affect your opinion of the dog’s owner? Let us know!