Are Pit Bulls Inherently Dangerous?

The Marlyland Court of Appeals has deemed pit bulls to be “inherently dangerous”, which means that in a civil case for damages, if the plaintiff can prove that the damages were caused by a pit bull, then she does not need to show–unlike in an ordinary negligence claim–a failure on the part of the dog owner to exercise due care:

Upon a plaintiff’s sufficient proof that a dog involved in an attack is a pit bull or a pit bull cross, and that the owner, or other person(s) who has the right to control the pit bull’s presence on the subject premises (including a landlord who has a right to prohibit such dogs on leased premises) knows, or has reason to know, that the dog is a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull, that person is liable for the damages caused to a plaintiff who is attacked by the dog on or from the owner’s or lessor’s premises. In that case a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of negligence. When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.

There is a discussion about this already going on at DrugMonkey’s blogge, with the usual apologetics of the pit bull enthusiasts.

I’m pretty convinced that this commenter has it exactly right, that pit bulls have been bred to be vicious and uncontrollable:

Genetics play a huge part in a dog’s behavior and temperament. The Belyaev experiment has been going on since the 1959, and has proven that selective breeding, in even a few generations, can produce an animal that is genetically friendly toward humans; it can also produce an animal that is genetically aggressive. If this can be easily accomplished in wild canids (foxes), it can be easily done in domestic dogs.

Pit bulls were bred by the dogmen to be “game”, which means that once they are engaged in a fight, they do not stop, despite pain and mortal wounds. They were selected through generations to be highly dog aggressive, and to not respond normally to canine body language. They ignore signals of submission. They have a high threshold for pain. They have an active defence reflex, and will chose fight over flight when challenged. They were bred to attack without the typical warning signals, since signaling intent to your opponent is a liability in the fighting pit.
While normal dogs use mostly ritualistic displays of aggression…. posturing, hackling, growling, pinning and air snapping; or use just enough force to open up a flight path, such as when a fearful dog bites and releases….pit bulls have been bred to grab, hold, and shake their opponent until it stops moving.

This behavior in pit bulls is a self rewarding behavior, just as the exagerated eye-stalk behavior of the border collie is. It is not the result of abuse or training. Current breeding practices for pit bulls continue to select for these traits…the vast majority of people breeding pit bulls todays are at best grossly irresponsible back yard breeders, who are ingoring temperament and just looking to make a quick buck, or are criminals, drug dealers, gang members and dog fighters, breeding aggressive pits as guard dogs for drug ops, or for the fighting pit.

It’s time to stop the fairy tales about “nanny dogs”, and the mental gymnastics of looking for triggers and excuses as to “why” pit bull attacks occur. The dogs are simply doing what they were bred to do. Dogs aren’t people, they are a eugenics experiment. Pit bulls were created for an activity that is now a felony in all 50 states. Its time to take a hard look at regulating them as a public safety measure.


  1. Francisco Bacopa says

    In my city’s more remote suburbs a lot of people use pit bulls to hunt pigs. The same persistence that makes them good fighters also helps them corner and harass a feral hog when other dogs would be scared off.

    You actually use two groups of dogs. About three hounds, kinda like fox hounds, to locate the pigs and alert when they have found them. You then release the about four pit mixes, to join the hounds and corner a hog. The hounds have more stamina and hunting ability, but they won’t attack a hog. The pits will. Once the hunters catch up, they lasso a hog an slit its throat.

    You might be asking why they don’t shoot it: Army Corps of Engineers land and county Flood Control owned land. No guns allowed.

    I’ve known a ton of pits and have found them quite friendly, to people anyway. I also know of several dogs with a different opinion, including my brother’s dogs, who suffered health problems for their shortened lives after a pit bull attack.

  2. slc1 says

    Abbie Smith over at the ERV blog on Scienceblogs, who owns a pit bull named Arnie, will beg to differ with Mr. Physioproffe.

  3. says

    A plausible theory alone should not be enough to convince you of anything, and the comment you quote is overflowing with claims that demand a big, fat [citation needed].

    I don’t think anybody will claim that a dog’s genetic background has no affect whatsoever on its behavior – but “the dogs are simply doing what they were bred to do” is horrendously simplistic. Data: provide it.

  4. machintelligence says

    Fighting breed dogs and wolfhounds (used to hunt wolves) have had the submission releaser bred out of them. Almost all dogs, when the other dog rolls on its back and exposes its throat (submissive posture) will cease aggressive behavior. Pit bulls, on the other hand will use the opportunity to go for the kill. They can be quite friendly at other times, but they are inherently dangerous.

  5. Boz Haug says

    I am not a “pit bull enthusiast” but I take some umbrage at the idea that anyone with an opinion that differs on pit bulls only has apologetics to offer.

    I used to obedience train dogs, all the way up to UD (Utility Dog) level, which includes tracking and other skills used by police K9 units. As such I like to believe that I know a little about dog behaviour and dog breeds. Pit Bulls and their close relations such as the American Staffordshire Terrier are not inherently dangerous. While genetics do have some play in an individual dog’s temperament, training and upbringing both have far more weight in determining such factors as aggression.

    Pit Bulls are currently the unfortunate bearers of a reputation that some idiotic jerks wish to associate themselves with. If you wear a wife-beater, drink crappy beer, hate women and think anyone who isn’t white is subhuman, a fierce junkyard dog becomes the cherry to plop on top of your white trash cake. So you go get a Pit Bull puppy and to your dismay discover that it’s a sweet, wimpy little thing that wants to be cuddled and played with. Solution: chain it up next to your car that’s on blocks and every single day beat the living crap out of it with a leather strap. The end result will be exactly what you wanted to fill out your personal identity, odious though it might be.

  6. Uncle Glenny says

    Oh boy. That quotation has a couple strategic inaccuracies. More later.

  7. Dalillama says

    I’m gonna have to call bs on that one, given that I’ve personally seen pitbulls both submit to and accept submission from other dogs.

  8. Mark D. says

    Anecdote alert!

    My sister’s boyfriend owns a pit bull, and she is the sweetest damn dog we’ve ever had. And has a mischievous side too that is very amusing.

    In comparison to her, we have a mutt (part beagle, part we-have-no-fucking-clue) who has a much worse temper. She’s not a vicious attack dog, but it’s much easier to get her worked up than the pit. If you start swatting at her with your feet, you can have her snarling at your feet (but not actually biting them) within a few seconds. Often, when the pit and mutt are playing, the pit will end up on her back with the mutt at her neck (just rough playing! They aren’t trying to kill each other!)

    The pit knows this about our dog too, and will deliberately rile her up for some fun. She has this move she does that is hilarious: she will, in one motion, leap under our dog’s head, roll onto her back, and swat at her face with her paws. And does it several times in a row.

    No matter how rough they get though, it’s very easy to get them to calm down, and they still get along really well.

    They got another puppy to go with their pit, and she LOVED that little shit. The pit would sometimes roll on her back, inviting the little puppy to jump on her and play.

    The only issue we have with her is that we cannot let her out when we have our bunnies running around. She will attack them. Small wildlife animals seem to be the only things that trigger aggression in her.

    At best, the genetic argument means only that pit bulls are more likely to be aggressive. Individual pits can still vary in how aggressive (or not) they are, depending on how they’ve been trained and treated an how their particular genetic lottery turned out.

    If you’re going to buy into genetic bullshit like that, you might as well class men as “inherently dangerous”, what with testosterone and all that.

    It’s important to remember that dogs, just like people are enormously SOCIAL animals. If you think they are automatons that blindly follow their genetic programming:


  9. redundant says

    I hope I can keep this short, because this is a topic that gets me riled up. That said, here I go.

    I adopted a pit for my family a year ago and like Mark D describes above, he is the sweetest, funniest dogs ever. Loved by all, has never been aggressive to a person or another dog. At dog runs, a few dogs have been aggressive to him and he just avoids them. I adopted a pit for a reason, I have never met a mean pit. I know they exist, don’t get me wrong. I lived in NYC for 21 years and now live in a suburb of NYC. I worked in Harlem and now work in the Bronx and I see the dogs used for macho decoration. But, when i was in Harlem, a woman who worked next door rescued pits who had been fought and/or abandoned. The were often tied up in front of their garage, some had their ears cut off, some had multiple puncture wounds around the face. I used to visit them and never once did any of those dogs do anything other than wag their tails and love being visited.

    I have nothing scientific to add and we know anecdotes are unreliable, so I will conclude with this. Pit Bulls were bred to fight other dogs and to never hurt people. Owners had to be able to get in the pit with their dog and know he wouldn’t turn on them. Dogs that did were destroyed. I acknowledge the possibility of aggression to other dogs, but to people, the breeding makes them loving.

    Like I said, I truly have never met a mean pit bull, but I have met other very aggressive non-pitbull dogs. The Maryland law is BS and I am afraid Physio Prof is at best ill informed.

  10. says

    Another important note to make: there is a big difference between this breed is more likely to attack human beings and this breed is more likely to cause substantial injury or death to a human being during an attack.

    I get the impression that the two are being conflated, here.

  11. machintelligence says

    Katie Hartman @ 10
    Exactly! From personal experience I think one is more likely to be attacked by a Chihuahua (they are nutty little dogs) than a Pit Bull. All of the Pit Bulls and crossbreeds that I have encountered were kept as pets and were friendly. But if you are attacked by one it’s Katie Bar the Door.

  12. julian says

    Don’t know anything about pitbulls except that every owner who’s ever introduced me to one told me up front it was gonna charge me and I should sock it in the nose.

  13. magistramarla says

    I have no expertise when it comes to dogs, but my daughter does – she’s a dog trainer. She says that the breed doesn’t matter – what is most important is the upbringing, socialization and training of the dog.
    She trained my German Shepherd to be my motility service dog. He’s a huge (100 lb.) sweetheart who goes everywhere with me. A man once commented that Conner is half-dog/half-human.

    My daughter now has a pair of Dobermans (also a misunderstood breed). Those two have been so thoroughly socialized that they are both big babies. They think that they should be lapdogs and want to be constantly petted. They play happily with the kitten, who often takes a turn chasing them. My grandson learned to walk holding on to his Dobermans, and they seem to feel that he is their puppy.

    My daughter claims that any young puppy is a blank slate and that treatment and training will determine how it responds as an adult.

  14. Janicot says

    Add me to Katie Hartman and machintelligence. Two of my recent rescue dogs both had problems that made them not play well with strangers (fortunately I have enough land that they led long and as near as I could tell happy lives).

    The difference between the two was that one weighed 15lbs. and even though he was the more likely of the two to attack, he’d have been unable to hurt anyone but a small child or a cat or something.

    The other weighed 110lbs. and simply couldn’t be let out in public. If we were away from home, he had to spend the time in his kennel and friends would feed and water him through the bars.

    Again, the problem wasn’t that the big dog was the more aggressive — the problem was that he was big and strong enough to hurt someone if he was given the chance. And even though I loved him and miss him terribly, I have to admit that It’s a huge relief not to have to worry about a kid climbing my fence or anything any more.

  15. Dalillama says

    Sounds like all of the pit owners you’ve met have been the kind of assholes Boz Haug describes above.

  16. otrame says

    This is a matter, if you will, of percentages. Yes, pit bulls are inherently dangerous. All dogs are. All dogs are individuals. This is not a matter of absolutes. Pit bulls are more likely to seriously injure people and other animals because their gene pool includes a much higher percentage of dogs likely to be highly aggressive and unable to stop once they start. They are also large, incredibly strong dogs. Sure Dalmatians, Chows, and Rottweilers also have unfortunate tendencies in this, but they are somewhat less likely to be poorly socialized, and most importantly, are not being actively bred to fight. As someone upthread said, Chihuahuas are highly aggressive too, though in their case the problem is mostly fear biting.

    The excuses for the amount of damage from pits from commenters above are all beside the point. Yes, many pits are real sweethearts, smart, funny, and a joy. Yes, if they are properly socialized, most are not particularly dangerous. Most. But they trigger, and they do so in unpredictable ways. And once they do, no matter how much you may not want to accept it, they. will. not. stop.

    One of the most laid-back breeds, especially when dealing with their own humans, is the Labrador Retriever. We had a lovely Lab once, well-behaved, well-sociallized, well-trained. I had to have that very loved dog put down. Though he loved everyone he ever met, and especially loved kids, if he was startled, he snapped. He did it several times and we talked ourselves out of doing anything. When he bit my 2 year niece in the face because she patted him while he was distracted, leaving small scars you can still see today when she is in her 30s. We thought of sending him to someone who would be unlikely to have him around kids, but we knew no one would ever believe that dog was dangerous. We had him put down. It was the only responsible thing to do. Any breed might have dangerous individuals. Pits are much more likely to be such individuals than most breeds.

    If pit owners stop breeding to fight, the breed could be saved, becoming no more dangerous than the average dog, in a few generations. If they are ruthless enough with the culls. But the truth is they aren’t going to. And since it is a public health issue, the public has a right to do something about it. Personally, I think all pits should be sterilized. Those showing signs of aggression should be put down now.

    We already have enough dogs in the world. Why insist on keeping a breed that has such a high percentage of dangerous individuals?

  17. colinkingsley says

    Wow, this is a pretty despicable post. I thought you were better than this, PP.

  18. Janicot says

    I agree with you completely otrame.

    Many years ago I played baseball in Tucson and there was a guy on our city league team who bred pits (including some for fighting) and he would bring his family pet to our practices. It was a terrific, friendly, docile dog that we all very much enjoyed — right up until a poodle walked across the park while we were out on the field and we found out why he used a chain for a leash.

    It broke off the sapling that it was chained to and the other dog would have had no chance if it had gotten completely loose.

    As you said, they are very strong and will.not.stop.

  19. Matt says

    I will preface this by saying I’m not a dog lover.

    I was injured rather seriously at 6 years old by a rogue police dog, and have since had zero patience for dogs of any stripe. A dog that barks at me will get broken ribs; my friends’ dogs are scared of me, and cower when I’m around, because most of them have learned that being aggressive around me will mean being forced into submission, including pain – and yes, I’ve lost friends over it; too fucking bad.

    Dogs are extraordinarily dangerous animals; even a small Jack Russell can inflict significant injury. Pits, however, are the worst of the worst. I ride a bike to work and have had issues with pits chasing me. Complaints to the police fix the issue for a week at most; it took a small child riding to school being seriously injured to get any attention.

    So my attitude – and I don’t apologize for it at all – is to assume that any dog off leash is dangerous; any dog that acts out intends harm; and it is my right as a citizen in public space to be free from bothersome dogs.

    So I kill them. I carry a cane with a sharp tip. A dog that attacks and is off leash will be struck with it, disabled, and then killed The best part? The PD doesn’t like it, but because the dogs are coming into public streets off leash, I’m in the right.

  20. Thomas Eldon Robbins says

    In my time at the local animal shelter, we have had several dozen pits come through. To my knowledge, none were problem dogs. All were gentle, kind, and pleasant.

    However, when they bite, they lock their jaws. most people do not know this, so when they are bit, they pull away, causing more damage. if you remain calm and shove your arm or other bitten area into the pit’s mouth harder, you break its hold. the scariest biters are huskies, or some other “wolf-looking” dogs. they rip and slash when they bite. lots of blood.

  21. Thomas Eldon Robbins says

    In my time at the local animal shelter, we have had several dozen pits come through. To my knowledge, none were problem dogs. All were gentle, kind, and pleasant.

    However, when they bite, they lock their jaws. most people do not know this, so when they are bit, they pull away, causing more damage. if you remain calm and shove your arm or other bitten area into the pit’s mouth harder, you break its hold. the scariest biters are huskies, or some other “wolf-looking” dogs. they rip and slash when they bite. lots of blood.

    actually, scratch that. i’d never, ever, ever fight an ovchartka. just… no.

    oh, and matt? you’re fucking disgusting.

  22. julian says


    I have a similar policy for cane wielding douchebags out in public.

  23. Roland says

    I’m a bicyclist, and I’m tired of dog attacks. I now carry a knife, and I’m ready to fight back. These attacks come from all breeds. I had 2 pit bulls come after me, so I went after them with my knife. They stopped, so I stopped, and they haven’t bothered me since. Smart dogs! Some of the little yap dogs are the worst. Or goldens, or herding breeds. It’s not the breed, it’s the owner and/or servant/can-opener.

  24. ursa major says

    There are a lot of issues here.

    One not mentioned is the terrible lack of skill many people have in identifying breeds, or even worse, guessing the ancestry of mixed breeds.

    In the current climate any stocky short haired dog is at risk of being identified as a pit bull regardless of its ancestry. The over identification of dogs as pits distorts the statistics on which breeds are doing the most biting.

    And Matt, your attitude and poor ability to evaluate dogs makes you and ass, a menace and increases your risk of being bitten again.

  25. ursa major says

    Further, even if somehow there was to ba a complete ban on “pit bulls”, in a few weeks the assholes who want rotten dogs would be choosing some other style of dog to abuse. There would be zero effect on the incidence of dog aggression.

  26. Chebag says

    He did it several times and we talked ourselves out of doing anything.

    And right there’s the problem with every fucking dog owner ever. In total denial. Yes even vets and dog trainers who own Dobermans. Their testimony is as bullshit as bullshit can be. Great post Proffe and kudos for trolling out so much idiocy in supposed “free thinkers”. Try applying some of that vaunted “skepticism” to yourselves, dog lovers.

  27. says

    I’ve seen many, many dog bites. I’ve had at least 3 or 4 patient with pit bull attacks, all in the hospital. Rarely, a small dog bite has landed someone in the hospital with an infection, a few stitches.

    Some breeds are, well, breeds. The are bred for certain temperments. Pits and any other dog bread for aggression should be regulated carefully, like handguns should be. The might not be the “bitey-ist” but their bights are horrid.

  28. says

    All I know is that every pittie I’ve had the pleasure to meet has been the sweetest thing on four legs. Playful, happy, wriggly, all paws and tongue and “love me”.

    Now, damn near every aggressive dog I’ve encountered has had a… disturbingly aggressive human. And none has been a pittie.

    A dog is, with rare exceptions, only as aggressive (and mean) as its human, man.

  29. says

    Personally I think they should probably be regulated. Not banned, but you should need a license in order to breed them, and have them required to be fixed to be sold, like ferrets in California (which is actually ridiculous, but neither here nor there).

    I say this not because I think the dogs are horribly aggressive monsters that attack at the slightest provocation. I’ve known several people with very sweet pit bulls and pit mixes. They are however much more likely to cause serious injury if they do attack, and they attack often because every asshole and his cousin has one and a lot of people mistreat them and make them aggressive. An animal that is dangerous only if mistreated by humans IS an inherently dangerous animal if everyone has access to them.

  30. says

    @brettsaunders (#30) — I think that’s perfectly reasonable. It’s a shame to lose out on sweetheart dogs just because some humans are stupid and aggressive and teach their dogs to be the same way.

    Pfeh, I’m not even a dog person! But I think it’s incredibly barbaric to treat a living thing the way some people do their dogs!

  31. says

    brettsaunders, WMDKitty: If it were up to me, dog breeding in general would be better regulated. And if we could require all puppies/dogs and kittens/cats sold as pets to be fixed, all the better.

  32. Lady Day says

    The problem is the owner. I’ve owned/grown up around a lot of different breeds of dogs, all of them various rescues. The one I own currently happens to be a pit bull (my first experience with such a dog), abandoned in a park as a malnourished, worm and bug-infested 7 month old puppy. We’ve had her for 4 years, now. She has always been the sweetest dog. She is probably one of the most intelligent dogs I’ve known, too – she learns commands quickly and is incredibly responsive to me, otherwise. She knows how to play with small dogs as well as cats – she attenuates her play style, even letting small dogs play-bite her in the face, lying on the ground so that they can jump all over her. With larger dogs, she shows more energy. She’s only ever snapped at larger male dogs that approach her too quickly (a too fast approach can signify aggression, in dog language, so it’s the other dog’s fault). But, it’s only been a snap to get the message across to “watch it”, never a bite or worse.

    I’ve noticed that children tend to scare her. Mostly, I think it is because they tend to make a lot of noise. When they approach her, sometimes she shakes. She lets them pet her, but wants to run away from them, usually. I also sometimes wonder whether she may have been abused by children at some point, before I knew her. Apparently, abuse of animals by children is a real issue ( She also, at times, can show fear of adult human strangers – she shakes and cowers around some people, and only shyly approaches them, unless that person has a dog or cat around them, or unless she can smell the other animal on them – she’s more open to their approach, in those cases. She has never shown and I’m confident that she would never show aggression toward a human, though.

    Anyway, she’s no more aggressive than other dogs I’ve known (and I’ve grown up around dog breeds as varied as maltese, dachsund, labs, various terriers, chihuahuas, german shepherds, collie mixes, malamutes, rotweilers, and great pyrenees). She’s actually the one of the most dog-friendly dogs I’ve known.

    I totally believe that dog behavior is all dependent upon the handling/training/socializing of the dog, which is, dependent on the owner. It’s interesting to note that there may be an association between animal abuse and human abuse by pet owners (; ).

  33. slc1 says

    Re slc1 @ #2

    Here’s what Ms. Smith has to say in response to Comradde Physioproffe’s diatribe against pit bulls. At least she didn’t give his the same advice tht she gave Chris Mooney several years ago during the framing brouhaha.

    I handed DrugMonkeys ass to him on a platter (and his BFFs, including CP) in the SciBlogs back channel years ago. Their reaction to this was to attack my dog (because they are big smart adults, you see).

    CP/DM have periodically written negative posts about pitbulls in an attempt to ‘get me back’.

    Really all it does is demonstrate what sad, pathetic humans they are. Theyre so low on the totem pole they have to beat up on already abused *dogs* just to feel alive. And theyre still doing this *years* after my ‘assault’ on them.

    Its pathetic.

    People who care about animal welfare (including dogs) will keep doing what we do, and pit bulls will keep being dogs, and losers like CP and BM will keep being losers.


  34. slc1 says

    And by the way, Comradde Physioproffe’s fucken Yankees lost again yesterday. How about them Nats.

  35. Lady Day says

    On a tangent here: another problem with dog ownership, in general, are people who are unfit to take in certain breeds/categories of dogs and don’t realize it. Pit bulls are one of these types of dog, but shepherds/collies can be difficult for some people to handle, as well. Shepherds/collies are high energy dogs, and they have a habit of nipping, which can lead to bruising/cuts. Many people don’t realize this, and will get a cute shepherd/collie puppy (most likely the product of a puppy mill, unfortunately) at the pet store for Christmas, only to find out a few months later that their dog likes to jump and nip, even around the children. The nipping stems from selective breeding that these dogs have undergone for centuries and is part of how these dogs “work” sheep. The high energy trait has been selected for, since these dogs need a lot of energy to run around livestock all day. They just need to be trained out of the nipping habit, but a lot of the time, the frustrated parents will take the dog to a shelter (even if their children love the dog) because they don’t have the time or energy to properly train and exercise the dog.

    Medium and large sized dogs require more exercise outdoors. They also tend, because of their size, to be more difficult to restrain than smaller dogs. If they are on one end of the leash and decide to take off running, the person at the other end of the leash should be strong enough to restrain the dog and knowledgeable enough to train the dog how to behave.

    Anyway, every dog breed has its aggressive outliers. It is interesting to note that the perceived “inherent problem” with pit bull behavior is, unfortunately, mirrored by the amount of abuse this category of dog is also often subject to at the hands of humans.

    BTW, Jon Stewart owns 2 pit bulls.

  36. opposablethumbs says

    To everyone who pointed out that it’s not the dogs who cause problems, it’s the owners:
    And to everyone who pointed out that ALL dogs are dangerous – inasmuch as ANY dog can be frightened/injured and snap out of fear or pain –
    ALL dogs need proper handling, training and socialisation; any dog can be made dangerous by aggressive or incompetent handling, and if it happens to be a powerful dog then that makes it potentially very dangerous indeed.
    But the answer is not to “demonise” particular breeds – in law or just by making up pseudo-informed shit about them – and then go around patting one another on the back as if this were a solution; the answer is to put some resources into regulating breeding and to treat animal cruelty (such as training a dog to be aggressive) as a serious crime.
    And Matt, it’s terrible what happened to you when you were six, but you’re not six any more. Now you’re a despicable, dangerous and highly aggressive adult carrying a concealed weapon. At least you could get arrested for that here, and I have to say that going on what you wrote you appear to be a danger to the public and would be better kept off the streets unless under supervision from someone capable of restraining you when you act out.

  37. says

    Not a dog person, know nothing about pit-bulls… but I gotta say, I’m seriously disappointed with the lack of actual evidence on either this thread or the original Drugmonkey thread. So that puts me with Katie Hartman here and Becca on the Drugmonkey thread.

    Seriously guys, you call yourselves scientists?

  38. Francisco Bacopa says

    Is it feasible to get a state ban on inherently dangerous individuals like Matt?

    I think Matt’s doing pretty well for some mauled by a large dog at a young age. What he does is healthier than if he had a phobia.

  39. says

    I think Matt’s doing pretty well for some mauled by a large dog at a young age. What he does is healthier than if he had a phobia.

    Totally. Unless, you know, he’d been attacked by another person at a young age. Then we’d call persistent, generalized violence – y’know, to be free of bothersome people – something very different from ‘healthy.’

    If he were talking about defending himself swiftly and decisively against any dog that actually attempted to attack him, I’d be silent. He’s not. He’s saying he’ll happily break a dog’s ribs for barking, something approximately every dog ever born has done.

  40. Tony says

    I’m very glad you weren’t brutally attacked by a human being at age 6. The idea of someone walking the streets ready to attack, maim and/or kill another human simply because one human attacked you is atrocious behavior in a human.
    I’m sorry you were attacked as a child. That’s a tragedy.
    However, I imagine you’re an adult now. That means your childhood tragedy-while it may continue to inform your decisions today-shouldn’t be the entire basis for how you treat dogs. Don’t like ’em? Fine. Great. Scared of them? Fine. No argument. But to carry a concealed weapon with you; ready, willing and more than able to injure, maim or kill a dog just for being off leash? That’s vile.

  41. neilt says

    Chebag the Douchebag says:

    And right there’s the problem with every fucking dog owner ever. In total denial. Yes even vets and dog trainers who own Dobermans. Their testimony is as bullshit as bullshit can be. Great post Proffe and kudos for trolling out so much idiocy in supposed “free thinkers”. Try applying some of that vaunted “skepticism” to yourselves, dog lovers.

    So, one person, who admits he/she was in the wrong, is equal to all dog owners being in permanent denial.

    Well fuck you, douchebag idiot. That’s some REAL scientific thinking you’ve got going on.

    I read several of the Freethought Blogs and Scienceblogs regularly. This is the first time I’ve read anything here, and it is the biggest load of loser-ass bullshit I’ve ever seen. Sorry, PhysioProffe, Chebag, and the rest of the idiot dog-psychics and amateur biologists here today. You guys are so far off-base it’s not even funny.

    When I saw that the title “are Pit Bulls Inherently Dangerous?” was phrased as a question, I had high hopes…maybe, for once after years of hype, somebody was going to skeptically examine the issue. I thought I was going to see some reason or skepticism, rational thought, or at least decent debate on this issue, but instead I see idiots taking super-media-hyped anecdotes as gospel, cheerleading ridiculous, invasive, presumed-guilt legislation and abusing science to turn their over-hyped fears into needless laws (and a nice helping of smug righteousness).

    As long as you dipshits are so happy to take media-hyped bullshit anecdotes as “proof”, why not open your shit-filled heads and listen to what the majority of commenters here, many who have YEARS OF ACTUAL EXPERIENCE, are saying. They’re saying that you’re wrong, obviously wrong, stupid wrong, and perhaps mendaciously wrong.

    I guess I could ignore the literally dozens and dozens of pit bulls I’ve lived around, grown up with, the two I raised myself from abandoned, half-feral pups, or the several in my neighborhood, or the two right next door, or the two that local homeless people own, (none of which, out of dozens, have ever caused a problem)and just BELIEVE in the horror story. No evidence necessary, around these parts.

    Or I could just say Fuck You, Assholes. And your Blogge Fucken Suckkes Asse.

  42. Art says

    Pit bulls are, as I understand it, related to the much earlier “bull” dogs. Not the maladapted English, or otherwise overly wide and short legged variety. Those earlier bulldogs were used to control and drive cattle in cattle pens and to harry cattle out of brush or tight spots. There were bred for boldness, courage, and general athletic ability. As befits any dog that is expected to intimidate a full grown bull and do it all day long. They were expected to nip at and intimidate the bull, not damage it.

    Pit bulls are, in my experience quite loving and loyal. They only seem to attack or be vicious when they are trained and ordered to act that way. Even otherwise vicious animals will often be quite gentle and affectionate if left to their own devices.

    There may be dogs that are so screwed up by their owners that they have to be put down but those seem to be the exception.

  43. says

    One of my issues with the legislation as presented above is the part about “cross-bred pit-bulls”. What does that mean? Are they talking about my old Australian Cattle Dog, who was supposedly 1/4 pit bull, but who was indistinguishable from my other cattle dogs? How would they know? As noted elsewhere above, this isn’t an unusual cross. Cattle dog/pit mixes are often used in the south for hunting feral hogs. And my pure-bred ACDs have occasionally been confused for pits (this always puzzles me).

    I kind of think pits are the “color of the day” when it comes to identifying dogs as dangerous – used to be Dobies, when I was a kid.

  44. says

    I unofficially handle security at the local farmer’s market, and I’ve seen bad dogs of all breeds. Pit bulls make me nervous, I’ll admit, and I try to keep confirmation bias out of it. We have had only a handful of incidents with aggressive or poorly trained dogs being brought to the market, but two of those occasions were pit bulls and their owners were either asked to leave or skedaddled before I was able to do so.

    Isn’t this something which would be resolvable with, you know, facts? data? So much of the dialogue on the subject regarding temperaments, aggression, fight tactics, etc. just smacks of secondhand accounts, received attitudes and cherry picked data. I know I’m going to be annoying to both sides and I don’t mean to be one of those people who says “oh those atheists are just as bad as the religious people” in this argument.

    I really just don’t know, and I’d like to.

  45. DrugMonkey says

    Oh, there’s plenty of data linked…you just don’t like it and have no counter that’s of better quality. All science of any worth starts with observation, followed by inquiry. A reflexive “nothing to see here” with denialst attacks on the observation is, well, theology.

  46. Henry says

    I read the title of the article from the Freethoughtblogs home page and thought “For once Comradde Physioproffe might have something to say that isn’t inane drivel.”

    Alas, I was mistaken. There has been no interuption to the regular spouting of bullshit on this blog. Nothing to see here.

  47. RowanVT says

    I work at a veterinary hospital as an RVT.

    I am far more cautious when faced with a chihuahua than a pitbull. For sheer aggression, the small breeds win out. But as for the aggressive large dogs, they’re all dangerous. Nearly got eaten by a frickin’ golden retriever the other day. I’ve seen more dangerous akitas and rotties than I have pit bulls. And once you remove the small-breeds from the equation, close to half the dogs we see are pit-mixes.

    Not all pitbulls have been bred to be dangerous. Just as not all dobies, rotties, akitas, chowchows, etc are dangerous. Well… okay… I’ve met *one* nice pure chow, but still. The amount of training, socialisation, general treatment, and yes… temperament of the parents will have a huge impact on how the dog behaves.

    There are nice, friendly chihuahuas out there… but most of them are super nasty monsters. All because the owners don’t treat them like a dog.

    It’s similar with the pits. They’re highly sensitive, and terriers. This is a nightmare combo for training as they’re extremely stubborn, but also deeply affected by reprimands. Pits should be owned by experienced dog owners, not random Bob off the street.

    And I’ll take lovely lovely Joey, the pibble-border collie cross from work over any other dog any day fore pure good temperament.

  48. RowanVT says

    In response to Matt:

    I was attacked by *3* large dogs (two rott-mixes, one lab) when I was six years. Had I not had the presence of mind to climb a fence I would likely have been seriously injured. As it was, I sustained multiple bruises to my hips, butt, stomach, and legs. I had one puncture wound on my left calf. The dogs were not outright trying to kill me, but were warning me off their territory.

    For 5 years I would flee from *any* dog be it a yorkie or a great dane. I would climb trees, or on cars. For me, “up” was the only way to be safe. My mother got tired of this, and when I was 11 she took me to the pound to get a puppy.

    That day, when my future-dog put his little head in my hand and fell asleep, was the best day of my life. I was still afraid of other dogs, but I no longer ran from them. Between Aussie and Shelby (60lb catahoula/lab and a 75lb golden/border collie) I was able to be around other dogs without panicking by the time I was 16.

    In 2006, I entered school to become an RVT and worked around the dogs that were kept at the school without issue at all. The only time I’ve had any issue with real fear around a dog was an on-leash, but uncontrolled rott mix who lunged at my face and was stopped about 2 feet from me by the owner. That happened about 3 months ago.

    I have never once felt that the correct response to having been attacked was to kill the dog. I would defend myself, but to treat every single dog as if it was evil?

    That is a fucking stupid way to go about your life. You are clearly still acting out on your old fear, and getting revenge on OTHER dogs for the dogs that hurt you. Should I carry a walking stick and hurt/kill every man who comes up to me because I was stalked? Shall we get into a pointy cane fight?

  49. Lady Day says

    @Rowan VT: I was attacked by my neighbors’ pet – a toy poodle – once, when I was in grade school and I had climbed the fence into their back yard (without their permission). It is the only dog that has ever attacked me.

    When I showed the one tiny bite on my leg to my Mom, afterward, she couldn’t help but laugh. I think the shame in telling people that I was attacked by someone’s toy poodle is what prevented me from being traumatized by that experience (well, and the fact that, when I was growing up, there were, on average, 5-6 dogs at home so I knew that the poodle was not “normal”).

    Seriously, though, poodles can have nasty temperaments.

  50. RowanVT says


    All the small froo-froo dogs. Ugh. The expressions on peoples’ faces when I tell them “Let your dog walk on the ground. If it gets scared, don’t comfort it or pick it up. You’ll only teach it that being afraid is correct. Train it. Treat it like a dog.”

    “Oh, but he’s so smaaaaaall!” Yeah, well, they still bite. Have fun with that. And then later they come in “S/he growls at people and we don’t know whyyyyyyyyy!” *facepalm*

    Know whenever there is a person with a new small-breed puppy, the vets grab me if I’m working that day and say “Please talk to this owner about training” because I love behaviour. Currently working on properly socialising my slightly fear aggressive, *actually* abused, mini poodle mix. She’s improving so much, but it’s a long process.

  51. Lady Day says

    @RowanVT: Sorry to hear that about your poodle mix! I’ve known some sweet poodles and poodle mixes, too, but a disproportionate number of the ones I’ve known were really feisty and temperamental. Like you were saying earlier, I’ve found chihuahuas to also be, on average, a little on the temperamental side. The medium and large size dogs I’ve known have all been great around people, although, depending on socialization, they had varied responses to other dogs and animals.

    Terriers get a little bit of a bad rap, in general. Most of the terriers I’ve known have been extremely energetic, but never mean. For instance, the only things our Manchester terrier ever chased after were field mice, and even then, she never killed them (she even saved a baby rabbit from a snake, one time). My parents had a West Highland Terrier that was an absolute doll. My current dog, the pit bull, absolutely adores playing with our neighbor’s cats and other dogs.

    I think the problem with terriers, and, actually, most dogs, is that their energy level gets interpreted the wrong way. People who aren’t used to dogs may tend to see high energy as a manifestation of aggression. Also, a lot of problems seem to stem from people who just don’t know how to treat animals (they don’t know how to read an animal’s body language) or what to expect from them. Unfortunately, it is the animal that is often blamed, instead of the human.

  52. obscurefox says

    Pit bulls seem somewhat more likely to be involved in fatal attacks as a breed, but that is a somewhat older chart from the CDC about dog bite fatalitys. I haven’t seen any more recent data , but one might get the feeling that if they do bite their attacks are more dangerous. Of course you would actually have to know what number of each breed of dog was in the country during the same time period, to get an actual clear idea.For example if there were 1000 pit bulls and only 100 rottweilers the rottweilers would be more dangerous by percent.( made up numbers of course, there are millions of the various dog breeds)

    I still think since my family’s retrievers retrieved pretty well without much training and pit are often bred for fighting there may be some traits that are hardwired into breeds although not perfectly. I wonder if there is any really good data on this, and why no one is keeping track of these things. It would be also interesting to see information on seriousness of injury (non fatal) based on breed.

  53. 24fps says

    I’ve spent most of my life around sporting dogs. We had Labradors that we trained for field trials and for bird hunting when I was growing up, wound up with a rescued Labrador/English setter cross as an adult and just recently lost the most wonderful dog ever, a pure-bred English setter field dog.

    I recognize the need for proper socialization and training. Our Labs were always part of the family and were trained to vocal commands and hand signals for the field. Those boys didn’t need to be on-leash to be under control and were taught very good manners. We lucked out in our rescue dog in that she wasn’t aggressive, she just wanted to be with us all the time. Again, I trained her the same way we trained our field dogs. Same with the setter. There was a lot of care and attention put toward making these dogs sociable and safe around people.

    I also know that any breed of dog can be mistreated until it’s mean.

    But there’s two sides to this coin, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. Sporting dogs are bred for certain traits. A Lab has the innate ability to mark a spot in the water where a wounded bird has gone down and circle. You can’t teach a dog to do that. They’ve either got it or they don’t. Sure, if they do you can encourage the crap out of it, but you can’t teach it if it isn’t already there. Same with the setter and the set and point behaviour. They’ll scent a bird, change the posture, stalk, point and flush. I gave up bird hunting decades before I got Lu, my setter, but she was picture perfect on that behaviour on hikes in the country. She’d stalk pigeons in the park, it was hilarious. She was from field champ breeding stock and they’re meant to do this.

    Now, not all setters are as strong on this innate behaviour as others, and that’s taken into account in their breeding. Ask any sporting dog breeder. Same with Labs and “soft mouths” or the ability to retrieve without damaging a bird. I’ve seen a Lab bring back a wounded goose that is pecking his face and not so much as crease a feather.

    So I have to ask: Since this is well established and clearly evidenced in sporting dog breeding (ask any kennel that produces field champs), why should the breeding of pit bulls be regarded any differently? You’ve got an animal that has been selectively bred for a number of traits that are not people or other animal friendly and you expect what?

    Personally, I can’t imagine what would possess anyone to want to own a horrid ugly thing like a pit bull when there are such gorgeous, sweet-tempered critters (if bred and raised responsibly!) as golden retrievers, Labradors and English or Gordon setters out there!

  54. 24fps says

    Although I should point out that Labs and Goldies, due to popularity, are beginning to be overbred by people who are motivated more by profit than the quality of the dog and the good of the breed and this shows in temperament as well as health conditions – I would be very cautious about where a pup came from.

  55. says

    What is being said now of Pits was said, and generally believed, back when I was a kid about “German Shepards” If you saw a Shepard without a chain on its neck it was because it was chewing off your leg. That’s what those dogs were for. I remember in the 70s starting to come across shepards that were not killers, and it was so strange that they were nice dogs that it would be noted. I knew one then called “soft” becuase it had yet to bite anyone. Now they are considered just regular dogs.

    Dobermans were bred to be a “one man” dog, so unable to relate to any other human than the police man they were associate with that they would be put down when said police officer retired or died. Dobermans today are … well, “soft” unless raised to be otherwise. I am unaware of breeding to re-adjust that breed.

    Today, there are breeds that were once created to be war-dogs or otherwise nasty breeds that are said to have been bred into a state of always being human friendly to the extent that they cant be retrained to be “war dogs” (or whatever). Is this because they were really re-bred or because the cultural context (their way of being raised) that generated that particular result has been lost?

    At some level it does not matter if a pit bull is inherently dangerous, when I see one. At the moment they are the breed that is either raised to be dangerous or is rescued and then raised by nice dog lovers, but still with a background that could affect behavior negatively. Pit bulls may have zero added genetically determined dangerous behavior, yet the breed is at this moment roughly like the German Shepherd of years ago. They can not be trusted on sight when you just run into them.

    I have read most of the literature on dog behavior and genetics, and I’ve read most of the avaialble data on dog attacks and bites up to a few years ago, but have not looked lately. Unless some really good breed specific data has come along, I don’t know of a away at this time to resolve the question of innate danger vs. not for this breed. The arguments that have been made so far, as far as I can tell, are based on presumptions about how dog behavior works combined with anecdotes.

    I will say this, though: If there is any real weight (of data) behind the quoted comment regarding all these details of what has been bred in or out of a Pit bull, countervailing anecdotal cases are not very meaningful because one would not expect these things to be anything close to perfect. Few breeds are behaviorally that consistent. Even long-used working dogs like border collies are not all “good” at the innate behaviors needed to train them up into working dogs. Depending on the demand, some breeds produce more and some less appropriate templates.

    Also, one more point: If pits were successfully bred to produce innate dog killing behaviors at all, I would worry about that as a danger for small humans and kids involved with other dogs.

  56. RowanVT says


    “You’ve got an animal that has been selectively bred for a number of traits that are not people or other animal friendly and you expect what?”

    False, actually. The fighting dogs are bred/trained to NOT attack their handlers. You can’t have a fighting dog that turns on YOU if you pull it out of the ring. Dogs that attacked their owners were not bred from.

    As to the animal friendly, that is true. I advise against dog parks for pit bulls. I’d also advise against them for any intact dog. The worst fight I saw at a dog park was “dobie day” or some such with at least 5 intact males and a great many females were there from some local club. One of the males was picking on my previous dog, a rather ball-protective herding breed mix, and so I took him away. Right as I was leaving the clamor started. Very glad I left when I did.

  57. says


    This shit has needed to be on the skeptic radar for YEARS but very few people have tackled it. I blogged it a lot but have mostly feminist traffic headed my way.

    Pit nutters are exactly as deluded as vaccine deniers. They are all drinking the cesar millan “alpha dog” kool aid. They put their babies next to dogs and take pictures to “prove” how safe the dogs are. Some of the kids in the well circulated pictures have been attacked, but the pictures still go around. The pit bull community does nothing to actually help the dogs, they just lie about them and adopt out as many as possible, which leads to more of them being dumped at shelters or put down when problems occur. People who want to avoid pit bulls (often called “haters” by those in the advocacy community) aren’t breeding the living shit out of the dogs and then dumping them at the shelter. The pit bull community takes no responsibility for the overpopulation of the dogs.

    This is in stark contrast to enthusiasts of other breeds that have been known to cause safety concerns. Enthusiasts of akitas and wolf hybrids warn people not to adopt the dogs without a serious think about it. The pit bull community has the exact opposite approach, they refuse any law that is breed specific even if it would cause fewer pit bulls to be put down. The only reason I can really find plausible for the difference in approach is that pit bulls are a criminal commodity, and a large illegal industry will have more money to toss around in political fights than victims of maulings.

  58. says

    wow these comments are hard to read.

    Heres a clue for everyone- if you are starting your post with “I know some pits and ____’ or “I know someone who is a dog trainer and…” you are doing it wrong. It doesn’t fucking matter.

    Go look at statistics about the dogs. They are damning. is a great resource for this.

    I don’t care how sweet your pit bull is. Go read what owners of pit bulls say when their dog seriously injures/kills someone. They all say “they were always so nice, they have never done anything like this before.” It is a statement that is as useful as “my mom used homeopathy and got better”.

    It is the same way that your herding dog maybe never nipped your ankle or tried to herd you until one day it did, or your pointing dog pointed at a feathery hat when it had never done that before. These are behaviors that emerge without training the dogs at all. Behaviors are programmed into dogs to be a rewarding behavior, in the case of gripping dogs the behavior is to brutalize another living creature. People who are deluded about the programming of various dog breeds are ill suited to deal with the reality if that behavior surfaces. it would be a much better world if pit bull owners carried break sticks or avoided situations where they could not reasonably stop their dogs from injuring someone. Instead pit bull owners complain about “breedism”, comparing it to racism against humans, when they are asked to leave areas filled with young children.

  59. says

    @57 rowan:

    False, actually. The fighting dogs are bred/trained to NOT attack their handlers. You can’t have a fighting dog that turns on YOU if you pull it out of the ring. Dogs that attacked their owners were not bred from.

    and you post no evidence of this, because it is bullshit.

    this is called the “man biters were culled!” argument. They weren’t always culled. You could sell them to foolish people very easily, especially people new to dog fighting. dogs aggressive to humans also made the custom of washing your opponents dog before a fight more difficult, some people were better able to cheat by using human aggressive dogs that opponents were wary of handling. You are also ignoring the contemporary use of pit bulls for criminal protection of property.

    Oh,you’ve also ignored how many people get killed by them every year compared to every other sort of dog. It is entirely out of proportion to the population of pit bulls. Even if the mythical program of man-biter culling existed in dog fighting circles it hasn’t fucking worked.

    heres one dog fighter talking about his opinion of man biters, he says that some people culled the dogs because they thought that they weren’t as game, but he has some other nifty uses for your game bred human aggressive pit bull:

  60. says

    rowan at 48:

    I am far more cautious when faced with a chihuahua than a pitbull. For sheer aggression, the small breeds win out. But as for the aggressive large dogs, they’re all dangerous.

    except that people are regularly scalped or have their limbs amputated by pit bulls, and that cannot be said of any other breed of dog. pit bulls also regularly kill horses and other livestock.

    You are treating this as a question of getting a minor dog bite instead of seriously injured. People who have a problem with pit bull advocacy are concerned about being seriously injured.

    You cannot seriously say that a chihuahua could do this:

    pit bulls routinely do this.

  61. says

    Yeeahhh… no.

    It all comes down to the humans.

    Aggressive idiots train their dogs to be aggressive and stupid. And, unfortunately, aggressive idiots keep choosing the sweetest dogs… and beat them until they’re aggressive and on-edge.

  62. says

    Unless, you know, he’d been attacked by another person at a young age. Then we’d call persistent, generalized violence – y’know, to be free of bothersome people – something very different from ‘healthy.’

    DOGS ARE NOT PEOPLE. The comparison doesn’t mean anything in light of that.Matt could go his whole life and be fine if he never saw another dog, the same could not be said about human interaction. There are so many glaring problems with the comparison that I didn’t really know where to start.

    No one seems outraged that Matt has to deal with dangerous animals repeatedly because someone thought their sweet pit bull should have run of the town and animal control doesn’t do anything about it. One person’s choice of dog can mean everyone else in the community lives in fear. That is fucked up. What matt is saying is true, this shit never ends until someones kid get attacked, and it is crap that it has to go that far for anything official to happen. There are so many accidents waiting to happen.

  63. jamessweet says

    Well, my experience has been that pit bulls are not inherently violent, but they are extremely stubborn, and in that sense you might call them “uncontrollable” I guess. In any case, the problem I guess is that a pit bull who has developed any kind of aggression, especially if they’ve been trained for it, they are going to follow that shit through until the end. It is not so much that pitties have been bred to be violent, but that they’ve been bred to be persistent. They will complete the task they have in mind, and ignore all obstacles and pain.

    There’s some plus sides to that, if you raise ’em to be gentle. A pit that has been raised to be aggressive is very dangerous of course.

    In any case, I think these blanket bans on pits are fucken absurd.

  64. captainahags says

    For a so-called science blog, this is piss poor. Skeptifem, your, DM, and PP’s arguments are based on nothing more than. . . wait for it. . . anecdotes. Which you’re quick to call on all those telling their pit bull stories here, yet don’t seem to care that the same news stories that you point to in order to justify your prejudice are the exact same fucking thing. DM says there’s evidence, I have yet to see anything other than a “DINGO” card, and I’m not going to wade through the comments to find it. I mean, if you had such great, statistical evidence that there was a systemic problem with the breed rather than with individual owners, for example a large portion of experienced dog owners saying that pit bulls are simply not capable of being handled when raised from puppies, maybe that would be something. Yet all you present is anecdotes with nothing more than shock value. If you seriously think that a google search turning up a lot of results for something is evidence of anything, you’re deluded.

    And I’m sure you’ll paint me as some sort of pit bull enthusiast, although I don’t own one, nor do i plan to own any dogs in the immediate future, but if you all are going to assert without evidence, I’ll dismiss without evidence.

  65. captainahags says

    You realize that the study you linked to observed, of a grand total of 228 incidents, only 89 of them reported the breed, and of those, 29 were pit bull incidents? Not only is that a pretty darn small scale study, but it fails to address the points that have been brought up prior- were these incidents in which the dogs had been trained to be aggressive, or were all 29 cases of friendy, well-raised dogs suddenly attacking people?

  66. Binjabreel says

    There’s nothing on that site to convince me that there’s not a selection bias going on, with pit mixes being more likely to be identified, and that any stocky short haired dog isn’t just being called a pit mix.

    Only 89 out of 230 something were identified, and that doesn’t ring a warning bell for the weakness of the data to you?

  67. DrugMonkey says

    Hmmm, who else is it that no amount of evidence could possibly budge off a firmly believed position….? Oh, right. The religious.

  68. says

    Okay, let me explain something to anyone who’d like to ever use ‘scientist’ or ‘skeptic’ as a personal label under any circumstances whatsoever.

    Every theory presented here predicts that pit bulls, under the current genetic and/or environmental constraints, will be responsible for more dog bites than all breeds on average. Some say it’s an immutable breed trait, some say it’s the unfortunate result of a reputation that attracts abusers and assholes who want an aggressive dog.

    ‘Evidence’ that is predicted by every proposed hypothesis is not actually evidence.

    And yes, the truth does actually matter, here. If pit bulls are inherently more dangerous than any other breed, anything we can do to limit their numbers will reduce the instance of dog attacks. If training/treatment is the primary indicator for aggression in any dog, abusers may well replace their pits with the next ‘tough guy’ breed for a net effect of zero.

    So when I say “data: provide it,” I mean data that’s relevant.

  69. DrugMonkey says

    ‘Evidence’ that is predicted by every proposed hypothesis is not actually evidence.

    Ummm….did someone actually just say that?

  70. captainahags says

    You compare me to a climate denialist on the basis of a single hospital’s study? Seriously? You’re the ones asserting things with literally nothing to back it up. You have 2 main choices for your contentions: you can either argue that pit bulls are inherently dangerous no matter how they’re trained, which would be pretty tough to prove, or you can try to argue that there are a large number of incidents involving pit bulls, therefore they’re more dangerous. To which the counterargument is that the pit bulls involved in said incidents are more likely to have been previously trained to be aggressive or abused, which is difficult to determine because I don’t think it’s data that’s often collected. It’s not denialism to reject shitty arguments based on poor evidence.

  71. Dalillama says

    Gee, as ownership of a breed goes up, a larger number of attacks by that breed occur? Who could ever have predicted that? Do you think that if ownership of Ford Tauruses went up, the number of accidents involving Ford Tauruses wouldn’t go up? Incidentally, @skeptifem, you will note that the pit bull defenders in this thread who report personal experience owning/raising pits have supported stronger regulation of breeders, and noted that active/stubborn breeds are better for experienced dog owners. I agree on this point, although I’ve never personally owned a pit, but I have owned a wolf dog. She was a very sweet animal, but I’d never even have thought about letting her off leash anywhere but our fenced backyard.

  72. 24fps says

    Again, talk to any sporting dog breeder about inherent behaviours and how they can be strengthened or weakened through training and environment. No one factor is the single cause of how they turn out, but inherent behaviours brought out through intensive selective breeding cannot be ignored.

    Pits have a strong prey drive that is inherent and in general a very stubborn temperament. You can attempt to reduce that through training and handling, but you cannot ever expect to remove it – not any more than I could have trained retrieving out of my Labs or an intense fascination with birds out of my setter.

  73. says

    Ummm….did someone actually just say that?

    Okay, I’ll clarify:

    ‘Evidence’ that is predicted by every proposed hypothesis is not actually evidence [for favoring any of the proposed hypotheses over another, assuming the predicted likelihood of the evidence given either hypothesis is either the same or unspecified].

    As in: this case. Because fucking duh, context.

    And yes, I’m saying it.

  74. captainahags says

    I don’t have access to the article other than the abstract, DM. Do try not to be a condescending fuckwit.

  75. DrugMonkey says

    Point is that there are multiple studies available on PubMed from which you can tell just at the Abstract level that the evidence comes from multiple cities. If I am condescending it is about people who decry the strength o the evidence without doing the slightest bit to grapple with said evidence.

  76. captainahags says

    DM, most of those studies say the opposite of what you’re saying.

    I actually find this interesting:

    “Significantly more pit bull injuries (94% vs 43%, P less than .001) were the consequence of unprovoked attacks and involved freely roaming animals (67% vs 41%, P less than .01). ”

    Let’s do an analysis. So, pit bull attacks are more likely to occur unprovoked- 94% of attacks were! Looks pretty damning. . . But wait a moment. 67% of those attacks were caused by freely roaming animals. Aka animals with owners who couldn’t be bothered to keep their dogs where they belong. So, of those 94%, 2 of three were not house pets but animals that were just out. So, crunching the numbers, it can be then presumed that about 31.3% of the unprovoked pit bull incidents involved dogs that didn’t have a shitty owner. Doing the same with the other group, we get about 24% of non-shitty unprovoked attacks. So, a higher percentage, but not something that I’d go around trying to ban them with.

    Of the 7 studies linked to in your comments section by “I can haz pubmed,” who i assumed was you:
    1 was about rabies
    1 involved 7 patients and concluded that the most likely eye injury from pit bull incidents was an eyelid laceration
    1 involved 3 cases, of which 1 was a pit, 1 was a chow chow, and 1 was a lab/pit mix
    1 involved a 15 year review of deaths, of which there were 11
    1 was the study mentioned above
    1 actually looked reasonably comprehensive- 551 incidents, patient details, etc. Can’t tell if the circumstances of the incidents were recorded though.

    And the last says this: “Although fatal attacks on humans appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite and cause fatalities at higher rates. Because of difficulties inherent in determining a dog’s breed with certainty, enforcement of breed-specific ordinances raises constitutional and practical issues. Fatal attacks represent a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and, therefore, should not be the primary factor driving public policy concerning dangerous dogs. Many practical alternatives to breed-specific ordinances exist and hold promise for prevention of dog bites.”

    The studies you cite say the opposite of what you say they do, or are inconclusive. You’re trying to defend a position that is unsupported by the evidence.

  77. RowanVT says

    I did say that ALL large dogs with aggression are dangerous.

    A lab, a great dane, a rottie, a dobie, a german, a cane corso, a mastiff, an american bulldog, a catahoula, etc etc can all rip you to shreds if they decide to. Pit bulls do not have some magical singular ability to kill.

    And those reporting on the breed type are often incapable of determining the actual breed.

    At my work we have a beagle/pug cross that the owner insists is a pekingese. We have a large, short haired, long faced chihuahua cross labeled as a ‘shih tzu’ because his mom was half shih. There’s the ‘australian shepherd’ that is clearly a cattle dog/lab mix. A former co-worker had a neighbor call animal control on her “vicious pitbull”… who was a boxer/lab mix. Supposedly the “vicious pitbull” literally broke through the (somehow still intact) fence and chased the woman down the street to her house and she had photos to prove it! … but wouldn’t provide them to animal control.

    A lot of people, when they see a large dog with a somewhat blocky head or shorter face will call it a pit bull. This includes boxers and their crosses, cane corsos, presa canarios, a lot of the mastiffs, lab mixes, golden mixes, pug mixes, purebred boston terriers and french bulldogs….

    Yes. I actually overheard someone call a purebred boston terrier a pitbull.

    I also love the headline bias in these cases.

    You are likely to see “Labrador bites toddler”, but if it’s a pit… “Vicious pitbull attacks defenseless child!”

  78. Lady Day says

    Someone once called my pit bull a “rottweiler.” Totally off. Half the time, no one knows what she is, which indicates that some people may not be able to accurately identify these kinds of dogs. People we encounter on our walks will typically ask what kind of dog she is, then compliment me on how pretty and sweet she is, and even ask where they can find a dog like her. A lot of people on our walks want their kids to pet her, so I have to explain that she’s shy and may try to run away. Almost everyone with a dog usually wants their dog to play with her, which she loves.

    Yes, sometimes I encounter people who recognize her breed and then cross the street to walk on the other sidewalk, but that’s very rare.

    Then, there are the folks (many of whom drive fancy cars) I randomly encounter on our walks who try to hit me up for breeding her. She’s spayed, and that was partly to prevent people from trying to steal her for breeding purposes. Apparently, she’s a “$500 dog” because of her coat color?

  79. says

    Physioprof [67]

    Interesting paper, thanks for posting that.

    It does not address the question of pit bull attackiness relative to other breeds.

  80. opposablethumbs says

    ‘Evidence’ that is predicted by every proposed hypothesis is not actually evidence.

    Ummm….did someone actually just say that?

    Comprehension fail. If it’s predicted by every proposed hypothesis, it cannot help you distinguish between hypotheses – i.e. it is not [in effect/usable/useful/relevant] evidence.

    And condescending with it. Not exactly showing yourself in the smartest light there, DM.

  81. says

    Drug Monkey:

    This study: looks at relative role of breeds but does not address relative risk and as with many of these studies there numbers are (thankfully, actually) low wrt fatalities.

    That study and this one and this one implicate pit bulls, but neither addresses the question of why pits are in this role (genes vs. doggie culture)

    So listing lots of studies that don’t pertain to the question at all or only vaguely so is a bit of a Gish Gallop.

    This study: which may have the best data argues against the policy under discussion:

    Although fatal attacks on humans appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite and cause fatalities at higher rates. Because of difficulties inherent in determining a dog’s breed with certainty, enforcement of breed-specific ordinances raises constitutional and practical issues. Fatal attacks represent a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and, therefore, should not be the primary factor driving public policy concerning dangerous dogs. Many practical alternatives to breed-specific ordinances exist and hold promise for prevention of dog bites.

    It is very hard to determine the relative danger of breeds because of all those dogs not biting people, and for other reasons. Earlier looks at data like this seemed to show two mild trends, though I can’t cite the sources off the top of my head: Small dogs bite more than large dogs (breed-wise) and pure breds bite more than mutts. The latter argues in favor of certain breeds being more bity , but still does not eliminate the “trained attack dog” problem by which we can’t distinguish between bred behavior and learned behavior, or bred behavior actuated by training or repressed.

  82. says

    Katie [74]: “And yes, the truth does actually matter, here. If pit bulls are inherently more dangerous than any other breed, anything we can do to limit their numbers will reduce the instance of dog attacks. If training/treatment is the primary indicator for aggression in any dog, abusers may well replace their pits with the next ‘tough guy’ breed for a net effect of zero.”

    Thank you, well said.

  83. Lady Day says

    @Greg Laden: You know, I suspect coat color is more highly sought after than temperament, among pit bull owners, and, possibly, even dog fighters. This is just based on informal observation that I’ve made, so there is no data on this, yet. But, based on the number of individuals who want to breed their dog with mine, they appear to value her genetic contribution to pups for her coat color.

  84. Lady Day says

    Minor clarification to last comment: I’m not and have never bred my [spayed] pit bull. However, the random people who occasionally stop their cars when I’m out walking the dog and who ask me whether I’m interested in breeding my dog, seem to want to breed for her coat color. She’s a sweet dog (which they wouldn’t really know, anyway, as they are strangers), so they couldn’t be interested in breeding for aggression.

  85. Isis the Scientist says

    You know, I suspect coat color is more highly sought after than temperament, among pit bull owners, and, possibly, even dog fighters…

    You know, for someone who demands so much concrete EVIDINCEZ from others…..

  86. Chebag says

    If training/treatment is the primary indicator for aggression in any dog, abusers may well replace their pits with the next ‘tough guy’ breed for a net effect of zero.

    Goal post move and subtle dodge.

    Pits could be, independently, both more aggressive and more capable of doing damage with a given level of aggression. So if you replace them with a breed that is never going to be as capable, it won’t matter how “tough” the douchebags try to train the new ones, it will be a net reduction in carnage.

  87. DrugMonkey says

    The studies you cite say the opposite of what you say they do, or are inconclusive. You’re trying to defend a position that is unsupported by the evidence.

    Wrong. What you mean is that you choose to interpret the data in a certain way and choose to misinterpret my position. The discussion started with pits because of the Maryland court of appeals but as I made it exceptionally clear, I have no particular beef with any specific breed. I have a beef with *all* the breeds which are in the mere handful available which, collectively, are doing the damage. You look at studies and say “oho, pit *mix*, so I’m not counting it”. I say bullshit. You say “lookie, lookie, the rotts are bad too”. I say who gives a fuck, ban them too. You and your fellow pitbull botherers say ‘oh, it was German Shepherds in a prior era’…guess what? I’m old enough to remember that era and the sequential ascendency of dobermans, rotts and then pits as the dumbfucks’ dogs. You seem to think this excuses the current exemplar…I say it just puts a fine point on it.

    GLad- a day late and a dollar short as usual. glad to see nothing’s changed….shall we expect some random rage filled ad hominem’s next?

  88. says

    Goal post move and subtle dodge.

    Funny that you should say that, given that I explicitly point out that aggression and ability to cause serious harm are separate variables at comment #10. One might be inclined to think that if I were interested in moving the goal post, I wouldn’t give you a fucking map.

    Pits could be, independently, both more aggressive and more capable of doing damage with a given level of aggression. So if you replace them with a breed that is never going to be as capable, it won’t matter how “tough” the douchebags try to train the new ones, it will be a net reduction in carnage.

    A totally plausible hypothesis. Add it to the list and maybe even consider providing some supporting evidence.

  89. RowanVT says


    Had a pit come into work at 7:30pm today with a huge gash across her metacarpals with the tendons showing through. I manipulated the wound and the joint with no one restraining the dog. Pit’s reaction? Licked me on the nose.

    Yup, inherently more aggressive dog right there.

    Before anyone tries to think/claim this: I do not own a pit. I will *never* own a pit, because I do not have the patience/energy level required for these dogs not because I think it will eat me in my sleep.

  90. jws1 says

    Used to be it was German Shepherds that were the “dangerous” breed. Then Rottweilers. Then Pitts. The common denominator here are the humans – let’s euthanize the humans who think that dogs exist to satiate the human need for bloodsport. They’re the real dangerous ones.

    I rescued a “bait-dog” from the streets a few years back. Very lovable dog, very peaceful, very loyal. And the cowards in society who are afraid of their own shadow want me to believe that Buddy was an imminent threat at all times?

  91. julian says

    Wow, I thought this kind of crap was limited only to guns.

    There’s a lot of anecdotes and only peripherally relevant links being tossed out. Maybe everyone should reign it in for 5 secs and try to work this out (hums kumbaya) together?

  92. Lady Day says

    @julian: the whole point of this blog and Drugmonkey’s was to troll. That is all. They are just trying to stir things up.

  93. ildi says

    I did a little searching in both Pubmed and Google Scholar and came across some interesting studies; this one looked at Sixteen incidents involving dog bites fitting the description “severe” were identified among 5,711 dog bite incidents reported to health departments in five South Carolina counties (population 750,912 in 1980) between July 1, 1979, and June 30, 1982. A “severe” attack was defined as one in which the dog “repeatedly bit or vigorously shook its victim, and the victim or the person intervening had extreme difficulty terminating the attack.

    They found that Investigation disclosed that the dogs involved in the 16 severe attacks were reproductively intact males. The median age of the dogs was 3 years. A majority of the attacks were by American Staffordshire terriers, St. Bernards, and cocker spaniels. Ten of the dogs had been aggressive toward people or other dogs before the incident that was investigated. Cocker spaniels?

    Turns out of the six Staffordshire terriers/bulldogs involved in the severe bites, four showed evidence of being used in pit fighting. The common denominator was that all the dogs were young, reproductively intact males. More than 60 percent of the dogs had records of previous aggression, and half of them were chained at the time of the attack.

    Severe Attacks by Dogs: Characteristics of the Dogs, the Victims, and the Attack Settings by JOHN C. WRIGHT, PhD

    Another interesting study looked at whether bullterriers are genetically more aggressive:

    Assessment of a Bullterrier bloodline in the temperament test of Lower Saxony–comparison with six dog breeds affected by breed specific legislation and a control group of Golden Retrievers. [Article in German] Ott S, Schalke E, Hirschfeld J, Hackbarth H. Institut für Tierschutz und Verhalten (Heim-, Labortiere und Pferde) der Tierärztlichen Hochschule Hannover. [University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover]

    The expertise on the interpretation of section 11b TierSchG implies a hypertrophy of aggressive behaviour in some bloodlines of Bullterriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Pitbull type dogs. This study aimed at finding out whether a hypertrophy of aggressive behaviour occurred in a certain Bullterrier bloodline. Dogs of this line were tested according to the guidelines of the Dangerous Animals Act of Lower Saxony, Germany (GefTVO) enacted on July 5th 2000.

    The Bullterriers’ test results towards humans and environment were compared to those of 415 dogs affected by the legislation (Mittmann, 2002) and those of 70 Golden Retrievers (Johann, 2004) in order to detect possible differences in the occurrence of inadequate or disturbed aggressive behaviour. Of 38 Bullterriers, ten showed no aggressive behaviour towards humans and the environment. 27 dogs displayed visual or acoustic threats at most. Only one dog reacted by “biting or attacking with preceding threatening behaviour”. Thus, according to the test guidelines, 37 dogs (97.37%) reacted appropriately in all test situations. Only one dog (2.63%) displayed inadequate agressive behaviour.

    No indication for inadequate or disturbed aggressive behaviour in this Bullterrier bloodline was found. Furthermore, no significant differences were found when comparing Bullterriers and dogs of the two others studies concerning inadequate or disturbed aggressive towards humans and the environment. On the contrary, throughout the entire study the broad majority of dogs proved to possess excellent social skills as well as the ability to communicate competently and to solve conflicts appropriately.

    So, rather than banning certain breeds, a more effective approach would be to educate people on the dangers of owning young unneutered male dogs, especially ones that have already shown aggression, and training people (especially children) how to treat dogs, and how to recognize signs of aggression. Think of the example where the news anchor was bitten by the Argentine mastiff because she had her face right in the dog’s face…

  94. Lady Day says

    @ildi: That second study is interesting. Unfortunately, I can’t access the article to read the methods section (my institution doesn’t have a subscription to that journal, and I can’t find the full text online). The only questions I have are:
    1.) Whether or not the authors controlled for degree of prior animal training and socialization. Could it be that the one aggressor bullterrier was trained to respond threateningly to certain stimuli? Could it be that the other, less-aggressive bullterriers were trained not to respond to the same stimuli? 2.) Were all dogs subject to experimental training before being put through the temperament tests?

    For instance, even in studies conducted in mice, we sometimes “train” them before experiments to lower the stress that they may experience in new environments, etc. Stress can impact physiology and, thus, experimental outcomes, even for tests as simple as measuring daily energy expenditure.

  95. neilt says

    It seems to me that almost every argumant here is relying on anecdotes of one flavor or another, and for some odd reason, some “skeptics” are choosing to side with a small smattering of pretty limp “evidence” and a whole lot of media hype.

    I would like to point out that nobody has really addressed some obvious issues in the pitbull debate, which would directly affect any numbers collected for research purposes, as well as media reports and everyday experience-

    1.The extreme popularity of the breed, compared to other “bad dogs” of the past. When I was a little kid, German Shepherds were the “tough dog”, then Dobermans, then Rottweillers, and for the last THIRTY years, Pit Bulls. I’m curious as to the real numbers of pit bulls in America. My own anecdotal experience tells me that among the “tough guy” segment of the population, the same population that used to go for Dobies and Rotts 20-30 years ago, pit bulls have become much more numerous than many other breeds combined. The poor, semi-rural neighborhood I grew up in in the 80’s was swimming with them, and the expensive beachside town I live in now is still swimming with them. I see more of them than any other single breed except chihuahuas. Pit bulls and the variety of mixes they have produced are much more popular than most other breeds of large, dangerous dogs. This is partially because they are generally much less expensive than the previous popular breeds. I won’t go into the problem of mis-identifying breeds, which is very common with pits, and has already been stated by several (and ignored by those with a dogmatic agenda).

    2. I’m also curious about the “culture” of dog ownership. I’ve only personally known 4 current german shepherd owners in my entire life. They are expensive, and they have late-life health issues. Every owner I’ve known was well-off, wasn’t using the dog for “tough guy status”, and paid to have the dog professionally trained. They would have as soon abused their children as they would their dog.
    This part is probably going to sound bigoted or classist to some of you, but it’s the truth. There is a huge difference in culture between people who will pay $1200 for a dog, keep it like a loved child it’s whole life, and spend 1000’s more on vet bills over the years, and the “average” pit bull owner. Having lived around large numbers of pit bulls and their owners, I can clearly see a difference. There are so many people who get pit bulls for very bad reasons, and many, if not most of those people, do not train their dogs properly- or even train them badly on purpose. I can’t even fucking count the times I’ve seen pit bulls abused and mis-trained on purpose, yet I’ve only known 1 rott that was treated like that, and few if any other breeds except coy-dogs and stray foundling mutts owned by the same assholes that abuse pitts. Between poverty, violent lifestyle, status-seeking behavior, and redneck style property-defense fixation, there must be hundreds of thousands of dangerous pit bulls in America…none of which is a fault of the breed. Pit bulls were good at dog fighting long before they became the “menace” they are perceived as today…but their breeding history, price, appearance, and availability has put them in the hands of very shitty people in modern times.

    In short: There are thousands upon thousands of violent, abusive, often criminal people who own pitbulls, and who take no responsibility for their dog. From young gang members to drunk trailer trash, to “professional” dog fighters, across all racial lines, from the very bottom of the poverty bucket up to middle class blue collar “tough guys”. For thirty years, they have been the “go-to” dog for aggressive shitbags, plain and simple, because they are strong, cheap, cool-looking, and “normal” people are now scared shitless of them.

    All you prohibitionists are doing is exactly what the shitbag owners want you to do….fear them, and give them even more “criminal cred”(that’s “Bad Assness” to shitbags) than they already had. I haven’t seen any evidence or discussion that takes these plainly obvious observations into account. I start to wonder just how many pit bulls (or pit bull owners) the anti-crowd has ever even been around.

  96. ildi says

    Here is a study of dog bites by breed that controls for the total number of dogs owned. The data were collected from two Air Force Bases in the 70s, so I don’t know if that is the reason or not, but pit bulls and variations thereof don’t show up at all. Interestingly, neither do Rottweilers or Dobermans. Poodles, German shepherds, dachshunds, cocker spaniels, and schnauzers accounted for more than 55 percent of purebred dogs registered on base.

    In terms of gender and age, male dogs 1-4 years old had the highest bite rate, that is, 12.1 bites per 100 animals per year. The study did not indicate whether animals were neutered or not. By breed, the highest bite rates were Collie at 20.0 bites per 100 animals per year, followed by German Shepherd at 17.4, then the Cocker Spaniel (again! wtf?) at 13.7. Mixed breeds were the lowest at 6.8 bites per 100 animals per year. Breeds of the sporting and working groups were also more likely to inflict more severe injuries. More than 14.5 percent of the injuries involving sporting breeds were classified as moderate in contrast to the bites of nonsporting breeds, of which 3.2 percent were classified as moderate. (Sporting breeds include pointers, setters, retrievers and spaniels.)

    Characteristics of the human and pet populations in animal bite incidents recorded at two Air Force bases. Hanna TL, Selby LA.

  97. DrugMonkey says

    What *is* interesting neillt, is that there is evidence on the table, it all points in the same direction and y’all denialistas have to spin furiously to avoid reaching the obvious conclusion. You know who else ignores every possible bit of evidence to cling, pitbull-like, to their existing bias? The religious.

  98. says

    neilt- there has been academic study into the difference between pit owners and the rest of the population. There are patterns of criminality that haven’t been established for the (average) owner of other breeds. The link to the studies on legal problems are at the bottom of this page, which also chronicles the dishonest tactics used by owners to counter bias against their dogs.

  99. says

    All you prohibitionists are doing is exactly what the shitbag owners want you to do….fear them, and give them even more “criminal cred”(that’s “Bad Assness” to shitbags) than they already had.

    Dog bites are a public health issue, a community safety issue. Your “don’t get scared” tactic has not been shown to prevent dog attacks. You are also acting like being afraid of the dogs has no relationship to the actual potential for damage, as if the victims of serious dog attacks were imagining their injuries.

  100. says


    Used to be it was German Shepherds that were the “dangerous” breed. Then Rottweilers. Then Pitts. The common denominator here are the humans – let’s euthanize the humans who think that dogs exist to satiate the human need for bloodsport. They’re the real dangerous ones.

    I’ve heard this argument before, but during the decades of data collected for themerrit clifton study pit bulls have never been outranked in serious injuries and fatalities. The public perception of danger isn’t correlated to the numbers discovered by researchers by combing through data. It has always been pit bulls, really.

    I linked to one of the author’s in depth explanations of the statistical analysis earlier, but I guess it bears some repeating: the data was from media, police reports, hospitals, and the HSUS fatality registry. It spanned many years and fluctuations in dog breed populations. There hasn’t been a plausible explanation for the disproportionate amount of death and injury caused by less than 5% of the dog population. Pits and rotts caused 67% of all deaths during the period studied, with pit bulls making up the majority of fatalities (207 vs 78)

  101. says

    I would also like to point out that in the past week two people have been killed by pits in new mexico in separate attacks. Someone dies (on average) every twenty days. There is no other breed of dog that this can be said about (none even come close), and pit bulls are the minority.

  102. ildi says

    So, I’ve been continuing my search for studies that attempt to calculate a hazard index for dogs by breed. Here is one conducted in Graz, Austria:

    To gain information about the local distribution of dog breeds, we analyzed 5873 files from the community dog registers (Fig 1) and added the information to a Microsoft Excel database that contained the data of the attacking dogs. For analysis, the 18 most popular breeds, accounting for 90% of all dogs, were considered, thereby excluding 31 breed populations with 44 cm of acromial height), 94 (28%) dogs were small; and the size of 49 (14%) dogs was unknown. In 305 (89%) of 341 dog attacks, the exact breed of the dog could be determined. The breed-related proportion of dog attacks is shown in Table 3. Bites from German shepherds and Dobermans accounted for 37% of all dog bites despite that these breeds account for only for 13.1% of the dog population. The relative risk for a dog attack by a German shepherd or a Doberman was >5 times higher that that associated with a Labrador/retriever or cross-breeds. Children who were younger than 5 years sustained significantly more attacks by small dogs compared with older children (P = .04).

    They address why pit bulls/terriers don’t show up in their data:

    We propose that the individual behavior of the attacking dog or the dog breed may be directly related to the severity of injuries. Voelker1 stated that certain breeds are more aggressive than others. In addition, Gershman et al16 found male and unneutered dogs more likely to be aggressive compared with female and neutered dogs. In several countries, certain dog breeds are considered “fighting dogs” and are subject to legal regulations. In Germany, these breeds include mastiff, bull mastiff, bulldog, bullterrier, pit-bull, Tosa-Inu, and others. Media reports that have focused on aggressive behavior of fighting dogs and special training for dogs to make them more violent have led to an increased public awareness. This may explain why we did not identify any of these fighting dog breeds to be likely to attack more frequently than average.

    Germany didn’t ban the dogs; however, owners must keep the dogs muzzled and leashed at all times, and take a mandatory exam on dog training and pass a reliability test. When pits are heavily regulated, other large breeds step up to the plate as the problem:

    On the basis of the dog population in our catchment area, German shepherds and Dobermans were the most aggressive breeds. These findings are similar to other reports (Table 4). However, every breed poses the threat of dog bites; any dog may attack. Our data show that not only a proper education of dog owners and behavioral training of dogs are required for “high-risk” breeds; rather, legislation should regulate training of all dogs and dog owners and leashing of dogs when using public areas. Improved skills of dog owners and better training of the dogs may have prevented several of the reported attacks.

    Table 4 shows that In all studies that were based on dog population, German shepherd and Doberman are the breeds that are most likely to be involved in dog-bite accidents.

    Analysis of Dog Bites in Children Who Are Younger Than 17 Years Johannes Schalamon, MD, Herwig Ainoedhofer, Georg Singer, MD, Thomas Petnehazy, MD, Johannes Mayr, MD, PhD, Katalin Kiss, MD, Michael E. Höllwarth, MD, PhD. Pediatrics March 2006 vol. 117 no. 3 e374-e379 doi: 10.1542/peds.2005-1451

  103. says

    What I haven’t heard mentioned in any of these threads is the fact that most (80%, according to the Humane Society) of dog bites are inflicted by non-altered dogs. When you look at fatal bites only, that figure goes up to more like 90-100% (depending on the data source). It’s crappy to blame the dog type that is responsible for ~50% of all bites when there’s an owner negligence factor responsible for at least ~90%.

    And don’t even tell me that spaying and neutering a non-breeder family pet is a personal choice, unless you want to hear a spectacularly well-informed tirade. Installing truck balls on your bumper is a personal choice. Not reducing the chances of your pet acting in a way that results in court-ordered euthanasia is neglect.

  104. Eric says

    The problem with statistics about the rates at which specific breeds bite is that they tend to be based upon media reports. Or at least the ones I am familiar with, anyway. A good book (though a bit expensive now; see if your local library has a copy) is Fatal Dog Attacks: The Stories Behind The Statistics. The author covers issues of misidentification (particularly difficult because of the fact that there’s a large number of breeds that look like they could be pitbulls), shoddy reporting about the conditions of the dog’s home life and a failure to report on information discovered after the fact (e.g., the dog was actually stolen, the family didn’t know the dog, it wasn’t actually a long-time family pet, it wasn’t actually a pit bull, the dog had injuries associated with dog fighting, etc.). She also discusses the failure to differentiate between well-socialized dogs that are companion animals and part of the family with dogs that are left out on a chain all day.

    Studies that are based on media reports are going to overrepresent pitbulls due to a tendency for misidentification and the fact that a pitbull attack is more likely to be picked up nationally.

    I think the ASPCA’s position statement is telling, particularly the bolded “There are several reasons why banning certain breeds is not likely to be effective. First, the breeds most often involved in bite injuries and fatalities change from year to year and from one area of the country to another, depending on the popularity of different breeds. Although genetics do play a role in determining whether a dog will bite, other factors—such as whether the animal is well socialized, supervised, humanely trained and safely confined—play much greater roles. Second, correct breed identification by bystanders, pet owners, police, medical workers and animal control personnel is notoriously unreliable. It becomes virtually impossible with mixed breeds. Third, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which conducted a 20-year study that listed the breeds involved in fatal attacks, there’s currently no accurate way to identify the total number of dogs of a particular breed and, consequently, there’s no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill. In fact, the CDC says its own 20-year study is not an appropriate tool for making breed-specific policies or legislative decisions. Instead, the organization advocates “dangerous dog” laws that focus on individual dogs of any breed who show aggressive behavior.

    And I agree with people who are saying that the issue is about whether the dog is intact or not or whether it is on a chain or whether it is left unrestrained:

    “Approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94% of which were not neutered
    Approximately 25% of fatal dog attacks involved chained dogs
    Approximately 24% of human deaths involved unrestrained dogs off of their owners’ property
    Approximately 58% of human deaths involved unrestrained dogs on their owners’ property

    Un-neutered dogs are more than 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs
    Chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite.”

  105. MonkeyPox says

    Seems to me that Pits should be sterilized by law. Any that show the least bit of aggression should be put down, and if they cause any injury, owners should be held criminally responsible.

  106. Johnatron says

    You know, I actually find Pit bull enthusiasts a little annoying with the ‘No! Pitbulls aren’t violent at all, they are the most gentle dogs ever!’ stuff.

    In my experience, actually they are the only kind of dog that’s repeatedly acted violent and a little schizo that I’ve seen. My aunt and uncle had a pit bull, and they had to get rid of it because it would chase after and nip anyone it saw moving quickly, including children. Sorry, that’s not cute.

    I have two friends with pitbulls, and the joy of coming over to their houses is that when you walked in the door (invited by the owners, of course) they bark ferociously without stopping. Once they calm down, they also have the habit of suddenly ‘snapping’ and leaping up at you and freaking out. One even sat on a chair next to me once, and snapped at my face, for no reason whatsoever. With two 70 lbs dogs, it gets to be a little much.

    I can understand why pit bull owners don’t want their dogs to be portrayed as dangerous – that story about someone calling the police just because they see a pitbull in the park is not cool. However, I know several pitbull ‘fanatics’ who are obsessed with saying the breed is the most peaceful, calm breed of dog and I just really don’t buy it given the ones I’ve met. Yes, part of it could be the conditioning, the owners, etc, but even these same owners have had other dogs with zero aggressive issues so, yeah.

  107. says

    The actual solution is encouraging conscientious dog ownership in addition to specifically punishing dog owners that engage in unlawful activitiies…


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