(This apparently didn't make it through the first time, so I'm reposting
it. I apologize if it
is a duplicate.)
Here are some additional references on dog bites, dog bite fatalities
and pit bulls, as
well as a final rant.
The CDC listing of pit bulls as a 'dangerous breed'
-- doesn't exist. The CDC lists no dog breeds as specifically dangerous
comments of one of the main authors of the CDC study on dog bite
fatalities (see next
item) suggests strongly she finds the whole idea erroneous.
According to Dr. Gail Golab, co-author of the study and Assistant
Director of the
AVMA Education and Research Division. ". . . the breeds responsible for
fatalities have varied over time. Since 1975, dogs belonging to more
than 30 breeds
have been responsible for fatal attacks on people, including
Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers, a Yorkshire Terrier, and a Labrador
A CDC study of dog bite fatalities and breed-related issues.
This is the mother study -- the most comprehensive study of the subject
I can find. I'll
discuss it later in more detail as it relates to pit bulls.
A discussion of dog bites (as distinct from fatalities) in the US
A detailed study of dog bites in Denver in 1991
Only one city but some statistical analysis. It's interesting to note
that the most
common biting breeds were German Shepherds and Chows.
Article on the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association
Short form: There effectively aren't any that are dangerous enough to be
banned. This is a conclusion supported by the US humane society, the AKC
(which doesn't recognize pit bulls) and most other responsible groups.
Information from a book on fatal dog attacks
Quote from the web page: "Examination of newspaper archival records
back to the 1950's and 1960's reveal the same types of severe and fatal
occurring then as today. The only difference is the breed of dog
these events. A random study of 74 severe and fatal attacks reported in
Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia, PA) from 1964-1968, show no severe or
attacks by Rottweilers and only one attack attributed to a Pit-Bull-type
The dogs involved in most of these incidents were the breeds that were
at the time."
I find this particularly significant because during that period pit
bulls were, while not all
that common, not all that rare as urban dogs in the US. This figures in
discussion of the CDC study below.
A San Francisco SPCA article on dog aggression, causes and cures. Note
doesn't mention breed as a factor.
A UC Davis page devoted to articles, mostly from professional journals,
(I was particularly taken by the study that found a lot of aggression in
Spaniels.) UCD is, of course, one of the country's leading veterinary
notice that breed gets relatively little attention in the articles.
THE CDC STUDY AND PIT BULL FATALITIES
Having read the CDC study on dog bite fatalities more carefully, I
considerably overstates the dangers of pit bulls because it fails to
properly identify the
dogs involved in many of the fatal attacks.
Before we look at why this is so, let's look at the Top 10 'killer'
breeds in the US
according to the study. They are
"Pit bull type"
In fact this is pretty much a list of the most popular large dog breeds
in the United
States. (The pit bull gets honorary 'large dog' status because of its
You'll note that both Great Danes and St. Bernards make the list of top
There is no commonality of purpose among these breeds, which might
in-born tendency to aggression. Some of these are guard dogs, some are
and some are fighting dogs (including the Chow.) The only thing they
common is size and that they are popular breeds. The conclusions are
that the danger
of a dog killing someone is related to its size more than anything else
and what the
dog was originally bred for is largely irrelevant.
(In this context it's interesting to note a dog which is _not_
list of killers. The
Bull Mastiff. Bull Mastiffs were bred at the end of the 19th century as
gamekeepers' dogs to attack and bring down poachers. In the early 20th
popular rural sport in England was to give a man a running start into
the woods and
then send a Bull Mastiff in after him. The object was to see how long it
took the dog to
bring down the man. If there was ever a breed that should be dangerous,
Bull Mastiff is it. Actually they're 110-pound pussycats. They're also
not nearly as
common as the dogs that are on the top 10 list.)
The second thing to note is that while the "pit bull type" dogs top the
list over the
20-year period the study covers, the actual leader tends to vary from
year to year. In
1979-1980, for instance, Great Danes led the list.
Now let's look at why the study probably greatly exaggerates the danger
of pit bulls.
First, note that the study doesn't talk about 'pit bulls', it talks
about 'pit bull type'
Now even if you accurately identified all the dogs on the list, 'pit
bull type' dogs (and
these are purebreds) include five or six different breeds, including pit
bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers and others. The only other kind of
dog lumped in this
fashion is the 'husky type' -- which means that true pit bulls are
even under ideal conditions.
But conditions aren't ideal and a large number of those identifications
are very likely
erroneous. As I've pointed out before, the pit bull is uniquely suited
misidentification. In fact any medium-sized, short-haired, short-muzzled
attacks someone is likely to be identified as a pit bull. This doesn't
really matter to the
responding officers, ER doctors or others treating a dog bite victim and
going to spend too much time identifying the breed of dog. However such
misidentification produces a bias in the study that doesn't apply to
This suspicion is reinforced by the year to year breakdown of
fatalities. In the last five
years of the study (1993-1998) pit bull fatalities drop off sharply and
replace pit bulls as the most dangerous dogs. In fact in that period
twice as many deaths as pit bulls.
Pit bull fatalities spike strongly in the years 1983 to 1990. This
coincides with the
period when pit bulls burst strongly on the American consciousness as
In other words the time was ripe for media hysteria over pit bulls and
that is exactly
what you would expect to produce erroneous identifications -- especially
great many people had never seen a pit bull in that period. They just
knew they were
dangerous dogs. Here the Philadelphia study is also relevant. Over a
decades there was only one fatality involving a pit bull type dog. Pit
bulls were around
in that period, they were just obscure.
But the real 'smoking gun' is that pit bull fatalities decline sharply
after 1990. Yet this is
a period when pit bulls enjoyed an unprecedented growth in popularity.
it is impossible to come by accurate statistics because the breed is not
recognized and the huge majority of pit bulls are not registered, it is
certainly true that
are more pit bulls now than ever. At the very least the numbers of pit
bulls in the US
did not drop significantly. Yet the fatality statistics drop as the
numbers of dogs
The third peculiarity comes when we look at the number of fatal attacks
mixed breed dogs. Here pit bull mixes rank third behind wolf hybrids and
breeds. Now assuming that the identifications are accurate, and assuming
that there is
such a thing as a 'dangerous breed', you would expect the hybrids to
same dangerous tendencies, albeit less strongly. Yet they don't. On the
other hand, if
the dogs were being misidentified, this is exactly what you would
You could object that mixed breed dogs are much more common than pit
bull mixes so
they would naturally cause more fatalities under the theory the more
dog, the more attacks. That might be true. However the argument breaks
wolf hybrids, which caused the most mix-breed fatalities, because they
But enough. Whether the CDC study is accurate or not, I think the
unequivocally demonstrates that pit bulls are not the 'four legged
assault weapons' they
were characterized as in the post that got me into this thread. I would
that the evidence shows that pit bulls are not an especially dangerous
breed of dog.
As I said at the beginning of this thread, Pit Bulls are not a dog for
everyone. A pit bull
owner has a responsibility to socialize and train his pet carefully and
the other basics of responsible dog ownership. If you don't the
consequences can get
ugly. Nor do I expect everyone to warm to them the way I have.
I have found the Pit Bulls I have known to be friendly, gregarious,
who made superb pets. I don't expect everyone to agree with that
evaluation and I
know there are a lot of Pit Bulls who don't meet those criteria. But
they are most
certainly not the dogs from hell and as a breed they deserve better than