Makes sense to me

I found this here, while researching a topic of recent concern.

There have been many news reports about deaths caused by dogs in the USA. The attention given to the homicides has put the spotlight on pit bulls and Rottweilers. There is a very good reason for focusing on these two breeds: in recent years, they have usually been the number one and number two canine killers of humans. (See below, The breeds most likely to kill.) It therefore is correct to single out those two breeds when talking about canine homicides, because those two breeds lately have caused half or more of the deaths — a disgraceful statistic whether it is regarded as the fault of the dogs, their breeders, their owners, or all three.

However, the focus on death cases may leave the public with the false impression that pit bulls and Rottweilers are responsible for the dog bite epidemic. It is a much broader problem than that, involving all dogs and all dog owners. While pit bulls and Rottweilers inflict a disproportionate number of serious and even fatal injuries, the dog bite epidemic involves many different breeds, and results from many different causes. A clear distinction needs to be made between canine homicides (i.e., incidents in which dogs kill people) and the dog bite epidemic.

Canine inflicted homicides have remained at the same general level (15 to 20 annually), which cannot be said for the number of dog bites, which is too high (5 million annually) and appears to be growing higher (see statistics, above). Considering the fact that there are 65 million dogs in the United States (see above), the homicide problem is minuscule. This is not to denigrate it, but to point out that eliminating it entirely would save only 15 to 20 people, out of the 5 million who are bitten by dogs.

The confusion caused by discussing the homicides and the dog bites in the same breath has its most important ramification in the area of prevention. Some are advocating the banning of pit bulls, Rottweilers and possibly other breeds, for reasons that range from their alleged dangerousness to the fact that they are very often treated inhumanely. Those who hear about the homicides often support breed bans. (See Breed Specific Laws, Regulations and Bans.)

However, while banning the pit bull might lower the number of human deaths, such a ban would probably not reduce the number dog bites in any significant manner. After the United Kingdom banned pit bulls in the 1990s, a study showed that the number of dog bites remained the same even though the number of pit bulls had steeply declined. (Study cited in B. Heady and P. Krause, “Health Benefits and Potential Public Savings Due to Pets: Australian and German Survey Results,” Australian Social Monitor, Vol.2, No.2, May 1999.)

As a practical matter, the current tide of public outrage should be focused on the enactment of measures that would deal effectively with the entire epidemic, not merely the breeds that kill. It would be unwise to enact all kinds of controls on one or two breeds, not necessarily because it would be unfair, but because it would produce narrow and therefore unsatisfactory results. The war against crime isn’t a war against just the bank robbers, but against all criminals; the war against drugs isn’t a war against just the Colombian drug lords, but all drug lords. For the same reason, the dog bite epidemic must not focus on just one or two breeds and stop there. The war on this epidemic must be comprehensive.

So what I get from this is that pit bulls aren’t necessarily attacking more than other breeds, but are much more effective when they do. Go ahead and whack each other now.



  1. It’s nice to have some cold, barking facts. 🙂 Personally, I think it would be a grand idea to first eliminate the 15-20 homicides and then work on the bites, but hey.

  2. Yeah well come on over to pj’s place and find out what a REAL dog does when it’s pissed.

  3. But Paula, the bites are where the homocides derive from. That is like saying “We’ll take care of overdoses first, then worry about prescription drug abuse in general.” It’s the same problem, but the worst case scenario is treated as something sererate.

  4. What that report failed to mention was that of the 5 million annual dog bit cases, nearly 4 million of those bitten had smeared peanut butter somewhere on their bodies, so those don’t count.

  5. I think they would count, Jeff, but they would count as a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PROBLEM. 🙂

  6. Ooh, ruff sex!!

    Joe, if ODing on one particular drug caused deaths way more than ODs from other drugs, I would say that, yeah, we should focus on that drug. But it’s not either/or, is it? We can address the overall dog biting problem while at the same time acknowledging that certain breeds cause an even worse problem. It does come down to people-laws, of course. Strict liability, breeding regs, etc. I don’t think they should round up all pit bulls and kill them, but would it be so bad if they were phased out of existence eventually? I’m actually against all breeding anyway–dogs, cats, horses, etc. It makes for a lot of weak animals or, in the case of the PBs, emphasizing one trait to the ultimate detriment of that line. Plus, for cats and dogs, there are so many needing adoption that it seems so wrong to deliberately make more. I’d say the same about people, but…

  7. “We can address the overall dog biting problem while at the same time acknowledging that certain breeds cause an even worse problem.”

    Then we agree. The point is that the 15-20 fatalities are mostly 2 breeds, but the overall aggression is spread out far more evenly among the breeds. People keep saying that it’s because the pits and rots are more agressive, but it seems only that they are more harmful when agressive. There’s a difference there. How do these 15-20 deaths compare to the death toll of your pet peeve?

    “Joe, if ODing on one particular drug caused deaths way more than ODs from other drugs, I would say that, yeah, we should focus on that drug.”

    Hence my disgust at another blog where alcohol, which causes thousands of deaths both from accidents and medically each year, is considered okay but marijuana, which has never been linked directly to a single death anywhere in any way is considered evil. But what do facts have to do with anything where hypocrisy reigns?

  8. Maybe the reason more deaths result from pit bull and Rot attacks is because those are two strong freaking dogs. You get a pit bull with his jaws locked onto your arm and you ain’t getting him off unless you cut off his head. If a chihuahua latches on, well, you just swat him off.


    Legalize it!!!

  9. Agree on the alcohol. And also that if we can focus only on one bad thing after disease, it ought to be death by car. We are so weird about our cars here. Anyway, I posted a follow-up to the canine kerfuffle just now. Fuckin’ hilarious. Here’s emo logic for you (from Big Bad Boyfriend’s Blog): well, if you starve a pack of little dogs long enough, then they might bite you, too! Um, okay. And that makes a non-starving pit bull attack okay then. *shaking head*

  10. No maybe, Koz…. that’s definately it. I’m just saying trhat a lot of folks are misrepresenting where the actual problem lies. It’s not a case of pits or rots being more likely to attack, just that they are more dangerous when they do.

    I’ve been bitten twice…. once by a german shepherd, and once by a chihuahua!

  11. This is interesting data.

    But whether a Pit is more likely to bite or merely more dangerous when he does, still the solution is the same: this breed is dangerous WHEN it is aggressive, no matter how FREQUENTLY that’s the case, and so it would make sense to breed to de-emphasize that trait.

    I like Pits and would ALWAYS oppose good dogs being punished in ANY WAY because some of their breed has bad wiring. But I think people who own/care about this breed are less served by being defensive, and better served by looking hard at breeding practices and whether any reform needs to be done there. Based on what I’ve heard from a close family member who did shelter work for many years, there is a lot of irresponsible breeding out there.

  12. “it would make sense to breed to de-emphasize that trait.”

    That is exactly what I’m saying. I don’t want to see any more anti- pit legislation, especially when we are talking about such low numbers. If the goal is to save lives, we have far bigger fish to fry.

    I think this is the first time you’ve commented here. Bienvenidos! I hope you’ll be a fixture.

  13. Yeah Joe probably first comment, though not first visit. I always feel compelled to comment when dogs are mentioned. 🙂

  14. A quote from your cited site:

    If almost any other dog has a bad moment, someone may get bitten, but will not be maimed for life or killed, and the actuarial risk is accordingly reasonable. If a pit bull terrier or a Rottweiler has a bad moment, often someone is maimed or killed–and that has now created off-the-chart actuarial risk, for which the dogs as well as their victims are paying the price.

    There is a reason for this, and it comes down to what the pit (and rottie, dobe, and GSD for that matter, but mostly the pit) were bred for. Not only aggression and a strong pack loyalty and adherence to the “alpha”, which is bred out of many other breeds, but also the tenacity of an attack. That is why there is a disparity between “bite” and “kill.” A lab or a poodle might bite — inflicting a serious wound — as a warning or in reaction to some provocation. Their message is usually “get out of here, leave me alone.”

    With certain breeds — and the pit is prime among them — the attack is not a nip or chomp and then a dodge. The goal is not to warn the opponent, or react from pain or fear. The goal, the instinct is to kill. They latch on to their opponent, letting go only to secure a better position, and they chew, chomp, and rip. That is why pits and rotties are most likely to kill, not just harm.

    The group of whiny weenies who got all hot and bothered and trashed our gentle PJ were big on the anecdotes. I offer this one that serves simply as an example of a typical pit attack.

    The friend I mentioned who had the pit bull he raised from a pup — the dog’s name was Thor. My friend was with Thor in their fenced yard, when a new neighbor stopped by. The fence was low enough that the neighbor could see over it. He chatted with my friend, introducing himself. I should note that the neighbor was apparently stoned to the gills, but that’s simply an interesting side note and you’ll see why in a moment. While he was on the other side of the fence, Thor was fine. Thor was interested. Watched intently. But fine. The neighbor leaned over the fence. Thor growled menacingly, hackles raised. This got the neighbor’s attention. “Oh, wow, man. Cool pit. Here pit! C’mere!” My friend cautioned the neighbor, but too late. The neighbor reached down into the yard, ostensibly to pet Thor. Thor leaped and clamped his jaws down on the neighbor’s arm, snarling. Blood was gushing. My friend was yelling at Thor, trying to get him to get off of the neighbor’s arm. The neighbor was shaking his arm and saying, “Whoa, pit. Cool it, pit. Whoa” and Thor was chomping his way up the guy’s arm trying to get to his throat before my friend managed to pry the dog off of the man’s arm.

    The dog warned. Then the attack was intended to be a fatal one. The pit was not going to give up.

    I’m not saying ALL pits are like that, nor am I saying ALL pits will attack. I am saying that the breeding for these dogs has selected for those behaviors.

    I am also not saying pits need to be banned, nor legislated as a breed. But I, for one, will never trust a pit, and I still say that they’re ugly looking beasts. Not as ugly as pugs, but darned near.

  15. .
    A peculiar situation to rural areas: an animal control administrator told me that she puts pit bulls higher on the euthanasia list because she knows that more than likely if the dog gets adopted out it will be trained for aggression and quite possibly for dogfights (very popular in these hyar parts).

    FACTOID: Did you know that dachshunds were originally bred to root out badgers and kill them? BADGERS! Holy Wisconsin, those fuckers are mean!

  16. This was a great read. The analogies they propose at the end do attempt to place the larger issue side by side with more “popular” issues. I totally agree that the first thing to do is to try and lower the number of dog bites, because it is in fact from there that the fatalities evolve into.

    It is very similar to motor vehicle accidents and the use of seatbelts. While seatbelt awareness is considered at one of its all time highs there has been no real drop in the number of motor vehicle accidents, but there has been a drop in motor vehicle fatalities.

    Thanks for posting this.

  17. A peculiar situation to rural areas: an animal control administrator told me that she puts pit bulls higher on the euthanasia list

    Not peculiar to rural areas at all. It’s called breed bias and you’ll find it’s a (usually unwritten) policy in shelters in many many areas. Personally, it enrages me. Only dogs who’ve failed a behavioral test such as Sue Sternberg’s should be euthanized, period.

    Actually the underground dog fighting ring thing is pretty common too. Sounds more like an episode of Hunter than reality, but there you go.

  18. And Gek, you BITCH! Pugs rool!

  19. I once saw a scary documentary about why you need dog catchers and leash laws: The moment dogs get loose and in a pack, they forget about being pets and revert to instinct. As a pack, they will attack anything, and some killings by dogs were done by three or four small-breed dogs, overpowering a child or small adult.

    As for pit bulls, when I see them on animal rescue shows, I am struck by how attractive some of them are. It’s a shame the pit bull is ruined by breeding and reputation.

  20. My neighbor pit Hito is a very handsome boy, very friendly and boisterous. I may not be part of his household, but he sees me as above him in the pecking order. This I know because I’ve taken care of him in Amber’s absence, and rounded him up once when some idiot she knows let him escape from the backyard. I don’t want him near my kittens, but that isn’t because he’s mean, but because he might play too hard.

  21. I feel that the true villans here are not the dogs, but the owners and breeders. If you trace all incidences back to their origins you will find one of the following:

    1. Irresponsible humans interbreeding dogs and as such causing more aggressive animals.

    2. Irresponsible humans mistreating dogs by starving them and/or training them to be fighters.

    3. Irresponsible and stupid humans totally ignoring the dogs warning signals. Dogs are protective of their property and owners… it has been that way since the first human and dog met up.

    4. The least of the problems that seem to affect dogs behavior is usually medical. (I had a dog rip my face apart when three and he had a tumor in his brain. I was attacked by a Standard poodle for the same reason.)

    Put stricter punishments for irrisponsible humans and maybe the dog attacks will slow down. I have owned pits and none of them had a mean bone in their bodies. I have owned Dobies and they were gentle as kittens. I have owned shepards and they were big babies. But step inside the perimeter of their zones and unless called down they would tear you to pieces to protect me. Once told OK, you could do pretty much what you wanted with them.

    Stupid human are and always will be the “Pit” of the problem.

  22. ha! I’m not touching this topic with a 10-foot pole! 😉

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