Recent dog bite-related incident data confirms that serious dog bite-related incidents are not a breed-specific issue; furthermore, the data validates what multiple peer-reviewed studies have concluded such as breed does not determine risk and that safety is not a breed-specific issue. In fact, since only 2016, at least 28 different breeds and mixed breeds have been involved in fatal dog attacks (listed in Table 1 below) including: Akita, Belgian Malinois, Boxer, Chow Chow, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Giant Schnauzer, Husky, Labrador Retriever, Mastiff, Rottweiler, and many others. While every serious dog bite-related incident is tragic, the number and variety of breeds implicated in fatal dog attacks is clear evidence that these incidents are not a breed-specific issue.
The dog bite-related fatality (DBRF) data for JAN/2016 through DEC/2018 confirms that:
Table 1 - Breeds involved in fatal dog attacks between JAN/2016 and DEC/2018 include:
(in alphabetical order, references to news sources with breed information provided in Table 2 below)
Table 2 - Incident date, breed(s) involved, location, and sources for the breeds listed in Table 1:
(excluding pitbull-type dogs, see "Notes" below)
The data, scientific studies, and risk rates all confirm that serious dog bite-related incidents are not a breed-specific issue. For canine regulation, it is important to understand the differences between the two major forms of regulation - Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) and Breed Neutral Legislation (BNL). BSL is a limited, single-factor, appearance-based approach while BNL is a comprehensive, multifactorial, behavior-based approach. For public safety, BSL imposes regulations on a minority of dogs based only on their appearance or breed (regardless of a dog's behavior or responsible ownership) while breed-neutral regulations address all potentially dangerous dogs, all irresponsible owners, and all unsafe dog-related situations - regardless of a dog's appearance or breed. Consequently, multiple peer-reviewed studies have concluded that BSL is ineffective; furthermore, it is a discriminatory trend in decline evidenced by the vast majority (98%) of cities and towns that use breed-neutral regulations as their primary and only form of regulation because of the many advantages of breed-neutral regulations summarized on our Breed Legislation page.
Breed specific ordinances have proven ineffective in reducing the ... number of dog bites. Breed Specific Legislation ... has generally been discredited in actual experience of cities, professionals and academic research as being both ineffective and expensive.
Great news in Ohio: The city of Rocky River, OH has successfully repealed their obsolete ban on "pitbull-type" dogs in favor of more effective breed-neutral policies that are based on modern best-practices for preventing and reducing serious dog bite-related incidents. On November 26, the Rocky River City Council repealed the ban in a unanimous 6-0 vote and ended the ineffective and discriminatory policy that banned dogs based only on their appearance or breed. The ban, or breed specific legislation (BSL), is being replaced with breed-neutral regulations that are more effective and more equitable because they address all potentially dangerous dogs, all irresponsible dog owners, and all unsafe dog-related situations - regardless of a dog's appearance or breed. Congratulations to the City Council and the residents of Rocky River for improving public safety by repealing BSL - Rocky River joins a list of 10+ cities that have repealed BSL in 2018 and are taking a decisive stand against ineffective policies and long-debunked myths and stereotypes about pitbull-type dogs.
Source: The link to the City Council's meeting minutes (PDF) is here (see page 4).
Several key reasons why the national trend against BSL is strong and enjoys robust public support:
Regardless of any personal opinions about specific breeds (or types) of dogs, multiple peer-reviewed studies have concluded that BSL is an ineffective public safety policy and that any risk associated with pitbull-type dogs is fully in-line with other strong breed dogs of similar sizes and strengths - therefore, breed-specific policies are scientifically baseless and not grounded in facts, expert information, or science. So it's really no surprise that when BSL is challenged by informed citizens and public officials, BSL is often repealed and replaced with stronger and more effective breed-neutral regulations that address all dangerous dogs, all irresponsible owners, and all risky dog-related situations - regardless of a dog's appearance or breed. A big congratulations to Rocky River and the 10+ cities and towns that have repealed BSL this year!
Fortunately, more people and their elected officials are learning why breed bans don’t make sense, and BSL is on the decline. In recent years, 20 states have passed laws prohibiting BSL on the local level and over 100 municipalities have replaced BSL with breed-neutral policies. Repealing BSL has not resulted in more dog bites in these communities. In fact, after Ohio repealed its statewide breed-based law, State Farm Insurance reported a decrease in dog-related claims in the state.
There are a number of myths about dogs classified as "pitbull-type" dogs including myths about their bites. These myths claim that they have "locking jaws", the "most severe" bite, and that they are prone to "snap" or bite without warning. Not only are these myths scientifically baseless but they are also physically erroneous. Below, we summarize the facts and the peer-reviewed studies that fully debunk these myths and prove that they are 100% false.
Bite severity and injury (risk):
Biting without warning (aggression/snapping):
Disputed medical studies on the severity of dog bites:
Characterization of bites by "pitbull-type" dogs:
Facts and scientific studies have fully debunked the myth that bites by pitbull-type dogs are somehow "different" or "more severe" than bites by other dogs of similar sizes and strengths. This is of course not comparing the bites of pitbull-type dogs to the bites of smaller breeds such as Chihuahuas or Dachshunds - but instead, to the bites of other strong breed dogs such as Dogo-Argentinos, Cane-Corsos, Bullmastiffs, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and many other strong breeds. Can bites by pitbull-type dogs cause injuries? Of course they can, but so can the bites of many other strong breed dogs - bites by pitbull-type dogs are not more severe or different in any way. The fact is that the bite severity of any dog is related to its overall size, strength, and energy - and not to its breed.
Pitbull-type dogs are by far the most popular "strong breed" dogs in the U.S. - more popular than German Shepherds, Boxers, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Huskies, Mastiffs, and many other strong breeds. While some claim that pitbull-type dogs only represent around 6% of dogs in the U.S., in reality pitbull-type dogs are the 3rd most popular dog type adopted from shelters and the 5th most popular dog type registered by veterinarians. In fact, we estimate that pitbull-type dogs (and their mixes) account for up to 20% of dogs in the U.S. not only because of their shelter and veterinary counts, but also because of the fact that since "pitbull" is not a breed, the broad "pitbull-type" population includes 4+ unique breeds (and their many mixes) plus many other breeds and mixes that can get labeled as "pitbull-type" dogs due to their appearance. Below, we summarize the shelter and registration data used for our pitbull-type population estimate.
ASPCA shelter data reveals that pitbull-type dogs are the most popular dog type by intake and the third most popular dog type by adoption counts. For population estimates, shelter intake data is a more accurate and more robust measure of breed population sizes (vs. adoption data) because it includes all dogs, not just the dogs that have been adopted. The only other strong breed in the top 5 rankings of the ASPCA intake and adoption data are German Shepherds and compared to German Shepherds, the pitbull-type population is 3.6x higher by intake counts and 2.5x higher by adoption counts. The shelter data is further validated by veterinary data which shows that pitbull-type dogs are the 5th most popular dog type in the U.S. and the only strong breed in the top 5 list of the most popular breeds.
20% Population Estimate
There are an estimated 90 million dogs in the U.S. and while there are no conclusive population counts by breed, we estimate that up to 20% (18 million) can be classified as "pitbull-type" dogs and their mixes:
AKC/UKC registration data (which is commonly used to estimate breed populations) typically only includes purebred dogs and a recent peer-reviewed study concluded that the majority (57%) of pitbull-type dogs are mixed breed dogs (with less than a 50% DNA concentration from pitbull-type ancestry). Therefore, since the majority of pitbull-type dogs are not purebred, shelter and veterinary data is a more accurate representation of their total population size because it includes purebred dogs, mixed breed dogs, and represents comprehensive dog population counts from all across the country regardless of registrations or any breed-based legislation.
Breed Registration Data
When compared to other "strong breeds", pitbull-type dogs are by far the most popular at around 20% of the total U.S. dog population. According to AKC registration data, the population estimates for the next most popular strong breeds (that are at least 1% of the population or above) are:
Contrary to myths and misinformation by special-interest organizations and tabloids, pitbull-type dogs are not "fringe" or unpopular dogs. Instead, they are exceedingly popular mainstream dogs providing companionship, happiness, and love to millions of families which is not surprising given their excellent temperament scores and overall reputation of outstanding behavior. In fact, pitbull-type dogs have been popular in the U.S. going as far back as World Wars 1 and 2 when they were declared "America's Dog" and prominently featured as national mascots on recruitment posters. Furthermore, their popularity alone is a leading reason why BSL has been repealed in many cities and towns and also why voters recently rejected a proposed breed-specific ban in Springfield, MO by a landslide. The reality is that pitbull-type dogs are popular mainstream dogs accounting for up to 20% of all dogs in the U.S. that are loved by millions of families all across the country and across all political spectrums - in fact, we'd say that they are still "America's Dog" today given their overall population, widespread acceptance, and rising popularity.
Many advocacy campaigns benefiting "pitbull-type" dogs take place in October and while most call them "awareness" campaigns, we like to call them "education" campaigns. Below, we answer the question: "Are pitbull-type dogs different from other dogs?" and debunk a number of myths, misconceptions, and stereotypes with facts and science. So for this year's "National Pitbull Education Month" please like and share this post and/or our www.pitbullinfo.org website to help educate others, debunk myths, and to spread the word about how wonderful pitbull-type dogs (and all dogs) really are.
What is a "pit bull"?
Pitbull-type dogs were originally bred in England in the early 19th century as crossbreed between a bulldog and a terrier (then called "Bull and Terriers") to be working dogs on farms to herd, protect, and manage livestock. Today, there are 4+ distinct breeds that are commonly considered "pitbull-type" breeds including the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. However, there are also over 20 other unique breeds plus a variety of mixed breed dogs that share the same or similar physical characteristics that are typically found in pitbull-type dogs such as a "blocky" head. Furthermore, the term "pit bull" is not a breed - historically, it was an informal and slang term that was used to describe any dog that was used for the cruel sport of "bull baiting" (using dogs to seize tethered animals such as bulls within an enclosed area called a "pit"). While many different breeds were used for this sport, dogs that resemble today's bully breeds were commonly used - it was not an activity limited to today's pitbull-type breeds. More recently, the term "pit bull" has become a generic term that is used to describe dogs that fall into the broad "pitbull-type" category which includes many different breeds and mixes based on their appearance.
Are "pitbull-type" dogs more dangerous than other strong breed dogs?
Scientific studies and expert information have made this answer relatively straightforward - No. Data sourced from a CDC study identifies 30+ breeds associated with fatal dog attacks over a 20 year period and since only 2016, at least 24 different breeds have been involved in fatal dog attacks - confirming that serious dog bite-related incidents are not a breed-specific issue but instead, an issue associated with most large or strong breed dogs (regardless of breed). Additionally, the data from the CDC study reveals that the risk rates of pitbull-type dogs are fully in-line with other strong breeds. Other peer-reviewed studies have reached similar conclusions such as breed does not determine risk. This is of course not comparing pitbull-type dogs to smaller dogs like Chihuahuas or French Bulldogs but instead, to other strong breed dogs such as Dogo-Argentinos, Cane-Corsos, Bullmastiffs, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds (and many other strong breeds) which are all associated with some risk - not because of their breed or any "inherent risk", but simply because of their size and strength. Furthermore, the myth that pitbull-type dogs have locking jaws and a more severe bite than other strong breeds is also completely false.
What about temperament, are "pitbull-type" dogs more aggressive than other dogs?
Again, no. According to the latest ATTS breed temperament test data, the unique breeds commonly assigned to the broad "pitbull-type" category continue to achieve excellent temperament scores - scoring in the top 23% of all breeds tested. Furthermore, pitbull-type dogs are consistently successful as service dogs, as therapy dogs, as K9 police dogs, and as family pets. Because of their excellent temperament, they have become increasingly popular dogs and we estimate that up to 20% (18 million) of dogs in the U.S. can be classified as "pitbull-type" dogs and their mixes based on the fact that pitbull-type dogs are the 3rd most popular dog type adopted from shelters and the 5th most popular dog type registered by veterinarians. Furthermore, the shelter and veterinary data confirms that "pitbull-type" dogs are growing in popularity in U.S. households which wouldn't be the case if they had a questionable or negative temperament.
What about public sentiment, isn’t the public hesitant about "pitbull-type" dogs?
A lot of progress has been made in debunking misinformation, myths, and stereotypes about pitbull-type dogs in the last 5-10 years which has been slowly but surely transforming public sentiment from negative to positive when it comes to pitbull-type dogs. While there is still a lot of advocacy and work to be done, the tide has noticeably changed and is improving for our pitbull-type family members as evidenced by the number of towns and cities that have repealed ineffective and discriminatory breed-specific legislation (BSL) in 2018 alone and by voters in Springfield, MO that recently rejected a proposed breed-specific ban by a wide margin. More and more, pitbull-type dogs are being recognized for what they truly are - great dogs with excellent temperaments that deserve a loving and happy life like all other dogs do.
What about those other "statistics" and media reports about incidents involving "pitbull-type" dogs?
We could go into a long and comprehensive discussion on this topic debunking the typical "statistics" published by fear-based tabloids and special-interest organizations - but instead, we’ll just make a few key points:
So, are "pitbull-type" dogs different from other dogs?
The simple answer is no, pitbull-type dogs are not different, unique, or special in any way from other dogs. As discussed above, the facts and scientific studies show that they are no different than other strong dogs and as with all strong breed dogs (such as Dogo-Argentinos, Cane-Corsos, Bullmastiffs, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and many other strong breeds), pitbull-type dogs and their many mixes require responsible ownership for happy pets and families. While all dogs deserve responsible ownership, strong breed dogs especially require it to help ensure everyone's happiness and safety. But regardless of the science and the experts, those familiar with pitbull-type dogs already know that they are wonderful dogs that provide unconditional love, companionship, and happiness to anyone that is fortunate enough to have them in their lives.
Finally, please take a moment to watch this great short video about "Pitbull Awareness Month" - a big thanks to Animal Farm Foundation for this informative and educational video. The campaign's information is also available at: itsbullawareness.org which is a great website to share.
According to the latest ATTS breed temperament test data, the unique breeds commonly assigned to the broad "pitbull-type" category continue to achieve excellent temperament scores - scoring in the top 23% of all breeds tested. Furthermore, the average score for pitbull-type breeds was better than 100 of the 130 breeds included in this statistic - in other words, in the top 30 of 130 breeds tested (top 23%). The ATTS data reflects similar conclusions found in scientific studies and provides further evidence that the behavior, trainability, and overall disposition (all factors related to temperament) of pitbull-type dogs is excellent. The data, sources, and scores used for this statistic are all provided below.
The ATTS test focuses on and measures different aspects of temperament such as stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and friendliness as well as the dog’s instinct for protectiveness towards its handler and/or self-preservation in the face of a threat. The test is designed for the betterment of all breeds of dogs and takes into consideration each breed’s inherent tendencies.
Temperament data, sources, and scores:
In yet another blow to BSL, the most recent peer-reviewed study on the DNA of shelter dogs concluded that one of the main components of BSL, identifying a dog's breed based on appearance, is highly unreliable with accuracy ranging between a low of 10% and a high of 67%. Published last month, the largest study on the DNA of shelter dogs to-date also concluded that 98% of pitbull-type dogs are mixed breed dogs and that behavior is more important than heritage (DNA/breed) when considering dogs for adoption. Furthermore, the study found that dogs labeled as a pitbull-type breed had an average DNA concentration of 43.5% from pitbull-type ancestry which would challenge the majority of breed-based bans that target dogs with a genetic background of "50% or more" from pitbull-type breeds. Below, we highlight key conclusions and information from the latest scientific study to contradict BSL and breed-based bans.
Summary of the study:
Key conclusions and information from the study:
The genetics of behavior is so complex ... breed-typing is worse than stereotyping members of our own species. Breed labels would be better dropped altogether.
All strong breed dogs such as Akitas, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Cane Corsos, Huskies, Mastiffs, "pitbull-type" dogs, and many other strong breeds and mixes require responsible ownership for happy pets and families. While all dogs deserve responsible ownership, strong breed dogs especially require it to help ensure everyone's happiness and safety. Below, we list five of the most critical factors for responsible dog ownership - almost all serious dog bite incidents (by dogs of all breeds) are the result of a failure of one of these factors related to responsible ownership.
Five critical factors for responsible ownership:
Many dog bite incidents can be prevented by heeding the basic warning signs of canine aggression and problematic behavior. Any severe aggression or unsafe behavior should be immediately assessed by a veterinarian or professional dog trainer. While all dogs may exhibit some level of aggression in certain situations, any unsafe dog-on-dog or dog-on-human behavior should be professionally evaluated. In most situations, aggression and problematic behavior can be successfully mitigated with professional training, by avoiding specific situations (like dog parks), by using devices such as muzzles on walks, or with veterinarian prescribed medication (anti-anxiety, sedatives, etc.). Warning signs can include:
The factors for responsible ownership listed above are only guidelines - all situations are different and all dogs are individuals that require different levels of care, attention, training, and commitment. Dogs fully rely on their human companions for everything in life - from proper care and training to happiness and safety. Great dogs are created when they are properly and responsibly cared for - and when they are, humans are rewarded with a loyal best friend that will provide companionship, happiness, and unconditional love.
Great news in Washington: On Tuesday, the city of Yakima successfully repealed their obsolete ban on "pitbull-type" dogs that has been in effect for more than 30 years. Supported by robust public support from city residents, the Yakima City Council easily repealed the ban in a 5-2 vote and ended the ineffective and discriminatory policy that banned dogs based only on their appearance or breed. The ban, or breed specific legislation (BSL), is being replaced with more effective breed-neutral regulations that address all potentially dangerous dogs, all irresponsible dog owners, and all unsafe dog-related situations - regardless of a dog's appearance or breed. Congratulations to the City Council and the residents of Yakima for improving public safety by repealing BSL and implementing a more effective and more equitable breed-neutral approach for addressing and reducing dog-bite incidents in the city. Yakima joins a list of 10+ cities that have repealed BSL in 2018 alone and are taking a decisive stand against old and long-debunked myths and stereotypes about "pitbull-type dogs".
A few reasons why the national trend against BSL is strong and enjoys robust public support:
Aside from the scientific studies and peer-reviewed facts, the reality is that the majority of the public no longer supports discrimination against pitbull-type dogs because simply stated, they are great dogs. They consistently achieve excellent temperament scores and are successful as service dogs, as therapy dogs, as K9 police dogs, and as family pets. All around the country and across many different political spectrums the trend is clear - BSL and breed bans are being challenged and of those challenged, many are being successfully repealed in favor of non-discriminatory and more effective breed-neutral regulations.
The American Bar Association urges all state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and governmental agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral ... laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed discriminatory or breed specific provisions
A beautiful story: Meet Beau, a pitbull-type dog who went from being a stray to helping his new family through a very difficult time by providing his unconditional love. In this short video, watch how Beau immediately provides comfort, happiness, and love to the family that adopted him even though he previously suffered neglect as a stray - yet another example of the inherent goodness and excellent temperament of pitbull-type dogs. A big thanks to Pittie Nation for showcasing Beau and for continuing to *shatter* stereotypes about pitbull-type dogs.
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