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.
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