All strong or large dogs (of any breed) can cause serious injuries or worse, fatalities. Over a 20 year period, 30+ breeds have been involved in fatal incidents in the U.S. alone. Just last month on March 7, there was a sad and unfortunate tragedy in Virginia when the family dog, a northern breed (Malamute/wolf-hybrid mix), fatally attacked an 8-day old baby girl. The attack happened when the baby was left unattended in her bassinet while her mother was preparing lunch in the kitchen. The dog was loved, properly cared for, had never previously shown any signs of aggression, and was described as "very friendly". It’s a tragedy that emphasizes the importance of always carefully supervising strong or large dogs (of any breed) when they are around infants and children - including loved and well-behaved family dogs. To educate on this point, below we list the 30+ different breeds and dog types identified in a CDC study that were involved in fatal dog attacks over a 20 year period in the U.S. - evidence that attempting to legislate dogs based on appearance or breed is an ineffective and obsolete approach for safety because a wide variety of dog types and many different breeds and mixes have been implicated in serious incidents.
30+ breeds and dog types implicated in fatal dog attacks (alphabetical order):
... the dog had previously shown no signs of aggressive behavior to any foster care worker, veterinarian, or the other young children in the home. This is simply a horrific tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the child that died
The fact is that any strong or large dogs (of any breed) can cause serious incidents - including dogs that are considered the loved, family dog. This highlights why breed-based bans and breed-specific legislation (BSL) are ineffective because there are many different dog types, breeds, and mixes that can become aggressive and cause injuries or worse, fatalities. And while comprehensive breed-neutral regulations are the most effective approach because they address all potentially dangerous dogs (regardless of breed) and all irresponsible dog owners, tragic incidents will unfortunately occur and the extensive breed list above is clear evidence that these incidents are not a breed-specific issue - proper training, supervision, and safety awareness is required for all strong or large dogs, regardless of breed.
Breed discrimination and breed-based bans are on the decline. In a recent (2014) national survey, 84% of those polled were against any form of breed-specific bans. Since only last November, 10 more cities in the U.S. and Canada have repealed breed-specific bans targeting pitbull-type dogs. And below, we highlight a few key points from a recent (2018) infographic analysis by Online Masters in Public Health titled "Pitbulls Aren't a Public Health Threat" (shared below with permission*) that considered facts and information relevant to pitbull-type dogs and concluded:
Pitbull prejudice is often based in stigma an shaky information - in reality, like all dogs, pitbulls are perfectly safe given proper care, treatment, and responsible ownership
Breed-specific bans are unpopular:
There is significant bias in media coverage:
Other key points:
The infographic is shared below*:
*Source: Online Masters in Public Health.
Click "Read More" to view the infographic if it is not displayed directly below.
Great news: Since only February, four more cities have repealed breed-specific legislation (BSL) against pitbull-type dogs including Reynoldsburg OH, Lakewood OH, Ironton MO, and Anamosa IA. A big congratulations to these cities for repealing discriminatory breed-specific legislation that multiple peer-reviewed studies have concluded is ineffective for reducing serious dog bite incidents. Almost always, ineffective breed-based bans are replaced with more effective comprehensive breed-neutral regulations that improve public safety by addressing all dangerous dogs and irresponsible ownership - regardless of the dog's breed. Below, we summarize the key differences between breed-specific and breed-neutral regulations and highlight the reasons why comprehensive breed-neutral regulations are the widely preferred standard and the more effective solution recommended by public safety experts and veterinary professionals.
Breed Specific Legislation:
Breed Neutral Legislation:
No more lawsuits, no more delays ... freedom wins today in Reynoldsburg
What veterinary, public safety, and legal experts say:
To improve public safety and reduce the number of serious dog bite-related incidents, the scientific studies, experts, and the vast majority (98%) of cities and towns in the U.S. all agree that breed-neutral regulations are the most effective, most equitable, and most enforceable solution. But more importantly, comprehensive breed-neutral regulations are the best solution to protect children, adults, and pets from serious dog bite-related incidents because they address all irresponsible owners and all dangerous dogs, regardless of breed. The old and obsolete policy of "banning dogs" has proven over and over again to be ineffective, unpopular, and difficult to enforce - so it is entirely reasonable that over time, cities and towns with BSL will continue to upgrade their animal control policies by replacing breed-specific bans with more effective, stronger, and comprehensive breed-neutral regulations.
Great news: A number of pitbull-type dogs have been nominated for the 2018 American Humane Hero Dog Awards! The American Humane Hero Dog Awards® is an annual campaign that "recognizes heroes on both ends of the leash". The fact that so many pitbull-type dogs are nominees is important because it illustrates how breed stereotypes are wrong while at the same time, showcasing how pitbull-type dogs (like all dogs) can be beneficial companions, successful working dogs, and loving family members. The pitbull-type dogs that have been nominated are listed below, use the links to vote for them - it's easy and you can vote for one dog in each category per day until April 25th.
Category - Law Enforcement:
Category - Therapy:
Category - Service:
Category - Search and Rescue:
Category - Emerging Hero:
All other nominees and categories: http://herodogawards.org/vote/
We are especially excited about Kano and Sheeva because both are busting breed stereotypes as successful K9 officers by exemplifying the excellent temperament and trainability that is inherent in pitbull-type dogs.
A big thanks to American Humane and Animal Farm Foundation for all of the work that they do to support, champion, and advocate for pitbull-type dogs!
We've received questions asking why pitbull-type dogs appear to be involved in more incidents compared to other breeds. The questions usually include references to media reports involving pitbull-type dogs and those "other" statistics. Below, we examine the major factors that contribute to the myth and misconception that pitbull-type dogs bite or attack "more often" or "more severely" than other strong breeds.
Factor #1 - Significant Media Bias:
Incidents involving pitbull-type dogs receive well over 100x more media coverage than incidents involving other breeds. That's not a typo, in a study conducted by the National Canine Research Council that analyzed the media coverage of four specific serious dog bite incidents:
The non-fatal incident involving the two pitbull-type dogs was covered in at least 230 media reports (in local news, national news, and even international news) while the three other incidents by other breeds - which included a child fatality - were covered in a total of 4 media reports combined (in local news only). This study confirms that the media is significantly more likely to report dog bite incidents by pitbull-type dogs compared to other breeds and when an incident involving a pitbull-type dog is reported, the coverage is much broader as well (covered by local and national networks). Many people are unaware that in 2017 alone, at least 12 different breeds were involved in fatal dog attacks because many of these incidents received limited coverage compared to the robust coverage of the incidents that involved pitbull-type dogs in 2017. This media bias is an unfortunate and significant contributor to myths and misconceptions about pitbull-type dogs.
Animal control officers across the country have told the ASPCA that when they alert the media to a dog attack, news outlets respond that they have no interest in reporting on the incident unless it involved a pit bull.
Factor #2 - Breed Misidentification:
Pitbull-type dogs are prone to high rates of misidentification which leads to serious incidents involving other breeds or mixed breeds getting wrongly attributed to pitbull-type dogs. In two peer-reviewed studies that analyzed the accuracy of breed identification:
Based on these two studies, we estimate that an average of 50% (half) of media reports incorrectly identify the breed involved in the incident as a pitbull-type breed. Breed identification errors in media reports are another major contributor to misconceptions about pitbull-type dogs.
Pit bulls in particular are often misidentified when a bite incident occurs, so bite statistics related to the dogs’ breed are unreliable and serve no purpose.
Factor #3 - Comparing Dog Types to Dog Breeds:
The term "pitbull" or "pit bull" is not a breed but instead, it is a term used to describe a "type" of dog based only on its physical appearance (and not on genetics or lineage) - just like a Siberian Husky is one of many unique "sled-type" breeds. There are 4+ widely recognized pitbull-type breeds:
Statistics that compare "pitbulls" (a dog type or category comprised of 4+ unique breeds) to other individual dog breeds are not valid because they compare type-to-breed, leading to inflated and misleading statistics for pitbull-type dogs. This is similar to comparing accident statistics for all "four-door sedans" (a type or category of motor vehicle) to Honda Civics (a specific car model) - clearly, the statistics for all "four-door sedans" will be higher than the statistics for Honda Civics. For example, comparing statistics for "pitbulls" to German Shepherds (type-to-breed) is not valid but comparing American Staffordshire Terriers to German Shepherds (breed-to-breed) would be a valid comparison. Furthermore, because the common physical characteristics of pitbull-type dogs can be found in over 20 breeds (and in even more mixed breeds), inaccurate studies and statistics commonly assign bite-data for dogs that are not genetically members of the pitbull-type breeds to the pitbull-type category - which also significantly inflates the statistics for pitbull-type dogs.
It is commonly accepted that “pit bull” is not a breed but a loosely defined and general category ... Any blocky headed dog, or any mix of breeds that is between 35 and 100 pounds and upwards of 30 individual dog breeds may currently fall in this broad category through the use of visual breed identification.
Factor #4 - Statistics that "Count Incidents":
Statistics that simply "count incidents" are inaccurate and misleading because they fail to account for breed population sizes. Popular breeds will inevitably be involved in more incidents - not because they are "more dangerous" but simply because their population is higher. Therefore, in order to assess any breed-specific risk, risk must be measured using dog bite incidents relative to a breed's population size to calculate a risk rate. Calculating a risk rate is a universal standard and a scientifically accepted method for assessing risk. For example:
Every year in the U.S. there are around 800,000 injuries that require medical attention from dog bites (by dogs of all breeds and mixes). Of these, the most severe dog bite incidents are the ones that result in fatalities (on average 28 per year) and when analyzing 20 years of dog bite-related fatality data sourced from a peer-reviewed CDC study, the risk rates of pitbull-type dogs were found to be fully in-line with the risk rates of other strong breeds.
Most DBRFs (dog bite-related fatalities) were characterized by coincident, preventable factors - breed was not one of these.
Pitbull-type dogs do not bite or attack "more often" or "more severely" than other strong breeds - but the factors above contribute to the myth and misconception that they do. Biased media coverage and high rates of breed misidentification are unfortunately major contributors to negative misconceptions, myths, and stereotypes about pitbull-type dogs. But the science-based facts are straightforward and clear - pitbull-type dogs are just like any other strong breed dogs:
The overwhelming majority of pitbull-type dogs have excellent temperaments and are wonderful, loving family members in millions of U.S. households - especially when they have caring and responsible humans taking care of them. At some point, the media needs to be urged to provide accurate, balanced, and unbiased reporting of dog bite-related incidents - instead of contributing to myths and misinformation through clearly biased and error-prone reporting. Biased and inaccurate reporting not only negatively impacts innocent dogs, but can also influence poor public policy decisions such as breed-specific legislation (BSL) which multiple peer-reviewed studies have concluded is ineffective for improving public safety.
Meet Louie, a dog who suffered abuse and was labeled “aggressive” at the shelter but went on to become a loving family member when given a chance. A big thanks to The Dodo's popular "Pittie Nation" short video series for not just busting but *shattering* stereotypes about pitbull-type dogs.
Infographic for breed risk rates:
Congratulations to Hastings, Michigan for being the latest city to reject breed bans by repealing their breed-specific legislation (BSL) in favor of stronger breed-neutral regulations! Last week, the city council voted to strengthen their vicious-dog ordinance so that it addresses dangerous dogs of any breed (based on behavior) - instead of its previous limited focus that was based on a dog's appearance or breed. All around the country, the trend is clear: BSL and breed bans are being challenged and of those challenged, many are being successfully repealed. Below, we list several of the main reasons why many communities are rejecting ineffective breed bans in favor of stronger breed-neutral regulations.
Reason #1 - Pitbull-type dogs are popular mainstream dogs:
Pitbull-type dogs and their mixes are in no way “fringe” or unpopular dogs, they are instead one of the most popular dog-types in the U.S. and they have always been core to our history. The fact is that pitbull-type dogs are mainstream dogs known to have an excellent temperament that are loved by millions of Americans as they are the 3rd most popular dog type adopted from shelters and the 5th most popular dog type registered by veterinarians. Therefore, the popularity of pitbull-type dogs makes breed bans a challenge as they affect a large and growing number of responsible dog owners.
Reason #2 - Breed bans are not supported by science:
There is robust scientific evidence that dogs identified as “pitbull-type” dogs are not more dangerous than other strong breeds. On our scientific studies page, we list multiple scientific peer-reviewed studies that have concluded that pitbull-type dogs are not more dangerous, not more aggressive, and their bites are not more severe than other strong breeds. Furthermore, the studies have also found that factors related to irresponsible ownership (and not breed) are the primary factor for dog bite-related incidents and that breed-specific legislation is largely ineffective for reducing serious bite-related incidents. Regardless of personal opinions about specific breeds or dog types, the science is clear: breed bans are not only ineffective - but also not justified by science. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly difficult for cities to defend breed bans when they are challenged.
Reason #3 - Enforcement of breed bans is difficult and costly:
Breed bans assume that the visual identification of pitbull-type dogs is easy and accurate when in reality, the opposite is true: controlled scientific studies have found that visual identification of pitbull-type dogs is complex and prone to significant error. In fact, the average percentage of "pitbull-type" dogs that were misidentified in two controlled studies was 50% (half of the dogs that were visually identified as "pitbull-type" did not have DNA signatures from any of the pitbull-type breeds). Therefore, cities with breed bans are burdened with using public resources to regulate dogs primarily based on a dog’s appearance or breed (regardless of responsible ownership or a dog's behavior) which inevitably leads to increased and unnecessary enforcement related expenses (DNA tests, breed evaluations, court costs, etc.) and even costly legal challenges.
Reason #4 - Strong breed-neutral regulations are the more effective solution for public safety:
Effective canine legislation should focus on any and all dangerous dogs - regardless of breed. In 2017 alone, at least 12 different breeds were involved in fatal dog attacks, confirming that public safety is not a breed-specific issue. Therefore, public safety requires legislation that addresses all dangerous dogs (based on a dog’s behavior and/or history) and all irresponsible owners (regardless of their dog’s breed). There are many strong breeds (Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Mastiff-types, Dogo-Argentinos, and too many more to list) that require responsible ownership and effective behavior-based legislation. Breed bans do nothing to address the factors directly linked to serious dog bite-related incidents such as irresponsible ownership and dogs with behavior problems. The fact is that strong and comprehensive breed-neutral regulations are the most effective solution for public safety since they address all potentially dangerous dogs and all irresponsible dog owners.
Punishing responsible owners and good dogs instead of addressing irresponsible owners and dangerous dogs is not only nonsensical, but also detrimental to public safety. As more and more communities with breed bans realize this, breed bans will continue to be challenged in favor of stronger breed-neutral regulations that are more equitable for responsible dog owners and more beneficial for public safety.
One of the common arguments used by anti-pitbull activists and organizations to promote discriminatory breed-specific legislation (BSL) is claiming that “because we can't prevent irresponsible ownership, certain dogs should be banned”. If this same logic is applied to cars (because of the fact that we can't prevent irresponsible drivers), then all cars would be banned. Below, we examine the logic of the "irresponsible owner" argument and use cars as an analogy to show that the argument is a fallacy.
The "irresponsible owner" argument goes like this:
Keeping in mind that:
So, using cars as an analogy - the "irresponsible driver" argument would go like this:
Does banning cars sound ridiculous? That's because it is. Not only does banning cars assign blame to the car (instead of to the driver), but banning cars also punishes all other responsible drivers. The same is true for dogs - banning certain dogs assigns blame to the dog (instead of to the owner) and it punishes all other responsible dog owners.
The bottom line is that the "irresponsible owner" argument is a fallacy because the argument's logic fails when applied to almost all other elements of modern society that carry risk - cars, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, sports, and too many more to list. It's an irrational argument that isn't based on logic, science, or risk - but instead, based on long debunked myths and stereotypes about pitbull-type dogs.
A few public safety stats - on average every year in the U.S. there are:
The reality is that it’s impossible to completely eliminate all risk in society and the risk associated with dogs, including the millions of pitbull-type dogs and their mixes in the U.S., is already one of the lowest levels of risk in society (the risk of a fatal lighting strike is almost 2x higher than the risk of a fatal dog attack). For cars, effective laws and regulations that reduce risk apply to all drivers and their behavior - regardless of the type or model of the vehicle that they own. The same is true for dogs, effective laws and regulations should apply to all owners and their behavior - regardless of the type or breed of dog that they own. This is why breed-neutral regulations, which enforce and promote the responsible ownership of all dogs regardless of breed, are the widely preferred standard in the U.S. for public safety (less than 3% of cities and towns have BSL enacted). The objective of any canine legislation should be to promote and enforce the responsible ownership of all dogs, regardless of breed - and not ineffective and discriminatory bans that punish great dogs and responsible dog owners.
Meet Sheeva, the newest member of the Littleville, Alabama police department! On the job for only a few months, Sheeva has already been credited with 6+ drug busts. To quote the local TV news coverage, Sheeva is "shattering stereotypes about pitbull mixes". Only dogs with excellent temperament and trainability ratings make the cut to be K9 officers and thanks to UniversalK9 and Animal Farm Foundation, more and more pitbull-type dogs are becoming K9 officers helping to protect communities all across the country. In the process, they are combating breed stereotypes and changing many hearts and minds about pitbull-type dogs. Great job, Sheeva!
Shattering stereotypes about pitbull mixes
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Insight, news, and analysis on issues and topics relevant to pitbull-type dogs.