Debunking the bias: Did you know that most dog bite statistics are counted differently for "pitbull-type" dogs than they are for German Shepherds? The term "pitbull-type" is a category consisting of several unique breeds while a German Shepherd is one singular, unique breed. Almost all dog bite statistics compare data for all "pitbull-type" dogs to other singular, unique breeds (like German Shepherds). This is the equivalent comparing accident statistics for all trucks (a vehicle "type") to Honda Civics (the equivalent of a unique breed). Comparing type-to-breed leads to inaccurate and misleading results which can also have a negative impact on public safety.
The are four widely recognized, unique "pitbull-type" breeds (by AKC/UKC breed standards), all members of the Terrier Group of dog breeds - the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pitbull Terrier, American Bully, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The term "pitbull-type" is not a breed but instead, it is a term used to describe a "type" of dog (based only on its physical appearance, not on genetics or lineage) just like a German Shepherd is one breed of many unique "shepherd-type" breeds including German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, Swiss Shepherds, Malinois, and other shepherd-type breeds. The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) is the original pitbull breed and only one of several unique breeds in the "pitbull-type" category. Adding to the problem of inaccurate data, there are other unique breeds (in addition to the breeds listed above) that are sometimes included in the "pitbull-type" category, further blurring the data between "type" and "breed" leading to inaccurate and misleading dog bite-related statistics.
When analyzing dog bite-related data, comparing the data for the American Pit Bull Terrier to a German Shepherd would be valid, as this is comparing breed-to-breed. Comparing the data for all "pitbull-type" dogs to a singular, unique breed like a German Shepherd is not valid, as this is comparing type-to-breed which is the equivalent of comparing all truck (a vehicle "type") accidents to Honda Civic (the equivalent of a unique breed) accidents - not only does this not make any sense, it leads to inaccurate, false, and misleading results. Unfortunately, when you look at the majority of dog bite-related statistics, they typically include multiple unique breeds in the one "pitbull-type" category (usually due to a lack of more accurate breed-based data), leading to artificially inflated and inaccurate results for all "pitbull-type" dogs. If comparing by type, then these statistics should compare the data for all "shepherd-type" dogs to all "pitbull-type" dogs, then this would be a more valid comparison.
Unfortunately, using inaccurate and misleading dog bite statistics (comparing type-to-breed) sometimes leads to poor public safety decisions, such as Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) which only addresses a minority of dog bite-related fatalities. As data sourced from a peer-reviewed study that analyzed 20-years of dog bite-related data concludes that the statistics for the individual "pitbull-type" breeds are in-line with other breeds, stronger Breed Neutral Legislation (BNL) is the more effective and widely preferred standard to properly address dog bite-related issues. Furthermore, peer-reviewed studies have concluded that dog bite-related fatalities are not a breed-specific issue and strongly recommend more comprehensive breed-neutral approaches. Learn more about BSL, and why Breed Neutral Legislation (BNL) is the more effective and widely preferred standard, on the Breed Legislation Page.
One of our next posts will be about the differences among the four widely recognized unique "pitbull-type" breeds, including the original American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), so stay tuned!
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