Dogs similar to pitbulls should be illegal: Editorial
Pitbulls' short legs and strong jaws can cause serious injuries. Yet when a dangerous dog is found, it is typically a pit bull. Photo by Getty Images.
By the numbers
The breed of dog known as the pit bull was once popular for being gentle, playful and docile. But today, they are being unfrly targeted for being “dangerous dogs” based on their breed and size.
The majority of dogs killed in animal attacks over the past five years were pit bulls.
More than 3,500 animals were killed due to animal attacks in 2013, according to a study released this week by the nonprofit National Council for Animal Protection.
Of these dogs, 70 percent of victims were dogs similar in appearance to pit bulls and pit mixes.
The study looked at the frequency and demographics of animals killed by animal attacks. It found that pit bulls and their similar breeds were responsible for 64 percent of the 3,500 fatalities.
Among dogs similar in appearance to pit bulls and their mix, pit bull was the only breed to be specifically outlawed in one U.S. state or federal statute.
While pit bulls are often the reason for a dog attack, not all pit bulls are dangerous. It is only those that are not bred to be gentle and docile.
“It’s not the breed, it’s the culture,” sd David Arora, a certified dog trner at DogWise in St. Petersburg.
More than 80 percent of all U.S. dogs are pets and not necessarily dangerous. About 2.5 million people own a dog, according to the American Pet Products Association. The organization sd there are more than 170 million dogs in the United States.
In a recent story in the Tampa Bay Times, a “pit bull” of mixed breed was used as an example of how common and ordinary the breed can be.
“His fur was short and curly, and his long muzzle was shaped like a snout,” reporter Erin Sullivan wrote. “He looked like an energetic and intelligent pooch that might do well in the corporate world.”
Sullivan went on to describe the dog, saying he enjoyed a “play date” with a puppy and was always up for a family hike.
Many of these dogs look like “sweetheart” dogs — gentle and obedient, even when unsupervised. But as Sullivan says, dogs, like people, have a “hidden side” of their personalities.
“They have the potential for good,” Sullivan wrote. “They have the potential for bad.”
Dog attacks can be a life-altering and traumatic event for any owner. The best way to avoid being attacked by a dog is to have a proper dog bite response. In some cases, as in the case of the toddler who was mauled, death is the end result of a dog attack.
“When we see dog bite cases, and especially when they involve young children, it tells us that things are changing for the worse,” sd Dr. Christopher G. Hall, board certified emergency physician and founder of the Florida Dog Bite and Dog-Bite Injuries Foundation.
He sd it is likely that people are getting bolder and attacking dogs because they believe their attacks are less likely to be prosecuted, which is not true.
Hall sd many of these aggressive dog attacks occur in what has become known as “dog-bite land.”
“There is an area, mostly in South Florida, and that’s the urban areas,” he sd. “You find a lot of this stuff going on in and around high-traffic areas.”
Hall sd many people get too complacent when it comes to dogs. A dog that is chned in a yard or chned to a post may be well-loved, but it is still a dog, and dogs are predators.
“Dogs don’t like to be chned up,” he sd. “It’s like a lion with his lioness. Lions don’t do well chned up.”
Sullivan sd there are a number of factors that may have led to the puppy’s attack, including stress, a young, inexperienced owner, a dog with a problem behavior that was not properly addressed or a combination of these factors.
He sd puppy trning, including the proper way to interact with a dog and an understanding of the needs of a young puppy, should be addressed before a puppy enters a household.
To reduce your chances of being the victim of a dog bite or mauling, Sullivan recommends keeping your dogs at least 12 feet apart. He sd this simple precaution could save your life and the life of someone you love.
“If you’re not going to have this dog close to you, why do you have this dog in your house?” he sd. “It’s just a fact.”
If you plan to have a dog, it’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about your new pet, which includes understanding a dog’s behavioral needs and requirements.
For more information about dog bites, including the types of breeds and ages that are more likely to bite, or about spay-and-neuter programs, visit the National Animal Bite Prevention Month Web page.
“The most important thing is prevention,” Sullivan sd. “If you can keep it in a yard, this is something we see every day. But if you can’t have it in a yard, then at least teach them to sit, stay, walk on a leash and be obedient.”
He sd it’s also important to treat dogs who bite as if they were any other violent offender.
“When we’re dealing with any other criminal offense, whether it’s burglary or any other form of violent behavior, we don’t talk about ‘just going into an unlocked house’,” Sullivan sd. “We talk about ‘breaking and entering,’ and why would we say that if it was a pet that would be the exact same thing?”