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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

To give you some idea, I once kept eight beagles in my back yard. When my wife complained, I’d tell her to choose which ones needed to go. It was a pure bluff: some were prize-winning field trial hounds, others house pets. However, they all had eager, loving hearts, and she knew all their names.

But for all my foolhardy animal passions, I have never harbored a pit bull. Nor would I. Just as beagles are obsessed with tracking rabbits, pit bulls are preoccupied with fighting. It’s in their genes. They aren’t so much protective as simply belligerent.

Alas, that’s what some people like about them. Others appear simply naïve about what the animals are capable of. Statistics show that pit bulls are involved in four out of five—eighty percent—of fatal human attacks. (Only beagles and basset hounds have never been implicated.)

So here’s my story: three weeks ago, I was walking my two big dogs in a city park. Jessie and Maggie are a Great Pyrenees and a Great Pyrenees/Anatolian cross. Both are shepherd’s dogs historically bred to fight wolves. Weighing roughly 120 pounds, mine spent their first eight years guarding our farm against coyotes and cow-chasing dogs. Mostly they guarded cats, of which they’re fond, and farm animals generally.

Jesse appears to think he’s the king/boss dog of the world, which in his quite limited experience, seems true. I once saw him pitch into two coyotes pestering my neighbor’s goats. He shook one, threw it, and then started after the second, which took off at warp speed while its companion skulked away. Then Jesse picked up a goat kid and carried it unharmed to the herd.

Another time, he protected my wife from a charging mama cow. She wanted no part of him.

Nobody taught him these things; they’re what Great Pyrenees do. Jesse’s consort Maggie fears just one thing: him. Otherwise, she’s equally powerful and more aggressive. Maggie simply will not abide a challenge. It’s the Anatolian in her, a Turkish breed inclined to be territorial. When they were younger, they spent a lot of time play-fighting—perfecting their moves.

People they like in their aloof way; children, they love. Even so, everything else being equal, I wouldn’t keep these dogs in the city. But I couldn’t abandon them after nine years, and they’ve adjusted. Our backyard fence is impregnable, the gates padlocked shut. We walk several miles together every day. Maggie needed some persuading that dogs we encounter aren’t looking for trouble, but she’s intelligent and I’m large enough to restrain them, so all is well.

So there we were in Allsopp Park near the end of our outing. As we passed a playground crowded with small children on a sunny afternoon, I saw a large pit bull, unleashed and dead-heading toward us with unmistakably aggressive intent. I called for somebody to control him. But nobody there owned him, so nobody acted.

There were no preliminaries. The pit launched directly for Maggie’s throat. Wrong move. He got nothing but a mouthful of thick fur. In a flash, she’d seized his ear in her jaws, thrown her leg over, and pinned the crazy SOB to the ground. No way was she going to let him get back up.

Jesse tore into his hamstring.

A sane dog would have surrendered. But this was a pit bull.

Ordinarily, I could have pulled my dogs away. But not with a furious death grip on an 80 pound dog. I was afraid they were going to maim or kill him in front of the children and their mothers. Luckily, one fellow took Jesse’s leash and tried to pull him away as I tugged Maggie in the opposite direction.

Another young father grabbed the pit’s collar and lifted him off the ground without getting bitten — above and beyond the call of duty. A third guy produced a leash, and led the dog away with its terrified owner, a girl about twelve who’d left the front door open and had been chasing her dog across the park.

Maggie’s face was covered in blood, none of it hers. Disaster had been averted. My dogs were excited and happy: Is it supper time yet?

But what if I’d been walking dachshunds or cocker spaniels? What if nobody was there to help? It wasn’t the poor girl’s fault, the blame lay with whoever left a child alone with a deadly weapon.

So let the pit bull-fancier’s rationalizations begin. I believe I’ve heard them all. What they basically amount to, as one friend put it, is “Gee, he never killed a child before.”

Possibly this breed has a place in today’s world, although I can’t think what it is. Like smoking or riding a motorcycle without a helmet, owning a pit bull should be seen as anti-social and stupid.

It wouldn’t trouble me if it were illegal.

IMAGE: Flickr / Vincent Perrone

33 Responses to Pit Bulls: Man’s Best Friend Or Deadly Weapon?

  1. You are not alone. Pit bulls are selectively bred to recognize other dogs are prey to fight in a pit. You never know when it will be triggered. Pit bull type-dogs kill 40,000 animals a year! Our laws need to change. Pit bull owners are getting away with murder. These pit bull owners need to stop terrorizing the public with their dogs. These pit bull owners should be charged with assault by a deadly weapon. Please contact your city council.

    Pit-bull type dogs are responsible for 95% of severe attacks on people, pets and livestock. Please follow for one month. You will be shocked at all the people and pets that are severely maimed or killed by pit bulls.
    http://www.nationalpitbullvictimawareness.org/

    Pit bulls do not lock their jaw but with their ‘gameness’ trait they do not let go until their victims are dead.

    Two words to prove pit bull type dogs are inherently dangerous: “BREAK STICK”.

    Does this sound like a normal and safe dog breed to have live in our neighborhoods? Pit Bull Rescue Central recommends ALL pit bull owners to have a “break stick”, a wedge-shaped piece of wood used to pry open a pit bull’s jaw during an attack. “Since pit bulls have a strong fighting background, we recommend that pet owners also have a breaking stick as a precaution.” http://blog.dogsbite.org/2008/09/break-sticks-tool-used-to-pry-open-pit.html

    This person demonstrates how to use a break stick on a pit-bull: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfMVH4wY5Pg

    Pit Bull Rescue Central, the leading authority on pit bull-type dogs, admits most pit bull-types are not safe around other people’s dogs because of their genetics. Pit Bull Rescue Central states, “Pit bulls were bred to recognize other dogs as prey”. http://www.pbrc.net/breakfight.html For that reason alone, I do not consider them safe family pets for our neighborhoods. These are powerful animals that break away from their guardians all the time and maul and kill another beloved pet or person, often in front of a child or pet owner.

    According to Pit Bull Rescue Central, “It is a FACT that our pit bulls, AmStaffs and pit mixes come with a built-in fighting heritage. It doesn’t matter where we get them from, whether it be the pound, a stray we pick up, or a puppy we buy from a breeder. The majority of pit bulls will, at some point in their lives, exhibit some degree of dog-on-dog aggression. Yet, chances are that a “normal” pit bull will not share his affection with other animals. We cannot predict when or where it will happen and we can’t love, train or socialize it out of the dog. Pit bulls may not start fights, but they will finish them.” http://www.pbrc.net/misc/PBRC_dogpark.pdf

    Tia Torres who has a T.V. show on Animal Planet called, “Pit Bulls & Parolees” wrote this for Rescue Train. “It’s a mistake to think the fighting gene can be easily trained or loved out of a pit-bull.”

    Why she think it’s appropriate to rehome pit bulls after saying that is beyond me. Adopting out predators of other people’s beloved pets compromises public safety. In my opinion is immoral. Pit bulls are zero mistake dogs and people make too many mistakes. http://www.therescuetrain.org/pit_bull_education.php

    Pit bull type dogs kill an estimate 40,000 animals a year.
    http://www.animals24-7.org/2017/01/11/record-32550-pit-bulls-killed-or-badly-injured-other-animals-in-the-u-s-in-2016/

  2. Most attacks by pits only make local news, if that. I wish a national affiliate would start reporting on the hundreds of attacks weekly by these dogs. Maybe people would start to demand serious restrictions on ownership, if not outright bans. They have become a serious public safety risk and because of the indiscriminate overbreeding, are now the most abused dogs in the world. Everyone is suffering!

    • Check out National Pit Bull Victim Awareness dot org.

      If anyone is interested, they can scroll down, they have a compiled map of pit bull attacks with attached information on their main page.

      ..and a recent list of attacks, as well as information pertaining to them, also on the main page compiled from news reports. Here are a few of them:

      ALBERTA
      Woman out walking with her daughter attacked by one of two loose pit bulls.
      7 hours ago

      CALIFORNIA
      Update: There was a hearing to determine the fate of the pit bulls that killed Valentine Herrera.
      7 hours ago

      FLORIDA
      Couple mourn the death of their miniature horse that was brutally killed by a pit bull.
      18 hours ago

      PENNSYLVANIA
      Police shoot two roaming pit bulls that attacked a woman in Fairmount Park.
      1 day ago

  3. Dear Gene,
    I’ll make this short sweet and get right to the point. This is simply the most spectacular article I’ve read about pit bulls in years. Thank you.
    Sincerely, Dawn James

  4. Thank you for speaking truth! Dogs have seen selectively bred for years (centuries, in many cases) for specific traits and purposes, and these genetics affect their behavior. People only seem to deny this with pit bulls (bred to fight in a pit and take down bulls).

      • So now a pit bull advocate posts an obliquely threatening comment. Why not just politely disagree?

        Anyone reading, this is typical of pit bull advocates:

        “Findings revealed vicious dog owners reported significantly more criminal behaviors than other dog owners. Vicious dog owners were higher in sensation
        seeking and primary psychopathy. Study results suggest that vicious dog ownership may be a simple marker of broader social deviance.”

        From Vicious Dogs: The Antisocial Behaviors and Psychological Characteristics of Owners, by Laurie Ragatz, M.A., William Fremouw, Ph.D., Tracy Thomas, M.A., and Katrina McCoy, B.S., Journal of Forensic Sciences, March 3, 2009.

  5. Agreed…

    More than 1 in 40 pit bulls killed or seriously injured another animal in 2013-2014. By comparison, only 1 dog in 50,000 of all other breed types combined killed or seriously injured another animal.

    Pit bull attacks are one of the biggest public safety issues in America today. In the last 3 months of 2015, pit bulls killed more people than Dobermans killed in 60 years.

    There are more than 25 media reports of pit bull attacks on people per week

    Pit bull attacks have increased 830% in seven years in the US and Canada.

    In addition to attacks on people, pit bulls killed 24,000 other dogs and 13,000 cats in the US in 2015, or 66 dogs per day.

    (From National Pit Bull Victim Awareness).

      • What’s biased about the source? PROVE the bias.

        Here’s some peer reviewed studies about pit bulls and the damage they do, for anyone reading:

        “Our data were consistent with others, in that an operative intervention was more than 3 times as likely to be associated with a pit bull injury than with any other breed.”
        (Characteristics of 1616 Consecutive Dog Bite Injuries at a Single Institution, by by Golinko et al., Clinical Pediatrics, July 2016).

        “Most alarming is the observation that when attacks come from unfamiliar dogs, the pit bull was responsible for 60% and 63% of all injuries and ocular injuries, respectively.”
        (Ocular Trauma From Dog Bites: Characterization, Associations, and Treatment Patterns at a Regional Level I Trauma Center Over 11 Years, by Prendes et al., Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, June 2015).

        “Of the more than 8 different breeds identified, one-third were caused by pit bull terriers and resulted in the highest rate of consultation (94%) and had 5 times the relative rate of surgical intervention.”

        “Unlike all other breeds, pit bull terriers were relatively more likely to attack an unknown individual (+31%), and without provocation (+48%).”

        “Although a number of dog breeds were identified, the largest group were pit bull terriers, whose resultant injuries were more severe and resulted from unprovoked, unknown dogs.”

        (Dog bites of the head and neck: an evaluation of a common pediatric trauma and associated treatment, by O’Brien et al., BS, American Journal of Otolaryngology, January–February, 2015)

        “Attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs.”
        “Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs, by Bini et al., Annals of Surgery, April 2011”

        (Many more studies are available on Dogsbite dot org).

  6. Hmmm…Dog bigotry….that is all you pit haters are……anti-pitbull propaganda….let’s not speak about the other breeds who are responsible for more attacks than Pitties? ahhh…haters must hate…

    • Please, show us the stats that show other breeds are more responsible for serious attacks and deaths that pit bull type dogs.

    • “OTHER BREEDS BITE MORE OFTEN THAN PIT BULLS”

      The Myth:
      Fighting breed advocates often erroneously claim that other breeds (Chihuahuas, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, etc.) bite, and even kill, more often than fighting breeds.

      The Reality:
      The statistics vary depending on breed popularity in a particular area. However, Chicago IL, Las Vegas NV, and New York NY all verified that pit bulls were the #1 breed for reported bites in 2013.

      We believe that the focus shouldn’t be on the number of bites, but on the severity as well as the fatalities. Dog “bite” victims usually endure a brief attack lasting seconds, while dog “mauling” victims often endure lengthy attacks should they survive. One of the longest dog attacks on record was in Cary, Illinois and involved 6 peopled being mauled for an hour and half total. Nationwide, pit bulls rank as the #1 breed whose attack is likely to result in the victim’s death.

      Unfortunately, many communities do not record the severity of reported bites. Both a single shallow puncture from a Chihuahua and a fatal mauling by a 100 lb. Cane Corso are officially reported as a “bite.”

      It is important to understand that fighting breeds have a completely different bite profiles than most other breeds. They are bred to bite down, clamp and shake, causing severe tissue damage. Many attacks can go on for 10-30 minutes, even as passers-by try in vain to remove the attacking dog by choking it, kicking it, beating it with shovels or baseball bats. There are cases of fighting breeds continuing to maul their victim even after the police have shot the dog multiple times at point-blank range.
      (Daxton’s Friends, Canine Myths).

    • By all means, please tell us what other breed is responsible for as many life changing attacks on people including deaths and the mauling and killing of so many dogs and cats. It has nothing to do with hate. It’s simple reality.

    • Yes indeed, the Mighty Chi Chi commits the most attacks, and doctors have stated this fact that Chi Chi’s are so aggressive they cause the most severe injuries, requiring extensive reconstructive surgery, and lost limbs. Many fear the vicious Chi chi and if you see one out in public run away as fast as possible, though their tiny legs can move them surprisingly fast however, and you may succumb to their brutal mauling!!

  7. Great article. I am shocked no pit nutters have come charging in to this discussion to comment that the writers dog should be considered just as dangerous as the pit bulls they effectively disarmed and to bleat about how this article proves that “any dog” can attack.
    You are a brave man, Mr. Lyons. Prepare for the deluge of hate mail, personal attacks, and calls for your firing for being a “dog racist”.

  8. Fake news! Nice to see all of you are Vets and dog training experts and actually spend time with pit bull type dogs.

    • It was an excellent article, I thoroughly enjoyed reading a different outcome of a typical unprovoked pit bull attack. I also agree, there isn’t a place in the world for pits, it’s stupid they weren’t banned when dog fighting was made illegal. Blame the overbreeding on pit rescues and pit advocacy for denying their inherent dangers and promoting them as pets.

      • Indeed, my only regret is NOT having seen that pit pinned to the ground, how satisfying that would have been to see!!

  9. This is a disgusting example of uneducated people who use their narcissistic platform to fail the innocent ! It is The HUMAN RACE who instigate and project hate not the dog , NOT the breed. Freedom of press allows those with a platform to loose their minds. What happen to journalism that actually researches topics before presenting them to influence public opinion. I’m sure this supposed journalist spent time in the inner cities that use rape stands to over breed dogs. Heavy chains and cruelty to train them to fight for greed and sick entertainment. Please consider spending time with pit bulls that fill the shelters from human failures and greed. They remain loyal, gentle, & hopeful despite their past experiences. We need leadership to govern people. It this lack of self control that result in overbreed, in beeeding, and misrepresentation of animals. If you want to help the cause use your platform to tell legislators to pass laws to stop back yard breeder, licensed breeders, puppy mills, and allow only the sale of rescue or shelter animals in ALL pet stores.

    • So basically you want dogs to go extinct, why should anyone care what you have to say? The rest of us love dogs. You want to spay and neuter and legislate them out of existence.

    • But it’s pit owners who allow backyard breeding to continue, if no one bought backyard bred pits, it would not exist! Only trash pit owners have allowed all this mess to happen, which includes Multiple Daily attacks by pits on other dogs, children and adults!

  10. Canine Behavioral Genetics: Pointing Out the Phenotypes and Herding up the Genes

    An astonishing amount of behavioral variation is captured within the more than 350 breeds of dog recognized worldwide.

    Inherent in observations of dog behavior is the notion that much of what is observed is BREED SPECIFIC AND WILL PERSIST, EVEN IN THE ABSENCE OF TRAINING OR MOTIVATION. Thus, herding, pointing, tracking, hunting, and so forth are likely to be controlled, at least in part, at the genetic level. Recent studies in canine genetics suggest that small numbers of genes control major morphologic phenotypes. By extension, we hypothesize that at least some canine behaviors will also be controlled by small numbers of genes that can be readily mapped.

  11. I used to own a German Shepherd. She was a great dog. However, the breed is protective and if you don’t socialize it right, it can be aggressive. So it was up to me as the owner to socialize the dog. HOWEVER, guess what, even though my dog was well socialized I would NEVER have left her alone with a child. Why? Because children are unpredictable and German Shepherds are large dogs with big jaws. Why take a chance? And guardian dogs like Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, etc., are still not as dangerous as pit bulls. Why? First of all, you get warning with these dogs.

    I never had an issue with my German Shepherd attacking anything. However, there were times when she would get very alert and signal that she might perceive a threat. I would be warned, therefore, that my dog MIGHT do something, so I would also be on alert. Because my dog had been trained to obey my commands, I could tell her to sit or stay close by my side and make sure we didn’t have a situation.

    But with pit bulls, they have been bred to attack WITHOUT giving any sort of signal. So how can you anticipate your dog’s behavior and prevent or diffuse a situation?

    Also, with my German Shepherd, when we played tug-of-war, I could tell her to let go of the toy, and she would. I occasionally gave her a bone (which she loved) and then would take it from her and then give it back, and she never became aggressive – she always gave up her bone to me. I thankfully never had to command her to let go because she had her jaws in another dog, but there was at least a chance she would listen to me. But pit bulls were bred not to let go! So it’s that much harder, because you are working against the dog’s genes…

    As the owner of the dog, it is YOUR responsibility to keep the dog safe and to keep others safe from the dog. I did NOT get a German Shepherd because I wanted a big, tough dog. I wanted a smart dog, a dog I could train. I wanted an active dog that I could hike with. And yes, the fact that the dog is large and looks fierce was something I saw as good, as a single woman hiking by myself. HOWEVER, when I got the dog I made sure to go to a reputable breeder who bred “mellow” German Shepherds. I met the parents and saw how they acted. I wanted a dog that was not going to randomly attack a child or another dog or a stranger. So I made sure my dog’s parents had a stable temperament. Unfortunately I don’t think many pit bull owners do this – make sure that the parents of their dog are stable and mellow.

    I’m not saying pit bulls are evil. They are a product of their genes. It is really sad that so many get euthanized. But the thing is, anyone who adopts a pit bull has to take on a huge responsibility. I had a certified mellow and calm German Shepherd and I still had to do a lot of work – I took her for long walks (an hour) every day and long hikes (2-3 hours) a couple of times a week. I obedience trained her. I made sure to socialize her with other people, pets and children. I made sure she was not food aggressive and would give up something she held in her jaws to me. She was always safely contained by a high fence when she was in the back yard. I was always alert when we went on walks so that if we passed another dog or person I would keep an eye on my dog’s posture so I could anticipate any potential issues. Thankfully we never had any issues!

    If you want to own a pit bull I would imagine you need to do all of this type of stuff – make sure the dog gets enough exercise and mental stimulation, make sure to always have control of your dog, etc. But you have to do even more because pit bulls are genetically bred not to give you signals before they attack (so you have to be even more careful to keep the dog contained) and because unlike other dogs they will hang on when they attack. Frankly, I don’t think anyone with children should adopt a pit bull. I do think that for the right person, who can spend the time and energy to care for the dog, it might be a good fit. But you have to be willing to do the work and realize that it’s a real commitment… if you are getting a dog to boost your ego or to look tough, you’re an idiot and should not get a dog.

    While I love dogs I totally get why some places would want to ban pit bulls or ban all large, potentially aggressive dogs (including German Shepherds). Just because I like a certain type of dog does not give me the right to force other people to do so!

    • Yes you are indeed right! Only pit supporters will not admit they have fighting traits to the public, as this might dissuade people from adopting them! Also, pit owners don’t care that their dogs are maiming and killing other dogs. They are narcissistic and psychotic to some degree! They are not responsible dog owners. Which is all the more why we need BSL to force these owners to be responsible, because as we’ve seen, they won’t do it themselves!!

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