Advocates for having pit bulls as pets often argue that the dogs are not dangerous with the proper training and care. This may be true in some situations, but statistics appear to show otherwise.
Part of the problem is that there is a lack of dog owners responsible enough to properly train, restrain, and care for their pit bulls (or dogs in general) so that they do not attack people and animals.
But when attacks happen, what are those liable and victims of pit bull attacks left to do? Are bans the answer? Is it easier to change people or law?
Kudos to those responsible and sensible owners who adequately bring up obedient pit bulls. But, unfortunately, these types don’t make up the majority of dog owners or else pit bull attacks would be rare. The Canada Safety Council estimates that dogs (all breeds) bite 460,000 Canadians every year.
Many more likely go unreported.
The reality is that today’s society holds the basic concepts of accountability and responsibility in low regard, with respect to individuals. Instead, we have handed that over to lawyers and lawmakers and asked them what we are to do with ourselves. Is it any wonder that people are quick to jump to the idea of suing someone when something goes wrong? This scenario has no doubt put pressure on property owners, insurance agencies, and governments to reduce or eliminate liability risks, including those associated with dangerous dogs. Perhaps governments need to require stricter dog licensing standards and/or implement tougher fines for dogs caught off-leash or found without muzzle before considering bans. Even then, enforcement by governing bodies is anything but easy and is no guarantee for safety.
But should negligent dog owners take all of the blame? One may argue that it is too easy to blame pit bulls for attacks, based on their stature and reputation. However, statistics are not favourable to those that say pit bulls are generally harmless dogs.
Some studies indicate an over-representation of two breeds of dogs, pit bulls and Rottweilers, in dog attacks resulting in fatalities.
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, which looked at breed-specific fatal dog attacks on humans between 1979 and 1998, found pit bulls at the top of the list, followed closely by Rottweilers. These studies did not take into account non-fatal attacks.
The study concludes that, “Fatal attacks represent a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and, therefore, should not be the primary factor driving public policy concerning dangerous dogs.”
But that hasn’t stopped some governments in Canada from adopting breed-specific legislation (BSL).
Pit bulls are currently banned in the city of Winnipeg and provincewide in Ontario as well as in other Canadian municipalities.
The Merritt Clifton study of dog attacks from 1982 through 2006 in the United States and Canada produced similar results—again, naming pit bulls and Rottweilers as the top two culprits.
“The humane community does not try to encourage the adoption of pumas in the same manner that we encourage the adoption of felis catus, because even though a puma can also be box-trained and otherwise exhibits much the same indoor behavior, it is clearly understood that accidents with a puma are frequently fatal,” says Clifton.
“For the same reason, it is sheer foolishness to encourage people to regard pit bull terriers and Rottweilers as just dogs like any other, no matter how much they may behave like other dogs under ordinary circumstances.”
We likely won’t hear the last of this issue for some time, as people like having pets, especially dogs. And where there are dogs, there is risk, regardless of breed.