Between Fear and Greed: The Truth About Pit Bulls

by Mary Haight on June 7, 2009

Fun loving pit bull needs new home
Image by kathy doucette via Flickr

In a recent blog about legislation against Pit Bulls, I ended with a comment on how fear and anger over isolated and heavily reported attacks was resulting in reprehensible actions being taken against Pit Bulls as a breed, blaming the dog, and not irresponsible dog owners. A common refrain is “get rid of these dangerous dogs”, even though breed specific legislation has not resulted in changes promised. Not anywhere.

After reading a piece that John Woestendiek wrote over at Ohmidog!, showcasing a Baltimore group which, like the “End Dogfighting in Chicago” organization, is working to help Pit Bulls and the people who care for them, I was compelled to put together the following facts. I hope others will use this information to combat the fear that has perpetuated myths about this breed group. Some may even wish to forward it to local media, city councilmen, senators, and representatives as a fact sheet for their reference. It serves as a wrap to my previous reports on Pit Bulls, providing the truth about the breed group, and another avenue for action.

The 2007 report is in from the American Temperament Testing Society:

“Pit Bull” dogs achieved a combined passing score of 85.5%.

American Pit Bull Terrier: 586 tested 84.3% passed

American Staffordshire Terrier:548 tested 83.4% passed

Staffordshire Bull Terrier: 80 tested 88.8% passed

Total 1214 tested 85.5% passed

To put this in perspective, consider:

All Breeds: 28,010 tested 81.6% passed

Collie: 824 tested 79.4% passed

Golden Retriever: 703 tested 84.2% passed

Test definition, parameters, and methodology:

“The ATTS test focuses on and measures different aspects of temperament such as stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and friendliness as well as the dog’s instinct for protectiveness towards its handler and/or self-preservation in the face of a threat. The test is designed for the betterment of all breeds of dogs and takes into consideration each breed’s inherent tendencies.

The test simulates a casual walk through the park or neighborhood where everyday life situations are encountered. During this walk, the dog experiences visual, auditory and tactile stimuli. Neutral, friendly and threatening situations are encountered, calling into play the dog’s ability to distinguish between non-threatening situations and those calling for watchful and protective reactions.”

The National Canine Research Council reports for 2007 finds that it’s the owner, not the dog who is responsible for fatal dog attacks on humans.

“Extensive research and investigation using 50 years of data has conclusively identified the ownership/management practices that can cause a dog to behave dangerously:

Function of Dog –
Owners obtaining dogs, and maintaining them as resident dogs outside of the household for purposes other than as family pets (i.e. guarding/ protection, fighting, intimidation/status,irresponsible and negligent breeding).

Owner Management & Control of Dogs –
Owners failing to humanely contain, control and maintain their dogs (chained dogs, loose roaming dogs, cases of abuse/neglect); owners failing to knowledgeably supervise interaction between children and dogs.

Reproductive Status of Dog –
Owners failing to spay or neuter animals not used for competition, show, or in a responsible breeding program.

91% of all fatal dog attacks from 2005-2007 were due to one or more of these critical factors.”

You can pick up a free copy of a pdf book “Pit Bull Placebo, The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression” from the NCRC website.

And finally, a great fact sheet dispatching the myths about pit bulls from the Animal Farm Foundation:

Fear:
Pit Bulls have “locking jaws.”

Fact:
“We found that the American Pit Bull Terriers did not have any unique mechanism that would allow these dogs to lock their jaws. There were no mechanical or morphological differences . . .”
Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, University of Georgia

Fear:
Pit Bulls have massive biting power measuring in 1,000s of pounds of pressure per square inch. (PSI)

Fact:
On average, dogs bite with 320 lbs of pressure per square inch. The bite pressure of a German Shepherd, an American Pit Bull Terrier and a Rottweiler were tested. The American Pit Bull Terrier had the least amount of bite pressure of the three dogs tested.
Dr. Brady Barr, National Geographic

Fear:
Family pet pit bulls turn on their owners.

Fact:
No single neutered household pet pit bull has ever killed anyone.
Karen Delise, Founder and Director of Research for the National Canine Research Council, and Author of The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression (Anubis Publishing).

Fear:
Pit Bulls attack without warning.

Fact:
“Pit Bulls signal like other dogs.”
The Institute of Animal Welfare and Behavior of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, Germany temperament tested over 1,000 dogs.

Fear:
Pit Bulls are “ticking time bombs” that turn on their owners.

Fact:
“No single, neutered household pet pit bull has ever killed anyone.”
Karen Delise, Founder and Director of Research for the National Canine Research Council, and Author of The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression (Anubis Publishing).

Fear:
While there are some pit bulls with good temperaments, they are the exception not the rule.

Fact:
The American Temperament Test shows pit bulls consistently score above the average for all breeds tested, year in and year out!
The American Temperament Test Society, ATTS

Fear:
Pit Bulls are more dangerous than other dogs.

Fact:
“A dog is only as dangerous as its owner allows it to be.”
Diane Jessup, Founder of LawDogsUSA, Author, retired Animal Control Officer.”

After all these dogs have endured in the name of fear and greed, it’s a good thing to be equipped to spread the truth around.

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6 comments
MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Thanks for stopping by--there's more of the same reasoned and expert conclusions re pit bulls and biting incidents at ALDF.org and Journal of Veterinary Medical Association is quoted there in this regard.

Kathy Doucette
Kathy Doucette

Thanks for using my photo Duchess to illustrate your post on pitbulls. Great information. We always have lots of wonderful pitbulls available for adoption at the Orange County Virginia Animal shelter -- all neutered or spayed. We will adopt out of area, but not to places with anti-pitbull regulations.

Jim Borgelt
Jim Borgelt

As a proud and happy former owner of a "Pit Bull type" dog, (I say "former" because she died of bone cancer at age 11 a little over a year ago), actually an American Staffordshire Terrier mix, I can't thank-you enough for printing the facts about "Pits." I couldn't even begin to explain in this small space the myriad reasons as to why and how these myths are perpetuated, but the fears you cataloged are just that: myths. Breed-ban legislation is ineffective and counterproductive, it's only benefit being the public relations boost if gives to its proponents, because unfortunately there are those who are uniformed enough to believe that such legislation has any redeeming value whatsoever. Thanks again!

Aeron
Aeron

Thanks for sharing the TRUTH and pointing out the positive points in Pit Bulls.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hi, Kathy, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Happy to help re the photo--besides, she's a cutie!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Thanks for the positive feedback! I wish there were more people who understood that blaming the dog is a media driven madness, The real problem is people who own these animals and neglect them, mistreat them, and do not provide the dog with proper training.

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