Are Pit Bulls Dangerous?
In a word: no. Many people THINK they are, and if you ask them for proof, they send you lists of bite statistics and news reports of Pit Bull attacks.
But that doesn't prove anything.
Rarely do the writers perform actual research. One obvious question they could investigate: Was the dog actually a Pit Bull? It's impossible to determine breed by appearance alone. And given that the CDC non-fatal bite statistics come from counting newspaper reports of attacks claiming it was a "pit-bull type" dog, there are bound to be gross inaccuracies.
No DNA tests were ever done, which are required to determine breed.
This is highly related to the reason why breed specific legislation doesn't work. And it never will. Even the CDC agrees:
“Breed-specific legislation does not address the fact that a dog of any breed can become dangerous when bred or trained to be aggressive. From a scientific point of view, we are unaware of any formal evaluation of the effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in preventing fatal or nonfatal dog bites. An alternative to breed-specific legislation is to regulate individual dogs and owners on the basis of their behavior” (JAVMA, Vol 217, No. 6, September 15, 2000 Vet Med Today: Special Report 839-840).
For these reasons, and many others, both the CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association do not recommend discriminating based on breed.
The frenzy against Pit Bulls is nothing but blind fear fueled by the human need to find a scapegoat. There is not a single shred of proof that the American Pit Bull Terrier is a vicious, dangerous breed.
What are the facts?
The American Temperament Test Societ (http://www.atts.org) perform their temperment tests regularly on popular breeds. You can visit their web site to view upcoming testing dates and location and actually get your own dog tested. The most recent aggregation of all test results was in 2008. Description of the test:
The test simulates a casual walk through a 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 dog fails the test if it shows:
- Unprovoked aggression
- Panic without recovery
- Strong avoidance
American Pit Bull Terriers passed the test at a rate of 85.3%.
This is higher than Collies, Golden Retrievers, and other dogs generally considered "family friendly". The average dog population is around 77%.
As most dog behaviorists and trainers will tell you, a dog is almost 100% a product of it's owner and the training it recieves.
And if the APBT is so inherently dangerous, how come they are so successful as therapy dogs? As search and rescue animals?
Honestly, more people die drowning in their backyard swimming pool every year than die from dog attacks. That doesn't make it any less tragic, but to call it an "epidemic" is a little far fetched.
Pit Bulls are not the first breed to be unfarily labeled dangerous, and they won't be the last. Politicians love to act important and pretend like they're doing something, and media outlets love to sensationalize. Don't let them get away with nonsense. Learn the history of the breed and educate yourself.
The only thing that can be said about them is that sometimes, they tend to be dog aggressive. But almost every breed of dog is aggressive toward some other animal. Where did foxhounds and wolfhounds get their names from?
UPDATE: We now have a review up of "The Lost Dogs", which is about the fate of the Michael Vick dogs. Dogs trained and abused to fight, and many of them are now therapy dogs. This is an important book showing the true nature of the breed.