Recently, Dr. Nancy Shaw is suspected to have been killed by dogs in Lyons, Georgia. Groups such as Dogs Bite who supposedly reveal the potential dangers of owning the American Pitbull Terrier has presented information about the dogs that killed Dr. Shaw that isn’t accurate. While Lyons Police were unwilling to give pictures of the dogs in question due to Dr. Shaw’s death still being an active investigation we did confirm that Dogs Bite gave a totally inaccurate depiction of the breeds involved.
Read More About Dr. Shaw and the Dog Mauling Death: Click Here
The Daily Counter reached out to the Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker. When our reporter mentioned “pitbulls” in the media reporting about the dog breeds Chief Walker appeared surprised and stated, “We have never called these dogs Pitbulls. They look to be a Bulldog mix of some sort which isn’t a Pitbull. Those are two separate breeds.”
We reached out to groups widely considered to be either anti-Pitbull or paint the breed as more dangerous than it actually is. One such group was National Pitbull Victim Awareness. This author reached out to National Pitbull Victim Awareness via Facebook. The group responded but didn’t provide much information other than a link to a website. There were specific questions that this author wanted to ask. The group declined for comment.
If you believe that Pitbulls are an inherently bad breed then before continuing to read this article we’d like to ask you some questions. Do you believe that the Doberman Pinscher is not an aggressive breed? The Doberman can get up to 100 pounds and was originally bred by Louis Dobermann, a tax collector, as a personal protection dog. A Doberman puppy will absolutely cost more on average than a Pitbull Puppy that can often be gotten for free. If the price of a Doberman puppy were the same as a Pitbull puppy or if one could find Doberman puppies for free do you think the number of Doberman-related dog bites would increase or decrease?
Even if Pitbull or Pitbull mixes account for most dog bites it is a fact that 81% of all dog bites in the United States cause only minor injuries that do not require hospitalization. This information has been corroborated by The National Canine Research Council. You can see that information by clicking here. If the vast majority of dog bites aren’t very serious or serious at all then the hysteria about Pitbulls having these super-strong jaws doesn’t make much sense. Apparently, these dogs have strong jaws made for killing but they just don’t seem to be killing enough people most of the time.
We decided to go talk to experts. The Daily Counter got in touch with Jack Griffin who is the Director of Shelter Services at the Women’s Animal Shelter in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Griffin and the Women’s Animal Shelter have become a beacon of hope for animals who are abused, neglected, and often have no place else to go. Griffin has dealt with a variety of different dog breeds, especially Pitbulls.
Before running this shelter Griffin was an animal behavior specialist for Philadelphia Animal Control. This person is a go-to contact for the very first animal shelter in the United States and was/is an animal behavior specialist. Surely, he would have some good insight on the issue.
Jack Griffin was open about his feelings towards Pitbulls. Griffin explained that he felt Pitbulls were being treated unfairly and that usually, the bad behavior exhibited from some Pitbulls was more due to bad owners and not the breed.
He said, “The fact of the matter is that we have learned a lot about dog aggression toward humans and how it works in the last 10-20 years. Most, if not, all of the time comes from fear and anxiety. A big issue with all dogs regardless of the breed is that we treat warnings such as growls and snaps as challenges rather than what they most often times are which is a dog trying to create space between themselves and the object of that behavior. So, when we believe we are challenged we respond with an escalation to suppress their behavior. If this behavior was driven by fear, causing additional fear may stop the behavior in the immediate but it does not address where it came from so can escalate the behavior later on down the road.”
Griffin provided two studies on the issue: 2009 University of Pennsylvania study on animal aggression being a result of human aggression and 2009 University of Pennsylvania study on confrontational versus non-confrontational human responses to animal behavior causing animal aggression.
When asked if he felt that Pitbulls was more aggressive than other breeds Griffin provided a direct answer. He also provided a citation for his claim which turned out to be a professional standard for those in his field.
“There is no statistical evidence to support this (pitbulls are more aggressive than any other breed). In fact, any community that has enacted a breed ban didn’t see statistical changes in reported dog bites. See citation of position piece by the American Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB). AVSAB remains the professional certification and body of Veterinary Behaviorists as well as Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists,” Griffin explained.
Let’s take a look at the citation Jack Griffin provided. Below is a PDF file from the American Society of Animal Behavior or AVSAB. The PDF is about AVSAB’s position on breed-specific bans and this governing body’s position on Pitbulls and other breeds who are deemed to be dangerous.
Here is a copy of that PDF file.
According to the PDF file provided by AVSAB, we can see that the idea of Pitbulls being anymore dangerous than other large dog breeds is false.
Here is a quote from the file:
“Any dog may bite, regardless of the dog’s size or sex, or reported breed or mix of breeds. Twenty breeds and mixes were identified as being involved in 256 fatal attacks in the U.S. Between 2000-2009. Denenberg, et al. (2005) surveyed three veterinary behavior referral centers in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, finding that Jack Russell Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers were the breeds most commonly referred for aggression.”
A study of dog breeds involved in fatal attacks in the U.S. between 1979-1998 revealed 31 breeds or mixes were responsible for 238 attacks. Over half of these incidents were reported to involve pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers; however, breed identifications were usually based upon media reports and therefore could not always be substantiated. The 29 other breeds responsible for deaths included the American Cocker Spaniel, Boxer, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, West Highland White Terrier, and other breeds with reputations as family-friendly pets. An examination of stringent, state-regulated compulsory temperament tests administered in Lower Saxony, Germany, found that 95% of the population of 415 dogs of “dangerous breeds” reacted appropriately to test situations. When “friendly breeds” were tested, their scores were similar, exposing the fallacy that targeted breeds presumed to be dangerous were, in fact, no more dangerous than breeds considered to be friendly. Breed alone is not predictive of the risk of aggressive behavior. Dogs and owners must be evaluated individually.”
A lot of dog bites in general, especially many involving Pitbulls, involve dogs who have been chained or tethered. The Humane Society of the United States has warned against tethering dogs because a tethered dog can and often does become aggressive. In many cases, when you look at some of the situations where Pitbulls or Pitbull mixes bite humans you’ll notice that the dog was tethered. This would match what the U.S. Humane Society has noticed and what many Pitbull advocates have also noticed. Woof Dog published an article about Pitbulls where they’ve estimated that nearly 25% of fatal dog bites involved a chained or tethered dog which wouldn’t be a shocking statistic.
With all the hysteria surrounding Pitbulls, you’d be forgiven if you thought these dogs were killing millions of Americans a year. Only 1 out of every 69 Americans will be bitten in a year and, again, it is estimated that over 80% of those bites won’t cause serious injuries. These anti-pitbull groups and non-profits will claim this breed is so dangerous, powerful, and bred to kill but the breed just appears to suck at killing. There are millions of Pitbulls. If the breed were as dangerous as these groups suggested then surely they’d have the highest kill count, right?
The mainstream news, television, and movie media have promoted an image of the American Pitbull Terrier. These animals are usually depicted as angry, violent, and guaranteed safety liability. Many harmful elements within Hip-Hop has promoted this image with rappers showing Pitbulls off as if they are weapons and not as pets. Criminal elements have long used these dogs for dog-fighting and for guard dog duties. Many Americans use these animals as loving family pets. However, it isn’t the image of the family Pitbull that gets the bulk of the attention from society.
We can state outright that the “Pitbulls So Dangerous” narrative is not only false but it exposes the problem with statistics dealing with animals. Many of these “Pitbulls” are actually Pitbull mixes that are mixed in with other breeds. Would it be reasonable to call a dog a Greyhound if it is mixed with a German Shepherd? Would you question is someone had been drinking or not if they proclaimed that a Chihuahua could have the size of a Great Dane but the face of a little dog? You’d think those people were either out of their minds or didn’t know what they were talking about. Why then is it fair to attribute aggression and dog bite statistics to a breed that is often misidentified?
Below is a handy chart explaining the different Pitbulls and other breeds that are often called Pitbulls.
According to the United Kennel Club (UKC), the American Pit Bull Terrier‘s breed description describes a dog that isn’t the monster some have made it out to be. The reason why we are using the UKC’s breed description versus the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed description is because UKC covers international breed standards while AKC only covers the United States of America. Here is a quote that describes the personality characteristics of the breed and what disqualifies the breed from recognition:
“The essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, confidence, and zest for life. This breed is eager to please and brimming over with enthusiasm. APBTs make excellent family companions and have always been noted for their love of children. Because most APBTs exhibit some level of dog aggression and because of its powerful physique, the APBT requires an owner who will carefully socialize and obedience train the dog. The breed’s natural agility makes it one of the most capable canine climbers so good fencing is a must for this breed. The APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable. This breed does very well in performance events because of its high level of intelligence and its willingness to work.
Disqualifications: Viciousness or extreme shyness.”
This description doesn’t match some of the information found on the internet. For example, there are studies out there that claim Pitbulls are the most aggressive breed involved in most dog bite-related fatalities. Not only is this untrue but, even if numbers are presented, it is unlikely that Pitbulls were accurately described. One question can dispel many of the myths and lies told about Pitbulls. That question is what is a Pitbull?
Pitbulls such as the one to the right are often lumped in with other breeds. “Bully breeds” were once used as bull-baiting dogs which is where the term bully comes from. Since many who belong to these breeds can be misidentified it is up to professionals to determine the breed origins of a dog involved in a dog-biting incident. Often, police officers, shelter workers, veterinarians, and sometimes, people who breed bully breeds can have a difficult time telling one breed from another.
Jack Griffin, Director of Shelter Services at the Women’s Animal Shelter in Pennsylvania says it is very common for people to misidentify Pitbulls.
“There are a lot that of dogs that look like each other and are therefore mistaken for pitbulls. Dogo Argentino, Cane Corso, Olde English Bulldog, Black Mouth Cur, Presa Canario, Dogue de Bordeaux, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Boerbell, along with others,” Griffin explained.
Again, Griffin provided that PDF file from AVSAB. The file spoke about the misidentification of Pitbulls and other bully breeds.
Here is a quote from that file:
“Dog DNA tests reveal that even professionals experienced at identifying dog breeds (veterinarians, dog trainers, breeders, animal control officials, shelter workers, etc.) are unable to reliably identify breeds visually. These professionals are the ones who are often responsible for making breed identifications, which are recorded into veterinary reports, pet adoption papers, bite reports, etc. A study published in 2009 proved that visual ID was usually inaccurate compared to canine genetic testing. The breed identification assigned at adoption was compared to DNA test results for those dogs, and not surprisingly the visual ID matched the predominant breed proven in DNA analysis in only 25% of the dogs. Follow-up studies confirm that visual breed identification is highly inconsistent and inaccurate.”
A November 2015 study showed that shelter staff at animal shelters misidentified Pitbulls. 120 dogs were used in this study and the shelter staff was tasked with identifying the breed of the dog. The terms American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pitbull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Pitbull and their mixes were included. Keep in mind that only 25 dogs used in this study were Pitbulls. The study showed that the shelter staff identified 62 dogs (52%) as Pitbulls. This isn’t just the shelter staff being wrong. This is a case where more than half of the dogs used in this study would have been incorrectly identified as Pitbulls. How many dog bites would have been attributed to Pitbulls if all of these dogs were to bite someone?
Take a look at the picture below and we want you to decide how many of these dogs are Pitbulls. Get a good number in your head.
Pitbulls are often the single most misidentified breed of dog. It is easy to see how someone could misidentify the breed when so many other breeds resemble many of the qualities and characteristics of the Pitbull.
Are you ready to find out just how well you’d do at identifying Pitbulls? What was the number you came up with? How many Pitbulls are in the picture above?
The answer is ZERO.
That’s right. Not a single one of those dogs is a Pitbull. The breeds range from Pitbull mixes to Cane Corso to American Bulldog. Those are not Pitbulls and no breeder or anyone adhering to the UKC breed standards (the most commonly used in the western world) would ever give these dogs the Pitbull label. Yet, many people probably would’ve called at least some of those dogs Pitbulls, if not, all of them.
The above example of a study and, if most are honest, a trick that shows how easily Pitbulls can be misidentified with other breeds. How many of those bites provided by any statistic actually belongs to a Pitbull? How many times have Pitbulls been unfairly blamed for a bite belonging to another breed?
Are Pitbulls even the most aggressive dog? It’s time to stop consulting studies that don’t measure the full spectrum of a dog’s temperament and willingness to become aggressive. We need practical field examples and experts in the field.
Anyone who is willing to pay can consult an animal psychologist. However, we should consult the people who use dogs in everyday training and field applications in all areas including law enforcement. The Daily Counter spoke with Sergeant D. Applegate of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Unit in South Carolina. When asked about Pitbulls and if they were naturally more dangerous than any other dog, Sgt. Applegate provided an answer based on his experience as a canine handler.
“It doesn’t matter the breed. In my experience, if you don’t train your dog any dog can become aggressive,” Sgt. Applegate said.
He should know. This man has not only displayed exemplary service as a law enforcement officer but has the reputation of handling outstanding K-9 law enforcement animals. For example, the dog in the picture to the left is Ronin. That dog served as a law enforcement animal for almost 9 years which is well above average. The fact that this animal could serve its community as a police dog for almost a decade is a prime example of Sgt. Applegate’s proficiency in dog handling and would know about dog breeds.
Are some of the behaviors exhibited by some Pitbulls, and other breeds, the fault of the dog, or more the fault of the owners? Let’s take a look back at that AVSAB PDF file provided by Jack Griffin from the Women’s Humane Society.
Here is an interesting quote:
“Patronek, et al. reported 75% of fatal dog bites occurred on the owner’s property, where under typical breed-specific legislation, a dog would not be required to be muzzled or restrained. The owner was not present during 87% of fatal dog bite-related attacks in the U.S. between 2000-2009, and 85% of the victims had no or only an incidental relationship with the dog. Furthermore, in 37.5% of the cases, the owners knew the dogs were dangerous or had allowed them to run loose and/or repeat potentially dangerous behaviors, and in over 20% of the cases the dogs had been neglected or abused. In most cases, multiple factors were involved and are predictive of a “dog attack waiting to happen. These factors are more predictive than the alleged breed or mix of breeds.” It’s clear that the lack of responsible dog ownership is a major contributing factor in serious dog attacks, including fatalities. Based on the data, BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) would not have prevented any of the fatal attacks during this time period.”
The study that was referenced in this quote was conducted by the Center for Animals and Public Policy, Department of Environmental and Population Health, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Massachusetts. The title of the study is “Co-occurrence of potentially preventable factors in 256 dog bite-related fatalities in the United States (2000-2009).” The stated objective of this study was to “examine potentially preventable factors in human-dog bite-related fatalities (DBRFs) on the basis of data from sources that were more complete, verifiable, and accurate than media reports used in previous studies.”
The findings of this study points toward the irresponsible behavior of owners such as:
- In 85.2% of all dog-related bite fatalities, the victim didn’t even know the dog. How would you like to spend time with people you don’t know, don’t speak your language and you’re just trusting they won’t hurt you? This wouldn’t make you a little paranoid? Perhaps a little more aggressive than usual?
- According to the findings, in 87.1% of dog-bite related fatalities, there was no able-bodied person around to stop the attack. If you own a large breed or any dog then wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect for you to be able to control your dog if you had to? If you say, “well, Pitbulls are dangerous and that’s the reason why nobody should have them” then what would you say about the woman who got mauled to death by a French Bulldog? Should she not have been expected to control this dog as if her life depended on it, because her life, in fact, depended on it?
- 37.5% of dog-related bite fatalities surveyed featured owners who knew the dog was aggressive but took no action to prevent that behavior or allowed the dog to run loose. If every owner just allowed their dog to run loose would you expect more or fewer dog bites?
- In more than 20% of dog-related bite fatalities, the animal was abused or neglected. Any degree of common sense would tell someone that an abused animal is much more likely to become aggressive.
- Pitbulls, like many other breeds, were often misidentified by the media. Here is a direct quote: ” For 401 dogs described in various media accounts, reported breed differed for 124 (30.9%); for 346 dogs with both media and animal control breed reports, breed differed for 139 (40.2%). Valid breed determination was possible for only 45 (17.6%) DBRFs; 20 breeds, including 2 known mixes, were identified.”
- Bad owner behavior and bad owner obedience practices are a better predictor of dog behavior than the behavior of the dog itself.
- In more than 75% of cases surveyed the dog was “isolated from regular positive human interaction” or kept isolated. This would make sense as tethering or chaining a dog outside has been known to promote aggressive behaviors out of most any dog breed.
- There is a disturbing detail in the study that shows 21.1% of owners surveyed had a history of animal abuse.
- How much is a predictor is bad owner behavior, animal abuse/neglect, and all of the other factors mentioned in the study? According to the findings, four or more of these factors accounted for 80.5% of all dog-related bite fatalities from the period of 2000-2009.
The American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) provided a 2017 all-inclusive dog temperament by breed. These tests do not measure a dog’s aggressiveness or willingness to bite. These behaviors can be considered good for working dogs for law enforcement and/or military purposes. A well-trained dog is less likely to bite unintended targets or bite owners. Usually, it is untrained dogs or dogs placed into abusive or neglectful environments that have the tendency to bite more than usual. According to ATTS, their temperate 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.”
You can watch an example video of ATTS testing by CLICKING HERE.
Based on the results provided by ATTS, not only is the American Pitbull Terrier not the most aggressive dog breed but they’ve been surveyed by this group more than any other breed on the list. ATTS has been the gold standard for dog temperament testing since 1977.
From 1977 to 2017, ATTS has tested 931 American Pitbull Terriers. 814 of those Pitbulls passed the test while only 117 failed with an average rating of 87.4%. That 87.4% number may appear to be high. But, again, the question is if Pitbulls are the most aggressive dog breed. If Pitbulls were the most aggressive dog breed then why are there loads of other breeds who have shown higher levels of aggression according to the same standards provided by ATTS?
To determine if the Pitbull has a more aggressive temperament than other dog breeds we will compile a list of all breeds that performed worse than the Pitbull. Breeds with less than 10 testings won’t be included. If breeds who were tested less than 10 times were to be included this comparison would go wildly in the Pitbull’s favor. Even with this handicap in place, it would seem that, based on ATTS standards since 1977, the claim that the Pitbull is a more aggressive dog is false.
Based on ATTS standards since 1977, there are 41 dog breeds who rated higher than the Pitbull and failed the ATTS test at a higher rate. This was the case even when the numbers of testings done per breed had to be 10 or higher.
Those breeds include the Akbash Dog, American Fox Found, Beauceron, Bedlington Terrier, Belgian Laekenois, Belgian Malinois, Berger Picard, Black and Tan Coonhound, Black Russian Terrier, Boerboel, Border Terrier, Borzoi, Brittany Spaniel, Brussels Griffon, Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier (Minature), Central Asian Shepherd, Dachshund (Minature Long-Haired), English Cocker Spaniel, English Shepherd, Flat-Coated Retriever, French Bulldog (Recently, a French Bulldog mauled its owner to death), German Pinscher, Hovawart, Ibizan Hound, Icelandic Sheepdog, Irish Setter, Irish Water Spaniel, Irish Wolfhound, Labrador Retriever, Leonburger, Manchester Terrier (Toy), Norfolk Terrier, Old English Bulldogge, Parson Russell Terrier, Pekingese, Pointer, Perro de Presa Canario, Pug, Puli, and Schipperke.
Someone could say, “well, Pitbulls are strong and they can do more damage than a French Bulldog, Pekingese or a Pug.” That is a fair assessment as Pitbulls are very strong and robust dogs with powerful jaws. However, the same could be said about many of the other breeds who, based on ATTS standards since 1977, tend to exhibit more aggressive behaviors than the Pitbull.
Nobody in their right mind would suggest that a Belgian Malinois which is a dog that could be easily compared to the popular German Shepherd isn’t a powerful and dangerous dog if it becomes out of control. If you don’t think a Belgian Malinois is every bit as powerful as a Pitbull then you’ve clearly never witnessed these dogs in action for police work. In some circles, the Belgian Malinois isn’t used as a police tool because they’re considered to be too aggressive as compared to the German Shepherd.
The Irish Wolfhound is one of the largest dog breeds that you can own with power that is simply unmatched by more than 90% of current breeds. Labrador Retrievers are well-known for their size, power, and their ability to bite as they are a top choice for law enforcement and military work. The Beauceron looks like a smaller version of a Rottweiler and what it lacks in relative size it more than makes up for in strength and power. Presa Canarios, Central Asian Shepherds, Black Russian Terriers, Boerboels, and others on the list of dogs who by ATTS standards have exhibited more aggressive tendencies than the Pitbull are all also large and powerful dogs.
Here is another huge problem that the ATTS has exposed. This exposure of the next issue isn’t so much about what ATTS has surveyed in terms of dog breeds. This next point has more to do with who ATTS doesn’t have a lot of data for. There are breeds who are unquestionably more aggressive on average than just about any dog breed a person could find. If those dog breeds were more widely available would the American Pitbull Terrier look dangerous or would the breed look like a teddy bear?
If you scroll through the ATTS breed testing list you’ll notice that several breeds are missing that some may not recognize but are known to exist. For example, there are Wolf Hybrids running around the United States and across the world. These dogs are very close to wolves and are known to be a little more aggressive than the usual dog. Wolf Hybrids are made with the partial ingredient being an actual wolf. These animals are not only pretty difficult for the average person to just breed at home (being that you need a wolf) but they’re pretty costly too. In some places, you need a dangerous animal type of permit just to own these animals which are the same type of permits one would expect a lion owner to have. Is there anyone out there who is willing to suggest that if there were just as many Wolf Hybrids as Pitbulls that these hybrids wouldn’t make the Pitbull look absolutely harmless?
Some dogs like Central Africa’s Basenji is known to be more aggressive than the average Pitbull. The Basenji is a dog that doesn’t bark but will howl like no other. Just like the English Greyhound and the racing Whippet, the Basenji is a sighthound and once it sees prey it will pursue that prey like a dog that originated in the African continent. These dogs were bred to survive the harsh African bush and their eyes don’t miss much. They are reserved and very wary of strangers. Keep in mind that the Center for Animals and Public Policy study that surveyed dog-related bite fatalities from 2000-2009 found that in 85.2% of dog-related bite fatalities the victim didn’t know the dog and in 87.1% of all cases surveyed there was no able-bodied person around to stop the attack. Can you see how this is a recipe for a dog attack for an owner who doesn’t have experience with the Basenji?
Pitbulls are like any other dog. If any dog is abused or neglected then aggression should be expected. If a dog is properly raised and trained then it is very rare for a dog to bite a human and even rarer for that dog to kill a person. Demonizing a dog breed when all the facts mentioned in this article were publicly available shows that people would rather legislate something away than to embrace or understand a problem. The American Pitbull Terrier and all bully breeds that are abused and used as fighting dogs have provided a perfect plight to animal welfare advocacy. However, the conversation isn’t about what these dogs have shown in terms of becoming ideal pets despite the rampant animal abuse that bully breeds have long endured.
Isn’t it great that Pitbulls don’t judge humans based on our inherently aggressive nature towards animals?