Bad Dog: Understanding Breeds and Attacks

A girl getting kisses from her Doberman Pinscher.
A girl getting kisses from her Doberman Pinscher.
A boy asleep on his Great Dane.
A boy asleep on his Great Dane.

Aren't dogs supposed to be man's best friend?

The website DogBiteLaw.com (though a widely discredited source) asserts that approximately 5 million people in the United States are bit by dogs every year. Clearly this is a problem in our country and across the world.

The following is my opinion (and that of many others, as well, I'm sure) based on facts and personal experience with multiple breeds of dogs and many breed owners.

Please keep in mind that, while I am a huge dog lover of all breeds, I am trying to present this article in a balanced way.

For whatever reason, it seems that many people have this inherent fear of certain dog breeds without really knowing anything about them. The problem here stems from the fact that they think they know about these dogs, when in fact they know nothing. The myths surrounding many tough-looking dogs are astronomical, and most of them have no relevance to the truth whatsoever.

So let's explore several things here.

1. Let's examine basic dog behavior and why a dog attacks.

2. Let's look at the breeds who are targeted by breed-specific legislation because they are supposedly "dangerous" and consider why they've made the list when others have not.

3. And let's try to figure out what we can do to truly deal with the problem of dog attacks in our world.

When is a Dog Being a Dog?

Dogs are wild animals who have been bred and domesticated by humans as companions and work animals. Of course, though now they are domesticated, much of their behavior still follows that of their origins. For example:

  • Dogs are pack animals. It is instilled in them that there should be a pack hierarchy in their family, whether that family is a pack of humans or a pack of dogs.
  • Dogs often have the natural urge to protect their food, territory, and the rest of their "pack."
  • When sick, injured, or threatened, a dog's ultimate instinct will be to protect itself from further harm.

A little girl with her "bully breed" dog.
A little girl with her "bully breed" dog.

Join HubPages!

You can write a "hub" like this and make money from the advertisements! Just join the HubPages community (it only takes a few seconds), and start writing about whatever moves you. It's that simple!

So Why Would a Dog Bite?

Many factors could lead to a dog biting. Let's take them each one at a time.

1. It feels threatened or targeted.

This is called defensive, fear, or territorial aggression (in different contexts). It can also be the case with punishment-elicited aggression where the dog is being brutalized or abused and then lashes out.

A dog might feel threatened when approached by an attacker or a particularly rambunctious child. The level of sensitivity each dog has to stimulus will depend on how well "socialized" he is; a better socialized dog will be able to tolerate much more stimulus without a knee-jerk reaction. This socialization must start at an extremely early age, but it also must continue throughout adulthood in order for a dog to be well-socialized.

2. It wants to assert its dominance.

This is called dominance or predatory dominance (again, in different cases).

As I noted, dogs are pack animals with a mind that wants to understand where they fit into the situation at all times. A good dog owner will train the dog as its alpha, and the dog will understand that it has the lowest position in the house. In the wild, this would mean that dog would eat last. In a modern family, it means the dog must ask for its food. A dog who is confused about the social order of a situation will think itself above a small child or timid person and take advantage of the situation. In the wild, this is how a dog would move up the social ladder, so to speak. In today's world, this is a dog attack.

3. It is redirecting its aggression or fear elsewhere.

This is called redirected aggression.

If a dog is feeling particularly stressed in an environment (a busy vet's office, for example), but not because of any specific person or actions, he may become dangerous. A child might approach him, and when he has been otherwise fine with children, that would be a potentially dangerous situation because it could be the last bit of stimulus that is "too much" for him. This, again, might have been averted by proper socialization.

A girl cuddling with her Jack Russell Terrier.
A girl cuddling with her Jack Russell Terrier.

Wait... It's Up to the Owner?

If you really look at those situations above, you'll see that they have a lot to do with the way the owner has raised the dog and the way it is continually treated and trained.

While the situation, the breed, and the breeding of the dog also have a hand in a dog bite, it's amazing how far socialization and training can go in terms of preventing an attack or otherwise aggressive behavior.

Socialization

There is a critical socialization period for a puppy from birth through fourteen weeks old. During this time she receives correction from her mother when she displays improper "dog behavior," and her siblings show her how to be dominant or submissive as they create their own pack order. It's vital that puppies at this stage be exposed to the sounds and smells of children, loud noises, and dominating humans.

A dog who has never seen a man before the end of this period may, for the rest of his life, be afraid of men for seemingly no reason. Imagine what else a lack of socialization could do to a dog's psyche and behavior.

But a dog's socialization obviously extends beyond this time. A puppy well-socialized until 14 weeks but then kept in a cage for two years will not come out normal and well-adjusted. Every day, dogs need to be exposed to all sizes of humans, to dogs, and to loud and large stimulus. This way they can feel comfortable in all environments and not feel threatened except in extreme circumstances.

Training

But socialization is not enough. A naturally dominant dog may try to be the alpha of his owner and his family, and an unwitting master may let this dog be the alpha! This creates a dangerous situation even in well-socialized dogs because the human no longer has control.

This is the other reason that bites occur; if a dog is never trained not to bite, why wouldn't she? But a dog who knows her owner is the alpha of the pack will not bite unless the alpha indicates that it is appropriate to do so (by biting first, essentially). This is the way dogs evolved and lived for thousands of years: with the pack mentality. By using their evolution and breeding to our advantage, we can better understand and train them to avoid bites or attacks.

A Bad Owner Leads to a Bad Bite

A boy sleeps next to his pit bull type dog.
A boy sleeps next to his pit bull type dog.

What About Dangerous Breeds?

So then what about these dangerous breeds we're always hearing about? Every time there's an attack on the news, they say it was a pit bull. And other dogs like Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers are always used as guard dogs on television shows and in movies. This means that those breeds are dangerous, right?

Wrong.

The Pit Bull Myth

Did you know that the Pit Bull is not even a breed? It's more like a type. People use the label to refer to many different breeds of dog, but mostly it's the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and sometimes even the Bull Terrier.

Often, uninformed people will cry "pit bull" when it's not a dog that's even related to those breeds. For some people, a "pit bull" is anything with cropped ears, a big head, a brindle coat, or just a dog that looks mean.

Think I'm wrong? Take the Find the Pit Bull quiz and prove me wrong. To be honest, it took me two tries between the five pages, and I consider myself quite educated.

The Dangerous Breeds Myth

But some dogs are bred to be attack people, right? Well, no reputable breeder breeds dogs to be vicious or aggressive in any way. (If you have questions about what a reputable breeder is, read my hub about How to Find a Reputable Dog Breeder.)

Some backyard breeders and irresponsible owners will intentionally breed vicious dogs trying to get vicious puppies. These people do this solely for dog fighting purposes or for some strange need for power.

The problem is a cyclical one. Breeds with a reputation (or a past) for being "dangerous" (like if they were bred to bring down large game like bears or bulls, as with the pit bull breeds) will attract dangerous people. These dangerous people get dogs that they expect will be vicious, and they treat them as if they should be vicious. The dog, eager to please of course, will act aggressively for its owner, and eventually these people breed dogs who are truly, innately aggressive and dangerous.

It becomes the problem of which came first? The bad dog or the bad owner?

Today many perfectly normal people are attracted to breeds with an aggressive past because they know that these breeds are totally different now. American Pit Bull Terriers are renownedly good at Agility, and German Shepherds compete excellently in Schutzhund. Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers make great family pets.

What we have to understand is that most dog breeds have lost their original purposes. Most Beagles are not hunting foxes, and most Golden Retrievers are not fishing hunted ducks out of ponds (though I guess some are). Each breed still has specific characteristics, but a reputable breeder will produce even-tempered and well-adjusted dogs, regardless of the breed.

What Can We Do?

So what do we do? We have a problem of ignorance, a problem of overbreeding, and a problem (most importantly) of people getting bitten by dogs!

While the last problem may be the most urgent, it is ironically not the one to fix first. This is because the bites and the overpopulation come out of the ignorance. Fix the first, and the rest will follow (as well as many other issues the world faces with domesticated animals).

1. Breeders should need a license. As it is, anyone can put two dogs together and sell the pups for a profit without regard to health of any of the animals involved. This leads to overpopulation, mistreated pets, and poorly bred animals. Those three factors lead to dogs biting people.

2. Dogs who are not breeding should be fixed. While being fixed may not be the best thing for every dog, it is best for the dog (and human) community as a whole. Maybe if you don't want your dog to be spayed or neutered, you could take a test to prove that you know what the pros and cons are. Then you should be fined if you are caught breeding without a license.

3. The media needs to stop identifying attacking dogs as "pit bulls" when they are not. Granted, sometimes they are the pit bull type dog, but more often than you would think they are not. This is misinformation that is having a devastating effect, and it has to stop.

4. All dogs need to be licensed with their state of residence, and dog insurance should be required. This way, the state knows about the dogs within its borders. Insurance would cover proper vetting for dogs (sick and injured dogs are notoriously more violent), spay and neuter, and would act as liability insurance in the case of a dog attack so no one's funds are drained in the off chance of a bite.

5. Breeds that are "prohibited" by insurance companies or building policies should be allowed to prove themselves. An AmStaff with a Canine Good Citizen certificate is a more reliable, more easily insurable dog than a Golden Retriever without one. Insurance companies need to realize that the policy of allowing well-behaved "dangerous" breeds is better for business than banning them altogether.

Maybe the logistics of these suggestions might be tricky, but isn't everything in the beginning? The bottom line is we need to get a handle on the low standard for pet ownership in this country and in most of the world. Breed-specific legislation just puts a band-aid on the gaping wound instead of stitching it up and dealing with the problem at its source.

Ultimately, education is our best weapon for prevention against dog attacks.

More by this Author


Comments 81 comments

jormins profile image

jormins 8 years ago from Chicago, IL

When I was 4 I jumped on the back of my German Shepherd/Husky mix to wrestle/fight/play with her (yeah not very smart) and she nipped at my upper lip (4 stitches) because I startled her, but it was so strange how badly my dog felt afterwards. She had an extremely 'human' reaction afterwards. Dogs are truly remarkable animals.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Wow Helena that "pit bull" isn't eating that chihuahua or that woman, who's had is right next to his head! I'm dumbfounded. LOL... Great hub! The one thing I wish people knew or would realize is that although the historic fighting dog breeds, were bred to have canine aggression, not human aggression, as these dogs were still family pets. Each dog was given a temperament test as the opponent bathed the your dog to rid it of any deterants; this also, tested human aggression, letting a stranger bathe it. Those who showed the slightest human aggression were not allowed to fight or breed, to ensure that there were no offspring that could harbor a human aggressive gene.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

That strikes me as a fairy tale. If it were true we wouldn't be reading all the time about Pit Bull, Rottweiler, etc, attacks which result in severe injuries and an occasional death.

This Hub is well done. It contains a fair amount of valuable information, especially the links to dog bite laws.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

That strikes me as a fairy tale. If it were true we wouldn't be reading all the time about Pit Bull, Rottweiler, etc, attacks which result in severe injuries and an occasional death.

Have your ever talked to a postman about his or her experience with dog bites? I have. Most of them have been bitten quite a few times. In our neighborhood electronic fences with dogs in the front yard are common. The mailmen are exposed when they go up the walk to deliver the mail. Most of the dogs are fine. When I go for a walk I often stop and pet them, especially if they approach the electric fence wagging their tails. There are a few that I wouldn't go near under any circumstances. There are no Pit Bulls, Dobermans, or other dogs of that type, except for two huge Huskies which are kept fenced in the back yard except when being walked by their owner who is a friend of ours. They are so big and frisky that they almost jerk her arm out of its socket. As far as I know they have never bitten anyone.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Ralph- what sounds like a fairy tail? What' I've mentioned or Helena?


darkside profile image

darkside 8 years ago from Australia

My wife recently had her hand bitten (multiple times) while trying to break up a fight between two dogs. They didn't intend to bite her, her hand just got in the way.

As far as infection goes, the doctor said, worse than a dog bite is a cat bite, and worse than a cat bite is a human bite.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

jormins -- Dogs truly are remarkable, and it's terrible what some humans do to them. I'm glad that, in the moment of your dog's panic, she only caught your upper lip and that you (and your family) seem to have understood and forgiven her!

Whitney -- I'm glad you're on my side of the understanding (or misunderstanding?) of the history of these breeds. Thanks for the comments!

Ralph -- I'm not sure what you think is a fairytail? I don't doubt that many mailmen have been bitten by many dogs. There are MANY irresponsible owners in this country. I'm glad you read my hub, and thanks for commenting!

darkside -- I hope your wife's hand was okay! There's a lot of argument about what is the proper way to break up a dog fight: Do you sacrifice your hand or arm to save a dog's life? And human bites can be very infectious. My little brother's best friend bit him and broke the skin once, and there was a great deal of chaos trying to get him tot he ER as fast as possible! Thanks for reading and the comment.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

The "fairy tale" referred to Whitney's claim that "those who showed the slightest human aggression were not allowed to fight or breed to ensure that there were no offspring that could harbor a human aggressive gene." That sounds to me like a blurb from a breeder's ad. Also, it focuses on one cause of aggressiveness, ignoring the other--trainin and treatment by the owner and others in contact with the dog.

Why do you doubt that "many mailmen have been bitten by dogs." Dog bites are a well known hazard for mailmen. I have talked to them. Why don't you discuss it with your mail carrier? I have never been bitten by a dog hard enough to bread my skin. Not many mailmen could say that. I'm not suggesting that dog bites are a daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly occurrence, but that mailmen are exposed to being bitten more than most people are other than veterinarians or pet care people.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Whitney is talking about responsible breeders breeding non-human-aggressive dogs. But as I state in my hub, MANY irresponsible breeders out there are breeding dogs poorly. A poorly bred dog almost always results in some aggression, and after several generations, that aggression only worsens.

I suggest you read my Reputable Breeder hub; the link is towards the top of this hub. You might be surprised at how many "bad" breeders there are out there!


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Ralph, I'm actually referring to historic dog fighting. It's not a myth. It's actually recorded as a part of the traditions of dog fighting. Not a fairy tale by all means.

Helena I think you're doing much better than I am at this. I'm fighting my words...


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

I repeat, breeding is but one factor. Animal behavior depends on training as well as breeding. Also, animal behavior is always somewhat unpredictable, aside from training and breeding. I will read your reputable breeder link. Perhaps it will change my opinion about what can and what cannot be accomplished by selective breeding. And whether breeding can be so fine tuned as to result in dogs which are aggressive against other dogs but completely gentle with humans. Maybe that's possible, but I find it hard to swallow despite claims by dog breeders.

You seem to assume that others who don't agree with you are ignorant about dogs. I suspect that in my life time of 72 years I have spent much time than you around a variety of different breeds of dogs, pets and hunting dogs as well as cats, horses and other animals. I have never been around a Presa Canario and I don't plan to go out of my way to be around one. But I have had experience observing and being around the other breeds which cause most of the attacks reported in the media which cause severe injuries and an occasional death.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

I repeat, breeding is but one factor. Animal behavior depends on training as well as breeding. Also, animal behavior is always somewhat unpredictable, aside from training and breeding. I will read your reputable breeder link. You seem to assume that others who don't agree with you are ignorant about dogs. I suspect that in my life time of 72 years I have spent much more time around a variety of different breeds of dogs, pets and hunting dogs as well as cats, horses and other animals. I have never been around a Presa Canario and I don't plan to go out of my way to be around one. But I have had experience observing and being around the other breeds which cause most of the attacks reported in the media which cause severe injuries and an occasional death.

I don't find the statistic that Pit Bulls are involved 21 percent of dog attack fatalities. They are a tiny fraction of dogs in this country. What the statistic says is that Pit Bulls are many times more likely to be involved in a fatal attack than their population would indicate if they were not more inclined than other breeds to attack humans.

Whitney, okay, not a fairy tale but a claim by people who breed or own pit bulls that has not been scientifically proved. It is dubious that selective breeding can alone produce a dog that aggressively fights other dogs but is completely docile and disinclined to attack people. Aren't Pit Bulls used as guard dogs? Don't guard dogs attack people. Breeding can accomplish only so much, despite the claims of breeders who want you to pay more for one of their dogs. In my experience training and treatment by the owner and others around animals is even more important than breeding. However, I accept that both factors determine a dog's behavior.

The bottom line is Pit Bulls, Presa Canarios, etc, are not suitable for pets especially if they are going to be around babies or children or other dogs and if the pet is confined to an apartment or house.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

No. I assume that those who do not take on even the slightest idea that a dog bred to fight DOGS and have DOG aggression cannot be human friendly and NON-aggressive. I find that people who cannot except this because of media and what they've heard is ignorant.

How can you assume that just because I am 52 years younger than you that I haven't devoted every waking moment researching breeds that mean somethign to me. Why would I fight BSL, claim myself an APBT advocate, etc. If I didn't know both sides of the story, I wouldn't be fighting this with you or with anyone. You may have more experience, but I know my APBT.

I do agree that training and socialization is the key to any dog. But, you must realize that there are different types of aggression, and just because one type of aggression is bred for doesnt' mean that all forms follow in place.

By the way I've spent the last 7 years in this matter. Dog training, BSL, APBTs, dog bites, dog euthanisia statistics, etc.


jaymz profile image

jaymz 8 years ago from USA

Ralph- I do agree that dogs that are used as fighting dogs must be human non-aggressive. I talked to a guy a while back who used to fight dogs, and he said thatthese dogs are trained to kill any animal that moves, but when a human steps up to him, he must submit. These dogs had to be trustworthy not to attack the owners, so that is a trait sought after in even dog fighters.


Stephanie 8 years ago

Ralph - wow, if pit bulls do not make suitable pets in a house with other dogs (and a cat), I shouldn't tell my 3-year-old pittie girl that! I have socialized her well from puppyhood on up, and she does great with other animals and people of all sizes. I actually trust her more than I trust my lab around children, because she gets nervous and tends to nip out of excitement.


Bonnie Ramsey profile image

Bonnie Ramsey 8 years ago from United States

Thanks for this Hub! I used to be one of the ignorant people who believed all of the media horror stories. It wasn't until my daughter and son-in-law got a Pit and I was in a position that I was forced to take care of her after my son-in-law had surgery and my daughter worked that I realized that any breed of dog, large or small, will be exactly what you raise it to be.

Just like children, they only know what they are taught. My daughter now has 2 Pits, one of which was born to her first Pit and had to be raised on a bottle from birth. This dog (Bo) absolutely loves my 3 grandchildren (as well as Grammy and Paw) and I would trust him with our lives any day. I would also put my life on the line to protect him in return.

I fully believe that if the media took time to really investigate all those dog attacks they love reporting on they would find that either there had been some improper treatment somewhere in that dog's life or the dog had been provoked in some manner or even may have been trying to protect someone. But these stories are never told. All you hear about is someone who fought off a Pit and became a hero for saving another pet or human. But if the situation was reversed and the Pit attacked to protect, he is labeled a monster and put to death.

I absolutely love my 2 Granddogs (Bo and his mama, Mia). The only problem we have with Bo is that he doesn't understand that Grammy's lap didn't grow with him! LOL. He is still the little baby he was then and that is all he knows. There is nothing that could ever make me believe that this dog would ever attack anyone without a good reason!

Bonnie Ramsey


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Stephanie- Agreed. Tell that to my APBT pup. She loves other dogs and animals. She treats my pet rats like her own puppies (when they're allowed to play together that is).


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Ralph -- What you says still makes no sense to me. Pit bulls are not used as guard dogs. In fact, prize APBTs when left in a yard are often left with another breed that is actually human aggressive because pits are such lovebugs that they would happily go with someone trying to take them.

Bonnie -- I don't blame you for believing the media hype! There sure is a lot of it. But I applaud you for keeping an open mind; that's what all of this is about.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Why is it that Pit Bulls are involved in more severe attacks and fatalities than other breeds? By the statistics on one of your links, they are involved fatalities or attacks way out of proportion to their numbers in the dog population (I recognize that accurate statistics of dog population by breed are not available.) However, as I recall, the link attributed 20 percent of attacks or fatalities to Pit Bulls.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Helena- I thought I mentioned that somewhere. Breeders of game APBTs (not fighting but game-dog aggressive) usually use Rotts to guard the APBTs bc they are so human NON aggressive that they have to havea guard dog to make sure that no one goes in the yard to steal them. I read one interview where a man had several APBTs stolen from his yard, so he had to get a few guard/protectioned trained Rotts, to guard the remainder of his breeding dogs.

Yes,Ralph the "pit bull" is the highest statistically to bit and attack, but you must remember that that includes APBT, AmStaff, Bull Terriers, mixes of those breeds, and any broad chested muscular mongrel dog. So, that statistic is not accurate by any means. Although, true in numbers, inaccurate to breed.

You claim that the "pit bull" is small in numbers. I disagree. Working for animals shelters for over 5 years, the majority of the dogs that came in as strays and such were "pit bulls" (the general category).

And as Helena and I have stated these dogs are trained to fight dogs and animals. They are bred for dog aggression. Not human aggression. They never by any means were trained or bred for guard or protection. Ever...

There is a difference, not a fairy tale or a myth, but these dogs were family pets to some degree. They had to be handled daily. How do expect a dog that is human aggressive to be handled daily by humans- the same humans? Well, that's easy, they're not human aggressive!

Plus, with dog attacks you must consider the dogs breedings (inbred dogs are more prone for aggression), health (unhealthy dogs are more prone to bite), animal abuse (dogs that are starved or beaten are more like the bite), training and socializatin (dogs not trainined or socialized are more prone to bite), and any details prior to the attack.

There are more things to consider with dog attacks than breed, so you can discriminate because of that. Although, yes some breeds are more prone to it, but other factors are involved.

I applaud Bonnie for being open minded to the breed. Those that have a past fear of "pit bulls" and bully breed dogs, yet have the heart to open their mind to even the inkling that the dogs may not all be at fault, rank high in my book. Other people, well that's pure ignorance to ignore facts, details, and statistics. I bid anyone who feels fear about these dogs to spend quality time with one that is in a happy home; bet it'll change your mind just a little...


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Ralph, this whole hub answers that very question. The reason there are so many vicious pit bulls is because of POOR BREEDING and BAD TRAINING. Pit bulls attract the wrong kind of people and therefore have large numbers of the breed that are poorly-bred and bred to be highly dog aggressive.

Whitney, thank you for continuing to contribute to this hub! I appreciate it.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Well, I don't recall ever seeing any Pit Bulls in the town where I live in Michigan, but I see lots of Labs, beagles, spaniels, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, etc. I've read that the animal shelters are flooded with stray and abandoned Pit Bulls. I wonder why that is? As a result of this surfeit of Pit Bulls San Francisco passed a mandatory sterilization law for Pit Bulls.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

It's because of the demographic of where you live. If you lived in a city or a poorer part of town, you would see more pit bulls. People get them for all kinds of reasons, and breeds of dogs become popular for all different reasons. Pet overpopulation is a serious problem, in case you missed that little tidbit. Pit bulls are not the only ones who are flooding the shelters, just the only ones flooding the shelters in the area that they are popular.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Agreed! Depending on where you live the choice in dog will vary. So where you say that "pit bulls" are a very tiny portion of the pet population, in my area, it's not.... Plus in the south, it's a popular type of dog. Very... And that's by both good and bad people.

There are tons of laws regarded various breeds, and different areas include different breeds within their laws. Most common you'll see- "pit bulls," rottweilers, german shepherds, huskies, akitas, dobermans, and chow chows.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Yes, in Detroit they fight Pit Bulls. And they get away and attack people, despite all their breeding. I live in a suburb. The only really big dogs in our neighborhood are two Huskies. I occasionally see a Russian Wolfhound. There are plenty of dogs but not a single Pit Bull or Presa Canario so far as I know. However, our postman tells me has been bitten by other breeds.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Woman Gets Jail For Pit Bull AttackOwner Sentenced To Three Years For Dog Killing 82-Year-Old var omniName = "Story - Woman Gets Jail For Pit Bull Attack - (

AP) A woman whose three pit bulls fatally mauled an 82-year-old neighbor as she walked a small dog was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison. Deanna Large, 37, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in December for the death of Dorothy Sullivan, who was attacked by the roaming dogs last March. Sullivan had been walking her Shih Tzu, Buttons, in her front yard in Partlow when the dogs attacked and killed both. Large was also found guilty of two misdemeanor charges of allowing her dogs to run loose and could have faced up to 10 years in prison. Sullivan's death sparked outrage in her rural community, where residents said they had long been terrorized by aggressive, roaming dogs. Sullivan's family collected thousands of signatures on a petition urging stricter dog laws, and the General Assembly passed legislation imposing tough penalties on dog owners whose pets seriously injure others. During the trial, witnesses testified that Large's pit bulls menaced the neighborhood. Animal control officers had taken two of the dogs away in 2004 after they were accused of killing a kitten. At one point, Large had 13 pit bulls in her trailer.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Ralph, I am not sure why you keep mentioning the Presa Canario as if it equals the pit bull. I feel like you think that including another breed makes your statements sound more well-rounded, but the Presa Canario is so rare in the US and most of the rest of the world that it's almost irrelevant here. Certainly there are more relevant dogs to the issue of dog attacks.

I think it's terrible that lady and her dog were killed by those pit bulls, but obviously their owner was responsible if ALL of her dogs were notoriously menaces. I'm glad that the courts realized that it was her responsibility in this case, though I would like to know the actual breed(s) of the dogs that she had.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

I didn't say the Presa Canario "equals" the pit bull. However, both have been involved in a number of highly publicized fatialities and both are capable of inflicting severe injuries on babies, children, adults, dogs and other animals. I have never read about anyone being killed by an Irish Setter, a cocker spaniel, a Labrador, a Collie or most other common pet dogs. Bites, yes. Fatalities no.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

My only point is that there are several other breeds more highly related to the American Pit Bull Terrier than the Presa Canario who are responsible for fatalities. I feel like you keep bringing them up just because a picture of one happened to be on William's original hub (incorrectly labeled, by the way).


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

It's true that the picture reminded me of the horrible fatality in Sar Francisco. Also, I can't imagine a more ferocious looking dog or one more capable of inflicting severe injuries. I have no first-hand knowledge of Presa Canarios or Pit Bulls for that matter. I've never even seen a Presa Canario. I've seen ads for them claiming they are "very protective." My knowledge of both breeds is primarily from reading in the newspapers about them (pit bulls mostly, except for the one in San Francisco) attacking children, elderly people, joggers and other dogs and cats. I've also read an occasional article about Rottweiler and German Shepherd attacks. In my experience nearly any breed bites but not many are capable of or inclined to kill. I'm sure a Great Dane or St. Bernard is capable of killing a person and may have done so on rare occasions, but I've never read of such an incident. Either Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, et al, are involved in more than their share of severe injuries to people or there is a vast right-wing conspiracy against them.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

I doubt, though, that you could tell the difference between a Cane Corso and a Presa Canario. Or a Dogo Argentino, for that matter. Personally, I would feel more threatened by a strange English Mastiff walking towards me than a Presa Canario. This might be partially because I have never met an English Mastiff because I do love giant breed dogs. There's no vast right-wing conspiracy against these breeds, just a lot of ignorance surrounding them.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

You don't hear about other breeds fatally attacking people because they're not reported by the media. It happens. By the way, the cocker spaniel is the number one dog most likely to bite.

You may be interested in reading- Fatal Dog Attacks: The Stories Behind the Statistics by Karen Delise

I'm more leary about small dogs, myself, as terriers are most likely to nip and bite.

I agree, Mark, can you find the APBT in the list of dogs from the link above on your fist try?

Or on this test: http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.ht...


RFox profile image

RFox 8 years ago

'Pit Bulls' and Rottweilers are involved statistically in more attacks than other breeds. However, many other breeds including Labs (26 reported between 82-06) have been involved in serious attacks causing maiming and death. Helenethegreat does a wonderful job in this hub explaining why these dogs end up in these situations and what we can do to prevent it.

Large breed dogs are targeted by unscrupulous people and trained to attack and defend property and the like. It is a very sad situation because when bred well and raised in a loving environment they are not prone to aggression.

Owners, such as the one in your comment Ralphdeeds, are the reason why there are a disproportionate number of aggressive 'Pit Bull' type dogs. These people always seem to own a pack rather than just one dog. It seems to be some kind of status symbol for them. They then procede to instill these aggressive instincts in their dogs by rewarding bad behavior.

It is also a known fact that dogs allowed to run at large in packs are more prone to predatory behavior. This is because dogs are pack animals and will listen to the 'leader' of their pack. If the leader is aggressive and instigates an assault the other dogs will follow that behavior even if they are completely non-aggressive when on their own at home. It's one of the reasons why it is so important that dogs are not allowed to run at large unsupervised.

Humans are responsible for dog behavior!

We must start to address the real problem rather than continually expending our energy on debates about breeds. We could ban and euthanize every 'Pit Bull', Rottweiler and Presa Canario in the world but I guarantee dog related fatalities will still occur because the bad owners will just pick a new favorite breed to destroy. And this time it could be your favourite they pick on!

Any dog breed can become 'dangerous' in the wrong hands. Let's use our collective voice to stop these unscrupulous people.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Whitney -- That picture of the Patterdale Terrier almost always tricks me. They don't usually look like APBTs, but that one picture is sneaky.

RFox -- Extremely well-said! If I could give you a thumbs-up on that comment, I would. You sum up my whole argument in a few paragraphs just perfectly!


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

I also agree with RFox.


The Indexer profile image

The Indexer 8 years ago from UK

Sorry, Helena, there are certain breeds of dog that are inherently dangerous and are rightly banned under UK law. There have been cases in my own locality of children being killed by dogs that everyone believed were safe, but were not. The United States would be very wise to follow the UK example.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

I respectfully disagree, Indexer. Inherent means it's there at birth. A well-bred Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy is NOT naturally human aggressive. That's just not how it works. The United States would do well to ban backyard breeders, but following the UK and Germany's example and banning certain breeds is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound; it doesn't solve the problem, just makes it look better.


The Indexer profile image

The Indexer 8 years ago from UK

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not banned in the UK, nor should they be. American Pit Bulls are banned, and rightly so, because their breeding, as fighting dogs, makes them inherently unsafe to be near children, or anyone else. We in the UK are absolutely right to make this breed illegal, just as we were right to make the ownership of hand guns illegal, which the US would never have the courage to do.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Indexer -- My mistake, I thought the UK's ban was more similar to Germany's ban, which bans most of the bully breeds: ABPTs, Staffy Bulls, and AmStaffs. If you think that American Pit Bulls are so dangerous, I challenge you to take the quiz and identify one at first shot.

http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.ht...

It makes no sense to ban just one of those breeds, as their breeding history is all quite intertwined. Do you really think that a well-bred ABPT puppy is INHERENTLY vicious? You can't honestly believe that...

By the way, I would love the US to outlaw handguns. Unfortunately we have something called the Second Amendment, so I doubt that will happen any time soon.


The Indexer profile image

The Indexer 8 years ago from UK

I agree that identifying an APBT is problematic, and this has been a problem with the Dangerous Dogs Act. However, experts can do this, and many prosecutions have been brought on this basis. To be perfectly honest, I would maintain that the phrase "a well-bred APBT puppy" is a contradiction in terms, because these dogs are bred as fighting dogs, and every dog that inherits those genes is a potential danger. The Dangerous Dogs Act is veery clear that it is dogs bred for fighting that are covered by it. You would also have to ask why anyone would want to own a dog of this kind, when there are so many other breed that do not have this vicious streak bred into them.

I have just read in today's Times (I have the paper in front of me) about a man who fell over while taking his Rottweiler for a walk. The dog suddenly turned on him as he lay there and tore his face off, killing him. Last year a child was killed about 10 miles from where I live, by a family pet, an APBT, that the child knew well and played with frequently. The dog was apparently well behaved, but when the child starting playing with a cuddly toy the dog became jealous and attacked the child, Her grandmother was in the room at the time and tried to pull the dog off, but to no avail. I'm sorry, but it must be the breeding that makes these dogs killers; the line that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners, is simply not borne out by the facts.

Incidentally, I intend to write a hub soon that shows that gun ownership in the US is actually unconstitutional, so watch this space!


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

By the way the Staffordshire bull terrier has a similar background as the APBT, so why does it make them any more special? As Helena stated, most of these breed are intertwined and were bred together to make the breeds that they are today. Which, by your theory, they werwe bredto fight so let's ban the Staffordshire Bull Terrier just like we should ban APBTs.

So, you believe that my well bred APBT is a bad dog? She's never shown any signs of aggression besides being a puppy or mimicry. So that defeats your their "inherently dangerous" theory.

Did the paper explain to you all evens prior to the incident? There are always signs that an attack will occur. A frequent thing said upon people who's dog attack is "he's never done this before" or "he's never acted like this before" or "he's never shown signs of aggression," but all of these just aren't true. There are ALWAYS signs of even the slightest bit of aggression in a dog. A little to mouthy, a little too stubborn, etc.

You can't possibly say that every dog of this breed is bad and shouldn't be given a chance to live. What about all the search and rescue APBTs, or those that are used to find drugs, or the therapy APBTs? Are they bad? Should they just be euthanized instead of helping others?

What do you think about the fact, yes fact, that these dogs were not bred for human aggression? That they were handled daily, even in the height of dog fighting? That human aggression in thesedogs was frowned upon and those who showed and of these characteristics were never allowed to breed again and werwe usually put down.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Indexer -- I would love to read about the owning of handguns being unconstitutional. I'll keep an eye out for that.

A "well-bred APBT pup" is in no way a contradition. If you took a little bit of time to learn about the breeding of these breeds, you would see that they were bred specifically to be dog aggressive but not human aggressive. In dogs, these are two very different things that can be completely unrelated. And now there are many APBT breeders who are not breeding for fighting at all but for companion animals. A responsible breeder of a companion animal will not breed an animal with ANY aggression.

It is not these people that are posing the problem; it is the backyard breeders and the animal hoarders who continue to breed aggressive dogs.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Why do I keep reading in the paper about them killing, babies, children, joggers and homeless people? I'm not aware of any magic aggression detector. Most animals are somewhat unpredictable. Even well bred, well trained, gentle,horses sometimes kick people who walk too closely behind them. I learned at an early age not to approach a horse from the rear. I also approach dogs of all breeds with some caution, especially big ones with massive jaws.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Ralph- I believe this has been answered previous... Media doesn't report when other breeds attack and kill. Plus, when they do report those attacks, it tends to be reported that a "pit bull" did it, and a retraction is never made.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Ralph -- You hear about "them" killing people because of BACKYARD BREEDERS. It is that simple.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Whitney, you think there is a media conspiracy aginst Pit Bulls? Doubtbul. Whenever a dog kills someone it's news, usually about one of the breeds people worry about--big, strong dogs capable of severely injuring even strong adults.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

It's not a conspiracy, Ralph, just general ignorance. If you can't identify a Pit Bull just sitting here and thinking about it, how is the media going to identify one who is attacking someone? Pit bulls get a bad rap because of the bad owners and breeders that are drawn to them.

(Also, not all big, strong dogs who are capable of severely injuring adults will ever get anywhere NEAR injuring anyone... While they might be scarier, they pose no more inherent threat just because they're big. Though I would be pretty nervous about a poorly bred and socialized Newfoundland...)


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Agreed. Ralph, I think that you're eyes would open wider if you read the book I've been asking you to by Karen Delise- Fatal Dog Attacks: The Stories Behind the Statistics.

Although never truly fearful of these breeds. I did once believe that that these breeds were the statistic. Open your eyes and see the truth. Just because their big and strong, doesn't mean their the only breeds that kill.

Labs are big and strong. Golden retrievers are too. They both are a part of the numbers. Chihuahuas and terriers they're small, but they're still apart of the statistics. But, have you ever heard of fatal attacks by these breeds? Just becuase you haven't doesn't mean they don't happen. Open your eyes.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Her's a front-page article from my morning paper:

MAULED BY PIT BULLS

Horse owner haunted by animal's awful death Dogs are shot dead after attacking mare January 30, 2008

By AMBER HUNT

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Inside the barn on the Red Rock Arabians Farm, the evidence remains: blood-soaked wood chips on the floor and dried blood smatterings on the walls.

The stall had been home to Helvezia, the matriarch of the 12-acre Arabian horse farm. But on Tuesday, the day after two pit bulls viciously ripped the 1,000-pound mare apart, the stall was a crime scene.

"I can't even look at it," said Kara Sepulveda, 41, co-owner with her husband, David, of the farm in Handy Township. Her eyes puffy from crying, she has ventured into the barn to care for her five other horses only with someone by her side. The attack, which happened about 6:15 a.m. Monday, is the second vicious dog mauling in recent months in the same stretch of rural Livingston County. Four American bulldogs -- generally known as a dangerous breed -- fatally mauled Edward Gierlack, 90, at his cottage in Iosco Township in September.

That pack also killed 56-year-old Cheryl Harper of Iosco Township.

In that case, the dogs' owner, Diane Cockrell, faces two counts of keeping dangerous animals, causing death, and a misdemeanor count of allowing the dogs to stray.

Around the same time, a baby in Warren was mauled to death by a dog. That dog's owners also were charged, and the high-profile dog killings brought to the forefront a debate over whether jurisdictions should outlaw dog breeds traditionally known to be aggressive.

Sepulveda doesn't like to speak of what she saw -- the bloody-mouthed pit bull ripping the flesh from her 26-year-old mare -- or of what happened next: a Livingston County sheriff's deputy shooting the two pit bulls dead.

She knows that Helvezia's ear was bitten off and her face was mutilated, but she didn't ask the vet exactly what injuries made it necessary to put the creature down.

"I don't want to know," she said.

Livingston County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Klein said the county prosecutor is weighing whether to criminally charge the pit bulls' owner. "We passed that information along," he said. "Now it's up to them."

The dog owner's name wasn't released. He was identified as a 44-year-old Handy Township resident. Sepulveda said she understands it's one of her neighbors, though homes in her rural chunk of the county are sometimes miles apart.

Monday began as a typical day, Sepulveda said. She got up and fed the horses about 5:30 a.m. As she got ready to leave for work, she heard Helvezia "screaming," she said.

She walked into her barn, which houses six horses and stores farming equipment, and saw just five heads poking out of their stalls. Helvezia was down; Sepulveda thought maybe the grandmother horse had suffered a seizure.

But when Sepulveda walked up to the stall, she saw something far worse. The walls were covered in blood, spots reaching 5 feet high. The worst of it has been power-washed away. She screamed for the dog -- she only saw one -- to stop. It looked at her, she said, but didn't pause.

"I didn't even faze it," she said of the dog that had to scale a 4-foot gate to get to the horse. "I said, 'Stop it! Stop it!' Its eyes -- they were crazy."

Sepulveda called 911, then ran back out to the barn. In hindsight, she said that wasn't a wise choice.

The dogs, she said, could easily have turned on her: "That was a 1,000-pound horse. Think about a 60-pound child or a 120-pound woman. That'd be nothing."

Contact AMBER HUNT at 586-469-4682 or alhunt@freepress.com.

.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Again, not the point. The point is with proper breeding, training, and socializing they can be great dogs. You don't have to point out every attack by any bully bred dog that comes to your local paper. We all know they do it. That's not something I, or anyone here, is denying. It happens, yes. But, they can be great dogs. I just wish you oculd open your eyes and see that. Spend time with these dogs. Don't go through life never having done so. It would be a real shame.

Claiming to know a lot about dogs, I assume you a dog lover to some extent. So. why would you descriminate if there's a big possibility that the APBT or AmStaff or whatever down the street is a good dog. I don't descriminate against the yappy, bitey chihuahua or aggressive cocker spaniel. Maybe I just have a passion for them, where you just have a liking.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

I am a dog lover, but I don't claim to know "a lot about dogs." I had a pet cocker-springer once which never bit anyone so far as I know. And I've hunted coyotes, years ago, with greyhounds, whippets and a lab mix. My sister-in-law has a very friendly and docile lab. As I mentioned previously, my daughter was attacked and injured enough to require stitches on her back by a neighbor's Rottweiler. I see lots of mostly friendly dogs of many different breeds in my neighborhood. But no pit bulls. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen an APBT. All I know about them is what I've read in the paper and what I assume about them from what my experience tells me generally about animal behavior, namely that it can be unpredictable, depending on many factors such as training, treatment and animal instinct when the animal is startled, frightened or perceives it is being threatened. This is true, in my experience of horses, dogs and wild animals which normally prefer to avoid humans, but can be dangerous when cornered. Even a rabbit once attacked presidential candidate Jimmy Carter years ago, as I recall.


RFox profile image

RFox 8 years ago

Ralph Deeds: I am truly sorry that your daughter had to experience such an awful thing. I just in fact wrote a hub on how to prevent dog bites involving children. I would be interested in your comments.

However, your article again shows owner negligence. The dogs involved in 2 of the attacks were running-at-large with no owner in sight. This is the big problem! Dogs act differently when humans are not around. Letting them roam will foster predatory behavior. Without an owner to keep the dog's behavior in check they can and do revert to more 'wild dog' ways.

There should be no debate about whether these owners should be charged. They absolutely should! They should also be banned from owning dogs as they have proved to be completely irresponsible with no regard for the safety of their animal or the public.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

RFox and Whitney have covered everything I would have said in response to that article except one.

Ralph, the dogs in that article you posted were not APBTs. They weren't even of the "pit bull" breed in a lot of people's minds. They were American Bulldogs, which may look a lot like the APBT, but are hardly related at all anymore. But "Mauled by American Bulldogs" doesn't quite have the ring to it that "Mauled by Pit Bulls" does, does it? That was my and Whitney's point about the media skewing things for the sake of interest.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Those are fair points. I accept that Pit bulls may well be taking the rap in some cases for attacks by other breeds and of course for bad owners like the ones in the article above. I only know what I read in the newspapers and from my experience around other breeds and other animals.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

I really just skimmed the article, and didn't even notice that it said American Bulldog. Really does sound different "pit bull attack" versus "American Bulldog attack."

Ralph you just can believe everything you read in the paper or the internet. You need to experience things to find out the truths.

I am sorry for your daughter, but can you really blame an entire breed because of one dog or a few dogs? And, like RFox said, dogs will do different things when their owners are not around.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

I'm not blaming "an entire breed," but rather bad actors in several breeds, especially large dogs, whatever breed, that injure people and/or other animals for whatever reason--bad breeding, lack of training or socialization, mistreatment, or whatever else causes or allows them to occasionally create mahem in the communities where they live. It strikes me that it takes quite a ferocious dog, or was it two, to kill a horse. I guess the horse was probably tied in a stall which made it hard to defend itself. I hope we all can agree that those dogs shouldn't have been running around loose.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Certainly, Ralph. And if the authorities had caught the dogs before they attacked and temperament tested them, I would have had no problem with the authorities putting them down.

My point is that breed banning won't fix this problem unless we ban ALL breeds, which is absurd (but, hey, it's what PETA wants...). We need to hold owners more accountable for their animals.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

I haven't advocated banning any breed.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

No no, I'm not saying that you did, Ralph. But many people seem to jump to that as an answer, and my point is merely that it does not solve anything. Thanks for contributing to this discussion, by the way! I seriously appreciate it.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

FOLLOW-UP ON Two American Bulldogs, two Pit Bulls, one Rottweiler:

» » Dogs' owner is charged in attack Horse's death brings 5 misdemeanors February 1, 2008

By AMBER HUNT

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

The owner of two pit bulls caught slaughtering a 1,000-pound horse in Livingston County faces five misdemeanor charges, the county prosecutor announced Thursday.

Prosecutor David Morse charged David McGalliard, 44, of Fowlerville with two counts of allowing a dog to stray and three counts of having an unlicensed dog.

In addition to the two pit bulls involved in the horse attack this week -- both of which were killed by a sheriff's deputy -- McGalliard had a third pit bull at home, Morse said.

"The reason there are no more-serious charges is because there aren't any that exist that cover animals attacking animals," Morse said.

Each of the counts carries a maximum 93-day jail sentence. When humans are killed by stray dogs, owners can be charged with felonies that could land them in prison.

In November, Morse charged an Iosco Township woman, Diane Cockrell, with two felony counts of having a dangerous animal, causing death, when four of her 10 American bulldogs mauled two people to death Sept. 13.

In Warren, two men -- Jason Winters, 22, and Christopher Fura, 19 -- were charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse after their rottweiler killed a 3-month-old girl. They're set to stand trial March 18.

The horse attack occurred about 6 a.m. Monday on the Red Rock Arabians Farm, where Kara and David Sepulveda breed horses.

Kara Sepulveda discovered two pit bulls in the couple's barn, ripping apart their 26-year-old mare, Helvezia, which had to be euthanized because of its injuries.

Contact AMBER HUNT at 586-469-4682 or alhunt@freepress.com.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

It's too bad the owners can't be held more accountable than merely for allowing their dog to roam free. But at least they're in trouble for that.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Here's a report in today's NYTimes about what happened to Michael Vick's fighting dogs 2-2-08

KANAB, Utah — A quick survey of Georgia, a caramel-colored pit bull mix with cropped ears and soulful brown eyes, offers a road map to a difficult life. Her tongue juts from the left side of her mouth because her jaw, once broken, healed at an awkward angle. Her tail zigzags.

Audio Slide Show Another Chance for Vick’s Dogs  Scars from puncture wounds on her face, legs and torso reveal that she was a fighter. Her misshapen, dangling teats show that she might have been such a successful, vicious competitor that she was forcibly bred, her new handlers suspect, again and again.

But there is one haunting sign that Georgia might have endured the most abuse of any of the 47 surviving pit bulls seized last April from the property of the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in connection with an illegal dogfighting ring.

Georgia has no teeth. All 42 of them were pried from her mouth, most likely to make certain she could not harm male dogs during forced breeding.

Her caregivers here at the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary, the new home for 22 of Mr. Vick’s former dogs, are less concerned with her physical wounds than her emotional ones. They wonder why she barks incessantly at her doghouse and what makes her roll her toys so obsessively that her nose is rubbed raw.

“I’m worried most about Georgia,” said the Best Friends veterinarian Dr. Frank McMillan, an expert on the emotional health of animals, who edited the textbook “Mental Health and Well-Being in Animals.” “You don’t have the luxury of asking her, or any of these animals: ‘What happened to you in your past life? How can we stop you from hurting?’

“So here we are left with figuring out how to bring joy to her life,” he said of Georgia, known to lick the face of anyone who comes near. “We want to offset the unpleasant memories that dwell in her brain.”

Mr. Vick, once the highest-paid player in the N.F.L., is serving a 23-month sentence in a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., for bankrolling his Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting operation and helping execute dogs that were not good fighters. Dogs were electrocuted, hanged, drowned, shot or slammed to the ground, according to court records. Two mass graves with the remains of eight pit bulls were found on Mr. Vick’s property in rural Virginia.

Pit bulls seized from illegal fighting operations are usually euthanized after becoming property of the government. The Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recommended that Mr. Vick’s dogs be euthanized, but many animal rescue organizations urged the prosecutors to let the dogs live.

The government agreed to give them a second chance after Mr. Vick agreed to pay $928,073 for evaluation and care of all the dogs. They were seen by animal experts, who named the dogs, and were eventually dispersed to eight rescue organizations for adoption, rehabilitation or lifetime care in sanctuaries, where they have been neutered. Only one of the Vick dogs was euthanized for aggression against people.

Given Reprieve, N.F.L. Star’s Dogs Find Kindness

  Audio Slide Show Another Chance for Vick’s Dogs  They are assigned to an area of the sanctuary called Dogtown Heights, what Best Friends calls a gated community. Vick’s dogs have their own building with heated floors, sound-absorbing barriers and skylights. Each has an individual dog run because, for now, the dogs must remain isolated, for safety’s sake.Little Red is a tiny rust-colored female whose teeth were filed, most likely because she was bait for the Bad Newz fighters. Handlers cannot explain why loud noises make her jumpy.

Cherry, a black-and-white male, has what seems to be chemical burns on his back. His file at Best Friends says he loves car rides and having his backside rubbed. But like many of Mr. Vick’s pit bulls, he is petrified of new situations and new people.

Oscar cowers in the corner of his run when strangers arrive. Shadow runs in circles. Black Bear pants so heavily that he seems on the verge of hyperventilation.

All but one of the Vick dogs at Best Friends wear green collars, signaling that they are good with people. But Meryl, who arrived with a rap sheet, wears a red collar.

She was aggressive toward the veterinary staff at a previous shelter. When Best Friends evaluated her in November, she lunged at a veterinary technician, snapping at him three times. By court order, she must stay at Best Friends forever.

Mr. Vick paid $18,275 for the lifetime care of each of his dogs here but one. Denzel was deemed highly adoptable, so his fee was only $5,000.

The actual cost for personnel and medical staff to care for the dogs, said Best Friends officials, is much higher at the sanctuary, a no-kill, nonprofit facility for 2,000 animals. For example, Denzel needed a blood transfusion to treat a tick-borne virus. Donations must make up the difference.

Bred to Be Friendly

John Garcia, the assistant dog care manager of Dogtown, which houses about 500 dogs, said pit bulls that are withdrawn or aggressive toward humans break his heart because they are bred to be people-friendly. “With most of these dogs, even Meryl, their actions are based on fear,” said Mr. Garcia, who communicates with the dogs in soothing baby talk. “The biggest job we have with these guys is teaching them that it’s O.K. to trust people. It may take months or years, but we’re very stubborn. We won’t give up on them.”

Because the dogs are still adjusting to their surroundings, it is difficult to predict how many of them will become adoptable. They arrived Jan. 2 from Richmond, Va., on a chartered airplane, stressed after eight months in shelters. In initial evaluations last September, many lay flat and looked frightened. Now, many respond to caregivers by wagging their tails and giving sloppy kisses.

“They have improved by light-years,” Mr. Garcia said, adding that it would take patience and a lot of time for these dogs to be happy and safe in an adoptive home.

Caregivers walk the dogs several times a day and spend time in their kennels, praising and caressing them. It is progress when a dog like Cherry does not need to be carried, because he is afraid to walk on a leash. It is monumental when Shadow approaches them instead of retreating.

“We want to get them to understand that being around people isn’t necessarily a bad thing; that we won’t hurt them,” Mr. Garcia said. “The worst thing we could do is push them too hard, too fast.”

Mr. Garcia, an expert in working with aggressive dogs, said getting some of these pit bulls accustomed to other dogs would be the toughest task. Initially, 10 were evaluated as aggressive toward other dogs.

So far, there has been only one fight. Layla was put accidentally into the same dog run as Ray. She immediately attacked, biting his shoulder in a death grip.

One of their main caregivers, Carissa Hendrick, pried Layla’s jaws from Ray. She said it would take a lot of positive reinforcement to teach these dogs to coexist.

« PrevBest Friends, which is caring for more dogs than any other organization, received about $389,000. Many of their dogs are expected to be adopted after they are rehabilitated and matched with the right families. Vick’s 25 other dogs are in foster care all over the country.

“This is a great opportunity to highlight the fact that the victims in the case are the animals themselves,” said Rebecca J. Huss, a Valparaiso University law professor, animal law expert and court-appointed guardian for Vick’s dogs.

Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls, or BAD RAP, which helped evaluate the dogs, has 10 in foster care. Donna Reynolds, the group’s executive director, said, “There are dogs that are able to handle and survive the pa


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Here's the rest of the NYT article on Michael Vick's fighting dogs:

Page 3 of 3)

Here is page 2Given Reprieve, N.F.L. Star’s Dogs Find Kindness

Published: February 2, 2008

(Page 2 of 3)

Here, they live in a 3,700-acre sanctuary that is covered by juniper trees and sagebrush, and surrounded by canyons and red-rock formations. They have food called Canine Caviar, squeaky toys, fluffy beds and four full-time caregivers. The caregiver on the night shift curls up with the dogs for naps.

Another Chance for Vick’s Dogs

Related

Times Topics: Michael Vick

They are assigned to an area of the sanctuary called Dogtown Heights, what Best Friends calls a gated community. Vick’s dogs have their own building with heated floors, sound-absorbing barriers and skylights. Each has an individual dog run because, for now, the dogs must remain isolated, for safety’s sake.

Little Red is a tiny rust-colored female whose teeth were filed, most likely because she was bait for the Bad Newz fighters. Handlers cannot explain why loud noises make her jumpy.

Cherry, a black-and-white male, has what seems to be chemical burns on his back. His file at Best Friends says he loves car rides and having his backside rubbed. But like many of Mr. Vick’s pit bulls, he is petrified of new situations and new people.

Oscar cowers in the corner of his run when strangers arrive. Shadow runs in circles. Black Bear pants so heavily that he seems on the verge of hyperventilation.

All but one of the Vick dogs at Best Friends wear green collars, signaling that they are good with people. But Meryl, who arrived with a rap sheet, wears a red collar.

She was aggressive toward the veterinary staff at a previous shelter. When Best Friends evaluated her in November, she lunged at a veterinary technician, snapping at him three times. By court order, she must stay at Best Friends forever.

Mr. Vick paid $18,275 for the lifetime care of each of his dogs here but one. Denzel was deemed highly adoptable, so his fee was only $5,000.

The actual cost for personnel and medical staff to care for the dogs, said Best Friends officials, is much higher at the sanctuary, a no-kill, nonprofit facility for 2,000 animals. For example, Denzel needed a blood transfusion to treat a tick-borne virus. Donations must make up the difference.

Bred to Be Friendly

John Garcia, the assistant dog care manager of Dogtown, which houses about 500 dogs, said pit bulls that are withdrawn or aggressive toward humans break his heart because they are bred to be people-friendly. “With most of these dogs, even Meryl, their actions are based on fear,” said Mr. Garcia, who communicates with the dogs in soothing baby talk. “The biggest job we have with these guys is teaching them that it’s O.K. to trust people. It may take months or years, but we’re very stubborn. We won’t give up on them.”

Because the dogs are still adjusting to their surroundings, it is difficult to predict how many of them will become adoptable. They arrived Jan. 2 from Richmond, Va., on a chartered airplane, stressed after eight months in shelters. In initial evaluations last September, many lay flat and looked frightened. Now, many respond to caregivers by wagging their tails and giving sloppy kisses.

“They have improved by light-years,” Mr. Garcia said, adding that it would take patience and a lot of time for these dogs to be happy and safe in an adoptive home.

Caregivers walk the dogs several times a day and spend time in their kennels, praising and caressing them. It is progress when a dog like Cherry does not need to be carried, because he is afraid to walk on a leash. It is monumental when Shadow approaches them instead of retreating.

“We want to get them to understand that being around people isn’t necessarily a bad thing; that we won’t hurt them,” Mr. Garcia said. “The worst thing we could do is push them too hard, too fast.”

Mr. Garcia, an expert in working with aggressive dogs, said getting some of these pit bulls accustomed to other dogs would be the toughest task. Initially, 10 were evaluated as aggressive toward other dogs.

So far, there has been only one fight. Layla was put accidentally into the same dog run as Ray. She immediately attacked, biting his shoulder in a death grip.

One of their main caregivers, Carissa Hendrick, pried Layla’s jaws from Ray. She said it would take a lot of positive reinforcement to teach these dogs to coexist.

« Previous Page1 2 3 Next Page »

There’s just so much we don’t know about them, and that’s frustrating,” Ms. Hendrick said, adding that she wished she could talk to the men involved in Mr. Vick’s operation to find out what these dogs have endured. “Oh, Ellen Belly, what happened to you?”

Skip to next paragraph MultimediaAudio Slide Show Another Chance for Vick’s Dogs RelatedTimes Topics: Michael Vick Ellen arrived at Best Friends overweight, looking more like a sausage than a fighter. She was a breeding dog but had spent time in the ring. One side of her face droops from nerve damage, but she is still affectionate and loves to offer her belly for rubs.

Lucas was Vick’s champion, a 65-pound muscular brown dog with a face mottled with dark scars. He is so friendly and confident that his trainers suspect he was pampered.

“I bet you ate steak every day, didn’t you, Lucas?” the caregiver McKenzie Garcia, who is married to John, said. “I bet they took care of you because you made them money.”

Every Vick dog here has a Personalized Emotional Rehabilitation Plan. Caregivers rate each dog in several categories. How fearful was Little Red today? How confident was Black Bear? How much did Meryl enjoy life?

Recording the dogs’ progress will help Dr. McMillan, the veterinarian, track their well-being. “DogTown,” on the National Geographic Channel, also plans to follow the progress of several of Mr. Vick’s dogs, including Georgia.

“The successful rehab rate for these kinds of dogs is unknown because nobody has ever studied it until now,” Dr. McMillan said. “You might see an incredibly friendly dog, but does that dog’s personality change over several weeks, over several months, after psychological trauma? Are they hard-wired to be aggressive, or can they change? What’s the best way to work with them?”

The plan is to determine how to keep these dogs happy, even if a real home is not in their future.

Coping With Past Trauma

Whether Georgia will find happiness is a big question. Dr. McMillan said she exhibited behavior that might be coping mechanisms for past trauma.

Georgia gnaws on her doghouse. She flipped her bed over so much that her handlers removed it. When toys are around, she often ignores people. Georgia, who was called Jane at Bad Newz Kennels, was sold to Mr. Vick in 2001 to help start his dogfighting business. She is thought to be his oldest dog, but her handlers can only guess that she is about 7. Dogs’ ages are usually estimated by examining their teeth, but she has none.

Having those teeth extracted, Dr. McMillan and other vets said, must have been excruciating. Even with medication, dogs are in pain after losing one tooth, which may take more than an hour of digging, prying and leveling to pull.

“These dogs have been beaten and starved and tortured, and they have every reason not to trust us,” Mr. Garcia said as Georgia crawled onto his lap, melted into him for an afternoon nap and began to snore. “But deep down, they love us and still want to be with us. It is amazing how resilient they are.”


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks for sharing that article, Ralph. As you see, the handlers' hearts are broken when these dogs are aggressive towards humans because that is an unnatural behavior for them. If I did not already have a dog, I would love to adopt one of Vick's former dogs, but I highly doubt they would ever place those dogs in a home with ANY other animals. It's just too late.


RFox profile image

RFox 8 years ago

It's such a sad case and I'm glad they chose to rehabilitate the animals.

When you look at what human beings are capable of we really shouldn't be judging other species behavior. At least in the animal kingdom it's straight forward. Aggression and killing are for survival and nothing more. Humans, we will torture, kill and abuse all manner of living creatures just for fun. It is so despicable.

Thank you Ralph for the article I had wondered what happened to those dogs!


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

My mom informed be about this last week sometime. She and I discussed how these dogs will probably go to people who have taken in rehabilitated dogs in the past. There's no way even with severe retraining would they let people with little experience have one of these dogs.


sdorrian profile image

sdorrian 8 years ago from Chicago

Great Hub and interesting comments. I just want to make a couple points. I believe that statistically the breed that bites the most is the poodle. They just don't get as much publicity because they're small and don't do much damage. Pit Bulls and other "bully Breeds" who are aggressive toward people are trained to be that way. Dogs are not naturally aggressive toward people or other dogs except for the reasons outlined in the Hub. I think the reason mailmen are so often the victims of dog bites is that they regularly invade a dog's "territory." I don't think there are any bad dogs, just bad owners - like that crazy woman in the video. She has no right to own a dog!


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks for your comment, sdorrian! You're totally right about mailmen: they are invading the dog's "territory" (though that's their job!!), and that's why dogs often bark or snap at them.


dogsdogsdogs profile image

dogsdogsdogs 8 years ago

Hello helenethegreat, another informative hub! It's so important to socialize dogs with humans, as well as other dogs since they're likely to meet them at the park or just walking down the street. On several occasions we've come across dogs who snarl and lunge at my dogs as we pass them by. On one occasion, my dog, who was leashed while we were walking up a sidewalk in our neighborhood, got jumped by two dogs who ran across two streets and a park just to get at him!

It was a traumatic experience even though my dog (fortunately) recovered both mentally and physically. The worst part was the owner who DID apologize a number of times but who ultimately didn't think it was such a big deal. He actually asked me not to report the attack....


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Wow, I'm so sorry your dog was attacked like that! Sometimes attacked dogs are never quite the same; I'm really happy to hear that yours recovered. What a traumatic experience. Puppies and adult dogs need to be socialized to EVERYTHING. Not just people and dogs, but also buses and cars and wheelchairs and anything that could startle them or make them uncomfortable. That way it's safer for everyone.


Amber Arendsen profile image

Amber Arendsen 8 years ago from Solana Beach, Ca

This a great informative post, I love the "what to do" section. If we could get legislation put into effect regarding licensing for breeders, and requirements of non-breeding dogs to be altered, we would be headed in the direction of solving pet overpopulation and would put the bad owners/breeders out of business.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 8 years ago from Manhattan Author

Oh Amber, if only we could get that legislation in place... The dog world would be so much better off, and the best friend that we have created for ourselves would never cause any of these issues that we never intended.

I'm glad you found my solutions reasonable, and thanks for reading and for the comment!


kerryg profile image

kerryg 8 years ago from USA

Interesting and informative hub. I met my first pit bull close up recently and have to say it reminded me more of a young labrador retriever than anything else. VERY friendly and high energy. But, of course, he had owners who loved and properly socialized him. It's sad that so many others of that breed are not so lucky.

My family has always had lab and golden mixes, and not one of them would have hurt a fly. I do remember my riding instructor telling me, though, that her long-time vet had told her once that he'd never met a Chow who hadn't bit its owner, and never met a Chow mix who had. (She had a huge Chow mix who was a bit of a practical joker by doggie standards. He would come up to new people and just sit down and stare at them. If you approached him, he was as friendly as can be, but if you acted frightened, he would come towards you and this freaked some people out to the point that she sometimes had to rescue people from being "trapped" in their cars, or even "chased" off the property.)


Eternal Evolution profile image

Eternal Evolution 7 years ago from kentucky

Wonderful job, i really enjoyed your hub.


bspilner profile image

bspilner 7 years ago from Altanta, Ga.

My folks adopted a pitbull that was horribly abused...when they got her she had cigarette burns all over her body and she was so malnurished that you could clearly see all of her ribs. When they first got her a couple years ago, she was terribly frightened all the time. As you pointed out in this hub, she would try and bite occasionally when people approached her and tried to pet her because she felt threatened or targeted. My folks have been very loving and patient with her and it's been amazing to see her get nursed back to health and transform into a completely different animal. Even though she was originally trained and socialized in an abusive fashion, she was very succesfully re-socialized as a kind and gentle dog...which I thought was pretty cool. So, I don't necessarily think that the way a dog is orignally trained is going to be how the dog acts for the rest of his or her life (but it obviously has some effect).


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 7 years ago from Manhattan Author

You're right, bspilner. An old dog CAN be taught new tricks; it happens all the time. A dog that is conditioned to be mean can be reconditioned to be nice. Look at Michael Vick's dogs! Many of them now have human friends and are becoming better adjusted every day. Thanks for the comment.


Eternal Evolution profile image

Eternal Evolution 7 years ago from kentucky

Great hub! very informitive. Always great to see people standing up for the "bad dogs" most of the breeds i own are "bad dogs" lol. My pit bull is the best dog i've ever had, though he is not an APBT he show all the quilities of one. He helps me show people that pit bulls are not monsters.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 7 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks for commenting, Eternal Evolution! I would get too frustrated owning any pitbull type dog at this point in my life. Constantly dealing with ignorant people would just drain me too much, I think. I really admire all of you educated pit owners out there!


Benji 6 years ago

I don't mean to brag, but I found the pit bull on the first try. Only because she looked a lot like my pit bull, so I knew right away that was the one.

Anyway, that said, pit bulls can survive in a house with other animals. It just takes a lot of supervision, socialization and training. Really, any terrier can be dangerous around dogs or cats. Regardless of the breed. Terriers have a very unique personality. Quite the little "terrors" when they want to be. However, I have known many people who have multiple terriers and even a pit bull and a cat. And the dogs do just fine as long as they're properly trained and supervised when around the other animals.

Also, not all terriers are small. Quite the contrary, actually. There are plenty of large terriers. American pit bulls are terriers, bull terriers are terriers, Airedales, Bedlingtons, Staffordshires... there are plenty of large terriers.

I was attacked by two staffies earlier this year. I certainly don't blame the dogs and through the whole thing knew that it was the owners fault. The dogs were running loose, they were untrained, not very well bred, and had obviously never had any kind of proper training. If their owner had kept them in the house or- better yet- trained and socialized them well, the attack could have been avoided.

With some dogs, it truly is genetics. But even that leads back to us humans because of bad breeding.

Great post. Very informative.


Tyler Conroy 5 years ago

i liked it. it was very inresting 4 A 14 YEAR OLD THANKS TYLER X :)


Kim 4 years ago

Who made you the expert?

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working