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Severe Dog Attacks and Pit Bulls

Updated on September 8, 2012

Excerpts from Pit Bull Placebo

"How has the landscape of America and the mindset of Americans changed so dramatically in only a few decades? Is it canine behavior that has changed so drastically? Or have we, with our growing ignorance of dogs, become so unreasonable that any flaw found in an individual dog is taken as ample justification for vilifying all their innocent brethren? Have we, in morbid fascination, concentrated so intensely on emphasizing the bad that some dogs do that we can no longer recognize the myriad of good and positive things that most dogs contribute to our lives? Or, as some lawmakers and the media would have us believe, are some dog breeds inherently more dangerous and aggressive than others? Are Pit bull- type dogs becoming increasingly more dangerous than they were a century ago? Are most such dogs wonderfully tolerant and manageable or are these dogs unpredictable and untrustworthy, waiting to explode in a fury of aggression against everyone and anyone?

"For those interested in understanding canine behavior and the forces which contribute to severe attacks, modern-day media sources are sorely lacking in vital information surrounding these events." This is what increases the public's fear of certain dog breeds, mainly those surrounding the pit-bull type dogs. What you hear, "Pit bull attacks and kills a 7 year old boy. The dog was owned by the child's neighbor." What you don't hear, "Prior to the attack the dog was beaten, served a dose of rat poison, and was found to be severely malnourished." If you were to hear that, would you still have the same opinion about the dog?

Rin Tin Tin
Rin Tin Tin

Previously Feared Dog Breeds

Around the 1900s the Newfoundland, Bloodhound, Mastiff, and Bulldog, were the feared. They were the breeds to avoid. They were the cause of nearly all dog attacks. But, they were replaced by other dogs with just as bad temperaments. The German Shepherd was just one of the dogs that replaced the first set of vicious terrorizors and baby-killers.

They were a fairly new breed to America, and were most commonly used as guard and protection. The breed of yesterday, is not the breed of today. The old German Shepherd was rebuilt by media. No longer do we see them as the killers they once were.

By the 1920s, the German Shepherd was gaining in popularity as a "bad dog." It already had several years of killings and fatal attacks behind its paws, and it was not getting any friendlier.

Slowly the vicious image of the German Shepherd was beginning to rebuild and reshape. Rin Tin Tin featured a friendly, fun-loving German Shepherd dog. Police began using the dogs. People began using them as seeing eye dogs; The German Shepherd was the first seeing eye-dog in the US.

About 10 years after the height of the German Shepherd fear, they had been reshaped into a heroic and courageous breed.

But, the German Shepherd isn't the only dog breed to have been reshaped by media. The Great Dane is another dog breed that is now seen as the gentle giant, but was once feared. The Doberman Pinscher has, also, been slightly reshaped by media, but not nearly as much as the German Shepherd or Great Dane.

Note- This does not mean that the German Shepherd or Great Dane are not responsible for a portion of the dog attacks and fatal killings of today. It just means that yesterday's fear can be tomorrow's love and joy.

Also Note: The first breed ban was for the German Shepherd. Not many people know that, but, it sure tells you a lot about the dog who is now seen as a hero.

Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retriever

Common breeds that attack:

  • Bloodhounds- (various breeds of bloodhounds- Cuban, Siberian, Russian, British, etc; during 2nd half of 19th century frequently the cause of severe and fatal attacks)
  • Newfoundlands- (latter part of 19th century, predominate cause of severe, fatal attacks)
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Eskimo dogs
  • Alaskan malamutes
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Arctic Sled dogs
  • Alaskan huskies
  • Spaniels
  • Mastiffs- (used as guard dogs, they are common for severe and fatal attacks, but currently, the attacks have virtually disappeared)
  • Collies- (numerous severe attacks in the first few decades of 20th century)
  • Mix-breeds (IE Mutts and any dog that is unrecognizable to a breed)
  • St. Bernard- (sporadic episodes of severe, fatal aggression at the beginning of the 1900s and again in 1970s)
  • Fox terriers- (severe attacks to young children)
  • Boston terriers
  • Airedale terriers

The more popular a dog breed, the likelihood of an increased number of attacks by that dog breed.

Guess the dog breed in the following situations:

  • Drug agents drove to a house, suspecting an arrest. The suspects rushed out of the house, loosened and ordered their dogs to attack the officers.
  • A pack of dogs terrorize schoolchildren, chasing and biting three of them.
  • A police officer mounted on his horse shoots a dog attacking his horse.
  • Owner arrested for releasing and siccing his dog on a police officer.
  • Police officer was able to barricade an attacking dog inside his doghouse, but the dog tore through the wood and lunged at the officer, who had to shot the dog.
  • Dog shot twice after attacking 2 children and biting a police officer.

So, what type of dog was reported in each of those incidents?

Pit bull? .... No...

Rottweiler? ... No...

Poodle? ... No...

Mix-breed? ... No...

German Shepherd... Yes...

Media Reports

Media likes to portray dogs with human emotions, frequently being described as jealous, lonely, depressed, enraged, angry, and frustrated, but dog's do not have human emotions. Dogs don't think like humans. Dogs think in the here and now. So if you leave the dog at home alone for the day and come home to find your new shoes torn up; the dog didn't do it out of spite. They don't know or understand what spite is. The dog did it out of boredom and well your new shoes probably tasted good.

Here's a common story you may read in the paper or see on television:

"The beloved family pet, who never once showed signs of aggression viciously attacked the young 17 year daughter of Mr. John Doe. The girl, innocently rocking in the rocking chair, and calling the dogs name, never expected the dog to begin attacking her face, chest, and arms."

What you won't hear:

"The 17 year old was rocking in the rocking chair, when she accidentally rolled the leg of the rocker on the dogs paw. The dog went darting around the room in pain, and when the 17 year old called the dog, he responded by lunging at her."

That attack was out of pain, injury, and confusion. Not an innocent attack by a beloved family dog. It was a reaction to having his paw squished under a large wooden rocking chair.

This is a true story from 1897 of a Newfoundland.

What they show you

What they don't show you

Steph N.
Steph N.

Pit bulls and Media

The media has bashed the pit bull type dogs since the 1970s. Most reports claim that a pit bull was (1) bred to kill, (2) non-human aggressive, and (3) have locking jaws.

  1. Well, they were bred to kill dogs, not people; human aggression and dog aggression are completely different types of dog aggression. One would not claim their dog food aggressive if the dog is only toy aggressive, so why would I claim a dog who is only dog aggressive as being human aggressive?
  2. The pit bull type dog breeds, which include the American Pit Bull Terrier, Bulldog, Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, English Bulldog, and any dog that may resemble a Pit Bull, were never bred for human aggression. Even in the height of dog fighting, dogs that showed signs of human aggression were culled from the breeding programs, meaning they were either put down or just removed from the breeding program but still kept as a pet.
  3. Pit bull type dogs are built like any other dog, but with the frequent reports of, "the pit bull locked his jaws around the child's neck," the most common myth "pit bulls" have locking jaws arises. In actuality, studies show that with most pit bull type dogs, have stronger jaw muscles than other breeds, but they're jaws cannot possible lock in place.

It is the intent of the media to report just about every dog fighting raid, police raid, and pit bull seizures, to attempt to further the bad reputation of the breed. This (1) makes people believe that these types of dogs are the only dogs attacking and have to ability to be aggressive and (2) furthers the fear of the breeds.

What's sad is that, statistically speaking, the American Pit Bull Terrier is the least likely dog breed to bite, and the Cocker Spaniel is the most likely dog breed to attack.

Another sad note is that because "pit bull" is commonly the term to group dogs of a fighting background, the American Pit Bull Terrier is the most common dog breed that is hit with the wrath of irresponsible dog owners, as APBT contains "pit" and "bull."

You commonly see pit bull type dogs with gangsters, mobsters, drug lords, and other rough and violent people. Do you see them with portrayed in the homes of teachers, CEOs, or the elderly? Unfortunately, not so often.

Recently, with the Old Navy commercial featuring the blue American Pit Bull Terrier puppies, have hopefully shown people that these dogs are not vicious by nature, because otherwise these cute, innocent puppies would be attacking the actors. Before that, the last time one has really seen a friendly, family APBT was in "The Little Rascals."

I mean come on, even Steven King used a pit bull type dog in the "Cujo" book. How scary is it to see a large rabid dog chasing after you, much less if that dog is a rabid pit bull type dog? Pretty scary, if you ask me.

Even PETA, the world's advocate for animal rights, is the main organization setting fear in the eyes of people in regards to pit bull type dogs. I'm not saying that these dogs don't fatally attack, because they do, but there's no need to single out a group of dogs, collectively known as "pit bull." PETA is the main organization pushing for breed bans. They're the ones with the vicious pit bull posters.

Yes, they bite. Yes, they kill. Yes, it happens. But it also happens in regards to labs, retrievers, terriers, and other "family dog breeds."

Not your typical article about pit bulls

No kill animal shelter featuring Mikey, a pit bull that was found chained to the railroad tracks and requires constant health care.
No kill animal shelter featuring Mikey, a pit bull that was found chained to the railroad tracks and requires constant health care.

Dog Attack Statistics in Regards to "pit bulls"

In the 20th century there were over 450 reports of severe dog attacks in the United States, and none of them were caused by pit bull type dogs.

The media, being single minded, puts on their blinders, so to speak in regards to the pit bull. Think about it... From 2002-2005, there were 11 fatal dog attacks. 0 out of those 11 dogs featured pit bull type characteristics, but the media claimed each a pit bull attack. The media never once reported the true breeds of these dogs

According to the CDC, Center for Disease Control, over about 20 years, 66 fatalities caused by dog attacks were attributed to pit bull type dogs. 66 in 20 years!

Many people use this statistic to claim the pit bull type dogs are the most dangerous thing or dog, just because it has more fatalities than other dog breeds. Well, in actuality, in regards to children, the most dangerous factor is not a pit bull type dog but fathers, as the majority of child deaths is caused by physical abuse by fathers or father- figures.

You can't believe everything you hear from a politician's mouth or from a news reporter. The media is skewed.

10-20 pit bull type dogs cause fatal attacks, but tens or thousands are loved family pets... Look at those numbers... 10 versus 10,000... Hm...

Now, do consider that I'm not saying that pit bull type dogs never attack, as it's been reported over and over again, and even the CDC had about 66 reports pit bull attacks. But, every time you hear it on the news or any type of media, doesn't mean that particular attack was truly caused by a pit bull type dog. In many cases the initial report assumes pit bull type dog, and when the results claim the dog as another type of dog, there is never a retraction.

Otherwise, you'll see the headline "Pit bulls attack child of 8" but if you continue reading, you'll notice that the real dogs that attacked were American Bulldog or some other bulldog breed. It just doesn't sound the same to read a headline as "American Bulldogs attack child of 8."

Pit bull type dogs can and do attack people and other animals, but you have to consider that not every dog attack is caused by a pit bull type dog and not every pit bull type dog will attack.

Also, do take into account that it can be hard for the average person to properly ID a dog, so many statistics even the CDC dog statistics can be inaccurate. I've seen the results of cops in an area where BSL had just been enacted; they'll snatch any dog they think is of pit bull type origin. I've been to the kennels, and I've seen Catahoula Leopard Dogs, white Boxers, and Bulldogs that were taken in mistake for pit bull type dogs.

The common characteristics that lead people to believe that a dog is a "pit bull" includes medium to large sized body, short hair, muscular, broad chest, and wide- square head. There are so many dogs that, also, fall into these traits. Mastiffs, Rottweilers, American Bulldogs, and English Bulldogs, are just a few breeds with these traits, and none are considered of the "pit bull" class. These traits are usually those that determine that the stray that attacked your nephew was a pit bull type dog. Now, how fair is it, when so many other breeds have the same traits?

Ryan Farr: German Shepherd bite
Ryan Farr: German Shepherd bite

Characteristics that can lead dog attacks:

A combination of the following characteristics can cause a dog to attack in many different situations.

  • Intact male dog.
  • Female in heat.
  • Dogs used for guard and protection purposes.
  • Malnourished dogs.
  • Untrained and poorly socialized dogs.
  • Poor breeding- inbred, over bred, etc.
  • Abuse and mistreatment.
  • Fear.
  • Unsanitary living quarters, which can lead to health issues.
  • Harassment.

Any dog breed can attack. Any dog breed will attack. Any dog breed can kill.

Proper socialization and training is the key. Don't be a poor pet owner or an ignorant soul. There is more than one dog breed that attacks and kills.

Take off the blinders and open your heart. One day the American Pit Bull Terrier will be reshaped as the feared dogs of the past once were. One day, they'll be beloved and cherished again.

Time changes. People change. Our past proves that alone, as the most feared dog in American was once a loved family pet and war hero.

Please leave comments.

Make note that all comments will be approved before they appear.

I will approve all comments (including those against my statistics and opinions) unless they are derogatory to someone else or contain foul language.

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    • profile image

      artis 4 years ago

      i live in nv i have a seves dog german shepherd dog . i wish there was some one can help me with my dog . i am in fallon nv i need help with hem .

    • profile image

      animal lover 4 years ago

      if you get above a dogs head they feel threatened. sooooo................... i wouldn't get above a dogs head. a guy went up to a police and asked to pet his dog the officer said yes he bent over the dogs head and boom the dog bit him o the face. i felt sorry but lesson learned. dogs love us the only reson they bite is because you do something really wrong in THEIR language. every dog makes a good pet.

    • Shaddie profile image

      Shaddie 4 years ago from Washington state

      I definitely agree that there are more aggressive breeds out than than those who are unfairly labeled as being inherently dangerous. Labrador retrievers have more than once snarled and tried to have a go at me, as well as other random, spitz-like mutts that are most likely husky mixes.

      I've dealt with all shapes and sizes, all manners of grumpiness and amicability in many different breeds, but the only largebreed dog that ever made contact and actually bit me (on the leg) was a Weimeriner - an unlikely breed due to its relative obscurity in comparison to labs, rottweilers, pit bulls, etc, but there you have it. The bite inhibition of a dog has very little to do with the breed.

    • profile image

      shelter worker 4 years ago

      Any dog can attack for

      One reason or another.

      Breed has little to do

      With it if the dog has

      Been raised with love

      And socialized well.

      I have a pit and have

      Owned many dogs of

      Different breeds, I have

      Never had an aggressive

      Dog. I'm tired of hearing

      How bad pits are, I've

      Worked with animals

      For 18 years and I've never

      Been biten by a pit breed.

    • profile image

      Miah 5 years ago

      I'm not so sure about Newfoundlands they are very gentle dogs despite there size. Great with children. Even 1902 they had that reputation (Nana from Peter Pan was a Landseer newfie). I had an American Eskimo who was abused when we got him and he got extremely aggressive towards strangers. He nipped at strangers a lot but was getting increasingly more aggressive as he aged. We were afraid he would full out attack someone eventually.

      I never blame the breed though its always the owner. Any dog who is raised and trained right is less aggressive. I have met wonderful pit bulls. My step-dads friend adopted a pit from a shelter and when my step-dad died I was over at there house because my mom was to upset to pick me up from school. The pit sat there next to me giving me kisses and drying my tears.

      Dogs may be domestic but they still carry there instincts to attack if they feel threatened or if there owners feel threatened.

    • profile image

      Carrie 5 years ago

      thanks for this article. I have a pit/lab cross that I adopted from the SPCA over a year ago. She looks much more pit type than lab. She's great at the dog park even when being humped by male boxers or remorselessly chased by border collies, my dog is not the one causing problems, in fact she's often the best behaved dog there. She never steals other dogs' toys and she comes when called. So I'm sick of people coming up to me and telling me how much they hate pitbulls. I was bitten in the face by a black lab when I was a child but I don't go around telling people labs should be banned, even though they're top on the bite list (due to their popularity).

      p.s. I had greyhounds before my pitmix and these dogs could be lethal if they weren't muzzled. They're wonderful dogs but they will pack hunt and often see other dog breeds as prey. However nobody ever got in my face about them!

    • profile image

      Cristel 5 years ago

      I was one of those terrified of the breed due to the media. We had a boxer and a boxer mix. Recently I had to put my boxer mix down due to cancer. My boxer was very mopy and we decided to get another dog. I went to the humane society and seen the cutest thing in my life. I asked what kind of dog, they told me, hes an American Stafford shire Terrier. Oh ok, cool. I had to clue what that meant.

      He was a 3 month old baby. Two years later he is spoiled and sweet. When I took him to Pet smart to get his nails clipped, he would not walk in I had to carry him in. People walked up and was petting him and he just looked at them while snuggling in my hair.

      I always here the stories on TV and first first thought is what was the owner thinking. I always put my dogs up if some one is coming over. My dogs are not aggressive or violent, but i am responsible owner and will not put my dogs in an awkward situation.

    • profile image

      GiGi 5 years ago

      WHAT A LOAD OF SHIT !!!!!! are u joking ??? OMG this article was written by an idiot !!!! smh

    • profile image

      Joanne Rodriguez 5 years ago

      I hate it when people stereo type pit bulls. I have been raising pit bulls for the past 25 years. They are the sweetest and lovable dogs. I have a red nose named onyx who is so goofy we call him scooby doo, and a black pit named Envy who is just the most lovable and smartest girl I know. Pit bull Lover.

    • profile image

      melissa 5 years ago

      i read your statisics and yes there is a whole lot they don't show no matter the animal there is so much discrimination going on with them. im one who has to get rid of hers because hes a pit mix,because of commercial property ins. its real sad to see people so one minded,we are all programed when we are little by our adult mom and dads,animals too are programed by their mom and dad HUMAN parents as they grow up and are taught. so what's the difference between us? some animals are taught good and some are taught the differnce is what??????

    • profile image

      Jason 5 years ago

      I have a wonderful pitbull boxer mix. I adopted him as a puppy, and he was raised around two labs mixes. He has actually been the victim of another dog's wrath but neverless is eager to play with all dogs and most people. There are many people like Stacie, who cross the street when I walk him so since then I have trained Tucker to sit and stay when oncoming pedestrians approach us. This is a sign of his obedience and non aggressive intentions. Some people are scared still, but they say things like "Good dog, good dog" when we pass. This only prompts my dog to give them attention, which is bad. I think in a lot of cases, it is just as much a person's fault for being bit as it is the dog and the owner's fault. Great hub! I really like the idea of understanding that all dogs can bite, and a well trained pit bull is less likely to bite than many trusted breeds. This is a tested fact. Thanks for the great informative hub!

    • profile image

      Christina 5 years ago

      I have met many many PitBulls working at PetSmart as a dog trainer... and I must say... ALL the PitBulls I met were so aggressive... LICKING YOUR FACE! In all of my life I've only seen one PitBull that I would not have approached - he lived across the street from me, and the owners tied him to a bush with a 6-foot chain and the boy didn't have access to food, water, or shade - every day of his life. They would take him inside when they got home and he would eat, drink, and have shade then. Bottom line - dog's aren't aggressive, PEOPLE are ABUSIVE.

    • YogaKat profile image

      YogaKat 5 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

      I read this article and all the comments with great interest. My George is a mostly Pit Bull mix who to strayed to my house one day - read the hub if you have the time. He is a highly intelligent, friendly and loyal. He loves cats and small children - but wants to fight other dogs his size or bigger.

    • profile image

      droopy62 5 years ago

      We now have a red nose pitbull, I no nothing of the breed my husband just wanted her really bad. here trying to learn. and this site is wonderful. I have always had a dog or bird. And don't no how to train but just loved em and my babies have always loved me back. of course birds learned words and one dog clyde could say mama. Now stormy(pitbull) has became very protective of me. I have to put her in the fence when someone visits, I have two small grandbabies, and am a little nervous, should I be?

    • annbrown profile image

      annbrown 5 years ago from North Carolina

      This is an excellent Hub.

    • profile image

      Rich  5 years ago

      Let me tell everybody something.Ive had pits,german sheperds,and rotts.I now have a 100lb. english bulldog that is FAR more dangerous than any of my previous.Don't know why.Loves people,but when another male dog gets to close he WILL KILL.He easily tore into a Doby at the park that got to close.Ripped the side of a bloodhounds head completely off,and recently killed a big opposum in the back yard.The only good thing is when i told him to let go, he did without hesitateing.I love this dog but cannot have him around other male dogs,and he has been fixed.I feel sorry for the intruder that comes into our home.Ive never seen a breed this powerful,easily deadlier than any pit ive ever been around.Again not people aggressive,but will strikedown a male dod in half a second.

    • profile image

      George 5 years ago

      At 14, I was bite on the buttock by a Doberman. I was running back and forth on the other side of their 4 foot fence, they were energetically chasing me. Got enough of this and walked over to my bike, and spotted the chain off the front sprocket. Bent over to re=align and this is what Mrs English (the dogs'owner)saw:

      The dogs looked at each other, and one jumped the fence, and walked over and bit my buttock, and walked back, jumped the fence back, and the 2 Dobes lied down. I got a tetanus shot(didn't hurt) on spec. The bite was a nip and also did not hurt.

      I deserved the nip.

    • profile image

      emma 5 years ago

      people are diskriminating against pit bulls i have a pit bull and i adopted him from the spca wen i was 9 years old and that was the moment wen he was going to be put down my mom said i threw a tantrem to get him. and i was never happyer in my life buster was used for dog fhiting

      but he is still like a lam with me and i'm still a 12 year old kid and buster is 5 years old and he is great with my sisters puppy. and he secretly sleeps in my room

      he is my best friend he is my hole world and i love him

    • SpanStar profile image

      SpanStar 5 years ago

      I agree Whitney you've done a very good job on this hub. There are a number of animal lovers out there but I don't happened to be one-(that isn't to say I'm an animal hater) yet I feel be think I should feel the same way about their pets as they do and I just always love those owners who say "he won't bite" as he's tearing the place up to try to get to me. I don't even like the K9 the police use to chase down people.

      It is unfortunate that animals can be made to be vicious but society has the right to be protected from a potential threat being by guns or animals.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 6 years ago from Georgia

      Labs are also up there in their number of bites.

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