Editor's Note: Corinne D’Ambrosio, Co-Founder, SoCal Pitbull TEAM advocacy group, wrote the following in response to the April 12 article . Investigators at Coastal Animal Services Authority and San Clemente Police Services have thus far declined to go on record to officially contradict initial reports of the dogs' breed type. D'Ambrosio said she has been in contact with their owner, however.
Despite the fact that we now know the dogs involved in the San Clemente attack were not pit bulls at all, but rather a Rhodesian Ridgeback/Cane Corso and Mastiff/Boxer mix, I am nonetheless dismayed by yet another incident involving so-called pit bull type dogs, and writing to offer readers some facts to alleviate the overwhelming misconception of these dogs as vicious and unpredictable.
I do so while extending my sincere condolences to the family of golden retriever Charlie, and to all victims of dog bites, human and canine.
An estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year. What is important to remember is that at least 25 different breeds of dogs have been involved in the 238 dog-bite-related fatalities in the U.S., and that pit bull type dogs come in at the BOTTOM of the list when dog bite statistics are taken into consideration versus the population.
To put this in other words, there are 72,000 St. Bernard’s licensed in the United States and 10 reported attacks versus 60 reported pit bull attacks out of a registered population of 5,000,000!
This means that St. Bernard’s are 100 percent more likely than pit bulls to be involved in a dog attack. If you need further evidence, see the chart below:Registered Population # of Reported Attacks Breed % vs. Population Approx. 240,000 12 Chow Chow .005% Approx. 800,000 67 German Shepherd .008375% Approx. 960,000 70 Rottweiler .00729% Approx. 128,000 18 Great Dane .01416% Approx. 114,000 14 Doberman .012288% Approx. 72,000 10 St. Bernard .0139% Approx. 5,000,000 60 Pit Bulls .0012%
Why such a large population of pit bulls, you might ask? Many pit bull owners are unaware themselves that “pit bull” is not a breed, but a “type” that encompasses several registered breeds and crossbreeds.
There are currently 25 breeds that are commonly considered a “pit bull”, including any mix containing American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, and Bull Terrier. I think it may seem clear to many readers why statistics claiming pit bull type dogs are involved in more dog attacks can be misleading, since they are lumping many separate breeds of dogs together, then comparing those statistics to other dogs that are counted as individual breeds.
My goal in writing this article is not to detract from the suffering Charlie and his owners had to endure, or to make excuses for these types of incidents. Too often people cast the blame on the dog (or more accurately, a TYPE of dog), instead of focusing the responsibility on an owner who perhaps allowed a dog to run off-leash unsupervised, did not properly socialize his or her dog, or didn’t take the measures to prevent an incident like this from happening. There are some common threads in dog attacks beyond breed and beyond the larger than life myth of the pit bull.
For example, approximately 92 percent of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94 percent of which were not neutered.
Twenty-four percent of fatal dog attacks involved loose dogs that were off their owner’s property. Attacks happen most frequently when they involved unsupervised dogs, un-neutered male dogs, and what are often referred to as “resident dogs” rather than family pets. Family pets are socialized, well cared for, and welltrained.
Resident dogs are left in a backyard, often are chained, and the owner should be held responsible -- not the dog or breed of dog that is unfortunate enough to be left in such circumstances.
In response to these types of incidents, many communities have enacted breed-specific legislation (BSL) that prohibits ownership of certain breeds. This doesn’t just include pit bulls but in some cases, Rottweilers, Chow Chows, and others.
I hope from the facts I have presented you can now see that any breed of dog can bite, and research suggests BSL does little to protect the community from dog-bite incidents. In fact, BSL can often have unintended negative consequences and costs, leading to increases in the number of homeless, stray, and euthanized dogs.
Responsible breeding and ownership, public education and enforcement of existing laws are the most effective ways of reducing dog bites. The American Humane Society supports local legislation to protect communities from dangerous animals, but does not advocate laws that target specific breeds of dogs.
Neither do the following well-respected organizations:
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
- The American Kennel Club (AKC)
- The United Kennel Club (UKC)
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
- American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS)
- National Animal Control Association (NACA)
- Maryland Veterinary Medicine Association
- Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
- American Canine Foundation (ACF)
In summary, pit bulls are no more vicious than Golden Retrievers, Beagles, or other popular “family” dogs. In a recent testing done by The American Canine Temperament Testing Society (ATT), pit bulls achieved a passing rate of 83.9 percent, passing fourth from the highest of 122 breeds. That’s better than Beagles, passing at 78.2 percent and Golden Retrievers passing at 83.2 percent. The average passing rate for ALL breeds is 77 percent.
In light of the attack in San Clemente and recently proposed breed specific ordinances in Riverside and San Diego counties, please join other dog lovers and advocates in supporting stricter ownership laws to prevent these types if incidents in the future, and hold the owner rather than the dog accountable. Responsible pit bull owners ARE the majority, we just don’t make headlines.