I have long stood against breed discriminatory legislation and breed specific legislation. It is my genuine belief that dogs are products of the manner in which they are treated immeasurably more so than the breed they are perceived to be. I got deep into this subject back in 2009 when I was asked by my local animal shelter director to write a research paper advocating adoption of pit bull type dogs. She claimed she would use the paper to help persuade city officials and long-time members of her staff that adopting out dogs believed to be “pit bulls” was something her shelter should be doing. I have blogged on my research paper before (which I later updated in 2014) and won't revisit the entire topic here. If you'd like to read the paper, you will find it here. If you would like to look at the hundreds of pages of research, you will find it here.
I was brought back to this topic of breed bias recently when I learned that the very shelter director who asked me to write a research paper almost a decade ago either never read the paper or has never taken any steps to educate herself on this topic even though she is a licensed veterinarian. I learned recently that she not only relies on but “studies” a website called Dogsbite.org and that she truly believes that pit bull type dogs are inherently dangerous.
No. No. No and no.
The reasons for actual dog attacks (as opposed to incidents of simple and avoidable injuries) are often complex, but the answer to preventing dog attacks is relatively simple: humane care and control of dogs is often all that is needed to prevent most dog attacks. The National Canine Research Council's investigations into dog bite-related fatalities reveals the majority of these tragic cases involved circumstances where owners failed to provide necessary care and human control of their dogs: 1) failure by dog owners to spay or neuter dogs not involved in a responsible breeding program; 2) maintaining dogs in semi-isolation on chains or in pens; 3) allowing dogs to run loose; 4) neglecting or abusing dogs; 5) maintaining dogs not as household pets, but as guard dogs, fighting dogs, intimidation dogs, breeding dogs or yard dogs; and 6) allowing children to interact with unfamiliar dogs.
The 2016 Final Report on Dog Bite-Related Fatalities by the National Canine Research Council was most recently updated on March 8, 2018. If confirmed the data in the 2013 JAVMA Study and states:
MULTIPLE FACTORS CONTINUE TO CO-OCCUR THAT ARE WITHIN THE CONTROL OF OWNERS.
The December 2013 study is the most comprehensive multifactorial study of DBRFs to be completed since the subject was first studied in the 1970’s. Covering all incidents that occurred during the ten-year period 2000 - 2009, it is based on investigative techniques and data developed by National Canine Research Council not previously employed in dog bite or DBRF studies.
THE CONCLUSION OF EXPERTS:
SERIOUS AND FATAL DOG BITE-RELATED INJURIES ARE MULTIFACTORIAL.
Annual reports and detailed case histories considered in isolation will not enhance awareness of what the experts have agreed on. Minor annual fluctuations in co-occurrence of owner factors, or dramatic, one-of-a-kind case histories may, in fact, obscure rather than enlighten. No single factor has been shown, in isolation from other factors, to be the sole cause of a dog bite-related injury or fatality. Professionals studying dog bite-related injuries, even when venturing speculations regarding breed, have been remarkably consistent in their recommendation of pet ownership and child safety practices directly relevant to prevention, and against regulating dogs on the basis of breed or appearance.
A dog is a dog is a dog is a dog. When dogs are treated well and socialized to people, they make wonderful companions. When dogs are not treated well, are used as resident animals, are not socialized to people and not sterilized, they all become potentially dangerous no matter what they look like and no matter what breed we think they are.
If you really think that pit bull type dogs are naturally aggressive, I challenge you to educate yourself on the topic. You can start with my research paper, which is not particularly long, and go from there.
If your lead an animal shelter that destroys dogs based on perceived breed, shame on you. It's time to stop relying on junk science and time to get educated not only on the causes of dog aggression but about how you can better market pit bull type dogs to get them through the system and into good homes. If you are not willing to do that, it truly is time to find another occupation which does not involve making decisions regarding who lives and who dies. Now.