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« Kansas City Public Dog Park Meetings Set for this Week | Main | Some Clarification on Florida HB 101 »

March 17, 2008



This looks very interesting, can't wait for the next intalments.

No matter what story is told, I think it's fairly obvious why BS/MSN is being considered - gets rid of those nasty 'pit bulls' and other media types but appears to be about animal welfare.

MSN is the new BSL.


Sorry but I've been monitoring pit bull attacks around the world for a year and it's a serious problem. I'll send you 2 or 3 hundred stories, if you'd like. Most common comment from owners of dogs that have killed or mauled a human or another dog is "He's a familly pet and never done anything like that before."
We can't even walk our two small dogs around the block without worrying whether the two pit bulls behind a fence will finally jump over it and attack they obviously want to.

S Kennedy

Unfortunately, the stats from nearly any shelter which are used to "prove" all these things, seldom are valid; and when push comes to shove, in court, it becomes obvious. It is very, very easy to manipulate data/info. So easy, because there are no standards for shelters. They all do what they want, in whatever form they want. Now if an independent third party agency did the data compilation, it MIGHT be more accurate, but no guarantee. You tell me how the data/proof never line up in court? I already know the answer. *Note: The Asliomar Accords, which N. Winograd opposes, was to be used in an effort to get shelters nationwide on the same track. It has failed miserably.


Lindsay, with respect, I researched dog biting incidents for nearly a decade. As well, I trained dogs for 30 years, and specialized in re-training aggressive dogs for a decade. I've worked with many 'pit bulls' (even some from fighting rings) and had no difficulty correcting their undesirable behaviours, nor those of the other breeds/mixes I've worked with. (I've found no reason to create 'breed-specific' training techniques.)

There is so much I could say to refute your comments. I know what I've written is lengthy, but it is factual information and/or experience based on decades of work with dogs, biting dogs, and irresponsible owners who believe all sorts of things that cause them to raise their dogs incorrectly. If you can stand it, please read through my lengthy comment, and feel free to pick out any aspects you might like to discuss further.

I should begin by also pointing out I have no particular affinity for 'pit bulls'. They're perfectly fine dogs, but I'm no more likely to choose a 'pit bull' as my pet than I would a Labrador Retriever or Shih Tzu. (Not my particular cup of tea.) My dog bite research wasn't meant to vindicate 'pit bulls' or any other kind of dog. I endeavoured to find the truth about dog biting incidents, rather than the inaccurate and "cherry picked" media reports with which most people are familiar. As well, my particular specialty in working with aggressive dogs gives me a unique perspective on some of the claims made about aggression in dogs.

Most telling in your comment was your reference to "stories," which undoutedly originate in the media. Media stories are not credible, scientific case studies. They're some reporter's or editor's view of what will attract more readers, viewers, or listeners.

It may interest you to know that, since the mid-1980's, the media has reported dog biting incidents involving so-called "pit bulls" to the near-exclusion of all other dogs. Even though non-'pit bull' dogs are responsible for the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of bites, attacks, and fatalities, it is unusual for any media agency to put the breed of the biting dog in the headline. But they do so nearly all the time, if a 'pit bull' is involved. When coupled with the fact that few non-'pit bull' biting stories are reported in the media, the public is easily misled into believing that 'pit bulls' cause the majority of bites, and that other dogs are "less dangerous".

(For example, when 'pit bulls' were banned in Denver, they were reportedly responsible for just 2-3% of bites. Yet nearly 100% of dog biting incidents reported in the local media involved 'pit bulls'. If that's not skewed reporting, I don't know what is.)

At least 99.9% of all dog 'breeds' (including those described as 'pit bulls') will never be involved in an attack at any time in their lives. What the actions of less than 0.1% of the population say about the 99.9% is beyond me.

The percentage of the estimated U.S. 'pit bull' population that has killed a person is 0.00002%. On average, each year, about 15 people are killed by dogs in the U.S. 2-4 of those typically involve 'pit bulls'. On the other hand, 11-13 (the majority) involve other kinds of dogs. The thing is, if you only "know" what you hear or read in the media or on the Internet, you probably never hear of all these incidents. The media rarely covers them.

I don't doubt that you have some problem 'pit bulls' in your community. Raised the same way, any kind of dog responds similarly. Your local dog bite statisics likely bear this out. A dog doesn't become a problem because of its shape. It becomes a problem because a human has failed to raise it in such a way that will ensure it is successful in human society. That entails training it, socializing it, and supervising it. Similarly, a dog's breed won't prevent it from learning aggressive behaviours. Being a Labrador Retriever, for example, didn't stop the dog that "ripped off" its owner's face, necessitating the world's first face transplant. Being a Golden Retriever didn't stop a dog from mauling a child so badly, the officer on-scene described it as the worst dog attack he'd ever seen. Being a Jack Russell Terrier didn't stop a dog that recently killed a child. A dog's breed doesn't cause it to learn aggressive behaviours, nor will it prevent it.

As for dogs attacking without ever having behaved aggressively before, this is a very tired, old myth.

The owners of biting dogs sometimes make this claim (presumably to minimize their own culpability). They may say their dogs have never behaved aggressively because they're so ignorant about dog training and behaviour, they truly don't recognize that attempting to bite someone near its food dish, or charging the fence line, for example, are, in fact, prior acts of aggression. Growling is a form of aggression. Raised lips is a form of aggression. Lungeing, in a menacing way, is a form of aggression. Menacing barking is a form of aggression. Attempted bites is a form of aggression. Successful, unprovoked bites don't take place without the dog first learning and practicing these escalating aggressive behaviours. By the same token, properly raising a dog prevents them. (My now 9-year-old own dog, for example, has still never exhibited any of these behaviours. But, then again, she's properly trained, socialized, and supervised.)

Reporters love to say a biting dog had no history of aggression because it makes for more salacious reporting. At best, what they mean is the dog has no record of reported bites against a human. (As an example, a non-'pit bull' dog that KILLED A CHILD was widely reported as having no history of aggressive behaviour. Yet that dog had attacked other dogs, and had even killed at least one other dog in the community, before killing the little girl. That is clearly a dangerous dog. Yet the owner, and the media continued to claim the dog had no history of aggression.)

As someone with expertise in this area, I've personally investigated countless biting incidents. Without equivocation, every single case where the dog was said to have no history of aggressive behaviour turned out to be a complete fabrication. Even not too long ago, right here at Brent's blog, a case came up where I "predicted" the dog (a 'pit bull' which was reported in the media as having no history of aggressive behaviour and being a cherished family pet) was eventually found to have an extensive history of aggression, including having killed other animals.

How dogs learn aggressive behaviours is well-known. They're not present at birth, and do not escalate in an environment where owners reward appropriate behaviours, and adequately socialize and supervise their pets. I often like to point out that despite nearly a decade of dog bite research, I have yet to find one responsibly-owned dog involved in an unprovoked attack, 'pit bull' or not.


Marjorie, yes to everything.

Lindsey, when I first went to a shelter to adopt my first dog, I told them I wanted the dog that was least likely to get adopted. They introduced me to a 'pit bull'. My first reaction was "aw heck no." I'd read the stories.

Then I did some research. A LOT of research. I met a ton of the 'pit bulls' at shelters. I continue to do research, 3 dogs later.

If you follow dog attacks (regardless of breed), you'll find that the attacks follow very similar formats: 1) Dogs with known past aggression, 2) Unsupervised Children with Dogs, 3) Chained dogs that have little or no socialization 4) stray dog (often in packs).

The problem is that the media, and then people, don't focuse on the issues that lead to attacks. They focus on certain types of dogs. Therefore, people don't learn to prevent the problems.

I have a Lab on my walk that is left on a chain more often than not. He snarls and growls, showing his teeth every time I walk by. I'm pretty certain that that dog would attack us if it got free. It's chained, and completely unsocialized. It stinks. What we should be pushing for is ways to ensure that dogs are appropriately cared and contained, and educate people on how to do that. This would solve your problem, and mine....and the any other breed of dog that would be involved.

The cities that have succesfully minimized dog bites have used this approach.


Let's also not forget that sterilizing a dog will not curb aggressive behaviour. That's another myth.

It may stop marking (although not if ingrained) and can reduce intermale aggression but overall, personality and repro status have not been shown to be connected.

If anything, the limited research out there indicates that sterilization can create personality problems, not solve them.

Preventing problems (or fixing them)is up to the dog owner as so well stated above by Marjorie and Brent.

S. Kennedy

Marjorie, Caveat, Brent: Indeed. Right again.

Emily S

and please let's not forget "it's a pit bull if I think it's a pit bull"
and especially "if it bites, it's a pit bull"


Lindsay, I'd like to know what tools you are using to "monitor" these alleged pit bull attacks?

All I can say is I've got about 200 years collective experience backing my opinion - I'm assuming you have a year of reading newspaper articles and visiting "Mad Mother" websites like

Bottem line: PEOPLE are a serious problem... dogs aren't. I can send you 2-3 MILLION stories proving that if you'd like.

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