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Are Pitbulls Dangerous?

Pitbull Laying In Grass

Pitbulls are a breed of dogs invented in the 19th century in England and have a long and complex history. Although these canines were bred for blood sports such as bull and bear baiting, which is implied in their name, over the centuries, they have garnished a bad reputation as being more dangerous to both strangers and dog owners alike than other dogs.

But if pit bulls are dangerous, then why are they such a popular choice for so many pet owners? Turns out, pit bulls aren’t necessarily dangerous by choice. Responsible breeding, proper socialization, and care can turn pit bulls into loving, loyal pets. If you are a pit bull owner or want to own pit bull-type dogs in the future, there are several responsibilities and legal implications that you should know about this breed-specific dog and keep undesirable behavior in check.

Let’s analyze why pit bull dogs are considered dangerous, how they can be just as loving as other animals, go through some characteristics related to their nature, and talk about dog bite laws and what pitbull dog owners should know. 

What Dog Breed is Actually a Pitbull? Comparing Different Dog Breeds and Origin

In the United States, the American Kennel Club (AKC) does not recognize pit bulls as a breed. Instead, in the Animal Humane Society, the term pit bull is commonly associated with a mix of dog breeds that display certain physical traits, such as a broad head or muscular body.

Although the Staffordshire bull terrier and the American Staffordshire terrier, for example, are considered pit bull-type dogs, only the American pit bull terrier is a pit bull breed officially recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC), which we will focus on.

American Pit Bull Terrier

The American pit bull terrier is the original breed used in blood sports in the 19th century, which contributed to its reputation as tough, strong, and athletic. This reputation of baiting large animals and being fight dogs impacted the public’s perception of the breed and contributed to the dog’s macho image. Still, today’s pit bull dogs have transitioned into all-purpose working dogs and loyal companions.

Although still considered inherently dangerous, a well-trained pit bull can become one of the most gentle dogs imaginable. Irresponsible owners, unreliable statistics based on the wrong categorization of pit bull-type dogs, and the media contributed to the inherently aggressive reputation of pit bulls. Despite the bad rap, many dog owners have shared safe and happy lives with this specific breed. On the other hand, irresponsible owners drawn to the dog’s reputation contributed to the rates of pit bull attacks. 

The Fascination Surrounding Pit Bulls

In the U.S., there are around 18 million pit-pull-type dogs. The same data tells us that they received the number one spot above other breeds for their frequency of bites. Sadly, bad owners also contributed to their placement as the most abused dogs in the world, which might explain many fatal dog attacks. An aggressive dog is usually an abused dog.

Most pit bulls nowadays are specifically bred as guard dogs and trustful companions, as they are renowned for their loyalty. During the World War Wars, the breed was used as a symbol for the U.S. army.  As an athletic dog full of energy, most dog owners who wish for an active life opt to have them above other animals.

Pitbull Physical Appearance and Behavioral Characteristics 

Pit bulls are muscular, with a stocky build and powerful jaws. Males can weigh between 35 and 60 lb, while females can weigh between 30 and 50 lb. Their heights average between 18 and 21 in. When it comes to behavior, pit bulls can be sweet dogs like any other breed, but generally, they are energetic, loving, and protective.

Each individual dog has its own character based on its dog owner, the dogs, and humans it interacts with breeding, training, and other socialization aspects. Their behavior develops as they reach their maturity in the second or third age. The dog’s genetics will also play a role in their behavior and legality, which is why dog owners should properly research and choose reputable breeders who are conscious of breed-specific laws to help them maintain ownership. 

Breed-specific legislation in certain cities, for example, can affect your dog ownership, but generally, no breed-specific legislation bans pit bulls in an entire state. Even though the dog’s genetics determine part of its character and behavior, in the end, how it is raised and cared for will determine if it’s a dangerous dog or not, regardless of breed. 

Responsible Breeding and Socialization Play a Crucial Role in a Dog’s Behavior 

Those who wish to become pit bull owners and are afraid of the dogs’ bad rap should consider that these dogs have scored better on temperament tests than most other breeds such as Akita, American Staffordshire terriers, Australian Shepherd, German shepherds, Golden retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers, and many dog breeds often considered safe. 

The American pit bull terrier scored an 87.6% score on the temperament test, while the American Staffordshire terriers scored 85.7, and American Bulldogs scored 87.3%. Various breeds were tested, highlighting that small dogs are often more temperamental and aggressive than most dogs of medium or large size.

Are Pitbulls Dangerous? Debunking Myths and Misconceptions

There are many misconceptions about pitbulls being inherently aggressive and dangerous dogs. Make no mistake, individual dogs can be more dangerous than other pets if they know only bad owners and have faced abuse. Pit bulls are among the most abused dogs as they are raised for illegal dog fights. In actuality, the most dangerous dogs are labeled as “unknown breed” in statistics. 

Some statistics showcase that rottweilers contributed to 39 fatal dog attacks, while pit bulls contributed, or at least pit bull-type dogs contributed to 66. These types of statistics aren’t necessarily reliable because of several reasons. According to Petpedia, the issues are the following:

  • About 75% of pit bull breed labels in animal shelters are wrong, leading to misidentification. Visual identification, especially for this type of dog breed, is very hard, even for veterinarians, leading to unreliable reports.
  • Pit bull-type dogs only have 43.5% DNA of the pit bull-type ancestry. Since identifying the right dog breed for attacks is difficult, the CDC stopped collecting breed-specific data, making it even harder to determine myths from facts in pit bull-related attacks.
  • Pit bulls once accounted for 33 dog bite-related deaths in 2018, while between 1965 and 1975, only one dog attack was attributed to pit bull-type dogs. This might showcase that dog abuse, rather than breed, contributes to attacks.
  • For over a hundred years, pit bulls were nanny dogs, serving as babysitters, which debunks their dangerous nature and attributes it more to socialization and training aspects.

Pitbull Bite Power

A common myth surrounding pit bulls is that they have the most powerful dog bites. If we look at other dogs, various breeds have a more powerful biting force:

  • The Kangal has the strongest dog bite, at 734 psi (pound per square inch), which is several times stronger than that of other dogs and more than the equivalent bite force of three pit bulls.
  • A Mastiff has a biting force of 552 psi.
  • A Rottweiler has a biting force of 328 psi. 
  • The German shepherd is also stronger than pit bulls at 238 psi. Pit bulls have a bite force of 235.

Understanding Dog Bite Laws in Different States Applicable to Pitbull Owners

Since pit bulls face discrimination, various laws apply to their ownership than other dogs. For example, a pit bull owner might face rising insurance rates as some states dictate higher liability for incidents. 

In other cases, special dog leash laws might apply to them, such as registering the pit bull or other breed-specific regulations. Here are some pitbulls and dog bite laws in different states and other pitbull ownership laws that might apply to your situation:

  • California

In California, any individual dog owner, regardless of breed, is responsible for a dog attack regardless of the dog’s prior behavior. Although pit bulls aren’t discriminated against in this state from this point of view, there are still applicable dangerous dog laws that aim to prevent aggressive behavior.

  • Florida

The state of Florida also follows a strict liability system regarding dog bites. A dog owner will be held liable for the dog attack, even if it’s the first instance of aggression. You can own a pit bull in Florida, even in Miami, which had a ban against pit bulls for over 34 years. However, dogs engaged in attacks under the Pam Rock Act might be put down.

  • Georgia

Georgia follows a modified one-bite rule. Dogs that attack a person for the first time might not get their owners in trouble if they didn’t have prior knowledge of their aggressive behavior. Dogs must be leashed and kept under control. In a dog park, unleashed dogs enjoy certain liberties, but certain municipalities in Georgia, such as Marrieta, ban pit bulls from dog parks or other off-leash areas. Consult with a dog bite lawyer to learn more about if you have been the victim of a dog attack.

  • Kentucky 

Kentucky is also a strict liability state regarding dog bites. Victims who are attacked by any dog in a public space or where they have a legal right to be and conduct themselves peacefully can sue the dog owner for the attack. Pit bulls are labeled as a vicious dog breed in 36 counties and are banned or subjected to various pit bull laws. 

If you have a pitbull in Kentucky, you must register it and confine it properly while posting warning signs or using a leash or muzzle. Other dogs, such as wolf-hybrids, are also subjected to these laws. Pit bull owners must also carry $100,000 liability insurance, microchip the dog, and show proof of rabies vaccination. 

  • Illinois

Under dog bite statute 510 ILCS 5/13, dog owners are strictly liable for dog attacks in Illinois regardless of their prior knowledge of their dog’s biting tendencies. The dog owner may not be liable if the victim provoked the dog or trespassed. Pit bull dogs are subjected to local ordinances rather than state laws in Illinois.

  • Mississippi

Mississippi follows the one-bite rule, which means that dogs cannot get their owners into trouble for their first aggressive tendencies. Yet, dog owners who do not restrain their dogs can be held liable if victims prove negligence on their part in failing to control the animal. About 29 cities in this state have some sort of legislation or ban on pit bulls that owners should be aware of. In fact, eleven counties in Mississippi ban pit bulls.

  • New York

In New York, if a dog owner is not aware of their dog’s aggressive tendencies, they can escape liability. However, if the dog’s prior history points out aggressive behavior or previous attacks, the owner will be held liable. Some cities ban or declare pit bulls dangerous or vicious. For example, pit bulls and American bulldogs are banned in the Town of LaGrange, even in off-leash dog parks. The New York City Housing Authority also states that pit bulls aren’t allowed in households unless they were registered before January 31, 2010. 

  • North Carolina 

In North Carolina, dog bite victims can sue a dog owner for an attack if the victim can prove willful misconduct or negligence. In addition, dogs that attack a person, regardless of their vaccination documentation, must be quarantined for ten days to observe signs of rabies. 

There were attempts to ban pit bulls, but overall, pit bulls are treated the same as other dogs throughout the state.

  • Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, dog bite victims do not need to prove negligence to sue a dog owner, as the state follows a system of strict liability. Dog owners must have a rabies license. Pit bulls are banned in 35 cities or subjected to various restrictions, declared vicious or dangerous, and subjected to other breed-specific legislations. If you were the victim of a dog bite and need legal representation or need more information about dog attacks, laws, or general information about dog ownership, visit Dogbitelaws

Preventing Pit Bull Dog Attacks Through Responsible Ownership

Pit bull dogs deserve all the care and love of other dog species, and understanding pit bull behavior can prevent potentially dangerous situations. These dogs are loyal, loving, and protective, and responsible owners could contribute to preventing pit bull dog attacks through responsible ownership.

This means owners must properly train them, preferably from a young age, between 8 to 12 weeks. They must socialize the pit bulls by carefully introducing them to other adult dogs and taking them on leash trips. 

Finding Reputable Breeders or Adopting from Shelters Responsibly

When you purchase a pit bull from a breeder or take them from a shelter, you should take your time to learn more about the dog’s history. A responsible breeder should have positively contributed to the dog’s upbringing, influencing their temper and overall health. 

The Importance of Regular Veterinary Care and Vaccinations for Pitbulls

Good health plays a crucial role in a dog’s behavior, and responsible owners should regularly appoint their pit bulls for veterinary visits. This way, you will receive personalized advice about the dog’s diet, health status, behavior, and more.

Regular vaccinations also help combat bacterial and viral infections, which pit bulls are susceptible to, including rabies and parvo. Some states also make it an obligation for pitbull owners to regularly vaccinate them and prevent the spread of rabies to humans, especially in the event of a dog attack. Although pit bulls have suffered due to discrimination, through responsible pitbull ownership, you can help change that perception or be involved in dog bite attack claims.

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