Ultimate Guide to Understanding Dangerous Pit Bulls
If you are struggling with medical bills from reconstructive surgery after a dog attack, are an insurance adjuster, defense attorney, plaintiff’s lawyer, or researcher, do not ignore this article.
I am California dog bite attorney Michael Ehline. I am recognized by many courts and the general public as a USA dog bite law expert. At the outset, the word Pit Bull describes various fighting dogs and other dogs with locking jaws, often cropped ears, and a cropped tail.
The term “Pit Bull type dogs” has become a vague and ambiguous term, not readily capable of being determined in some cases, but generally understood as large animals initially bred to have strong jaws and aggressive tendencies. Its primary ancestor is the Old English Bulldog, mixed with the agile, feisty, Black, and Tan Terrier. Humans originally bred Pits for their ability to fight bulls (bullbaiting) and bears, hence Bull-Terrier and its many iterations throughout U.K. and U.S. society.
But Pit Bulls Aren’t a Recognized Breed?
No, they are not, at least not generically. Generally, people think that Pit Bulls are specific breeds.
But the phrase “Pit Bull” represents umbrella terms that describe various dogs. People often reference these agile, powerful animals as “bullies.” Most of the general public and Pit Bull owners think of a Pit Bull as any canine with a square jaw and stout, muscular build, but only the American Pit Bull Terrier is officially a “Pit Bull” (a dog bred to fight other dogs.) Pictured above is the alleged deadly dog species breed called the American Pit Bull Terrier.
Some people might call a dog that looks like a “Pit Bull Terrier” a “dog breed,” even though it may be from a class of other dog breeds like herding animals. A Pit Bull’s jaws tend to be stronger than other animals like Dobermans. By comparison, German Shepherds and mixed breeds used as family pets or for supervision of livestock, sheep, and goats are another common domesticated dog with a far less notorious reputation for unfettered violence.
Are Pits Fighting Dog Breeds?
Pits are in the class of dogs called “fighting breeds.” Many fighting breeds are considered serious threats by police and insurance companies.
Several municipalities prohibit fighting dog species, including:
- American Bulldogs
- Argentinico (Argentinian dog)
- Cane Corso
- Dogi Argento
- Fila Brasileiro
- Presa Canario.
Neither of these above species is Pit Bulls. But many have descendants whose origins are similar to Pit Bulls. Several countries have regulations for such breeds, not just the U.S. and places like California.
Pit Bulls Used to Be Considered Celebrity and Family Pets
In the past, Pit Bulls were considered kind and beloved family dogs. Pit bull types of dogs were beloved and owned by many famous historical figures and celebrities, including Helen Keller and president Teddy Roosevelt.
Many Pit Bulls were used in famous 20th-century advertising campaigns and motion pictures, as well as in renowned T.V. shows and movies as pets. So their history did not start as “Snoop Dogg” gangster dogs so many modern celebrities lionize. In other words, these dogs were not always thought of as violent killers.
Advocacy groups who make money pushing for new laws have stated Pit Bulls kill more humans than other ‘breeds,’ with Rottweilers coming in second place for causing the most severe injuries. These findings are based on an advocacy group’s interpretation of dog bite statistics provided by the U.S. Centers For Disease Control (CDC), an organization dedicated to tracking rabies and not identifying dangerous breeds. So let’s get into the meat.
Our Expertise, Authority, and Trust As Dog Bite Lawyers in L.A. County
Ehline Law dog bite lawyers have recovered millions of dollars for hundreds of dog bite attack victims in over 15 years. Our lead counsel is an award-winning dog bite lawyer. Below I will discuss the arguments for and against Pit Bulls being an inherently dangerous animal through the lens of a trial lawyer and believer in logic.
In the end, I will offer you tips on how to prevent attacks on dogs and owners and provide some free advice about protecting your rights to maximum compensation after a bad dog attack.
Using Logic As a Basis of Understanding Pits, Other Dogs, and Other Terriers
Remember that Rottweilers are not fighting dog breeds; they were used as drover dogs and for herding livestock. However, many say they can have aggressive behavior as well. Poodles have a history of injuring people as well, including tiny children.
But appearances and popular culture have instilled a public fear of particular breeds of dogs and fear of fatal attacks just due to the negative perceptions of public safety emergencies.
Majority of Reported Animal v Animal Attacks Are Pits.
Statistics indicate that Pits are responsible for killing most of the children attacked by a dog. Because of this, Pit Bulls are commonly called the No. 1 canine killers of domesticated pets and animals.
Statistics show that a Pit Bulls breed killed more than 75% of animals killed by a dog in 2017.
- 13,000 dogs
- 5,000 cats
- Twenty thousand horses and other farm animals. (See also Merritt Clifton, ‘Pit Bull Roulette’ killed 38,000 other animals in 2017.)
These numbers mean Pits are responsible for killing 90% of other animals killed, including:
- Farm animals.
In 2019, Pit Bulls made up:
- 91% of other dogs killed
- 76% of all fatal attacks against cats
- 82% of fatal attacks against poultry and hoofed species like horses. (Source Clifton, Merritt, Record Pit Bull Attacks on Other Animals in 2019.).
Most Airlines Won’t allow Pits.
It should not be a shock that most U.S. residents dislike or fear these animals as a danger to toddlers and other kids, including grown-ups. Many people think you should not have the right to own these dogs. (Source, YouGov.us, Poll Results: Pit Bulls, July 24, 2014.)
The dogs on this no-fly list would include an American Pitbull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and probably similar-looking mixed breed dogs.
Pro Pit Bull Advocate Position
Pit Bulls often called “Pits” or “Pit Bull Terriers,” are partly a product of their breeding and their master and experiences. Some of the “experts” at Pit Bull Rescue Central, a non-profit involved in dog rescue, and others counter that dangerous dog breeds are only dangerous dogs because of the poor training provided by the owner, and that is where the focus should be pro Pit Bull and look at owner responsibility as the core problem.
This type of advocacy gets dogs out of danger, helps others adopt them, and gives them a good home where there won’t be any dog fighting, bull baiting, or other violent training exceeding that of essential guard dogs.
Specific Breed Euthanasia and or Sterilization View to Pit Bull Problem
However, the other side has varying levels of dealing with this alleged breed-specific problem.
At one end of the spectrum, some believe these are inherently dangerous dog breeds that should be put out to pasture. Other more mainstream organizations like PETA want the dogs sterilized or even bred out of existence by dog owners or the state.
They say this is the best way to eliminate or significantly reduce fatal and disfiguring attacks on kids, elders, and other innocent victims.
Understanding the Risk of Pit Bull Attacks
Pit Bulls are commonly derided as an especially dangerous breed. Forbes Magazine analyzed data from various dog attacks. They found that between 2005 and 2017, Pit Bulls were responsible for the most deaths of people of any breed. In the stats, Forbes found 284 fatalities during the period. This was triple the number of the next highest death count by breed.
Why Do Some Experts Say Some Breeds Are More Aggressive and Likely to Attack?
Internet sites Dogs may be socialized in homes as kind and loving, but there’s also an aspect of the house that remains wild. Often dogs have become more aggressive as they were raised viciously for centuries. Some were rescued from situations where the animals were socially abused to act violently, like fights.
Not all house situations are suitable for pets, either. Studies showed that an abused dog was developed from people who exhibit psychopathy, which became dangerous to dogs and impacted their lives, hurting their health.
Statistics Say Pit Bulls Are Responsible for the Majority of Fatal Attacks?
While most Pit Bull breeds live their entire lives without attacking a person, there are serious safety concerns over them with cities, insurance companies, and dog bite lawyers. One side argues they display aggressive behavior; the other side says they blame the owner. Even the statistics and arguments can be twisted to mean anything, and they usually are not accurate to stand for the arguments they portend to support.
Pit Bulls Most Shot Dog Breeds?
Yes. At least one two-year-long study indicates many examples of police officers shooting dangerous pit bulls. (Source, dogsbite.org.) Another 11-year study from 2008 published by the New York City Police Department showed Pit Bulls comprised approximately 72% of dog shootings, closely followed by Rottweilers making up 10% of dog shootings.
Common Sense Side of The Argument Over Pit Bull-Type Dogs
The more of the same dog breeds owned by the masses, the more specifically bred dogs will be involved in dog bite fatalities (Pit Bull bites and those of other pets like wolf hybrids can kill just as quickly as a tiny Chihuahua if popular enough.)
Compare this to a car model. If more people own a Honda Accord than a Ferrari F-40, there will be more Accords in car accidents as a matter of pure numbers. The fact is, Pit Bulls are one of the most popular dog breeds in California.
Keep in mind that the anti-Pit Bull lobby has its figures. Time Magazine researched the topic and found that Pit Pulls comprise 6% of all pets yet are responsible for causing 68% of all dog attacks and 52% of all dog-related fatalities since 1982.
So take what I am covering below with a grain of salt and use your abilities of superior reason and deduction to see through both sides. Statistically speaking, more people who own Honda Accords will end up in prison than those who own a Ferrari.
And the anti Pit Bull side claims that certain published, peer-reviewed studies in authoritative psychology and forensic science journals establish that pit bulls are more likely than not to be social deviants and even more likely to commit atrocities and crimes involving children.
Journal of Forensic Sciences Study
In 2009, the Journal of Forensic Sciences found that:
“Vicious dog owners reported significantly more criminal behaviors than other dog owners,” They were ranked “higher in sensation seeking and primary psychopathy.”
A 2011 Journal of Forensic Sciences study asserts that:
“…vicious dog owners reported significantly higher criminal thinking, entitlement, sentimentality, and super-optimism tendencies. Vicious dog owners were arrested, engaged in physical fights, and used marijuana significantly more than other dog owners.” (Source.)
Bad People Tend to Own Dangerous Dogs?
Behaviorists agree that gang bangers and people in poor neighborhoods are more likely to own intimidating Pit Bulls, so there is more truth than not to this line of thinking. We know inner-city crime involves trained underground dogfighting for money, which is pure animal cruelty.
This fact may also be a reason there is more breed-specific legislation in poorer areas of Los Angeles to help prevent such biting incidents with a higher prevalence of serious injuries or death.
These experts assert that Pit Bulls owners by population will also engage in alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and violence against others. (Source, Jaclyn E. Barnes, Barbara W. Boat, Frank W. Putnam, Harold F. Dates, and Andrew R. Mahlman, Ownership of High-Risk (“Vicious”) Dogs As a Marker for Deviant Behaviors, J. Interpersonal Violence, Volume 21 Number 12.
Furthermore, the potential danger of Pit Bulls is so significant that some cities have even created schemes to ban ownership of these stout dogs. While many Pit Bulls are not dangerous, mistreated, or poorly cared for, animals could attack without proper training.
Pit bulls are especially dangerous around children, with many experts saying they should never be considered when selecting pet dogs. While each dog is different, statistics show a cause for concern among certain breeds.
Colleen Lynn Argument
Lynn is president of DogsBite.org, a national dog-bite-victims group committed to reducing dog attacks. I, for one, found much common sense with Lynn’s arguments in contravention of those made by Pit Bull Rescue Center. Lynn says no matter how good, or bad the owner is, humans bred the dog to be a killer, and that’s in their DNA. Her idea is that some dog breeds are for hunting, others for attacking (“Doberman Pinschers”), and so on.
Lynn quipped: “Why do herding dogs herd? Why do pointing dogs point? They don’t learn that behavior. That’s selective behavior.” “Pit bulls were specifically bred to go into that pit with incredible aggression and fight,” and “Every kind of dog is neglected and abused.” She said that not every dog reacts to the abuse in the violent, deadly way a Pit Bull might.
In summary, she is arguing that although no two dogs are alike, a wolf is going to be more dangerous than a sled dog, etc. Many breeds will have a reputation for having a delicate nature, and others won’t, with differing shades of threat. Dogs in a pack will be more dangerous and threatening, especially when a female nearby is in heat.
Other Arguments In Favor of Pit Bulls Being An Inherently Dangerous Dog Breed
A 15-year study was published in 2009 by the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology.
That study indicates that Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds made up the majority of deadly dog attacks in Kentucky styled:
“See What Your Dog’s Breed Says About You.” There was also a study published in 2011 by the Annals of Surgery.
That publication showed that:
“attacks by Pit Bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of deaths.”
Pit Bull Attacks In the News
- In 2022, Marina Verriest was dead by her husband after work, only to discover their pet Pit Bull was devouring his wife. (Source.)
- In a 2017 news story, 22-year-old Bethany Stephens of Goochland County, VA, was found dead by cops, with her two pit bull pets eating her rib cage.
- In 2013 detailing police in Nassau County, New York, two pit bulls attacked a teenage boy and three women for over 30 minutes. (Source, CBS New York.)
Notorious Texas Pit Bull Attack
Back in July 2019, police found bits of a man’s bones and clothes in the excrement of 15 Pit Bulls he owned. (Source Fox4News.com.)
Other Notorious and Related Case
With all that, we hear news of other breeds being just as deadly. A Presa Canario breed savagely killed Diane Whipple in 2001 after mauling her. Her story was broadcast worldwide.
More Than Half of Pit Bulls Are Up For Adoption?
Yes. More than 50% of U.S.-owned Pit Bulls are listed for sale or adoption by their owners at any given time. (Source, Merritt Clifton, Breed Survey 2019 and Merritt Clifton, “Rescued” pit bulls now outnumber pit puppies.)
Are Pit Bulls Considered Unpredictable?
As noted above, many T.V. and print news stories about deadly Pit Bulls exist. Reports suggest that these dogs are highly violent, leaping or jumping from the floor at people without any warnings.
Why Are Pit Bull Dogs Considered So Dangerous?
Due to their sheer power and size alone, Pit Bulls can lead to severe health risks. These animals can hold their targets, including other dogs, down, refusing to release, even when commanded.
Furthermore, many sources indicate that Pit Bulls are more likely to attack humans and other dogs. Again, the scientific journal Annals of Surgery asserts that two people are injured daily in U.S. Pit Bull attacks.
Allegedly, a fatal Pit attack takes place once every two weeks. The journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found the same thing. A five-year survey of a children’s hospital in Philadelphia found that Pit Bulls caused at least 51% of all dog bite injuries.
In over half of cases involving infants and pre-schoolers, the dog bit them in the face. Hundreds of American court cases indicate that Pit Bulls are deadly weapons. Pit Bulls have been banned in dozens of cities and counties across the country.
LiveScience found that pit bull owners are often responsible for higher insurance premiums or even insurance mandates, depending on locality. So while some call it a myth and say the Pit is no more dangerous than others, safety advocates have plenty of material to point to supporting their efforts to have these canines spayed and neutered.
Techniques for Stopping a Dangerous Dog
We have included some tips here dealing with thwarting dog attacks. But to make it easier, here are some general suggestions for dog owners and potential dog bite victims.
- Dog owners should muzzle their dog out in public, especially when small children nearby.
- People out walking, jogging, or bicycling should carry pepper spray and know how to use this substance safely.
- If you have a CCW, carry it and be ready to put down an attacking dog.
What Happens If a Pit Bull Bites Me in California?
- Call the police. In an emergency, law enforcement, including Animal Control, police are entitled to kill Pit Bulls to protect themselves and others from fatal dog attacks.
- Hire a dog bite lawyer to sue the at-fault dog owner or controller
- Support organizations like DogsBite.Org to push for more regulations to stop fatal dog attacks.
Caveat: Even a chained Labrador Retriever can be aggressive toward people, even though not considered a dangerous dog breed. However, unchained or not, Pit Bulls were bred to bait bulls and even bears, and they behaved that way. Breeders know their puppies and grown dogs can potentially harm you, yet so can some other breeds like a Rottweiler or when a smaller dog bites.
Summary: After a systematic review, we have found that the American Pit Bull Terrier is the only natural Pit Bull breed. Socialization is vital in keeping these dogs safer, but not guaranteed to make them safe or prevent deaths. However, the American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier are often confused by the public as pit bulls.
Even though there is no way to declare some dogs a Pit Bull breed positively or not, they frequently display specific characteristics, including inherent aggressive tendencies.
Dog shelters have had an abundance of Pits for sale or adoption in recent years. All dogs can be dangerous. You must exercise due diligence and become politically active to make changes to reduce deadly attacks.
How Can I Schedule a Free Consultation With a Pit Bull Bite Attorney in Los Angeles?
Are you suffering confusion or difficulty evaluating all this information about dangerous dog breeds and Pit Bulls? Did a Pit Bull breed attack you or a close loved relative? Did someone pass away? Would you like to talk to a highly experienced dog-bite lawyer about your case?
Ehline Law Firm’s dedicated, compassionate staff have decades of experience. Our top team is available 24/7 at (213) 596-9642 to take your call and discuss your critical case. We can help you seek and acquire an award of monetary compensation for wrongful death, bite, and dog attacks. We can also be reached using our convenient online contact us form here.
- Dog Bite Prevention for Law Enforcement and Other First Responders, by Randall Lockwood, Ph.D., Tawzer Dog Videos, 2004 (tawzerdog.com)
- The Care of Pit Bulls in the Shelter Environment, by Leslie D. Appel DVM, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 2005 (sheltermedicine.com)