SPOKANE, Wash. – They have been called dangerous dogs and some cities have even banned them.
But are pit bulls more dangerous than other breeds? It has been a passionate debate among people for a long time. Every time a story surfaces about a pit bull attack we hear people who say, “Don’t blame the breed, blame the dog owner.”
The Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Service said 130 dog bites have been reported since January 1, that is almost a dog bite a day in 2017. Unfortunately, the bites are not tracked by breed, so there is no way to know how many of those bites came from pit bulls. So why do pit bulls get a bad rap?
“Basically any dog can bite, yes the pit bull or other bully or powerful breeds have far more potential to do harm and they are popular, so the numbers may be skewed slightly by that,” said SCRAPS Director Nancy Hill.
One common belief about pit bulls is they have a different kind of bite. Some even think they have a locking jaw.
“I think that's a myth, I mean pit bulls any of the bully breeds, Rottweiler you know, any big dog is going to have a hard bite,” said Hill.
Experts said the pit bull has a bigger mouth and, therefore a bigger bite. But bottom line they say, all aggressive dogs bite and hold. A widely-cited research study called "Breed differences in canine aggression" surveyed dog owners about aggressive behaviors. The study ranked the breeds in several categories. For aggression against other dogs, pit bulls score high but they are not the highest. The breed measures about the same as a Chihuahua but below the Akita.
For aggression toward people, pit bulls are in the middle of the pack behind Chihuahuas. Chihuahuas are a lot smaller though, so while their bites can do some damage, people still worry more about pit bulls. SCRAPS wants to educate people on what to do if they encounter a dog they do not know.
“The best thing you can do is to hold still, face the animal, don't look it directly in the eye, maybe look at it off to the side a little bit, talk quietly to it, and as the dog calms down slowly back away to a point of safety,” said Hill.
SCRAPS said kids are the most likely to get bit by a dog. For kids, they teach a barrier defense. They tell kids to hold up their backpack or jacket so there is something between them and the dog. They also advise kids not to scream or run.
“Be boring and the dog will probably leave you alone,” Hill explained.
So, what did we learn?
• Pit bulls are about average when it comes to aggressive behavior towards people.
• They are high on the list of aggression toward other dogs -- but not the highest.
• And even though a pit bull is strong enough to do a lot of damage when it does bite -- it does not bite differently than any other dog.
- Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Service Director Nancy Hill