|Examiner.com Interview - 01/14/2011
-Note from the Interviewer-
I conducted this interview to get facts about pit bull aggression,
because a lawyer by the name of Cynthia Stevens Kent is lobbying
to find someone in congress to sponsor her bill. The proposed bill,
"Justin's Law", if sponsored and passed will ban pit bulls, making it a
class "C" felony to own one in Texas. Before I tackled the
ramifications such a bill would have on civil liberty, I wanted to get
the facts. Here is the first interview. I will do one more with someone
in support of the bill and then an article outlining what I learned.
Do you mind briefly outlining your experience with pit bulls
and other "dangerous" breeds?
I am a certified dog trainer through the Certification Council of
Professional Dog Trainers. I have worked with all breeds as a hobby
trainer since 1984 and as a professional trainer since the mid-90's.
My speciality in the field is aggression. In 1997 I founded The Real
Pit Bull, Inc a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that educates on the
American Pit Bull Terrier, ethical and responsible guardianship of
dogs and serves as an advocate for the Pit Bull breed. I am the
current Executive Director of this organization.
What do you think is the cause of seemingly random dog attacks on
humans by pit bulls?
Dog attacks are never random, and all breeds bite/attack. As a
trainer, I have seen a wide variety of breeds and mixes with varying
forms of aggression that baffle their caretakers. Some dogs may
seem "normal" the majority of the time, but will "randomly" aggress.
Please note that I say "dogs" and not "Pit Bulls" because the
behavior you see reported in the news media is by no means Pit
Bull-specific. It is dog-specific behavior.
There are many reasons for aggressive behavior in dogs, not the
least of which can be health-related issues (thyroid problems and
seizures, for instance, the latter of which can cause very bizarre,
seemingly-random and severe aggressive outbursts). Typically,
aggression is fear and defense-based behavior that has been
learned through contact with the environment. Dogs that have not
had the proper early socialization and training will end up with all
sorts of behavioral issues, very commonly aggression.
When a human, either through neglect or innocent lack of
education, sets a dog up to fail by not teaching a dog the skills it
needs to survive in a stressful human environment and placing a
dog in situations it cannot psychologically navigate successfully, or
when a human does not properly contain or monitor a dog, the
outcome is often aggression and tragic injuries to humans.
I have never come across a case of an aggressive dog that attacked
"out of no where". Even when the caretaker insists the dog has
"always been fine", after spending time interviewing the parties
involved, a pattern always emerges: signs were there, they simply
Why do pit bulls constitute the majority of fatal dog attacks
and mauling cases?
It should be noted that Centers for Disease Control no longer
monitor breeds involved in attacks (they ceased doing so in the
1990s). They found this method of statistical record keeping to be
unsuccessful and insignificant. Various polls and statistics from
other sources are only as good as the data collection methodology.
I would ignore any "breed bite statistics" unless there has been a
sound, scientific collection of said statistics that involved proof of
breed for dogs labeled as "pit bulls" (and there are none that exist to
my knowledge). In regards to breed bite statistics, the term "pit bull"
does not refer to any breed, but refers to dogs that simply look a
certain way. How anyone could consider such so-called "breed
statistics" relevant when they do not even refer to a specific breed is
a mystery to me.
Are there any misconceptions that could skew those
Breed bite statistics are based on human eyewitness. Humans are
notoriously bad at identifying dog breeds. My blue brindle,
long-tailed American Staffordshire Terrier (which would be
considered a "Pit Bull") is consistently identified as a Boxer by the
general public. Boxers do not come in blue brindle, and they are a
docked breed (they do not have tails). My dog is still often confused
with a breed that looks nothing like it. Purebred Pit Bulls come in a
wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Purebred versions of these
dogs are difficult to identify if you are not familiar with the breed.
Additionally, many, many Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes come from
sources such as shelters or rescues where there is no proof of
breed, registration, or lineage - in other words, it cannot be proven
what breed the dog is even if it has been labeled a "Pit Bull". Add to
this that there are many breeds that look very similar to Pit Bulls and
a wide variety of mixed breed dogs of completely unknown ancestry
that may or may not have any relation to Pit Bulls, and you can see
why breed statistics based on nothing but eyewitness testimony are
silly and unscientific.
What can we do as a society or as dog owners to prevent
Education about what it means to be a responsible dog guardian is
essential. Dogs need socialization, training, and to be properly
contained. Enforcement of containment and leash laws would be a
huge step in increasing public safety. In many areas, leash and
containment laws are not enforced. Loose dogs are a public safety
concern, regardless of breed. When leash and containment laws
are not even enforced, how is it the logical next step to ban a
"breed"? Why should innocent, responsible dog guardians suffer
when it is the few who refuse to adhere to the simplest of laws who
cause the problems?