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The pit bull debate: Are they dangerous dogs or perfect pets?

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Our affiliate WGME set out to answer one of the most highly debated topics among dog lovers: Are some dogs like pit bulls more dangerous than others and more likely to viciously attack?

READ: The top 6 misconceptions about pit bulls

Jeff Borchardt's 14-month old son Dax was attacked and killed by two pit bulls in Wisconsin. He says pit bulls have earned the dangerous dog label.

His son was attacked by his babysitter’s two pit bulls. Borchardt told The Patriot News that even though the babysitter had raised the dogs as puppies and said they never showed signs of aggression, they had agreed not to let the dogs around Daxton just as a precaution.

But on March 6, 2013 the babysitter was holding Daxton in her arms when she let the dogs out to pee. When she called them back inside, they attacked without warning.

“First, the pit bulls went after the babysitter, who fell on top of Daxton and stayed there to try to protect him from the relentless mauling that ensued, Borchardt said. But it didn't take long before the dogs dragged her off of Daxton, and no matter how hard she tried to stop the pit bulls, even attempting to gouge their eyes out, there was nothing she could do, he said.”
The Patriot News

According to the the report the attack lasted at least 15 minutes. Daxton’s skull was crushed, his eyeball was hanging from it’s socket and his spine was broken.

"His whole body was mangled. It looked like a hand grenade went off underneath him," he said.

He was pronounced dead at Milwaukee Hospital.

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"These dogs never showed any signs of aggression before. They were great dogs up until the day they weren't," he said. "There's too many cases of these dogs snapping like this. I would say they're inherently dangerous," he said.

<h2>Pit bull attacks inflict more injury than other breeds.</h2>

A 20-year study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found about a third of deadly dog bites came from pit bull-type dogs.

The CDC concluded "fatal attacks on humans appear to be a breed specific problem."

The CDC also said because no one's counting the number of dogs of each breed there's "no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill."

Several factors affect a dog's likelihood to bite, according to the CDC, including heredity, early experience, socialization and training, quality of ownership, and victim behavior.

"Any dog can bite -- bottom line," said pediatric plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Golinko.

But Dr. Golinko says bites and attacks by pit bulls are different. "They inflict more injury," he said.

He studied more than 1,6000 dog bite injuries. His new study made available to WGME's investigative team found "pit bulls were implicated in half of all surgeries performed" and pit bulls are "2.5 times as likely to bite in multiple anatomic locations as compared to other breeds."

"In other words if you have a chihuahua or a labrador they would just bite in one location and then let go on the leg for example, but a pit bull would bite the leg, head and neck, hand," Golinko explained.

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He says with rare exceptions, children and pit bulls don't mix well.

"I would definitely think twice about bringing a strong muscular pit bull type dog into the family. There's a lot of other breeds you could have," Golinko said.

<h2>This is where pit bull advocates and opponents butt heads.</h2>

"They're sweet and gentle; they're no different than any other dog. It's a lot about training humans not as much sometimes about the dog," said Finish Forward Dogs trainer Jon McCabe.

McCabe and owner Shannan Hall say pit bulls are tenacious and determined but are no more likely to be aggressive than any other dog.

"I think they're great family dogs. I've had great success with all of them. I would never choose a different breed," McCabe said.

Chelsea Braley, founder of Maine Pit Bull Advocates, says her pit bull Colby is just like any other dog. He performs for treats, plays in the park, and he's her best friend.

She fiercely defends him and dogs like him: pit bulls. It's a term broadly used to describe multiple breeds including the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

"They all have this label as a dangerous dog. He's just a dog. It doesn't matter what you call him," Braley said.

36 states and more than 1,000 cities have breed specific legislation. Some require mandatory sterilization of pit bulls others ban them altogether.

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