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Maryland Declares Pit Bulls "Inherently Dangerous": Here's Why That's Stupid

By cecilyk |

My pit bull mix Cannie Belle with my daughter

So a Maryland court of appeals has declared that pit bulls are inherently dangerous. You can find the full decision here, but the key element is this:

“When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.”

Here’s the problem: there isn’t actually a single breed of dog called pit bulls. There are Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, Pit Bull Terriers, and many other breeds that often get generally grouped under the “pit bull” moniker. The weight ranges for dogs called “pit bulls” is from 40 to 150 pounds – far exceeding any normal weight range for a breed standard. It’s also interesting to note that before 1990, almost no one had ever heard of “pit bulls.”

So what’s happened is that any dog with a wide, flat skull can be declared a pit bull or pit bull mix,  and when a bite attack happens with that breed moniker the dog is vilified in the press which of course likely contributed to the courts decision. Therefore, this Maryland law potentially affects all dog owners, because anyone can claim a dog is part pit bull – and suddenly the legal situation changes from that with any other dog breed. Also? The owners of dogs that AREN’T pit bull type dogs that cause injury and damage will not be held to the same liability standard.

According to the statistics kept by the American Humane Association, there IS actually a specific kind of dog to blame for about 95% of all dog bites – and it has NOTHING to do with breed.

It’s an unneutered male dog.

Yes, unfixed male dogs are responsible for nearly ALL the dog bites that occur in the US. Sadly, no one has stepped forward to require that all male dogs be neutered. Mores the pity.

The common wisdom about pit bull type breeds is that they are responsible for a third of all bites comes from an oft-sited study done in 2000 by the CDC. However, even in that report you can find the following quote cautioning using their data for breed specific legislation (emphasis is mine):

Although fatal attacks on humans appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite and cause fatalities at higher rates. Because of difficulties inherent in determining a dog’s breed with certainty, enforcement of breed-specific ordinances raises constitutional and practical issues. Fatal attacks representa small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and, therefore, should not be the primary factor driving public policy concerning dangerous dogs. Many practical alternatives to breed-specific ordinances exist and hold promise for prevention of dog bites.

The Humane Society of the United States – which is utterly opposed to breed-specific legislation of any kind – has issued a statement that says:

The Humane Society of the United States will work with Maryland dog advocates and members of the legislature to develop rational, science-based dangerous dog policies for the state after the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a decision fundamentally changing longstanding liability rules relating to pit bull and mixed pit bull dogs.

Personally, as both the owner of “pit bulls” and a former veterinary technician, I’ll say this: my dogs have been amazing, even with my daughter, even though both have come to me as adults with a clear history of some sort of abuse (and, of course, none of my dogs have ever been left alone with my daughter because that is a bad idea all around). In eight years of working as a veterinarian in downtown Philadelphia, I saw hundreds of pit bull type dogs come through our offices. Even the ones that were being clearly groomed for ill (sadly, I did see those at one practice) showed zero human agression, even when that human was armed with a needle. I was, however, threatened by cocker spaniels, pomeranians, poodles, yellow labs, and even a Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

The most damage, though, done to the staff of most vet hospitals? Caused by cats.

I pray for a time when cooler heads will prevail when it comes to dogs called pit bulls. After all, just because your dog isn’t a pit mix of some kind doesn’t mean your baby is safe alone with it. What we need is better education about responsible pet ownership, laws about breeding and neutering, and just being SMARTER.

Because it really isn’t about pit bulls. It’s about idiots.

This post was mildly edited from its initial version in response to valid points brought up in comments.

…..

writes here and at MomCrunch as well as at her own blog, Uppercase Woman. She spent eight years in her youth working as a surgical veterinary technician.

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About cecilyk

cecilyk

cecilyk

Cecily Kellogg writes all over the web, including here at Babble for Voices and Tech. She neglects her own blog, Uppercase Woman. Read bio and latest posts → Read Cecily's latest posts →

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3 thoughts on “Maryland Declares Pit Bulls "Inherently Dangerous": Here's Why That's Stupid

  1. Backpacking Dad says:

    “So what’s happened is that any dog with a wide, flat skull has been declared a pit bull and is vilified in the press. Therefore, this Maryland law affects all dog owners, because anyone can declare a dog a pit bull…”

    This doesn’t seem to follow. A wide range of dogs that can be, are, or should be classified as pit bulls doesn’t imply that any dog can be classified as a pit bull any more than having a wide range of food that can be called Italian means that any food can be called Italian. That is, although you might like the allies, I don’t think this demonstrates the problem for ALL dog owners you seem to want it to. Owners of other kinds of dogs might otherwise agree with you, but this isn’t a good reason.

  2. Shannon says:

    First, Backpacking Dad is correct that, ”anyone can declare a dog a pit bull” is flawed and the statement itself lacks even a minimum of applied critical thinking skills. Second, not using your dog as a threat or feeding off the perceived threat will do more for the ”cause” of improving the reputation of pit bulls than any poorly researched (and written) article. I have, at least half a dozen times, witnessed you using your dog/s as a reason to not invest in home security or worry about in-home crime because, ”we have a pit bull”. And this? Writing tic? Is a decade old and really tiresome on personal blogs. It’s not at all appropriate in, ”professional” writing.

  3. Lolo209 says:

    I do not understand why humans keep holding the breeds responsible for the attacks. Dogs by nature are gentle and loving, it takes a bad human to change their loving ways and loose all respect for humans. Which by all means is reasonable. The irresponsible breeders and owners are the ones that are inherently dangerous. American Pit Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Terriers are all sweet and loyal breeds.

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