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In the 10-year period from 2005 to 2014, pit bulls killed 203 Americans and accounted for 62% of the total recorded deaths (326). Pit bull owners, breeders and animal advocacy groups have created a slew of myths and distortions about the pit bull breed to fight breed-specific laws.
The outdated debate, "It's the owner, not the breed," has caused the pit bull problem to grow into a 30-year old problem.1 Designed to protect pit bull breeders and owners, the slogan ignores the genetic history of the breed and blames these horrific maulings -- inflicted by the pit bull's genetic "hold and shake" bite style -- on environmental factors. Purveyors of this myth also cannot account for the many instances in which pit bull owners and their family members are victimized by their pet dogs. Pit bull advocates frequently claim that the average person cannot correctly identify a pit bull. Pit bull advocates have even created deceptive online tests (Find the Pit Bull) to further confuse the media, policymakers and the public. Given the staggering amount of press coverage of Michael Vick's pit bulls, television shows devoted to pit bulls, such as, Pit Bulls and Parolees and Pit Boss by Animal Planet and DogTown by National Geographic, and the constant production of "positive pit bull" stories by the pit bull community, it seems unlikely that the average person cannot identify a pit bull.
There are only two instances in which pit bulls are "misidentified," according to pit bull advocacy logic: after a serious or deadly attack or when a breed-specific law is being challenged.
Historically, it is believed that dogfighters removed human-aggressive pit bulls from the gene pool. In 1974, after a series of high profile news articles written by Wayne King and published by the New York Times, the image of the ferocious fighting pit bull moved from the shadowy world of dogmen into the mainstream. Pro-pit bull groups argue that the 20-year fatal dog attack study (from 1979 to 1998) issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September 2000 is inaccurate because the study relied "in part" on newspaper articles. Pit bulls have the highest propensity and frequency of any dog breed to be involved in a severe mauling. In 2009, a writer from the British Columbia publication, Surrey Leader, commented on the "media conspiracy" claim voiced by pit bull advocacy groups. What is true is that there is an absence of media regarding the collective damage inflicted by the pit bull breed since the early 1980s. Despite pro-pit bull claims that pit bulls are not unpredictable, the breed frequently attacks without provocation or warning.


Pro-pit bull groups continuously attempt to debunk the pit bull "locking jaw" expression that is often used by the media and the public. Pit bull advocates often claim that by World War I, the pit bull had become the "most popular dog in America." A source is never cited with this claim.
Due to the different names that pit bulls are known by, Animal People ran searches on three breed names: pit bull terrier, Staffordshire, and American bulldog. The slogan often voiced by pit bull advocates, "Punish the deed not the breed," works to the benefit of pit bull breeders and owners who accept the large collateral damage the breed inflicts upon the public and has been for the last 30-years. Much like the outdated myth #1, "It's the owner not the breed," this last myth lies at the heart of archaic and insufficient U.S.
If one peers more closely into mauling threads -- a comment thread following a serious or deadly pit bull mauling -- and writings dispersed by national animal organizations and the pit bull community, one can find many more myths about pit bulls.
Pit Bulls -- Family Pets and Fierce Fighters, by Tom Greely, Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1982. Dogmen Conversations About Man-Biters and Man-Eaters, by DogsBite.org (a compilation of various Internet dogfighting forum board conversations).
Tom Skeldon, the "Biased" Blade and Recent Ruling Halting Enforcement of Toledo Pit Bull Laws, by DogsBite.org, February 2010. While environment plays a role in a pit bull's behavior, it is genetics that leaves pit bull victims with permanent and disfiguring injuries. Many appellate courts agree that pit bulls pose a significant danger to society and can be regulated accordingly.
These tests are inaccurate and intentionally crafted to show that the average person cannot correctly identify a pit bull.
Pro-pit bull groups cannot on one hand parade such imagery and on the other say the public cannot identify a pit bull.
On all other occasions, such as free spay-neuter services for pit bulls (backed by grants for free spay-neuter services for pit bulls), aggressive adoption programs for pit bulls and national "reputation enhancement" campaigns for the breed, pit bulls and their mixes are 100% identifiable. These pit bulls were championship-breeding stock, whose famed owners never for a moment considered culling the dogs.


It is well documented by humane groups that to excel in dogfighting, pit bulls were selectively bred to conceal warning signals prior to an attack.
In a separate example, animal behavioral expert Peter Borchelt was sued after the pit bull he was training for a client "suddenly" attacked an ex-fireman.
Pit bull advocates frequently use this misleading data to point to the breed's good temperament and to advocate against breed-specific laws ("Pit bulls pass the ATTS test more often than beagles!"). Two excellent resources to learn the truth behind these myths, some of which are reckless in nature, include the Maul Talk Manual and The Truth About Pit Bulls websites.
Also, see a June 2015 blog post about GR CH Zebo who had a Hercules-sized man biter reputation. Of these deaths, 53% involved a family member and a household pit bull.4 Notably, in the first 8 months of 2011, nearly half of those killed by a pit bull was its owner. This bias is clearly reflected in the CDC report.11 If discrepancies were made in the report, it seems more likely that fatal pit bull attacks were underreported not over reported. For instance, a pit bull may not growl, bare its teeth or offer a direct stare before it strikes. After encountering Gabriel Febbraio on the street and assuring him that the pit bull was friendly, the dog broke free from Borchelt and attacked Febbraio in the groin. The modern answer to this final myth is to develop policies that prevent future victims from being created. Once one begins to understand the frame, posture and distinct head shape and jaw size of a pit bull, identification is immediate.



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