Death By Dog

PitbullI ran across this report by the CDC this morning:

Breeds of Dogs Involved In Fatal Human Attacks In The United States Between 1979 And 1998, Journal of the American Veterinary  Medical Association, September 2000

Of the deaths reported by dog bite in that 20 year span:

Pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers were involved in more than half of these deaths.


4 thoughts on “Death By Dog

  1. Melinda

    The problem is NOT the breed or the individual dog, it’s the OWNERS, who either train their dogs to be vicious. or don’t keep close control of them, or abuse them (shudder). All those pit bulls Michael Vick abused in his dog-fighting ring, after they were taken by various animal shelters/rehab places, ended up being super sweet and highly adoptable (if they didn’t die from what he did for them). Imo, humans are far more vicious than dogs. But you already knew I’m an animal-rights person.

    1. Bix Post author

      Dogs do not have temperaments based on their breed? Wikipedia says they do, as do the authors of this study. The most popular dog in America is, by a wide margin, the Labrador retriever. If there are so many of them, why don’t they appear in greater numbers on this list?

      The authors say:

      “It is extremely unlikely that [pit bulls and rottweilers] accounted for anywhere near 60% of dogs in the United States during that same period and, thus, there appears to be a breed-specific problem with fatalities.”

      Retrievers are big dogs and according to Wikipedia are highly intelligent and easily trained. So why aren’t they used as guard dogs and attack dogs? Wikipedia says “The AKC describes the Labrador’s temperament as a kind, pleasant, outgoing and tractable nature. … They are often very easygoing and trusting with strangers and therefore are not usually suitable as guard dogs.”


      “In an effort to counter the fighting reputation of pit bull-type dogs, in 1996 the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals renamed pit bull terriers to “St. Francis Terriers”, so that people might be more likely to adopt them.[16] 60 temperament-screened dogs were adopted until the program was halted, after several of the newly adopted pit bulls killed cats.”

  2. Melinda

    The abuse of dogs and cats that I saw in Memphis would send shivers up your spine. All my current animals were rescues off the streets in Memphis. My remaining dog, Minnie, is part Rottweiler, and a sweeter dog has never existed, even though she was on the verge of death by starvation when I found her.

    1. Melinda

      We’re all determined, to some extent, by genetics. But that doesn’t determine our ability, as human animals, to consciously change our behavior. Likewise, with dogs, certain breeds may have certain genetic inclinations. Brutal owners or living in brutalizing conditions can bring those inclinations to the fore. But likewise, kind treatment and kind training puts those tendencies into abeyance. Dogs can learn different behaviors just as we can. Dogs, like we, are social animals and love to be part of a group. This story of Michael Vicks’ dogs is an inspiring example of the rehabilitation of brutalized Pit Bulls:

      Here’s a fuller explanation of genetics/breeding vs. behavior. “Although it might seem that some dogs are born to be aggressive, it is more accurate to say that they are born with inherited tendencies that might, if not controlled, make aggressive behaviour more likely. As aggression is always a response, usually to a threat, there is no reason why a dog cannot learn alternative responses. If these responses are controlled throughout the dog’s life, starting with breeding from well balanced parents and continuing with learning good social skills as a puppy, there is no reason why any dog should learn to use aggression inappropriately. Because of the way some types of dogs have been bred, some puppies will need more careful nurturing than others to ensure that they do not grow up to use aggression inappropriately.
      If dogs do not have the right kind of experiences at any time in their life, they can learn that aggression can solve problems for them. Once learnt it can become the dog’s first choice of ways to solve problems. This kind of dog may appear “naturally” aggressive, but they are actually responding to the combined effect of the learning experiences they have had over their lifetime.”


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