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My own research on Pit Bulls and BSL

February 16th, 2010, 01:34 PM
As I am a dork lol, out of interest I researched what I could on BSL and Pit Bulls in particular to see if there was any true logic to the ban, my research would is the result of my research...

The American Pit Bull Terrier: A Vicious Killer or Misunderstood Victim of Human Ignorance?

Is BSL really a Solution to the Issue with Aggressive Dogs?


Breed Specific-Legislation was set in place to protect the public from the ferocity of certain breeds, chiefly pit bull-type breeds, assuming that the dogs must have an innate tendency for aggression due to their historical background, therefore a threat to the public. The introduction of Breed Specific-Legislation is based upon two beliefs – that the breed in question has a high record of bite frequency supporting the view that the breed shows a high level of aggression towards people, and that the breed has the potential to be dangerous because of physical characteristics and its functional history.

The news media give heavy coverage to some serious dog attacks, which they often attribute to APBTs though rarely is the breed verified. Impressions of which dogs are most dangerous are implanted by episodic news media stories, though these are not very reliable or valid.

The American Pit Bull Terrier has received a lot of persecution in recent times regarding its tendency towards aggression and danger to public safety, but is there any real evidence to sustain that the APBT does in fact have a greater tenacity for aggression or is their reputation simply a creation of media hype and breed misconception?

Origins of the American Pit Bull Terrier:

When the spectator sport of Bull-baiting was outlawed in England by an act of parliament in 1835, former bull-baiters turned their attention to the newly popular sport of organised dog fighting. While the “Bulldogge” of the time was well adapted to baiting the bull, fighting dog breeders soon discovered that a cross between the Bulldogge and any of the game and relatively powerful terriers of the day produced a game, powerful, agile and smaller, more capable opponent in the dog pits. Those Bull-and-Terrier dogs rose to heights of popularity among dog fighters and soon were the only pit fighting fraternity of Western Europe. As the only bull-and-terrier dogs used as pit fighters, these dogs were bred only to other dogs of the same cross. A purebred type was eventually established as a result of this careful selection for specific functional qualities. With emigration of people from Great Britain to the United States, the bull-and-terrier breed found its way across the Atlantic. Dog fighting became as popular in North America as it was in Western Europe, and as bull-and-terriers continued to reign supreme in their performance in the pit, the dog became popular in the U.S. as well. With time the American dog began to take on a unique appearance – not only due to the fact that many different populations of bull-and-terrier fighters were being blended together to produce an American version of the breed but also to the fact that the American dog fighters expressed preference for somewhat larger animals.

It is claimed that the APBT and other “fighting” breeds are especially dangerous because of human breeding selection for physical and “temperamental” traits functional in pit fighting. Although some APBT have been under selection for dog fighting traits, it has also been under complementary selection for stability and tractability with people.

Interestingly enough, less than a decade ago, the common misconception of the breed used to be that the pit bull was such a people loving dog that the breed was useless for serious guard work. Off course this is not so as the pit bull will loyally guard and protect its friends and family.

Is the Breed Dangerous? - Dog Bite Statistics and Temperament Tests:

At first glance, data from the United States indicate that the “pit bull” is the countries most dangerous dog breed and presents data showing that the “pit bull” and its crossbreeds accounted for approximately 32% of human dog attack fatalities between 1979 and 1998, for which the breed of the dog was known (238 deaths). This study updates an earlier one that, for the years 1989 through 1994, had “pit bulls” accounting for 22% of fatalities. A more thorough study revealed that “pit bulls” were responsible for 6.7% of human fatalities between 1965 and 2001. This percentage of fatal attacks, although seemingly high, may be proportionate to the breed’s numbers relative to the US dog population, which by some estimates could be as high as 9.6%.

Common breeds are reported to bite more often and the data are almost never collected in a way that would allow accurate calculation of Population Attributable
Fraction Percentage (PAF%) Attack data are often seriously flawed with respect to collection, reporting, and analysis.

Categories used to identify breeds cluster by type, rather than by specific breed, because breed identification is imprecise. The term “pit bull” does not mean APBT: it is a generic term that includes all the bull-and-terrier breeds, and sometimes other bull breeds such as boxers, bull mastiffs, American bulldogs etc. Breed identification is seldom verified or consistent and even experts cannot always tell whether a dog is a pit bull. More seriously, breed identification often is based upon newspaper accounts.

Data from New South Wales government for the years 2001 through 2003 list 547 reported dog attacks on people in NSW, with APBTs responsible for 33 (4%) attacks, behind crossbreeds (182, or 32.7%), German Shepherds (63, or 10.4%), Cattle dogs (59, or 8.4%), and Rottweilers (58, or 6.6%). When average severity of bites is considered, APBTs were sixth of the 6 breeds for which there were sufficient data for analysis (NSW government, 2003). According to recent NSW data only 1% of individuals attack in any way a person or other animal in a given year. By the worst case data 90% of its individuals are not recorded to attack a person or animal over their life span.

Crossbreeds lead the risk of attacks, leaving the APBT well down the lists of absolute numbers of attacks by breed, and the case that it is an especially dangerous dog is not established. The fact that crossbreeds are most likely to attack reflects their numbers in the population and the level of care and supervision they are given.

On May 20th 2000, a dog of pit bull type killed a 6-year-old child on a school playground in Hamburg. As a result, the authorities of Lower Saxony passed the Niedersaechsische Gefahrtierverordnung (GefTVO) on July 5th, 2000, to avert further danger. This law was created to regulate the keeping of certain breeds of dogs in Lower Saxony. At that time, the authorities assumed that these breeds of dogs represented a particular danger for the population. The law insinuated, without cause, that particular breeds were especially dangerous and divided them into 2 categories – category 1: American Staffordshire terriers, bull terriers, and dogs of the pit bull type. A special permit for keeping dogs of these breeds could be given but only if, among other preconditions, the dogs passed the behavioural test in accordance with the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Nutrition, Agriculture, and Forestry (Niedersaechsisches Ministerium fuer Ernaehrung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten) of Lower Saxony. Dogs in category 2 include: Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, Staffordshire bull terrier, Bullmastiff, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasiliero, Caucasian owtscharka, Mastiff, Mastino Espanol, Mastino Napoletano and Tosa inu. Mongrels with dam and/or sire belonging to one of the breeds listed above had to be kept on a leash and wear a muzzle. After successfully passing the temperament test, dogs in Category 2 could be exempted from both these restrictions, In contrast, such an exemption could not be given to a dog belonging to category 1; even after passing a temperament test.

During a study in Lower Saxony in the temperament of several breeds including the bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, pit bull terriers and 11 other breeds, no significant difference in behaviour between breeds was detected. The results show no indication of dangerousness in specific breeds, justification for specific breed lists in the legislation was not shown.

Although all dogs tested were confronted with stimuli with which aggressive behaviour could consistently be provoked, only 9% of the dogs showed biting with complete approach and earlier threatening behaviour. Of the dogs tested in the temperament test, 95% showed behaviours that were appropriate to the particular situation.

In another temperament test carried out in the U.S. the results showed that interestingly, the pit bull group had a significantly higher passing proportion (p < 0.05) than all other pure breed groups, except the Sporting and Terrier groups. These groups however, did not have a statistically higher passing proportion (p = 0.78) than the pit bull group. The group that had the highest proportion of breed groups passing the temperament test was the sporting group (85.48%), followed by the pit bull group (84.50%). The groups that failed, with the lowest proportion of dogs passing the temperament test, were the toy (79.01%) and hound groups (77.01%). The groups were compared to determine if there was a significant difference in the proportion of dogs from each group that passed the temperament test. It was found that there were no significant differences between the proportion of dogs passing in the two groups with the highest passing percentages (sporting group and the pit bull group). Both of these breed groups performed significantly better (p > 0.05) than all other groups.

Sporting group contains some of the more publicly accepted (as dogs of stable or good temperament) including Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. More notably, the American Pit Bull Terriers showed significantly higher proportion of dogs passing the test than hounds, herding, working, and toy groups.

Why Dogs Attack:

Reasons for biting are the dog is intentionally or inadvertently provoked, the dog is owned by someone who is ignorant about the characteristics and behaviour of the dog breed and has done nothing to familiarise him/herself with the breed or the dog is not properly confined, controlled or socialised.

Most dog attacks on people occur in the dog owner's home or in close proximity to it. Attacks on private property frequently happen when a dominant, protective or injured dog is not adequately supervised with children and visitors.

University of Washington researches have found that children are more often bitten by their own dogs or to those belonging to neighbours than by stray animals. Approximately 80% of bites inflicted on children are preventable.

Biting is a natural activity of all dogs and there will be a potential for injury. Nearly 75% of all children were bitten as a result of play activity with the biting dog, or as a result of teasing or trying to pet a dog.

American records show that several toy breeds have killed infants, and recent unpublished Australian study recorded very serious injuries to children inflicted by toy breeds. This highlights that all dogs should be trained and socialised, regardless of breed.

Do Laws Against Pit Bull Type Dogs Really Protect the Public?

The aim of BSL and similar laws are to eventually eradicate the breed, making it mandatory to de-sex the animal therefore prevent breeding. The question is does the breed exhibit sufficient frequency of aggression to justify breed-specific laws against them. If half a dozen dog breeds are responsible for 60%-70% of attacks on people, it may seem a reasonable public safety measure to place restrictions upon those breeds. However, if only a small minority of individuals with the breeds even attacks, is it reasonable to penalize the whole breed? The APBT is singled out though it is not the most commonly biting dog.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 1997; CDC, 2003) has indicated that BSL has no merit. They indicate that “Dangerous dog laws”, which focus on individual dogs, regardless of breed, that have exhibited harmful behaviour (e.g., unprovoked attacks on persons or animals) are both logical and enforceable without violating the rights of citizens or declaring individual animals guilty even though the majority are of sound temperament. The CDC indicates that the most logical approach is to place primary responsibility for a dog's behaviour on the owner, rather than the dogs breed. The CDC indicates that legislation and programs focused on ownership responsibility as well as owner and child education are the keys to a safer canine population. The American Veterinary Medical Association (2001) Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions also state that Breed Specific Legislation has no merit and that targeting those individual dogs, of any breed, that commit acts of aggression, directly addresses the problem.

The complex and contributing conditions related to the upbringing of individual dogs are not considered by BSL and such laws unfairly target the vast majority of individual dogs, which are temperamentally stable. The temperaments of animals are fundamentally and universally acknowledged to be influenced by age, sex, early socialization, early nutrition, training, health and genetics, while BSL only takes one of these factors into account.

The Dangerous Dogs Act [1991] was passed in UK after couple of very serious dog attacks attributed to APBTs. Rates of dog attacks have not declined since the introduction of BSL. Hospital admissions for dog bites in the UK have increased by 25% over the last 5 years (BBC, 2002) and there was no decline in attacks in the 2 years following the introduction of the DDA in 1991. South Australia has had BSL restrictions on the APBT since 1995, but it has never had a serious attack by the breed, before or since that date. Of 19 human fatalities in Australia over the past two decades, none has involved a dog verified to be an American pit bull terrier.

BSL directed against the group of breeds with the worst bite records would be unlikely to affect bite frequency for long, as even with rigorous and effective enforcement, there are many other breeds’ individuals of which irresponsible owners could render dangerous.

This situation can only be counteracted by good upbringing and keeping of dogs. More emphasis should be placed on educating dog owners about responsible dog ownership. The problem lies not with the breed but in the people who have become attracted to the breed in recent years, therefore BSL are unable to solve the issue of aggressive dogs and are resultantly unable to protect the public from aggressive dogs.


After more than a century as an uncontroversial dog, the breed finally developed its reputation in 1980 thanks to the media’s shortcomings in professionalism and its use of propaganda in news coverage. Breed stereotyping, like racial profiling, ignores the complex environmental factors that contribute to canine temperament and behaviour. The fact that a dog anatomically resembles any one of the breeds or crossbreeds referred to as pit bulls is not a predictor of its behaviour, all dogs no matter what their breed are a product of their environment, a dog’s personality is derived from a combination of genetics, treatment, training and socialisation.

All dogs can and occasionally do bite, and that dogs referred to as “pit bulls” are not the only breeds that have the fighting instinct. The Neapolitan mastiff, the Akita, the Tosa and the shae-pei have all been used for fighting. It is true that like any medium-sized and powerful dog, the APBT has the potential to be dangerous, but there is no specific research to demonstrate that breeds with a fighting past are more aggressive towards people than other dogs. So long as we have dogs living with us there will be people who get bitten. The truth is that all dogs can bite and that dogs of any breed can be dangerous, the evidence does not sustain that the APBT is uniquely dangerous.

Young children should never be left alone with a dog (or any pet) without supervision, and that all children should be taught how to behave around dogs, particularly around dogs they don’t know. The APBT can be made aggressive by human, either unwittingly or deliberately.

Many owners cause their dogs to be protective, territorial or dominant by simply failing to adequately socialise the dog and manage its behaviour. All breeds, sizes and sexes of dogs have bitten because of these reasons, including some with the best pedigrees and with obedience titles. Animal management issues need to be accurately and responsibly reported by the media. For example not every sheep is killed by "packs of wild and savage dogs", nor are all Pit Bull Terriers "mobile fighting machines". By describing dogs in these terms the media makes it very difficult to convince dog owners that the family pet can attack livestock, or convince people that a neighbour's Pit Bull Terrier is not a danger to them just because it is a Pit Bull Terrier.

Dog attacks on people result from many interacting factors. Dogs are not born aggressive, although some may be more likely to bite because of their breeding or sex. Most dogs bite people because they are frightened, dominant, protective or possessive. These behaviours can be prevented or controlled by responsible breeding, adequate socialisation, obedience training and careful management of the dog. Other causes of attacks on people include mishandling or abuse of the dog, a medical or physical condition and the victim's behaviour.

The APBT is so very willing and able to become the dog you wish them to be. As they only wish to please there owner. Raise them to be gentle and they will be gentle, raise them to be vicious and they will be vicious, raise them to be loving companions and terrific protectors of your home and family – children included- and that is exactly what these dogs will be.


BANDOW, J., 1996. Will Breed-Specific Legislation Reduce Dog Bites? The Canadian Veterinary Journal 37, 478-481

COLLIER, S., 2006. Breed Specific Legislation and the Pit Bull Terrier: Are The Laws Justified? Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 1 (1), 17-22.

DOWD, S., Assessment of Canine Temperament in Relation to Breed Groups Matrix Canine Research Institute.

FOGLE, B., 2006. Dogs: DK

JENENNS, W., 1992. The Role of Research and Behaviour in Legislation and Community Attitudes Urban Animal Management Conference and Proceedings

SEMENCIC, C., 1991. Pit Bulls & Tenacious Guard Dogs: tfh

SHALKE, E., et al., 2008. Is Breed-Specific Legislation Justified? Study of the Results of the Temperament Test of Lower Saxony Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 3 (3), 97-103.

February 17th, 2010, 11:47 AM
Thanks ~ good reading and good research. I see you are a zoology student. I think you'll find most here agree that BSL is an inane piece of political pandering.
The consequences are, of course, tragic. Welcome to the forum!

February 17th, 2010, 03:30 PM
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S. has stopped collecting dog bite data based on breed. The reason being that it is too difficult to correctly identify a mixed breed dog and the VICTIM often didn't know the breed that did the biting.

The Denver, Co. BSL law has been deemed unconstitutional by our court system yet Denver still has BSL on the books and dogs there are destroyed, much like in Ontario.

March 12th, 2010, 12:16 PM
Such a good point, LavenderRott. :thumbs up It's questionable how accurate the so-called "data" around dog bites really is, as more often than not the dog is not correctly identified based on breed and frequently is just labeled a pitbull. Frequently the odd time the dog is tested later to determine what breeds are present, there is no pitbull even in the dog!