You are probably aware that pitbull terriers (also written pit bull) are often targeted by Breed Discriminatory Laws (BDL) in the US, and other legislation through the rest of the world. But why is that? Let’s have a closer look at this famous breed and why it is supposed to be so aggressive and dangerous, despite the numerous animal applied science research and studies saying otherwise.
Are Pit Bulls A Proper Breed Of Dogs?
People often speak of pit bulls as a specific breed of dogs, which is wrong. Pit bulls are not a proper breed. The terme pitbull is more of an umbrella term covering a number of different dog pure breeds, but also some mixed breeds. The thing is that the list of breeds included under the term of pitbull has expanded over time, and keeps expanding nowadays. Still, it usually designates mainly American Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
So, not only are pitbulls not an actual dog breed, but also has the term no proper definition. In the end, pit bulls are usually labeled on certain physical characteristics, like their barrel chest or their square head, regardless of their actual breed.
What Is BDL And Does It Really Work?
Breed-Discriminatory Legislation (BDL) is a US law prohibiting or restricting the ownership of certain dogs in some states because of their supposed breed. People often speak of “pit bull ban” as pitbulls are the most targeted animals, but it actually refers to any legislation prohibiting any dog breed. Other breeds, like German Shepherds and Dobermans, have also suffered from this kind of legislation. To go further, BDL also includes legal acts that do not directly outright ban pit bull terriers, but require such tough restrictions that owners often have to give up their pet, like buying expensive insurance policies or keeping the dog muzzled at all times.
Now the question is, are these laws really efficient? Well, the answer is “no”. Indeed, numerous studies highlight the fact that these acts do not improve public safety. At first, their main goal was to reduce the number of dog bites, but decades of the cities’ data show that BDL hasn’t change anything at this level.
As an evidence, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has released in 2014 a review of studies from 10 countries over the past 40 years, including the US, the UK and Australia, and concluded that BDL did not reduce the rate nor the severity of bite injuries. The same way, the Public Health Department of Aragon, Spain assures that BDL is “not effective in protecting people from dog bites in a significant manner”, and the UK released a study that maintain that the ban on “pit bulls” did not decrease dog attacks.
So, Are Pitbull Terriers More Dangerous Or Aggressive Than Other Breeds?
There are many studies on dog aggression and dog bites that say otherwise. For instance, the International Society for Applied Ethology published in 2008 in its journal Applied Animal Behavior Science a study stating that “…it is inappropriate to make predictions about a given dog’s propensity for aggressive behavior based solely on its breed”. Or else the American Veterinary Medical Association Litterature Review maintaining that “Given that breed is a poor sole predictor of aggressiveness and pit bull-type dogs are not implicated in controlled studies, it is difficult to support the targeting of this breed as a basis for dog bite prevention.”
On the other hand, the Centers for Disease Control published a study reviewing dog bite-related fatalities reported by the media in the 1980s, but the release relied only on media stories and did not verify the actual dog breed, so results were flawed and overemphasized pit bull terriers because of the media views. Whatever it be, Centers for Disease Control has explicitly affirmed that it does not support BDL because it is ineffective.
In This Case, Why Are Pitbull So Targeted?
The answer to this question is sadly “for no apparent reason”. According to the National Canine Research Council, it only a question of media views. It had indeed highlighted before how pitbulls were the main target of media, and this for no apparent reason: over 4 dog bite injuries covered in the local news over the course of 4 days, one case involving a supposed pitbull received 230 newspaper articles, as the dog bite that killed a person only received two. Of course, the second case did not regard a pit bull.
In the end, the National Canine Research Council decided that “any studies that rely on visual breed identification, including those that link dog bite-related fatalities and breed, can no longer be responsibly cited in the developing literature”.