Pit Bulls seem to constantly be in the news because of violent behavior. Are Pit Bulls really as menacing as the media portrays them?
There is no denying that there have been many instances of Pit Bull violence. Earlier this month, a Pit Bull made headlines by killing a 4-year old child who was watching television. The dog also injured the child’s mother (ABC News).
Ira Glass, host of the popular public radio show This American Life, owns a Pit Bull that can definitely be considered dangerous. Piney, Glass’s dog, has bitten six people. Piney’s bite victims include two children, plus Ira Glass and his wife, Anaheed Alani. No one can visit Glass’s apartment because of the high likelihood that Piney would attack them. Glass discusses Piney on an episode of This American Life (listen here).
Some insurance companies (including the ones I represent as an agent) view Pit Bulls as a liability. These companies either decline to insure properties with a resident Pit Bull, or force the homeowners to sign an “exclusion form.” By signing the form, homeowners acknowledge that their insurance company will not pay out any liability claims caused by the dog on site.
Pit Bulls are traditionally bred for fighting, and they tend to fight harder and rougher than other breeds (ASPCA). Natural selection tells us that stronger, more aggressive Pit Bulls would be less likely to be killed in a fight and could go on to reproduce, creating more aggressive animals.
Pit Bulls may also give less warning than other breeds before becoming aggressive. Additionally, they are less likely to back down than other dogs, and can do more damage with their bites (ASPCA).
Nature v. Nurture
Pit Bull defenders say “Blame the owner, not the breed.” A Facebook group by that very name has 5,030 “likes.”
One theory on Pit Bull aggression comes from Britain, where the breed has been banned since 1991 under the Dangerous Dogs Act. Telegraph.co.uk theorizes that Pit Bulls tend to attract bad owners who view the dogs as a type of weapon. Pit Bulls raised in a bad environment by people who want to weaponize them become violent. In this way, Pit Bull aggression is a sort of “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
I have met several kind and sweet Pit Bulls in my lifetime, but I cannot ignore the breed’s violent acts that we see so often in the media. The media’s portrayal of Pit Bulls is not misplaced because these dogs do hurt people on a fairly regular basis. The bottom line: I respect others’ right to own Pit Bulls responsibly. I would not, however, be interested in adopting one myself.