Punish the deed not the breed  



The pit bull terrier: a dangerous or a defamed breed?
School of Human and Environmental Studies,
University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351.



After more than a century as America's icon dog1 the American Pit Bull Terrier since 1980 has developed a notorious reputation as a dangerous breed with consequent restrictions placed upon it by various jurisdictions in Australia and elsewhere. Studies in the USA have indicated that the "pit bull" is responsible for a large proportion of human fatalities resulting from dog attack, but their data are flawed by methodological shortcomings. Data on frequency of dog attacks by breed in Australia reveal the pit bull terrier to be exceeded by several other breeds. Of about 14 human fatalities in Australia over the last two decades, none has involved a dog verified to be a pit bull terrier. The evidence does not sustain the view that this is a uniquely or particularly aggressive and dangerous breed, and there is no support in its attack record for breed specific laws aimed to control it.

Dogs are kept by approximately forty percent of Australian households. They confer many benefits upon their owners and are a source of great emotional satisfaction to a large number of people. Dogs are also a threat to the community in that their bites injure a large number of people every year. A small number of these attacks cause very serious human injuries, and even fatalities. Dog attacks, then, represent a significant public safety issue that needs to be addressed by state and local governments.


Breed specific approaches to dog control

Many jurisdictions in Australia and overseas have introduced breed specific laws aimed to restrict or ban ownership of breeds deemed to be particularly dangerous to people. Such an approach may be based upon either of two beliefs:
the breed in question has a record of bite frequency which demonstrates its high level of aggression towards people;
the breed has a potential to be dangerous because of its physical characteristics and its functional history.
In Australia only one breed that actually exists here in significant numbers has been subjected to breed specific controls: the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT). Restrictions on this breed were imposed by the Commonwealth in 1991 largely on the basis of the second belief, relating to its dangerous potential .2  At that time the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 had just been passed in the UK after a couple of very serious dog attacks attributed to APBTs, and the news media in Australia and Britain introduced the breed to public notice with lurid and sensational accounts of its background, capabilities and character.3,4,5,6 This character, once given, has set solidly in the minds of the public, the media themselves, and authorities at various levels of government. It is, perhaps, noteworthy, that in 1991, when the Commonwealth import ban was announced, there had been no recorded attacks upon people by APBTs in Australia, while dog attacks in general were, as now, a considerable menace to public safety. It is also noteworthy that one rationale offered for the Commonwealth ban was that the UK had banned the dogs, and that they are  "fighting" breeds which ipso facto proves them to be uniquely dangerous among dog breeds. That two of the four banned breeds, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileoro, were developed as hunting, not fighting, dogs7 has never caused any difficulty or embarrassment to the British originators of the mistake, or to its Australian imitators.

In 1998 the NSW government introduced breed specific restrictions of a minor kind on the APBT, and the other three breeds banned from import by the Commonwealth (Companion Animals Act 1998). In 2001 the governments of both Victoria and Queensland introduced harsher restrictions aimed, in the latter case, eventually to eliminate the breed. In all states these measured were announced during periods of intense news media focus upon the "dangerous dog" issue occasioned by a number of serious attacks, especially upon children. Of interest is the fact that, while public submissions were called for before drafting of legislation, no attempt was made by relevant ministers or premiers to justify the measures by reference to the APBT's record of attacks in the respective states, or indeed, to any data touching the frequency and severity of dog bites by breed. Rather, naïve  general comments about the breed's alleged history combined with myths about the breed's nature sufficed for the occasion of the bills' introductions to parliaments.8,9 The Queensland Government did reveal that the large majority (218 of 253) of public and specialist submissions argued against breed specific legislation (BSL)8, but they were ignored, and it is suspected on the basis of press-releases early in the process that the decision had already been made.


Dog attack data

BSL in Australia has been enacted on the basis of the APBT's reputation and beliefs that it is a dangerous breed. As discussed above, that belief can come from assumptions about the breed's attack record or about its aggressive potential. What is its attack record? It is accurate to say that nobody really knows, but it depends on the region of the world under discussion. It would be reasonable for Australian parliaments to legislate on the basis of the situation in Australia, but the breed import ban was justified by the alleged record of the dogs in the USA and UK .2 At first glance data from the USA indicate that the "pit bull" is the country's most dangerous dog breed. Sacks et al. 10 present data showing that the "pit bull" and its crossbreeds is accounted for approximately 32% of human dog attack fatalities between 1979 and 1998, for which breed of dog was known (238 deaths). This study updates an earlier one11 that for the years 1989 through 1994 had "pit bulls" accounting for 22% of fatalities. These data, however, are seriously flawed. In The USA "pit bull" does not mean APBT, but is a generic term which includes all the bull and terrier breeds, and sometimes the other bull breeds such as Boxers, Bull Mastiffs, American Bulldogs12
It has also been found that where there is a bad dog in the public consciousness, any stocky, short-haired dog involved in an attack is called a pit bull by witnesses, including police and dog officers, and any large black and tan dog is a German Shepherd. 13 Even experts cannot always tell whether a dog is a pit bull.12 U.S. city authorities frequently enlist unenthusiastic veterinarians to identify dogs as pit bulls, a task for which most of them are ill equipped.14 For these reasons the American Dog Breeders Association has wholly abandoned trying to calculate pit bull bite rates, and discounts findings which use this approach ( letter to author 1992).
Sacks et al.10 indicated that they recorded more than 327 fatalities but claimed these represented only 74% of actual fatalities. More seriously, breed identification is based upon newspaper accounts, which the authors characterize as unreliable. They also are aware that the media may selectively report deaths caused by a notorious breed. Of interest is the fact that recorded deaths in the USA have maintained a fairly steady rate since 1980, yet the breeds of dog primarily responsible have changed through time. Since 1992 the Rottweiler has killed twice as many people as has the "pit bull" (30:15), but between 1979 through 1986 it was responsible for only two deaths. This fatality record tracks breed registration figures: in the earlier period 24,195 Rottweilers were registered with the American Kennel Club, while there were 692,799 registrations from 1991 through 1998.10

Australia does not have very much data on frequency of dog attack by breed. Indeed, we do not have good data on the frequency of dog attacks, as is evidenced by the methodologies employed to estimate their numbers in the various published studies.15,16,17 Dog bite is not a notifiable injury, and while some hospitals and local councils record dog bites and sometimes assessment of the breed involved, others do not. In addition, an unknown, but probably high, proportion of attacks are treated by GPs or at home and never reported to a central authority. Since 1997 the NSW Department of Local Government has required councils to report all dog attacks to head office, but it is unlikely that compliance or accuracy approaches 100%. Never-the-less, these are the best data available in Australia.

The data show that from 1997 to 2000 inclusive there were 829 injuries to people caused by dogs reported to councils in NSW. The breeds responsible for the majority of attacks were crossbreeds, unknown breeds, Cattle Dog types, German Shepherd types, and Collie types. It is noted that breed was not validated and in most cases was identified by one of the people involved. Categories are types rather than specific breeds because identification is imprecise. Bull Terrier types were most likely to attack other animals. 18

These injury figures represent only a proportion of people bitten by dogs. Other studies indicate much higher numbers. For instance, 2,232 people were treated for dog bites in the four years between 1998-2001 in five Brisbane hospitals, more than double the whole NSW total for a similar period.19 Thompson15,16 estimated on the basis of injury data from Adelaide that as many as 30,000 people could be injured each year by dogs in Australia. This could be an underestimate, as American data show injuries from dog bites to 3 per 1,000 people per year.20 If the same rate of attack occurred in Australia, we would experience 60,000 dog bites requiring medical treatment per year. This bite rate probably is not reached in Australia, however. The USA experiences some 20 -30 human fatalities from dog attack each year,10,21 while for Australia the rate is about 0-2 cases per year. 20 The US fatality rate is, therefore, about double that of Australia. Thompson's 16 figure of 30,000 injuries matches this observation, though in light of other Australian studies it seems an extreme figure. This highlights the lack of knowledge surrounding the whole issue of dog attacks in Australia. Thompson's Adelaide data record the following percentages of injuries caused by specific breeds: German Shepherd 25.3%, Bull Terrier 13.6%, Cattle Dog 13.6%, Dobermann 11.7%, Rottweiler 9.1%. Breeds again were identified by people involved in the attacks, so they are not verified or reliable. It should also be noted that the attacks occurred prior to 1991, and relative breed populations will have altered over the 11 years since then, as dog breeds respond to fashion and other considerations.

The Victorian Bureau of Animal Welfare conducted a study of dog bites in public places between 1997 and 1999 inclusive.17 The study included six municipalities and gathered data from reports of dog attacks in public places. A  total of 413 injuries to people was recorded, 20 of them being serious enough to require two or more sutures. There were 46 breeds (including crosses) responsible for attacks with the following order of precedence: German Shepherd 127, Cattle Dog 90, Rottweiler 71, Kelpie 40, Staffordshire Bull Terrier 40, Bull Terrier 37, Crossbreed 35, Labrador 33, Dobermann 26, Boxer 26, Jack Russell 22, Rhodesian Ridgeback 22, Border Collie 21, American Pit Bull Terrier 21. Another Victorian study of hospital presentations for dog bites found 1,112 cases in the two year period, January 1996 to December 1997.22 Breeds most commonly recorded in these attacks were Kelpies, Crossbreeds, Border Collier, Fox Terriers, Cattle Dogs, German Shepherds, and Jack Russell Terriers. These breeds may reflect the largely rural nature of the sample (71% of municipalities returning data).

An informal survey of dog bites by breed among Queensland councils was done by the Endangered Dog Breeds Association23 in 2001. Replies to enquiries were received from 19 councils, excluding Brisbane City and the Gold Coast. A total of 750 dog attacks was recorded for a 12 month period, and of those, 3 were attributed to APBTs. Separate data from the Gold Coast City Council area recorded 162 dog attacks, 3 of them being by APBTs. These data are supplemented by the register of dogs declared dangerous for an attack or other aggressive behaviour by the Brisbane City Council as of 1995. There were 751 dogs on the register with the following breeds predominant: Cattle Dogs 200, German Shepherds 185, Bull Terriers 76, Rottweilers 69, Kelpies 43, with 9 other breeds making up the list. Two of the dogs were APBTs. It seems impossible that no crossbreed dogs were on the register.

The situation is similar in New Zealand. The Department of Internal Affairs surveyed dog attacks since 1996 in 47 council areas, representing 73% of the nation's population.24 Of those, 23 councils recorded attacks by breed, but did so for less that half of the attacks. Furthermore, breed identification (which included cross-breeds) was not validated, being reported by various witnesses and with an inconsistency of terminology to describe breeds between councils. The data reveal that Pit Bull Terriers were responsible for 9.6% of attacks for which breed was recorded behind Staffordshire Bull Terriers (15.5%), German Shepherds (14.4%), Labradors (13.9%), Bull Terriers (12.6%), and Rottweilers (10.6%). In the U.S. the 3 bull terrier breeds would be called "pit bulls" and would account for 37.7% of attacks, far ahead of the second ranked breed. This creates difficulties in transferring breed attack records between countries.

These various data indicate two things quite forcefully: a relatively small number of dog breeds contribute a large proportion of all attacks; and the APBT is not one of the breeds. It may be claimed that APBTs do not cause a great number of injuries to people, but that the injuries they do inflict are very severe ones. It is true that a small number of serious injuries have been caused in Australia by APBTs. While the news media give heavy coverage to some serious dog attacks, which they often attribute to APBTs (incorrectly in most cases investigated by the author), it often is not realized that an estimated 6 people are admitted to hospital every day in Queensland alone suffering from dog bites.19 Impressions of which dogs are most dangerous implanted by episodic news media stories are not very reliable or valid. In the last two decades or so there have been 14 human deaths caused by dog attacks in Australia - these data come from memory, newspaper clippings, and consultations with people in the pet and animal welfare institutions. A variety of breeds and crossbreeds was involved, but not one fatality was caused by an APBT. The possible exception was the case of Barbara Stringer of Toowoomba who was killed in 1995. The dog has often been claimed to be an APBT, but it was registered as a Labrador cross, and to experienced eyes it looked like a crossbreed. The animal welfare officer who cared for the dog until its death affirmed in writing that the dog was some type of bull breed cross. It may have been an APBT cross, but that is far from certain.


Potential to be Dangerous

It is a truism that all dogs can bite and that dogs of any breed can be dangerous. Indeed, American records25 indicate that several toy breeds have killed infants, and a recent  unpublished Australian study recorded very serious injuries to children inflicted by toy breeds (Courier Mail 2002). However, it often has been claimed that the American Pit Bull Terrier and other "fighting" breeds are especially dangerous because of human breeding selection for physical and temperamental traits functional in pit fighting.26 "Bred to kill" is a phrase so often used that it has become a cliché. Behavioural details are supplied by over a decade of news media coverage to illustrate this killing disposition. It is said that once a "pit bull" initiates an attack it goes into a sort of trance and cannot desist until its victim is dead; that the breed has "locking jaws" (this view probably holds that the dog can unlock the jaws, but bystanders cannot - this point is never addressed); that "pit bulls" can exert a bite force of some fabulous number of psi, sometimes 2,000, sometimes 4,000, but far more than dogs of other breeds; that this bite force comes from the extreme development of the cheek muscles controlling the jaw. If common sense and an elementary knowledge of canine cranial anatomy were not enough to debunk these myths, the anatomical dissection work of Lehr Brisbin and colleagues at the University of Georgia27 and Bonnie Dalzell (University of Pennsylvania) is. They have shown that there is nothing in the skeletal structure of the APBT jaw that is any different from that of any other dog in respect to locking. Hanging on with the jaws, of course, is a function of jaw muscles. Any animal may bite and hang on, as anyone who has been bitten by a budgerigar or human toddler knows. Dogs of all sorts may do this too, but the "lock" is simply a matter of muscles held in contraction entirely under the voluntary control of the biter. Nobody knows the relative biting power of various breeds of dogs, as it is a difficult trait to test under laboratory conditions. Anecdotal evidence from people experienced in having their sleeved arms bitten by schutzhund trial dogs suggests that APBT don't bite harder than other breeds used, but that hard biting is an individual, not a breed, characteristic.1 Dalzell's anatomical investigations found that APBTs do not have greater jaw muscle mass than German Shepherds with similar sized skulls.28 The masseter muscle is the major jaw muscle concerned, and this attaches to the rear of the jaw and along the top of the side of the skull. Mammals with very large masseter muscles usually have insufficient cranial area to which the masseter can attach, so a crest of bone (the sagittal crest) is developed along the top of the skull. German Shepherds have such a crest, but APBTs do not. This means the shepherd masseter muscle is long, while the APBT masseter, attaching lower on the skull, bunches up and bulges, giving an impression of great development. In fact, the muscle volumes are similar, and there is no anatomical indication that the APBT should bite any harder than another dog of equivalent size.

Canines, relative to other carnivores, have weak jaws, but domestic dogs of most breeds have more than sufficient bite power to inflict serious damage to human tissues.28,29 When hunting large mammals, canids, like wolves, kill their prey by ripping with multiple bites and bleeding the victim to death. The cats, by contrast, use great bite force to crush the throat or to puncture the brain. Serious dog attacks on people are characterized by multiple slashing bites, sometimes accompanied by shaking to tear tissue. Are APBTs any different from other dogs in their attack patterns?

The APBT has been used as a pit fighting dog for well over a century, and some strains have pedigrees going back that far.30 However, the breed developed originally not as a fighting dog, but as a stock-control dog, and for its whole history the proportion of dogs used for fighting was tiny, the majority being working farm dogs or family companions.1 Many strains have been and continue to be used for fighting, and breeding selection has been made on the basis of successful pit fighting traits. Pit dogs fight, not by inflicting multiple slashing bites, but by taking the most advantageous hold possible and shaking. A hold will only be released if a better one can be taken. Punishment by the other dog typically does not cause a release of the hold. This is the origin of the "locking jaws" myth. There have been attacks on people by APBTs, and in some of them it has proved very difficult for bystanders to get the dog to release its hold on the victim.12 If serious injury results, especially to a child, the bystanders tend to give lurid accounts to the news media of a crazed dog with locked jaws oblivious to being beaten with pieces of wood, iron bars etc. A small number of such attacks, reported sensationally by news media, is responsible for the demonic reputation of the "pit bull" held by those whose only knowledge of the breed has come from such reports. It is not true, however, that all APBT attacks are of a lethal nature intended to kill. The great majority are trivial nips, no worse than bites by other breeds.331



"A fighting dog is bred to be savage and aggression is in the genes." This is a typical statement of animal welfare office-holders, politicians, and journalists.32,33,34 Its frequent repetition has convinced many uninformed people, the general public, of its truth. It has, therefore, been possible for Australia's three levels of government to enact legislation specifically against the APBT without arousing any significant public or media opposition. Is the statement valid?

A fighting breed, or any other dog breed, cannot be savage, if "savage" is meant to describe a dog that is indiscriminately aggressive towards all it meets, human or other animal. It is not practical to have a dog of this disposition, and no breed exhibiting such a character could have been developed. A fighting breed may, however, be developed to exhibit traits useful in pit fighting, which may include toughness, stamina and determination. Aggression must be present to the degree that the dog must have a drive to dominate its opponent. Many pit dogs, therefore, are aggressive towards other dogs, but many are not. That is, some famous pit fighting dogs were quite mild in their social encounters with other dogs outside the pit.35 Of the useful pit characteristics, the one chiefly under selection has been determination, which fanciers call gameness: determination to persist in a task regardless of difficulty. This, more than fighting ability, has been the admired trait, and the one that distinguishes the APBT in so many fields of endeavour.1

Selective breeding for pit fighting characteristics has, of course, been based upon phenotype. It is a dog's phenotype that is successful in the pit, or in herding sheep etc, but selective breeding of phenotypes affects genotypes. This means that a population of dogs under tight selective breeding for a set of traits can develop a high frequency of alleles that predispose the dogs to the appropriate behaviour. The best example, perhaps, is the eye-stalk motor pattern of the Border Collie, which appears to be "hardwired" in that breed's genotype.29 It may be that the APBT has alleles that predispose it to aggression towards other dogs, though this is not established by more than assumption. There is a reasonably strong literature showing that many canine behaviours, including aggression, have a genetic basis.36 High levels of idiopathic aggression have been found in Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels and Bernese Mountain Dogs, and in the latter this trait was traced back to two sires.26 The former breeds top lists of dogs presented to a sample of American behaviour clinics for aggression.37 In the case of Cocker Spaniels, there may be no neurological pathology (often called Cocker, or Springer, Spaniel Rage) so much as dominance aggression. A study37found an association between Cocker Spaniel temperament and owner personality, which indicates that some owners bring out the worst in the genetic potential of their dogs, quite unintentionally. Nobody desires aggressive Cocker Spaniels, but several breeds have been produced to function as guard dogs, and in them a level of aggression towards strangers is sometimes seen as desirable. Such breeds are the Rottweiler, the German Shepherd, the Dobermann and the Akita36, and they have been found to be among the top breeds exhibiting territorial defence.38 The APBT is not a guarding breed, and while some of them may be used for that purpose, it is not an aspect of the breed's functional history. Indeed, the author visited yards of two APBT breeders who kept Rottweilers to guard the APBTs against theft. While the APBT has been under selection for dog-aggression and gameness, it has also been under complementary selection for stability and tractability with people. A moment's consideration will reveal why. Pit dogs must be in a very close relationship with the handler in the weeks of conditioning for a match. They must fight in a small pit with a handler, the opponent's handler, and a referee, this while at a high level of excitement and possibly injured.35 Furthermore, traditionally the dogs had to be inspected and washed by the opposing camp, which once upon a time involved a stranger, called a taster, licking the dog all over to detect any poisons applied to its coat. This is not something one does to a dog displaying indiscriminate aggression.

Given this selection, why are some APBT, and dogs of other breeds, dangerous in being aggressive towards people? Genes do not cause behaviour.29 Behaviour, like bodily structure, is an outcome of complex interaction between genes and many environmental variables, the environment including the cellular tissues in which other cells are developing, as well as the external environment. It is not just a matter of training or abuse: a dog handled cruelly becoming unapproachable, for instance. Because a puppy is born with its brain growth incomplete, its sensory and other learning experiences determine the actual structure of the brain and the degree to which neurones form networks of connection. Socialization and exposure to various stimuli at appropriate critical periods of growth affect the brain and determine the temperament. Even the "hardwired" for herding Border Collie will not develop the breed-typical motor patterns of herding unless it is exposed to the appropriate external stimuli at the critical age.29 Even though many canine behavioural traits may be under genetic influence, heritability for most is low,36 which reflects the importance of environment in developing the behaviour. The fact that many dogs exhibit breed stereotypical behaviour is as much to do with human expectations and associated treatment of the dog as with the dog's behavioural genetics.29 The case against APBT having genes determining aggression was compelling enough to be accepted by the Alabama Supreme Court in August 2002 in a case brought by the Washington Animal Foundation.39



Human expectation and socialization is one of the reasons for the reputation for unique savagery the APBT has, particularly in America. The 1980s to 1990s was a period of pit bull panic in the USA,1 but this was not a perception created only by lurid news media coverage of severe attacks. APBTs, like all dogs, given their behavioural plasticity, can be made aggressive by human agency, either unwittingly or deliberately. There is some evidence to support the popular view that anti-social elements have utilized APBTs as guard dogs or to intimidate people.6 Many studies addressed the issue of "pit bulls" and their involvement in dog attacks, including fatalities.10,21 A general finding was the "pit bulls" were responsible for a greatly disproportionate number of attacks, including fatalities. There are two methodological failings with these types of study, which many of them acknowledge.  Identification of the breed of an attacking dog is seldom reliably assessed, and usually is taken from media reports10. Not only are the news media more likely to report attacks by breeds like "pit bulls" and to wax and wane in their interest in dog attacks,20,40 but in periods of heightened panic, attacks by almost any dog are attributed to "pit bulls".13,41,42 These authors provide specific cases of heavily reported attacks by "pit bulls" that in fact were not pit bulls. A cursory examination of Australian media reports would reveal this to be the general rather than episodic situation. The second methodological problem with many published studies is that in calculations of the relative bite record of various breeds, neither the numerator (attacks by the breed) nor the denominator (numbers of the breed in the population) is known.20 We have very little idea how many APBTs live in any Australian state. The breed is not registered by canine councils, and because of the long-standing threat of restrictive legislation, very few of the dogs are registered by their breed with local councils. NSW has about 200 APBT registered with councils,43 but there probably are thousands in the state. The Gold Coast City Council has a handful of APBT registered as that breed, but "thousands" within the jurisdiction.44 A complicating factor in American studies is that "pit bull" there does not refer to APBT, but to all of the bull breeds and their crosses, and even to unrelated dogs like Shar Peis. These facts render questionable study findings that the APBT is a particularly dangerous breed. To illustrate this problem, if US criteria of pit bull identity were applied to Australian fatality data, 5 or 6 of the dogs involved in 14 human deaths would be classed as "pit bulls", yet at most one of the dogs was an APBT (author's file of media reports of fatalities).

The apparent differences in attack records of "pit bulls" in America and Australia may have several explanations:
It may be simply that "pit bull" is a generic category in America, but tends to refer to a specific breed, the APBT, in Australia;
It may be that the two breed populations exhibit average genetic differences relating to predisposition to aggression. This is possible, given that the Australian population descends from approximately 70 dogs imported from America in the 1980s45 from fighting yards;
It may be a sociological question not related to the nature of the dog breed. In as much as both criminals and householders fearful of criminals may desire powerful and aggressive dogs, relative rates and profiles of crime are relevant. Management and breeding practices may be the decisive issue in the potential danger of individual dogs. Lockwood46 argued that the types of owners who irresponsibly produce problem dogs, have selected a variety of breeds over time. Significantly, in London in the eighteen months to May 1991, 30 of 50 criminal incidents involving dogs (setting them onto people etc.) involved pit bulls,6 and of 20 deaths caused by pit bulls in one U.S. survey, half the owners were males aged between 20 and 25, and more than half were either involved in dog fighting or had criminal records.47 The United Kennel Club, a registry for APBTs since the 1890s, claims that no registered APBT has ever been involved in a fatality.48 If so, this indicates that the breed is not deadly when kept by owners who buy registered dogs.



Dog attacks are a significant public safety issue in Australia, as elsewhere. However, a tiny minority of the dogs in our communities bite people in any given year.17 The available data show clearly that the American Pit Bull Terrier is not involved in more attacks or serious attacks on people than other breeds - indeed, it is well down the lists of frequency of attack by breed. In America in the 1980s, the decade of the "pit bull panic", with an estimated pit bull population of 500,000 - I million,49 accepting the most damning figures, in any given year one pit bull in 62,500 to 125,000 killed a person. The average American person was at least five times more likely to murder somebody.4

The case that the APBT is an especially dangerous dog is not convincing. Though American data lend some support to this view, they are so seriously flawed as to be unreliable, and the sociology of the human-dog relationship is probably more important than inherited breed disposition. In Australia the available data show the APBT to be less dangerous than several other breeds in absolute numbers of attacks on people. There are no data available to assess breed attack rates relative to breed populations, so a definitive judgement on the relative danger of various breeds must be suspended. What emerges clearly from analysis of available data is the fact that attacks are committed by a small proportion of individuals of any breed.


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44. Grew J, Councillor, Gold Coast City Council. Pers. Comm. 2002.

45. Herald Sun. Pit bulls a real danger - RSPCA. 19 May 1993. Melbourne.

46. Lockwood R. Vicious dogs: communities, humane societies, and owners struggle with a growing problem. Humane Society News, Winter. Washington, D.C. 1986.

47. Vines G. Not all pit bulls are killers. New Scientist.  8 June 1991.

48. United Kennel Club.  Letter "To All Legislators". 7th March 2003.

49. Lockwood R, Rindy K. Are "pit bulls" different? An analysis of the "pit bull terrier" controversy. In Rowan AN, Editor. Dog Aggression ant the Pit Bull Terrier. Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, Massachusetts. 1987: 1729-1736.

Dr Stephen Collier
School of Human and Environmental Studies
University of New England,
Armidale, NSW, Australia 2351
02-6773 3071

Holland lifts 15 year old ban on pitbulls...(more)

TITUSVILLE, Fla. -- A 74-year-old woman was found mauled to death by her two dogs Thursday


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