Dangerous dogs are a problem

scapegoating pit bulls won't solve it

May 03, 2012

Sadly, pit bulls have acquired a bad reputation. They often attract irresponsible owners who encourage aggressive behavior. If a pit bull does attack, he's more likely to inflict serious injuries than other breeds, simply because of his strength. A pit bull attack is also often more likely to draw media attention. Animal control officers across the country find that many times when they alert the media to a dog attack, news outlets have no interest unless a pit bull is involved.

Sun columnist Dan Rodricks opines that pit bulls are inherently dangerous ("Pit bulls: Own them at your risk," May 1). Based on our extensive experience with the breed, however, we'd argue that your average pit bull makes a fun-loving, affectionate companion. The ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team has evaluated dogs from many backgrounds, including a large number of pit bulls rescued in dog fighting cases. Analysis of our evaluation data shows that these pit bulls exhibited significantly less aggression toward people than other dogs.

The problem of dangerous dogs does require serious attention, but it won't be remedied by the "quick fix" of breed-specific laws. Rather, we should seek the effective enforcement of breed-neutral laws that hold dog owners accountable for the actions of their animals.

Pamela Reid and Kristen Collins, Urbana, Ill.

The writers are vice president and director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Anti-Cruelty Behavior Services Team.

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