DogsBite.org - On May 7, The Orlando Sentinel contacted DogsBite.org to
contribute to a regular feature called The Front Burner, a pro-con
editorial segment. The topic matter was whether to ban pit bulls.
DogsBite.org submitted our 630 word piece in support of banning pit
bulls on May 15. The Sentinel published the piece on May 24. We are
republishing the article in full on the DogsBite.org Blog one week later to include the associated source citations, 13 in total.
Banning Pit Bulls Saves Lives and Protects the Innocent
By Colleen LynnWhether to ban pit bulls is a human health and safety issue that should be steered by health and safety officials. Public safety is not the profession of animal advocates. Thus, public policy coming from animal advocates concerning protecting humans from pit bulls is fundamentally flawed.So far this year, 13 of the 14 Americans who have been killed by dogs — 93 percent — were killed by pit bulls and pit mixes. This is well above the average of 60 percent from 2005 to 2012.1As the pit bull population rises, more human fatalities ensue. During the last eight-year period that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied fatal attacks by breed (1991 to 1998),2 pit bulls were estimated at 1 percent of the U.S. dog population.3 Pit bulls killed an average of three people per year.The pit bull population has since grown to 4 percent.4 During the most recent eight-year period (2005-12), pit bulls killed an average of 19 people per year.5Miami-Dade County, which banned pit bulls in 1989, has avoided this loss of life. Other Florida counties — prohibited by state law from regulating dogs by breed — continue to experience deaths and disfigurements due to pit bulls. Since 1989, 18 Florida citizens have been killed by pit bulls — none within Miami-Dade.6The threat from pit bulls results from the combination of the animals' inclination to attack without warning — an essential trait of fighting dogs — and the type of injuries that pit bulls typically inflict.Most dogs bite and retreat, but pit bulls have a hold-and-shake bite style, and tenaciously refuse to stop an attack once begun.Often a pit bull releases its grip only when dead — the trait dog fighters describe as being "dead game."Ban opponents often blame dismembering and fatal attacks on environmental factors, such as neglect. That, unfortunately, is the plight of too many dogs of all breeds, not just those who kill and maim.Opponents also fail to distinguish dog-bite-injury severity. They argue that bans "do not reduce all dog bites." Of the 4.7 million Americans bitten by dogs each year,7 9,500 require hospitalization for severe dog-bite injuries.8 The most extreme injury level, mauling injury, requires life-saving procedures at trauma centers.The purpose of a pit bull ban is to eradicate mauling injuries and deaths inflicted by pit bulls, the breed involved in more than half of all severe and mauling attacks.9Since 1986, 18 appellate decisions have upheld lower-court findings that pit bulls are more dangerous than other dog breeds.10Since 1988, four peer-reviewed studies published in leading medical journals have reviewed the severity of pit bull injury.11 "Mortality, Mauling and Maiming by Vicious Dogs," published in the Annals of Surgery in 2011, concluded the following:
"Attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs. Strict regulation of pit bulls may substantially reduce the U.S. mortality rates related to dog bites."In April 2012, the highest court in Maryland declared pit bulls "inherently dangerous," altering common law pertaining to pit bull attacks. Pit bulls are prima facie dangerous in Maryland and held to a strict liability standard. In instances of a tenant's pit bull attacking, this liability extends to the landlord. The court cited the entire abstract of the 2011 Annals of Surgery study in its opinion.12Influential pit bull advocates have supported regulation in the past and are doing so now. On its Facebook page, the Villalobos Rescue Center, founded by Tia Torres of Animal Planet's Pit Bulls & Parolees — expressed support for a proposal in Louisiana on the heels of a mutilating attack on a woman by her own pit bulls.13It is time for Florida pit bull advocacy groups to follow suit.
Colleen Lynn is the founder of DogsBite.org, a national dog bite victims' group dedicated to reducing serious dog attacks.
18-Year U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Chart (2005 to 2012), by DogsBite.org, May 6, 2013.
2Breeds of Dogs Involved in Fatal Human Attacks in the United States Between 1979 and 1998, by Sacks, Sinclair, Gilchrist, Golab and Lockwood, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2000.
3Pit Bull Attack: Case Report and Literature Review, by Steven F. Vegas, MD, Jason H. Calhoun, MD, M. Eng., John Mader, MD, Texas Medicine, Vol. 84, November 1988.
4More adoptions will not end shelter killing of pit bulls, by Merritt Clifton, Animal People, October 2011.
52012 U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities, by DogsBite.org, January 11, 2013
6Fatal Pit Bull Attacks, fatalpitbullattacks.com.
7Nonfatal Dog Bite-Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments - United States, 2001, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 2003; 52(26): 605-610.
8Emergency Department Visits and Inpatient Stays Involving Dog Bites, 2008, by Laurel Holmquist, M.A. and Anne Elixhauser, Ph.D., Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD., November 2010.
9Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to December 31, 2012, by Merritt Clifton, Animal People, December 31, 2012.
10Appellate Court Decisions Affirming the Dangerousness of Pit Bulls, by DogsBite.org.
11Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs, by John K. Bini, MD, Stephen M. Cohn, MD, Shirley M. Acosta, RN, Marilyn J. McFarland, RN, MS, Mark T. Muir, MD and Joel E. Michalek, PhD; for the TRISAT Clinical Trials Group, Annals of Surgery, April 2011 - Volume 253 - Issue 4 - p 791–797.
Pitbull Mauling Deaths in Detroit, by Cheryl L. Loewe MD, Francisco J. Diaz MD, and John Bechinski DO, The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, Vol 28, December 2007.
Mauling by Pit Bull Terriers: Case Report, by Baack BR, Kucan JO, Demarest G, Smoot EC, J Trauma, 29(4):517-520, April 1989.
Pit Bull Attack: Case Report and Literature Review, by Steven F. Vegas, MD, Jason H. Calhoun, MD, M. Eng., John Mader, MD, Texas Medicine, Vol. 84, November 1988.
12Tracey v. Solesky, 427 Md. 627, 50 A.3d 1075 (2012).
13Villalobos Rescue Center's Facebook Photos Page. The post was created on May 13 and first accessed by DogsBite.org on May 14, 2013. Comments predictably ballooned (reaccessed May 25, capturing comments). On May 24, Tia Torres posted "part" of an email sent to Councilman Glenn Green that questioned singling out one breed, denying she had ever shown support for BSL. Yet, there is no question of the intention behind the original post: "Here's the other option: AN ALL OUT BAN!" The fist option being mandatory insurance for pit bulls.
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