You are likely aware that pitbull terriers (also spelled pit bull) are frequently targeted by Breed Discriminatory Laws (BDL) in the United States and other legislation throughout the world. Why is this so? Let’s take a closer look at this well-known breed to determine why it is supposedly so aggressive and dangerous, despite the fact that numerous applied animal science studies and research indicate otherwise.
Are Pit Bulls a suitable type of dog?
People frequently refer to pit bulls as a distinct breed of dog, which is incorrect. The pit bull is not a legitimate breed. The term pitbull is more of an umbrella term that encompasses a number of distinct purebred dog breeds as well as some mixed breeds. The problem is that the list of breeds included under the term pitbull has grown over time and continues to grow today. Nonetheless, it typically refers to American Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
Therefore, not only are pit bulls not a real dog breed, but the term has no correct definition. Regardless of their breed, pit bulls are typically labeled based on their physical characteristics, such as their barrel chest and square head.
What Is BDL and Does It Actually Work?
Breed-Discriminatory Legislation (BDL) is a US law that prohibits or restricts the ownership of certain dogs based on their alleged breed in certain states. People frequently use the term “pit bull ban” because pit bulls are the most frequently targeted dog breed, but it actually refers to any legislation prohibiting any dog breed. Other breeds, such as German Shepherds and Dobermans, have also been negatively affected by such legislation. In addition, BDL includes legal acts that do not outright ban pit bull terriers, but impose such severe restrictions that owners are frequently forced to give up their pets, such as purchasing expensive insurance or keeping the dog muzzled at all times.
Now, the question is whether these laws are truly effective. The correct answer is “no.” Numerous studies demonstrate that these actions do not enhance public safety. Initially, their primary objective was to reduce the number of dog bites, but decades of data show that BDL has had no effect at this level.
As evidence, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) published in 2014 a review of studies from ten countries over the past four decades, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, and concluded that BDL did not reduce the incidence or severity of bite injuries. Similarly, the Public Health Department of Aragon, Spain affirms that BDL is “not effective in protecting people from dog bites in a meaningful way,” and the United Kingdom published a study claiming that the ban on “pit bulls” did not reduce dog attacks.
There are numerous contrary studies on dog aggression and dog bites. In 2008, the International Society for Applied Ethology published a study in its journal Applied Animal Behavior Science stating that “…it is inappropriate to predict a dog’s propensity for aggressive behavior solely on the basis of its breed.” Or the American Veterinary Medical Association Litterature Review stating, “Given that breed is a poor predictor of aggression and pit bull-type dogs are not implicated in controlled studies, it is difficult to support targeting this breed as the basis for dog bite prevention.”
Alternatively, the Centers for Disease Control published a study reviewing dog bite-related fatalities reported by the media in the 1980s. However, the study relied solely on media reports and did not verify the actual dog breed, so the results were flawed and overemphasized pit bull terriers due to media bias. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have explicitly stated that they do not support BDL because it is ineffective.
Why Are Pitbull and His Music So Targeted?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is “for no apparent reason.” According to the National Canine Research Council, it is merely a matter of media perspectives. It had previously highlighted how pitbulls were the primary target of the media for no apparent reason: over 4 dog bite injuries covered in the local news over the course of 4 days, one case involving an alleged pitbull received 230 newspaper articles, while the dog bite that killed a person received only two. Obviously, the second incident did not involve a pit bull.
The National Canine Research Council ultimately determined that “any studies that rely on visual breed identification, including those that link dog bite-related fatalities and breed, cannot be cited responsibly in the developing literature.”