Jun 02

Legal Advances in Controlling the Pit Bull Scourge



The highest court in Maryland has established “a strict liability standard in respect to the owning, harboring or control of pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls in lieu of the traditional common law liability principles.” The court has ruled that pit bulls are inherently dangerous as a breed, making their owners and harborers strictly liable for injuries inflicted by these dogs. This decision was made after reviewing facts presented by nationally recognized experts and proponents of pit bull ownership and by equally qualified proponents of control and restrictions to pit bull breeding and ownership.  The result of this is that Maryland Law now states that:

“Upon a plaintiff’s sufficient proof that a dog involved in an attack is a pit bull or a pit bull
cross, and that the owner, or other person(s) who has the right to control the pit bull’s
presence on the subject premises (including a landlord who has a right to prohibit such dogs
on leased premises) knows, or has reason to know, that the dog is a pit bull or cross-bred pit
bull, that person is liable for the damages caused to a plaintiff who is attacked by the dog on
or from the owner’s or lessor’s premises. In that case a plaintiff has established a prima facie
case of negligence. When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that
the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.”

While this decision does not go nearly far enough to protect the general public from pit bulls in general, it does legally force pit bull owners in Maryland to accept the responsibility that comes with harboring a dangerous animal.

Animal control departments in at least 25 U.S. states report that pit bulls are biting more than all other dog breeds. These states include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. The oft-quoted myth by pro-pit bull groups that pit bulls “do not bite more than other breeds” is categorically false. In addition to leading bite counts, the pit bull bite is also the most damaging, inflicting permanent and disfiguring injury.

Merritt Clifton, the Editor of Animal People compiled statistics of press accounts of dog bites resulting in serious injury and death in the U.S. and Canada between 1982 and 2011.  His findings were that:

The combination of pit bulls, rottweilers, their close mixes and wolf hybrids:

  • 77% of attacks that induce bodily harm
  • 73% of attacks to children
  • 81% of attack to adults
  • 68% of attacks that result in fatalities
  • 76% that result in maiming

A 2009 report issued by DogsBite.org shows that 19 dog breeds contributed to 88 deaths in a recent 3-year period. Pit bulls accounted for 59% followed by rottweilers with 14%.

  • Of the 88 fatal dog attacks recorded by DogsBite.org, pit bull type dogs were responsible for 59% (52). This is equivalent to a pit bull killing a U.S. citizen every 21 days during this 3-year period.
  • The data also shows that pit bulls commit the vast majority of off-property attacks that result in death. Only 18% (16) of the attacks occurred off owner property, yet pit bulls were responsible for 81% (13).

A 2000 report issued by the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) reviewed a 20-year period to determine the types of dog breeds most responsible for U.S. dog bite fatalities.

During 1997 and 1998, at least 27 people died of dog bite attacks (18 in 1997 and 9 in 1998). At least 25 breeds of dogs were involved in 238 human dog bite related fatalities during the past 20 years. Pit bulls and rottweilers were involved in over half of these fatalities and from 1997 to 1998 were involved in 67%.


The best thing we can do for communities and pit bulls is to regulate pit bull ownership and pit bull breeding. Lowering the pit bull population will reduce the number of serious maulings, as well as pit bull euthanizations. In the July/August 2009 issue of Animal People, the group estimated that of the 1,663,167 shelter dogs projected to be euthanized in 2009, pit bulls accounted for 58%. This is true despite the fact that pit bulls only make up 5% of the total U.S. dog population.18

Over 650 U.S. cities and nearly all privatized military housing — the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps now have uniform pet policies — have adopted breed-specific laws to correct the pit bull problem. Such measures include: mandatory sterilization, liability insurance and strict containment rules. The most progressive legislation bans the future breeding of pit bulls (a pit bull ban). In just a few years, these communities see a significant drop in pit bull bites and euthanizations.



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  1. robert

    Hmmm lets see it is a fact that the bite stats are wrong, as well as inconcise, as most other breeds that bite have not been reported or were labeled as pit bull due to igrnorance such as your rambleing here. German Shepards, Roties, and even the lovable labs have just as many if not more attacks where are those stats! Get your facts streight.

    1. admin

      Well Robert, I’m not sure where you get your ‘facts’ from, but the information that is posted on the dog byte comes from (among others, The Center for Diesease Control, The Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, and Injury Prevention. I have yet to review a claim that these studies or their findings are lacking in facts. The only claims that I can find that they are wrong are based on innacurate quotes and over generalizations on the part of the critics (if you had bothered to read further in the comments to this post they are cited below). The truth is that the facts published in the dog bite studies are facts and your statements are nothing but unsubstantiated opinion. If you have some ‘facts’ to show that the studies are wrong – feel free to post them here. If you had bothered to read this post before frothing at the mouth you would have noticed that I include rotties and other breeds that have been identified as being dangerous in my statements. Why don’t you put your emotions aside enough to look for the truth (and possibly some supporting facts) before showing your own ignorance?

  2. admin

    Well Team Pit-A-Full – Lets start with the premise that everyone is entitled to an opinion and that most people develop these opinions based on available facts. I’m open minded enough that I can change my opinion when presented with facts that merit the change. You come on here claiming that the opinions of Dogbite.org, Colleen Lynn, and Kory Nelson aren’t worth considering. I have looked at the facts that they present (unlike your irrational emotional blast) and see that they have done research, collected information in the form of facts, and have presented them in such a way as to win the opinions of more people than have been convinced by the pro-pit bull argument.

    Your argument that the Colorado Assoc of Animal Control Officers supports your opinion is not supported by what they actually said. Their statement was that “cannot say with certainty whether a ban on the breed has made the city safer” That does not say that the ban has not ‘worked,’ just that they don’t have proof one way or the other. To the contrary, Doug Kelley indicated that “We have not had a severe mauling or fatality involving a pit bull since its gone into effect.” While the lack of an event is not proof of a truth, it seems to have corrected weekly reports of pit bull attacks in Denver.

    As to the ban costing nearly $1m per year, this is more than offset by the $4m per year reduction in hospitalization, litigation, and emotional damage caused by pit bulls before the ban (do you have sources to cite?).

    You are more than welcome to make your arguments against pit bull bans here, but you need to keep it to facts and not cooked numbers and manipulated quotes to make your point. At to attacking the credibility of other people who are just as entitled to an opinion as you are, I will continue to delete that kind of immature childishness.

  3. Team Pit-a-Full

    Foolishness, 110%. Banning a breed of dog in hopes of securing public safety (aka Breed Specific Legislation) is the biggest failure of the last century. Denver Colorado is a prime example: the cost of their ban is nearly $1m/ annually and according to the Colorado Assoc of Animal Control Officers and the Coalition for Living Safely with dogs… Dog bite frequency and severity has gone (((UP))) since the ban was returned in 2005.
    As for quoting Dogsbite.org or Colleen Lynn or Kory Nelson… well lets just say its like the blind leading the town idiot.
    Might I suggest geting off your blatantly bias horse and collecting ALL ACCURATE INFORMATION (idiotic personal attack removed by editor).

    (idiotic personal attack removed by editor).

    1. Glen

      Team Pit-A-Full – So your argument that pit bull bans is wrong is that the people who are in favor of them are blind idiots? Dogsbite.org (put together by Colleen Lynn) lists hundreds of documented studies that clearly indicate that pit bull and pit bull related dogs are involved in human biting attacks at a significantly higher rate than ANY other breed. This is not just one ot two limited studies but in-depth studies over log periods of times from multiple sources – media, academic, and industry. There is a clear proponderance of evidence from the studies that are cited by these folks that there is an issue with pit bulls and their frequency of involvement in human attacks. It isn’t bias when there is clear evidence that there is a problem. The statistics make it clear that there is an issue here.

      Kory Nelson, the Denver Attorney who championed the pit bull ban in Denver clearly sites the research that he used to determine his position on the matter. In his response to Paula Terifaj a DVM who is critical of his position he cites these studies, including studies that conclusively show that not only is the frequency greater, but the damage inflicted is significantly greater in pit bull cases than in other cases. Paula, who happens to be a bit bull owner (raising a question of bias in her opinion) answers that there is no conclusive scientific evidence that pit bulls are more dangerous. Scientific evidence or not, the statistics make it clear that there is something going on here and that the scientists just havent tested the correct hypothesis yet.

      Yet when I go out to research the pro-pit bull sites, what I find is a limited set (4) of behavioral studies that show that in a laboratory setting pit bulls are no more likely to attack than other breeds of dogs. These findings don’t match the statistics. It must be a bad hypothesis. I also find research that questions if the dog breed bite statistics can be accurate because you can’t identify a pit bull by its DNA and others that complain that the bite studies are flawed because there is no DNA evidence to prove that the biters were pit bulls.

      So if you can point me to the studies that show how bad Colleen or Korey’s sources are I’m willing to be enlightened. From the research that they have published it appears to me that it is you are the blind person trying to lead someone you think is the town idiot.

    2. Glen

      By the way, the biggest failure of the last century was Britan’s effort to develop political independence in the wake of it’s empire and any dog issue dosen’t even come close to that.

    3. Glen

      Humm, After waiting some time for you to formulate some appropriate arguments I decided to review your web site to see if you have posted any valid arguments. Seems that all that is posted there are the same personal attacks and rumors that you are attempting to spread here and no real facts. Once again, you attack the credibility of the facts presented by Colleen Lynn (Dogbites.org) by arguing that:

      1) Events collected from 2006, 2007, and 2008 are only from two years and not three (it sure looks like three to me).

      2) You state that ‘the one reliable source’ for information related to dog bite statistics is the Center for Disease Control. The CDC’c conclusion on this matter is that “fatal attacks on humans appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers).” This is specific. While they do qualify that there may be errors in how breeds were reported, this error does not seem to be great enough for them to not make this conclusion clear.

      CDC Report

      3) Animal Control Officers across the United States and Canada are not competent to determine if a dog is a ‘pit bull type.’ My experience had been that most dog catchers can tell the difference between a Tevuren and a German Shepard. I’m comfortable with statistics collected by them that identify dogs as being a ‘pit bull type.’ Do you have any evidence that Animal Control Officers, in general, are incompetent to classify dogs as such?

      4) Your assertion that http://www.dogbites.org collects its information from the media exclusively is downright wrong. While it is true that many of the items reported on that site are republications of newspaper articles, a brief review of their site I found a dozen academic and scientific research articles to support the anti-pit bull position. Interestingly, It seems that all of the ‘facts’ reported on your site are media extracts. I guess that if Colleen’s sources aren’t any good then yours aren’t any better?

      5) I’m trying to understand your position that there is no such dog as a ‘pit bull’ I believe that there is a generally accepted definition of ‘pit bull type’ dogs (this incidentally includes rottweilers in many definitions). Personally, I find the argument that controls should not be enacted and enforced because there is no proper definition of a ‘pit bull type’ dog as weak an argument as Clinton’s “What the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

      So far, the only source of reputable pro-pit bull research that I can find is the National Canine Research Council (NCRC http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com), an obviously biased organization but straight forward in presenting facts and research. No propaganda or character assassination here, just research and findings. Unfortunately, it seems that the basis of their primary opinion is founded on the seeming inability of Animal Control Officers to visually identify a dog’s type.

      In short, I’ve reviewed the ‘facts’ that you present on your web site (http://www.teampitafull.org) and found them to be little more than personal attacks directed at your critics supported with little or no objective research. You might want to consider taking your site off-line and just redirecting it to the NCRC site where proper pro-pit bull arguments are being made.

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