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Pit Bulls in the News

October 2008 Barker


The Seattle Humane Society promotes owner responsibility.


Monday's pit bull attack in SeaTac, in which a 71-year-old woman was attacked by two dogs, is a tragic reminder that no dog - regardless of breed - should be allowed to run loose.

"It is the owner's responsibility to make sure their dog is well-trained. No dog should be running loose under any circumstances," states Brenda Barnette, chief executive office for the Seattle Humane Society. "We need to hold owners responsible for any dog's behavior that is not appropriate, not just pit bulls."

The behavior of pit bulls has been much debated in Seattle recently, with anti-pit bull activists petitioning the City Council to ban the breed within city limits. We believe that a breed ban would not address the real problem, and would unfairly target the breed. Pit bulls are one of the more popular breeds in the Seattle area, according to licensing records, and they account for approximately 30 percent of lost, stray and abandoned animals in our community's shelters.

"Pit bulls are sensationalized in the news" Barnette said. "I'm concerned when I hear a certain 'type' of dog defined as the problem, rather than really looking at the underlying reasons why dog bites happen."

The National Canine Research Council, which collects data on dog bite incidents, says that dog bites can be traced to one or more of the following:

1. Very young child left alone with a dog

2. Dog that is used as a guard dog and encouraged to be aggressive by the owner

3. Free roaming dog, or pack of dogs

4. Previous aggressive behavior by the dog that was ignored or not corrected by the dog owner

5. Isolated and unsocialized dogs. Research also shows that unaltered dogs are more likely to bite than those that are spayed or neutered.

Until we start focusing on the underlying causes of bites -- instead of focusing on specific breeds of dogs -- we will never decrease the number of major dog attacks, Barnette said. The result of legislation is increasing the number of dogs who are killed in shelters, without making anyone safer.

In the majority of serious bites, the incidents were largely preventable, according to Karen Delise, founder and director of research for the National Canine Research Council. Communities can take positive steps to help keep both people and dogs out of harm'sway by:

  • Encouraging dog owners to spay and neuter all dogs who are not used in an appropriate breeding program.
  • Enforcing leash laws.
  • Expecting humane confinement of dogs and discouraging the chaining of dogs
  • Penalizing animal abusers and enforcing anti-cruelty laws.

Individuals, parents and dog owners should follow these common-sense guidelines:

  • Do not leave young children alone with dogs.
  • Teach children to be respectful towards all dogs-do not allow teasing or hitting.
  • Children should be taught how to respond in the event that they encounter unfamiliar dogs, such as:
    • Remaining calm and quiet, standing still with your arms at your sides and "acting like a tree,"
    • not approaching or attempting to pet unfamiliar dogs, and
    • always asking the owner if it is OK before approaching a leashed dog

About the Seattle Humane Society

The Seattle Humane Society was founded in 1897 to bring people and pets together. The Seattle Humane Society does this today through its adoption center, low-fee spay/neuter surgery program, pet workshops and training, pet food bank, humane teen club, visiting pets program and more. The Seattle Humane Society is located in Bellevue, at 13212 SE Eastgate Way.

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