mardi 13 juin 2017

A Few Facts About Pit Bulls

Charles Danten 


ll dogs are potential biters, but some like the pit bull are much more dangerous than others. Is it right to ban them? Without a doubt. Not to do so would be a crime. Will anti-pit bull bylaws solve the problem of biting dogs? Of course not; it will even continue to worsen as long as the root problems remain unsolved.

Lawyer Marie Goldwater in full action

The Facts

For the last 40 years or so all serious epidemiological studies - i.e. those that are not made by vets or sponsored by humanitarian societies and pro-pit bull associations  - are unanimous: in North America, the majority of dog bites requiring hospitalization or resulting in death are inflicted by pit bull type dogs. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) Here are the conclusions of two of these studies that all point in the same direction:

In their study, Mortality, mauling, and maiming by vicious dogs, published in 2011 in Annals of surgery, John K. Bini and his fellow surgeons state 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 US mortality rates related to dog bites.” (11)

Surgeons, Michael S. Golinko, Brian Arslanian, and Joseph K. Williams, authors of the most recent of these studies, conducted in October 2016 and published in Clinical Pediatrics, write the following in their conclusion: “Pit bull bites were implicated in half of all surgeries performed and pit bulls are over 2.5 times as likely to bite in multiple anatomic locations as compared to other breeds.” (12)

What is a Pit Bull?

“Pit bull” is a generic term for a large number of mixed breeds created by the U.S. Marines during the Second World War by crossing the following breeds in varying proportions:

(1) Terriers and their derivatives bull terriers 

Up until the 19th century, these born killers, selected for thousands of generations for their aggressiveness, were used to harass (bait) animals of different species left to run free in an arena or attached to a pole. The English of all backgrounds, “including the ladies of a certain rank, to the example of the Roman ladies,” were particularly fond of these shows of incredible cruelty where people were thrilled at seeing dogs shred to pieces bulls, monkeys, goats, mules or badgers. 

(2) Big dogs like the German or Argentinian Mastiff 

The reputation of these Molossers is as bad as that of the terrier-type dogs of the previous section. These canine monsters with supernatural strength were used to lead cattle and to guard the shops of butchers. In the butchering sector, up until the 19th century, they were also used in dog fighting, a popular leisure activity that attracted a large crowd who derived great pleasure from seeing blood flow. (13) 

The pit bull is therefore a modern combat dog made from mating extremely aggressive breeds that were selected for hundreds of generations for their gameness (ability to fight to the death even with several bullets in its body and a broken leg), strength, overdeveloped predator instinct, high pain threshold, and impulsiveness. These factors combined with the incredible power of their jaws cause extremely serious injuries.

B. Michel, M. Tassin, N. Stroumza, G, Couly (2012).
Traumatologie faciale pédiatrique. 

EMC. Pédiatrie infectieuse :7(2).   

In Canada, the only purebred pit bulls, i.e. whose physical and mental characteristics (phenotype) are homogeneous and stable (fixed in the genes and reproducible from generation to generation) are the American pit bull terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, and its derivative, the American Staffordshire terrier, called “amstaff” in the jargon of the French suburbs. All other pit bulls are mixes.
Even if they are not all exactly identical in appearance, pit bulls are nevertheless typical and easily recognizable. “From the United States to Ontario, judges have concluded that visual identification of these dogs is within the reach of most people of ordinary intelligence,” writes Marie-Claude Malboeuf, journalist at, La Presse, in an incendiary article entitled, Pit bulls. On which side does science lean? (14) 

As stated by the world-renowned epidemiologist, Dr. Barry Pless, from McGill University, consulted by Ms. Malboeuf: “if it looks like a pit bull, if it behaves like a pit bull and if people recognize it as a pit bull, it's enough to say that it’s a pit bull.” (15) An assertion supported by a US study conducted in 2013 by Dr. Emily Weiss in a shelter belonging to the Humanitarian Society of Richmond. The employees in this study correctly identified, in 96% of cases, pit bull type dogs that were presented to them in the course of their work. (16) 

Genes Versus Training and Environment

These Rambos of dazzling ferocity are more dangerous than any other dogs because of their genetic propensity to attack without warning and to fight to the last breath if necessary. And this agonistic propensity of genetic origin is not due to a reversal of domestication or to an increase in wildness. Man developed fighting dogs of this type strictly for this purpose. Once an animal is domesticated, i.e. that is rendered docile enough to be manipulated without danger, domestication can indeed be exercised in both opposite directions, either to more docility or to more aggressiveness. (17)

Indeed, genes play an important role in aggressiveness and intelligence, even if the acquired or training environmental aspect of behaviour also matters. (18) All dogs are not born equal and all dogs are not equal in intelligence and docility. The favourite saying of the pro-pit bull advocates (19)(20)(21), copy-pasted from Jean Jacques Rousseau's theory of the noble savage, “there are no bad dogs, but only bad masters,” is false. All honest veterinarians know this. (22) 

Jean Jacques Rousseau

It is therefore quite surprising to hear, Anne-Marie Goldwater, “the pit bull lawyer ready to show her teeth in court,” utter the following words: “We use derogatory words to identify a certain subgroup of dogs which does not form a ‘race.’ Like blacks, Latinos, Arabs... these aren't races. Just like there is only one race, the race of human beings. There is only one ‘race’ of dogs, it's called dog: canis lupus familiaris. [...]. The ban of specific ‘races’ does not work. It will only result in a false sense of security.” (23) 

(‘Race’ in the above quotation is placed in quotation marks because in French, the original language of this quotation, there is no word for breed. The switching back and forth from animals to humans with the same word “race” is thus very smooth in French and quite effective rhetorically).

Not quite so, Ms. Goldwater. The dog is in fact a domesticated subspecies of the wolf, itself divided into more than 450 breeds or variants, easily identified by their morphology (phenotype) and able to predictably produce offspring true to type. In other words, pit bulls true to type such as the american staffordshire terrier, one of the three purebred pit bull breeds recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club, cannot produce a litter of poodles. And Man by the way, as stated by Steven Pinker of Harvard University and many others, is not a race but a species also divided into races, such as Latinos, Arabs, Whites, Asians, Jews, and Blacks (24)(25)(26)(27)(28). No white couple true to type can engender asian or black children. Race is real whether you like it or not. 

Finally, Ms. Goldwater is wrong in claiming without citing her sources that the banishment of pit bulls does not work. Epidemiologists, Malathi Raghavan, Patricia J. Martens, Dan Chateau, and Charles Burchill showed that in Manitoba, Breed-specific legislation (BSL) had a significant impact on the incidence of hospitalizations due to dog bites. (29) This is also true for the city of Toronto, where the results of the pit bull ban in 2005 are outstanding. (30) In Catalonia, also, BSL has been very successful. (31) 

Why, if it doesn't work, would pit bulls be banned or regulated in parts of more than 40 countries, in all US Military bases as well as in 700 US Communities? Because BSL works everywhere when properly implemented, that’s why. (32)

Are All Pit Bull Dogs Dangerous?

Of course not. The problem is in finding those that are not... before the fact. There is presently no test for effectively predicting a future attack. (30). And pit bull attacks are by definition unpredictable. 

The most dangerous pit bulls are those that are trained to be aggressive by mostly ill-reputed individuals, such as drug dealers or gang members or even ordinary persons who like to scare or intimidate others. Although law prohibits them, dogfights still occur and dogs are still bred for this purpose. Only the most aggressive dogs are used while the other less performing subjects are killed or sold on the market where there is a high demand for pit bulls. People who actually believe in the no-bad-dog-but-only-bad-master theory buy these animals wilfully without fully realizing what they are getting into. We have witnessed irresponsible dog owners actually exposing children to their pit bull just to prove a point. Others are sold to breeders, both black market and legal, where they are reproduced cheap by the dozens without any consideration for their behaviour traits as long as they are true to type. (33) 

Is the Pit Bull the Only Dangerous Dog? 

In the current state of affairs, it is impossible to answer this question with certainty, at least in Quebec where, according to the findings of the Working Committee on the supervision of dangerous dogs (WCSDD), statistics on dog bites are really a black hole. Registration of a dog, for example, is not required in each of the municipalities of the province of Quebec, and the application of this obligation when it exists is often uneven and incomplete, as it is not mandatory, for example, to report the breed of the registered animal.

Indeed, without knowing the exact number of bites for each breed and without knowing the population of each breed, it is impossible to find out precisely which breeds are the most dangerous. To make things worse, in Quebec unlike in the US, police officers, doctors and veterinarians are not required to report bites, unless rabies is suspected. Why such laxity when it is so easy to oblige veterinarians and other stakeholders to report aggressive dogs, and owners to register their animals? Is this a ploy used to protect business? According to the WCSDD, the right of veterinarians to secrecy in the case of an aggressive dog is also a substantial obstacle to any effective preventive measures. (34)

Fortunately, the situation is different in Toronto where the data on dogs is sufficiently large and precise to get a good idea of the problem (see table above). In fact, all pit bull type dogs, pure bred and mixes alike are the most dangerous, and we stated why previously, but other breeds are also a threat. All pit bull stock breeds and their derivatives, such as American bulldogs, Cane corsos, Presa canarios, Rottweilers, and the Mastiffs, as well as guard dogs and dogs trained to attack and defend their territory, such as the German shepherd are no choirboys either. Others like the Husky, the Samoyed and other sled dogs are often involved in bites. (35)

That said, even dogs famous for their docility, such as the Labrador or the golden retriever can occasionally be aggressive. Ms. Dinoire, the first face-grafted person, was bitten by her Labrador. Even a small dog like a Chihuahua, which is one the most frequent dog biter, can theoretically cause death if the victim is small enough, and if the bite is located in a vital area like the carotid artery or the jugular. We're never careful enough around any dog.


1. Michael S. Golinko, MD, MA, Brian Arslanian, MD, andet Joseph K. Williams, MD, FAAP (July 2016). Characteristics of 1616 Consecutive Dog Bite Injuries at a Single Institution. Clinical Pediatrics. DOI: 10.1177/0009922816657153.

2. Mark A. Prendes et alcoll. (2016). Ocular Trauma From Dog Bites: Characterization, Associations, and Treatment Patterns at a Regional Level I Trauma Centre Over 11 Years. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg: 32(4).

3. Garvey et alcoll. (2015). Morbidity of pediatric dog bites: A case series at level one pediatric trauma centre. Journal of Pediatric Surgery: p. 50, pp. 343-346.

4. O’Brien et alcoll. (2015). Dog bites to the head and neck: an evaluation of a common pediatric trauma and associated treatment. Am. Journal of otolaryngology – head and neck medicine and surgery : p. 36, 32-38.

5. Prendes et alcoll. (2015). Ocular trauma from dog bites: characterization, associations, and treatment patterns at a regional Level 1 trauma centre over 11 years. Ophthalmic Plastic Reconstructive Surgery.

6. Bini, J.K. et al. (2011) Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs. Annals of Surgery; 253 (4).

7. Ricky L. Langley (2009). Human Fatalities Resulting From Dog Attacks in the United States, 1979–2005. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine; 20(1):19-25.

8. Jeffrey J. Sacks, MD et alcoll. (2000) Breeds of Dogs Involved in Fatal Human Attacks in the United States Between 1979 and 1998. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

9. J. J. Sacks, R. W. Sattin andet S. E. Bonzo (1989). Dog Bite-Related Fatalities from 1979 through 1988. Journal of the American Medical Association; 262:1489-1492.

10. William G. Winkler (1977). Human Deaths Induced by Dog Bites, United States, 1974-75. Public Health Reports; 92(5):425–429.

11. Bini J. K et alcoll. Article cited.

12. Michael S. Golinko et coll. Article cited.

13. Jean-Pierre Digard (2004). La construction sociale d’un animal domestique : le pitbull. Anthropozoologica; 39 (1):17-26.

14. Marie-Claude Malbœuf (2016). Pitbulls. De quel côté penche la scienceLa Presse.

15. Ibid.

16. Dr Emily Weiss (26 septembre 2013). Bully this—The Results Are In… ASPCA de Richmond. 

17. Jean-Pierre Digard. Article cited.

18. Steven Pinker (2002). The Blank Slate. The Modern Denial of Human nature. Penguin Books.

19. Justin Tomczak (2015). All dogs have the potential to be great. It just takes a responsible owner and a loving home to transform that underdog into a wonder dog. The Huffington Post.

20. Francis Battista (2016). Mythological creatures I have known. Dogs, like people are individuals and should be treated and evaluated as individuals, not by the blanket categories of breed or appearance. The Huffington Post

21. Pit Bull Week (2016). The Huffington Post.

22. Mark Derr (February 6, 2001). It Takes Training and Genes to Make a Mean Dog Mean. The New York Times.

23. Thomas Gerbet (September 21, 2016). L'avocate Anne-France Goldwater défend les pitbulls à Longueuil. Radio Canada : bulls-longueuil-goldwater.shtml (site consulted on November 12, 2016).

24. SP Hagenaars et al (2016). Shared genetic aetiology between cognitive functions and physical and mental health in UK Biobank and 24 GWAS consortia. Molecular psychiatry advance on-line publication: 21, 1624–1632; doi:10.1038/mp.2015.225.

25.Atahualpa Castillo-Morales, Jimena Monzón-Sandoval, Alexandra A. de Sousa, Araxi O. Urrutia, Humberto Gutierrez (2016). Neocortex expansion is linked to size variations in gene families with chemotaxis, cell–cell signalling and immune response functions in mammals. Open biology. DOI: 10.1098/rsob.160132.

26. J. Philip Rushton (2013). Race, Evolution, and Behaviour.

27. Steven Pinker (2012). Fear of Race Realism and the Denial of Human Differences. Conference on (video consulted on November 19, 2016).

28. Administration (June 10, 2014). Jews Are a Race, Genes reveal. (site consulted in December 2016)

29. Malathi Raghavan, Patricia J. Martens, Dan Chateau, and et Charles Burchill (2012). Effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in decreasing the incidence of dog-bite injury hospitalizations in people in the Canadian province of Manitoba. Injury Prevention.

30. Eric Andrew-Gee andet Joel Eastwood (October 3, 2014). Pit bulls were Toronto’s biggest biters, before the ban. Toronto Star: (site consulted on November 15, 2016).

31. Joan R. Villalbi, Montse Cleries, Susana Bouis, Víctor Peracho, Julia Duran, and et Conrad Casas (2010). Decline in Hospitalization's Due to Dog Bite Injuries in Catalonia, 1997–2008. An Effect of Government Regulation? Injury Prevention; 16(6):408-10.

32. Thursday, September 1, 2016. Cities with Successful Pit Bull Laws; Data Shows Breed-Specific Laws Work. Tracking Results: 2006 to Present Day.

33. Ibid.

34. Comité de travail sur les chiens dangereux (2016). Ministère de l’Agriculture et des Pêcheries du Québec.

35. Eric Andrew-Gee andet Joel Eastwood. Article cited.