People who think pit bulls are dangerous point to the outsized number of attacks as evidence. Even if the numbers are inflated a bit, there is still reason for concern.
Pit bulls make up only 6% of the dog population, but they’re responsible for 68% of dog attacks and 52% of dog-related deaths since 1982, according to research compiled by Merritt Clifton, editor of Animals 24-7, an animal-news organization that focuses on humane work and animal-cruelty prevention.
Making the situation worse, young children are more likely to be injured by a pit bull.
Another report published in the April 2011 issue of Annals of Surgery found that one person is killed by a pit bull every 14 days, two people are injured by a pit bull every day, and young children are especially at risk. The report concludes that “these breeds should be regulated in the same way in which other dangerous species, such as leopards, are regulated.” That report was shared with TIME by PETA, the world’s largest animal-rights organization.
However, people who think pit bulls are safe say the statistics are misleading and do not necessarily speak to what caused the attacks.
They can be found at local county facilities as a source to read bite reports, but, with the understanding that what you are looking at is a set of numbers without explanation. Bites and attacks are effects, to which there are always causes. Whether an owner understands the reason for the behavior or not, there is always an underlying cause to a bite or an attack. Pain and fear are two leading causes.
Dogs are also often misidentified as pit bulls, which inflates the reported numbers.
An animal control officer was once asked why a dog in the lost dog runs was labeled as a Pit Bull even though it was an excellent specimen of an American Bulldog, the response was given that “he’ll end up in the wrong hands anyway just because people will think he’s a Pit”. Greyhounds, Boxers, French Bulldogs, and Presa Canarios all come in brindle colorations but brindle colored dogs often get labeled as Pit Bulls, though they may not have an ounce of bully breed in their DNA.
A study at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that 51% of dog attacks over a five year period at that hospital were tied to pit bulls.
In other words, a whopping two-thirds of the hospital's dog-attack injuries involved just two breeds, pit bulls and Rottweilers.
Other studies confirm these statistics: A 15-year study published in 2009 in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology revealed that pit bulls, Rottweilers and German shepherds were responsible for the majority of fatal dog attacks in the state of Kentucky. [See What Your Dog's Breed Says About You]
And a 2011 study from the Annals of Surgery revealed that "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."