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PitBulls: Propaganda or Killing Machine?

pit bulls - friendly or dangerous?
People fear pitbulls more than any other dog. Attacks happen everyday, but it seems the “pit bull” always grabs the headlines.

The debate among pit bull owners and the opposition heat up.

Is There a Resolution in Sight?

In the past few months, there has been a lot of news about pit bull attacks.  Two that captured headlines here in California were the mauling of two toddlers, who, in separate and unrelated attacks were killed. In one of the cases, the toddler was attacked by 7-8 pit bulls while visiting a relative.  Latest reports claimed the boy may have climbed through an open window into the backyard. The grandmother discovered him missing from the room and searched only to find the boy dead in the backyard with his clothes torn off. Did the boy startle the dogs. Did a pack mentality come over the dogs? No one knows for sure, but the toddler was no match for the dogs.

These attacks are not isolated. Every week we see headlines telling of horrendous pit bull attacks that seem to come out of nowhere. One has to wonder why are so many pit bulls roaming the streets? Where are the owners, and why are the dogs out?

It Starts With Responsibility

Most of us, besides avid dog lovers and breeders, tend to fear pit bulls overall. The media is filled with images of “Pitbull kills…” almost on a weekly basis. People don’t know what to think and fear tends to grow as more stories come out. Anyone walking alone that comes across an unleashed pitbull immediately thinks they’re going to be attacked and possibly killed. It seems no dog evokes more fear in people than the pitbull.

On the other end of the spectrum are the breeders and owners who adore their pitbull. Talk to any of them and you hear a completely different story about the dog. In asking one local breeder why these dogs seem to attack more than other breeds, he said it comes down to owner responsibility.

“The wrong kind of people want to own a pit bull because they think it’s bada** to have a dog people fear. They teach the dog to be aggressive and reward him when he is. The dog doesn’t understand when to turn it on or off. These kinds of people are the worst type to own a large breed or aggressive dog.  If you take any dog and teach it to be aggressive from the time he is a puppy, they’re going to learn that behavior.

No one is going to invest time into making a poodle aggressive, which is why you only hear of aggression from breeds like the Rottweiler and pitbull. No one sees the thousands and thousands of pit bulls who are happily living in a stable home with responsible owners. Many of them would bet their life on trusting that dog with their family. It’s really quite sad to see the dogs take the blame for human stupidity.”

A Facebook supporter of pit bulls posts a message to Nancy Grace
who called all pit bulls "devil dogs" on her nationwide news show.

The argument between pit bull owners and those who fear them is an ongoing battle, especially on the internet on sites such as Facebook and Reddit. Heated arguments that rarely come to a conclusion. Some cities across the U.S. have initiated bans on owning a pit bull and recently Riverside county in California passed a law that all pit bulls must be sterilized before they reach the age of five months.  Shelters are overrun with pit bulls and the population is a real problem for the public as well as the dogs.

Why Do Dogs Attack?

Dogs are animals and by nature, they can be unpredictable.  Whether it’s an unstable dog or one that is fearful, the reason they attack is only secondary to surviving the attack. Typically a fearful dog can be much more dangerous than an aggressive dog because they attack out of fear or insecurities – which makes them extremely unpredictable.

Many times dog aggression is a result of owner irresponsibility. Taking the time to properly train a dog is simply beyond some people and over time the problem of aggression grows. A “ruckus” can also cause a dog to attack. Screaming, running, or a crowd of people can trigger a dog’s insecurities.  Some breeds simply have a higher prey drive and are more prone to biting. The breed of dog also needs to match the personality type of the owner for the best results. A dog that requires a lot of activity and is owned by someone who is sedentary will only make the dog anxious. Exercise is an important part of having a stable happy dog.

What is it in some dogs that makes them so aggressive? Or, are we as a society, wrong? Do pit bulls or rottweilers simply get more media coverage when they attack because it’s newsworthy to show the animal as a monster. Eliciting fear brings in ratings, right? Would anyone even pay attention if a Labrador retriever injured someone?  Many dog experts say the pit bull is merely the flavor of the month. In the 80’s it was the dreaded Doberman, ’90s were the raging rottweiler and now, it’s the savage pit bull.  One thing is for sure. Owner responsibility is missing in many of these cases. Large breed dog owners have a duty to keep the public and their pets safe. Greater care is required when you have a guard dog or large breed animal that can cause harm to others.

If  You Are Attacked

Suffering from a dog attack is a traumatic experience. The lasting effects go far beyond the physical wounds – which can be very serious. Someone attacked by a dog tends to suffer a type of PTSS — post-traumatic stress syndrome and a lifelong fear of dogs. Even going for a walk can become impossible because of the fear of another attack.

If You Own the Dog

Keep your dog leashed at all times and make sure your property can securely keep your dog from getting out. High fences, locked gates and leashes can help make sure you don’t cause injury to someone else.  Plenty of exercises will keep your large dog from getting too anxious. If you think your dog has aggression issues be sure to get professional help. A trainer can help you identify what sets your dog off so you can avoid it in the future and help your pet become more stable.

Homeowner Insurance Issues
If you own a large breed dog be sure to read your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if there are any exceptions to covering large dogs (based on weight) or particular breeds.  Some insurance companies won’t cover pit bulls or rottweilers and will state so in the policy. Hiding the fact that you have the dog from your insurance company could be something you’ll regret should your dog attack someone. You’ll be left holding the bills for the injuries.

Keep in mind: First thing to do is to read your homeowner’s policy to determine whether there is an exclusion of coverage for the results of a dog bite, or (more likely) an exclusion for claims arising from ownership or keeping a dog of a certain breed.  If you are applying for a policy, ask for and review the policy language for any exclusions for dog bites. If the agent asks if you own a dog, don’t lie. Once the policy is issued you don’t have an obligation to tell your agent that you’ve gotten a dog … but again, if the agent asks about a dog during the renewal process, it is best to be honest. There is no exclusion unless the policy specifically states there is an exclusion for coverage for an attack or bite by an animal.

Seeking Legal Help

In California, there are no second chances when it comes to dog bites. The owner is responsible. Unless you can prove that the person entered your property illegally and the dog was simply defending you then it’s likely you’ll be paying the victim’s medical bills and pain & suffering. Dog bite personal injury cases are on the rise, especially in California.

Serious dog bite injuries can require a lot of medical attention and a long road to recovery. For some, the external and internal wounds last a lifetime. The dog owner can be held responsible for all the costs associated with the attack. People who have homeowners insurance may find themselves facing a lawsuit from the injured party. Future medical costs, loss of earnings, and pain/suffering can all be part of the lawsuit which could climb into the thousands.

What is your opinion on this issue? Do you feel like the breed is to blame or is it the owner’s responsibility to avoid triggering a pit bull to be aggressive?

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California Personal Injury Blog