The muscular and athletic American Staffordshire terrier, which is sometimes referred to as a Staffie or an AmStaff, is a powerful breed of dog. A type of pit bull – often confused with the much-feared pit bull terriers – Staffordshire terriers can be affectionate family pets and excellent companions. However, they are also extraordinarily strong-willed and are prone to displaying aggressive behavior toward both people and animals. They have powerful jaws, and an American Staffordshire terrier bite can seriously wound victims. If you want to launch a dog bite lawsuit and are looking for the best dog bite attorneys helping victims across California, look no further than Bisnar Chase.
This article will reveal everything you need to know about the AmStaff breed, including its violent history, typical temperament, and tendency to attack. We also give you all the information you need on dog bite liability laws and how you should go about taking legal action if you have suffered a personal injury in an American Staffordshire terrier attack. For those left injured by an aggressive dog, the dog bite lawyers of Bisnar Chase can help.
American Staffordshire Terrier Breed
History of the American Staffordshire Terrier
The violent origins of the American Staffordshire Terrier can be traced back to England in the 18th and 19th centuries. Brits cross-bred Bulldogs and bull terriers to create a variety of ferocious new breeds which could be used in blood sports, as well as for hunting and herding. The newly-developed dogs had ultra-powerful bites and were trained to excel in grisly dogfighting pits. Pit bull terriers share these origins – one of the other breeds created in this process.
In the mid-1800s, the first Staffordshire bull terriers (as they are called in England) were exported to the United States. Over time, breeders in the U.S. put their stamp on the breed by developing a larger version of the terrier. This was eventually recognized as a separate and unique breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The U.S. version of the breed was officially dubbed the American Staffordshire terrier in 1969.
While AmStaffs are no longer bred for fighting pit action, they can still display a volatile nature and have the capacity to launch deadly attacks. Once a popular and widely-admired dog, American Staffordshire terriers are now only the 83rd most-owned breed in the United States, according to the AKC’s latest figures. This lowly ranking is partly due to the AmStaff being banned in several states.
What is the Difference Between American and British Staffordshire Terriers?
The main difference between the American Staffordshire terrier and the British Staffordshire bull terrier is the size of each breed.
These two breeds were originally one single type of dog. It was only when the Staffordshire bull terrier was transported from England to America that alterations were made to the dogs through different breeding practices, resulting in the larger American form.
The two different versions of Staffordshire terriers share similar looks, with broad heads and prominent cheeks. But the American variety typically measures about two inches taller and significantly heavier – up to 70 lbs, compared to 35-40 lbs for the British Staffies.
Is the American Staffordshire Terrier a Pit Bull?
Yes, the American Staffordshire terrier is a type of pit bull. Many people are confused when talking about pit bulls because this term can be used to describe a specific breed and a class of dog. The pit bull terrier is a single breed. But the umbrella term ‘pit bull’ is an all-purpose description for several different dog breeds. The American Staffordshire terrier IS part of the pit bull family, and it is accurate to refer to it as a pit bull.
American Staffordshire Terrier Vs Pit Bull Terriers
Spot the difference: An American Staffordshire terrier (left) and a pit bull terrier (right).
The AmStaff and the pit bull terrier are both considered to be dangerous dogs with aggressive tendencies.
Most people fear pit bull terriers more than any other breed. It is generally accepted that American Staffordshire terriers are a little more even-tempered, but the two breeds share many similarities. They were both bred originally to be fighting dogs, and many examples of the breeds retain a volatile temperament. They also look very similar and are difficult to tell apart for most people.
American Staffordshire Terrier Characteristics
- Height: Males – 18-19 inches / Females – 17-18 inches
- Weight: Males – 55-70 lbs / Females – 40-55 lbs
- Color: 18 color and pattern variations
- Coat: Short, glossy
- Eyes: Dark and round
- Ears: Naturally floppy, can be cropped
- Tail: Short, tapered
- Life Span: 12-16 years
American Staffordshire terriers have a formidable physique. Medium-sized in terms of height, they are strong and muscular, with an almost stocky build and a substantial weight. Despite this, the breed has a graceful movement and is quick and agile.
These AmStaff terriers have a short coat that can come in a wide range of colors and patterning. The breed’s ears are floppy, folding over naturally. However, some owners choose to get an American Staffordshire Terrier’s ears cropped, making them stand upright. Dog laws allow ear cropping in the U.S., but this practice is not allowed in many other countries.
Another critical aspect of an American Staffordshire terrier’s physical make-up is its well-defined and powerful underjaw, making the AmStaff bite force extremely strong. A myth surrounding pit bulls such as the American Staffordshire terrier is that their jaws have a locking mechanism, allowing them to clamp onto a target. However, there is no factual basis for this. The breed simply has an extremely strong jaw and bite.
The Temperament of American Staffordshire Terriers
Just like people, all dogs are individuals who possess their own unique characters and temperaments. But here are some of the behavioral traits which are commonly associated with AmStaffs:
- Craves human love and affection
- Sometimes aggressive and volatile
- Can be destructive if neglected
American Staffordshire terriers can be temperamental dogs, and much of their behavior can depend on the quality of their training and their genes.
Some AmStaffs make for excellent family pets. They are intelligent, affectionate, and usually good with children. These dogs can also look menacing and intimidating and are often protective of their space, family, and home. Their bark is often worse than their bite, but that is not the case with all Staffies.
If an American Staffordshire terrier has not been trained appropriately or has aggressive parents, they may be prone to violent attacks. These terriers may jump and chew excessively when young, especially when they are allowed to become bored. AmStaffs are also not safe around other animals without supervision. They often chase and attack cats and other dogs with little warning.
While all dog bites are serious, an attack by this breed can be especially dangerous due to its strength and power.
|American Staffordshire Terrier Behavior and Characteristics||Rating|
|Ease of Training||★★★|
|Friendly to Strangers||★★|
|Suitability for Novice Owners||★★|
Reputation of the American Staffordshire Terrier
Due to the intimidating appearance of the American Staffordshire terrier, this breed does not have the best reputation. Being classified as a pit bull automatically marks the AmStaff out as an aggressive dog in most people’s minds.
Bans and restrictions are placed on the American Staffordshire terrier breed in several countries, including areas of the United States. This shows the fear factor surrounding the breed.
Is the Staffordshire Terrier a Dangerous Dog?
Any dog can be mellow or aggressive, depending on the situation they are in. However, the American Staffordshire terrier is widely listed as one of the most dangerous breeds of dog around, because it is quicker to anger and bite than most other breeds.
As a result of this danger factor, the breed is banned in several areas of the world.
Where is the American Staffordshire Terrier Banned?
When imposing bans and restrictions on dogs, some areas will enforce a blanket ban on a certain class of dog, while others will specify particular breeds. Most areas enforcing bans on the Staffie have a blanket ban on pit bulls.
Restrictions on dangerous dog breeds are always specific to the authorities passing the legislation. They can include such regulations as an age restriction on those able to walk the dog, specifying a certain leash length, and necessitating that a muzzle must be worn when the dog is in public. Other countries have outright bans on importing, owning, and breeding American Staffordshire terriers.
|Countries with restrictions||Countries enforcing bans|
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a banned breed in several parts of the U.S. Overall, 15 states have complete or partial bans on the breed. These are:
Pit Bull Bite force
A Staffordshire terrier bite is extremely powerful. The breeds under the pit bull umbrella can chew through heavy-duty materials, such as tires and fencing.
Unfortunately, this bite strength makes the Staffordshire terrier breed especially dangerous when attacking a human or another animal.
Putting a number on the bite force of an AmStaff dog is extremely difficult. Some websites circulate the myth that pit bulls such as the Staffie have a bite that measures at about 2000 PSI (pounds per square inch)…which is completely inaccurate.
The limited tests done on dog bite power – using a pressure pad bite sleeve to record bite force – reveal that domestic dogs usually have a bite power in the range of 250-300 PSI. However, even these tests are problematic. It is believed that dogs will never exert their full bite power in test environments, exhibiting it only when angry, scared, or desperate and mean to do actual harm.
That said, an American Staffordshire terrier bite can do serious harm. This dog was bred to clamp down when fighting or threatened, shaking its victim from side to side to inflict maximum damage. It has powerful jaws and is very difficult to separate from a victim when it bites down.
American Staffordshire Terrier and Pit Bull Bite Statistics
It is difficult to find statistics and figures specific to Staffordshire terriers, as they are usually thrown into the pit bull bite categories.
Here are some of the most telling stats relating to pit bull attacks:
- Pit bulls were responsible for more than 3,500 reported dog attacks between 1982-2014
- About 80% of pit bulls are not sterilized (spayed or neutered)
- Pit bulls account for about 40% of all animal shelter intakes – in some part due to breeding and aggression issues.
- An average of nearly 500,000 pit bulls are euthanized in shelters every year.
- More than 50% of all dog bites are attributed to pit bulls, and the breed is responsible for the most fatalities by far.
Why American Staffordshire Terriers Attack
There are several potential causes for an American Staffordshire terrier to bite a human. Here are some of the leading reasons:
This terrier breed is confident and strong-willed, even from an early age. This can lead to an aggressive attitude. In order to grow up without aggressive tendencies and behavioral problems, an AmStaff will need an assertive owner who can take charge. If the puppy does not respect the authority of its owner and is not trained properly, it may lack control as an adult dog. This can result in AmStaff biting problems, and a dog bite lawsuit.
Even the most docile dog might bite a human, depending on the situation they are in. If a Staffordshire terrier is scared, feels threatened, believes that its property or territory is under threat, or is angry at the actions of a human or another animal, it is likely to attack. The severity of such an attack can vary, depending on the situation. In some cases, an AmStaff may look to deliver a warning bite, to ward off a potential threat. In other cases, they may be more ferocious. Good training helps to minimize the likelihood of this happening, but cannot stop a dog’s aggressive instincts from taking over if it is feeling these emotions.
American Staffordshire Terrier Health Problems
American Staffordshire terriers have a reasonably long life span, but they are prone to a wide range of health issues. The health problems most commonly associated with the AmStaff breed are elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and heart disease, as well as rarer cases of hip dysplasia and cerebellar ataxia. Studies have shown that health conditions such as hip dysplasia can leave dogs in high levels of pain, and this can lead to them lashing out aggressively through irritation and confusion.
Protect Yourself Against AmStaff Attack Injuries
A dog attack attorney at Bisnar Chase can help you deal with the aftermath of an incident involving an aggressive American Staffordshire terrier. But the last thing we want to see is a person sustain a dog bite injury. Here are some of the best steps to take to avoid becoming the victim of a dog attack.
Top 5 Ways to Protect Yourself Against a Dog Attack
- Stay away
Avoid unfamiliar dogs if you can, especially those exhibiting aggressive behavior or with inattentive owners.
If a snarling American Staffordshire terrier confronts you, your best bet is to stand still, avoid eye contact, keep your arms by your side, and hope that this diffuses the situation.
Do not let an American Staffordshire terrier sink its teeth into you. They have extremely powerful bites and are difficult to remove once they clamp down. Use anything you can as a bite buffer.
- Stay upright
When American Staffordshire terriers bite, they clamp onto their victims and shake them, often pulling the person off their feet. Dogs are most dangerous when their aggression targets are on the ground and exposed, so stay on your feet at all costs.
The best way to avoid a serious dog bite injury is to get out of the reach of the aggressive dog. American Staffordshire terriers are quick and powerful, so get indoors/outdoors (depending on the dog’s location) or find high ground.
If you have been hurt in a dog attack, your first step should be to seek first aid or medical attention, depending on the severity of your dog bite injuries.
Who is Liable for an American Staffordshire Terrier Attack?
In California, a dog’s owner is responsible for its actions and will be liable in the event of an attack and a subsequent dog bite lawsuit.
Some states use the ‘one bite’ rule. This protects owners and dogs in the first instance of a dog attack unless it is judged that the owner knew or should have known about their dog’s aggressive tendencies. But California uses a strict liability system. This means the owner is liable if their dog harms another person or pet, even if it is the first time. This rule applies if the incident happened in a public place, the victim was on private property lawfully, and the offending dog was not provoked.
A dog attack can cause serious harm and trauma, and it is essential for owners to be held accountable.
When a victim decides to take legal action over a dog bite, they will be suing the dog’s owner. The kind of compensation a victim might expect to receive can vary hugely, depending on the circumstances of their specific case.
Taking Legal Action After a Dog Bite Attack
When you contact a specialist dog bite attorney at Bisnar Chase, they will help you to prepare your dog bite claims. There are several pieces of key evidence that should be collected and presented during any legal proceedings, which can boost the case of the victim. These include:
- Pictures or video evidence chronicling the attack and the scene
- A personal statement outlining the incident
- Witness statements from anyone who saw the attack unfold
- Copies of the police report, as well as medical treatment reports relating to the incident
- Comprehensive documentation of your injuries
- Proof of any expenses relating to the dog attack
- Anything else you can think of that shows the impact of the incident
Key tip: Make sure this information is comprehensive and well organized. It will make the process with your dog bite lawyer much easier.
If You Are Bitten By a Dog
Dog bites can be extremely dangerous, resulting in anything from emotional trauma to major bite injuries. If you have been the victim of an attack, Bisnar Chase is the firm for you. The dog bite injury lawyers of Bisnar Chase are specialists who take pride in securing the best possible results for their clients.
Our law firm has a 99% success rate, collecting more than $750 million for our valued clients across 44 years in business. Just as important as the numbers is the Bisnar Chase promise – to provide superior client representation.
Bisnar Chase offers ‘No Win, No Fee’ representation in dog bite cases, allowing our expert attorneys to help those who need it most. Contact us now at (800) 561-4887 for a free consultation.