Verify: Are pit bulls more dangerous than other dogs?

Are pit bulls more dangerous than other dogs?

BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A pair of dogs described as pit bulls by both state police and animal control attacked two women Sunday afternoon in Dixmont.

"We were walking – three of us were walking just after lunch walk with our little puppy, and these two pit bulls came tearing out of the trailer," explained Sandra Haggard.

She has an armful of scratches and her walking companion has puncture wounds on her arm they sustained while trying to protect their puppy from a dog attack. Animal control officers said the aggressive dogs are pit bulls and that the owners will likely face charges.

"It was very terrifying," Haggard recalled.

So are pit bulls more dangerous than other dogs? We spoke with a number of experts to find out:

- Dr. Meghan Flanagan, former president of the Maine Veterinary Medical Association
- Trisha Bruen, animal control officer for the city of Bangor
- Stacey Coventry, director of communications for the Bangor Humane Society

I asked: Are pit bulls more dangerous than other dogs?

"On a strictly likely-to-bite situation, I do not think they are any different that any other dog, pretty much," Dr. Flanagan said.

"Any dog can bite any dog, be a dangerous dog," said Coventry. "There is no dangerous breed – [that] is our experience and our opinion."

"Any breed dog has the potential to bite you," Bruen added.

The data we reviewed seems to support what they said. The American Medical Veterinary Association lists multiple studies showing several breeds responsible for serious dog bite injuries over the years. Those include not just pit bull mixes, but also german shepherds, and dogs you may not expect, such as jack russell terriers, collies, and chow chows.

Jill Ashe and her daughter would tell you their pit bull mix Marley is the gentlest, most timid dog they own. 

"She's a pitbull but wouldn't hurt a flea," explained Ashe, saying her other dog is the one who actually bit someone. "I have a yellow lab who has a great reputation but actually bit my plumber when we were having our kitchen redone."

Experts say what is more critical in determining a dog's aggression than its breed is how it is socialized.

"A big problem that we have is that a lot of people are getting dogs but they don't socialize them with several creatures," Bruen said. "They don't familiarize them with other dogs, with cats, with rabbits – they don't familiarize them with other people, children."

There is, however, one fact that should be noted: even if pit bulls may not bite more than other dogs, their bites due to their larger jaws can inflict more damage, and they are blamed for more fatalities. But again the experts say there's a problem there too — pit bulls are not one breed and have been misidentified in dog bite cases.

"There are a number of dog breeds that could be mistakenly identified or called a pit bull and they are part of a different breed group," Flanagan said.

"Pit bull is a really difficult term to use because it's a catch-all term for several different breeds," Bruen said.

"A lot of what we get nowadays is mixed breeds," Coventry added. "We're kind of going way from naming breeds because the way a dog looks isn't always what a dog is."

According to our experts, because other breeds have also caused serious bites, because a pit bull is a combination of several breeds and can be mistakenly identified, and because other factors such as socialization, can determine a dog's aggression

The answer to our question (Are pit bulls more dangerous than other breeds?), based on what our experts say, cannot be verified.

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