A pit bull attack on Wollaston Beach that resulted in the death of another dog, as well as injury to its owner, once again raised serious questions about this popular breed. Some argue that pit bulls are so naturally violent that they should be banned. Others claim it is irresponsible owners, some of whom raise pit bulls for dogfighting, who encourage the dogs’ aggressive tendencies.
There is a long history of demonized dog breeds. At one time or another, dogs deemed “dangerous” have included German shepherds, Doberman pinschers, Rottweilers, and even Dalmatians. But unlike, say, Dobermans, who have been bred to defend their owners, pit bulls have been bred to fight, with lower inhibitions for aggressive behavior. No one would argue that shelties don’t herd or retrievers don’t retrieve. It’s irresponsible to argue that pit bulls don’t fight. Morover, a recent study cited by Time magazine reported that, though pit bills constitute only 6 percent of the dog population, they are responsible for 68 percent of dog attacks since 1982.
In the incident at Wollaston Beach, the owner was reportedly on rollerblades, and therefore unable to stop the attack. Nor, State Police said, was the dog tagged or registered. Legislation banning pit bulls would be complicated — even defining what is or is not a pit bull could make enforcement nigh impossible. What’s more, responsible owners swear by their pets’ affectionate nature and loyalty. But owners also need to acknowledge the characteristics of their breed and take responsibility for them, including proper leash restraints when out in public.