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More pit bull stats

A reader emails:

Thank you for your article about Pit Bull attacks. In almost every article that I have read where percentages involving Pit Bulls are mentioned I never see percentage of the total US canine population Pit Bulls represent. In searching the internet and emailing people who might know, I have received information that Pit Bulls represent 5% to 9.6% of the total US canine population of roughly 55-60 million dogs.The lower percentage of 5% translates to roughly 2 1/2 million Pit Bulls in the US. Other dog breeds involved in fatal dog attacks have dramatically smaller populations. Some breed populations numbers for the US that I did find are as follows:

Rottweilers- 900,000
German Shepherds-780,000

In addition to Pit Bulls, these 3 breeds were involved in fatal attacks from 1979-1998 as follows:

Pit Bulls-66
German Shepherds-17

Other breeds of dogs that also caused fatalities were during that same 20 year period were:

Doberman Pinchers-9
Saint Bernards-7
Great Danes-7

I was unable to find any reliable population numbers for any the other breeds involved in fatal attacks.

I am unsure if the Chow, Rottweiler and German Shepherd population numbers are accurate but if they are even remotely close, Pit Bull population is 10 times the population of Chows and 2-3 times more than Rottweilers or German Shepherds. If this is the case, would it not be logical to conclude that the actual number of fatal attacks involving a Pit Bull would be higher than other breeds? When I used those populations and divided them by the attacks each breed was involved in, Pit Bulls were last on the list. Chows were number one. The AKC has only registered dogs in their statistics and do not even recognize Pit Bulls to be a specific breed and therefore no numbers on populations were available. I have had a difficult time getting dog populations by breed on the internet. It’s been a frustrating search and I still have not gotten any reliable numbers regarding breeds and their populations. In my opinion, without knowing the true populations of each breed involved in fatal dog attacks, all the statistics and percentages of specific dog breeds involved in these attacks are misleading if not flawed. Do you agree? When I read that Pit Bulls are responsible for 60% of all fatal dog attacks it is the same as finding out that California has more suicides than Rhode Island. Also, are there any web sites that have any information on breeds and population numbers in the US that you are aware of?

I’ve never found any info on that. Trouble with ‘pit bulls’ is that so many different ‘breeds’ are also considered to be ‘pit bulls’. So, the numbers would likely be inflated.

3 Responses to “More pit bull stats”

  1. Sebastian-PGP Says:

    Very common problem. One thing I realized (and I’ve read studies that confirm this) volunteering at the Baltimore animal shelter is that any wiry coated short haired dog with floppy ears and blocky build is considered a pit, even though in all likelihood they were NOT pits at all.

    The whole “those dogs are too dangerous” is no different than “those guns are too dangerous”.

    Either the owner of the property handles it responsibly or they don’t.

  2. Caveat Says:

    One of the major problems with ‘studies’ such as the CDC papers is that breed ID is a major confounder. This is stated right in the journal articles. The CDC has also stated that they wish they had not published their retrospective review of news reports because it opened a Pandora’s box in the media who latched onto the ‘breed’ thing and wouldn’t let go.

    In the CDC fatality study most often quoted regarding fatal dog attacks from 1979 to 1998, the breed allocation tables were flawed.

    Under ‘purebred’ they had ‘pit bull’, which, as we all know, is not a breed of dog but comprises 3 to 5 purebreds, about 20 lookalike purebreds and an unknown number of mixed breed dogs. They assumed that mongrel dogs are crossbred (ie, the progeny of two purebreds) which is statistically rare. Identification was performed by bystanders, relatives of the victims, etc and as we know, most people are unable to identify even the most common purebred dogs accurately. As we also know, no one anywhere is either able or qualified to identify a mongrel dog’s ancestry.

    Another often quoted study by the CDC (also performed with HSUS) states that ‘pit bulls’ and ‘rottweilers’ were responsible for 67% of dog bite-related fatalities. What those who quote this percentage fail to add is that it covered a one-year period when the total number of fatalities in the US was 27 so the 67% number refers to 16.

    The media likes to focus on deaths because they are sensational, but these events are so statistically rare that it is impossible to predict any sort of trend among types of dogs responsible. A one-year period is certainly not adequate to predict a trend. As they say, a little science is a dangerous thing.

    The most popular registered dog in the US is the American Pit Bull terrier. In 2005, 250,000 APBTs were registered. The next most popular breed, the Labrador retriever had 180,000 pups registered in the same year. I’m rounding the numbers.

    Estimates from breed registries put the population for the APBT as 5 to 6 million living dogs in the US. Add in American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire Bull terriers and other lookalike purebreds erroneously dubbed ‘pit bulls’ and you have a lot of dogs.

    Unfortunately, the whole ‘breed’ thing is nothing but a red herring promoted by those with an agenda geared towards either the elimination of domestic animal husbandry, the removal of civil rights, or an increase in advertising revenue as a result of fear-mongering and hyperbole which boost audience share.

  3. markm Says:

    I suspect the working definition of “pit bull” for such studies is, “wiry coated short haired dog with floppy ears and blocky build that attacked someone.

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