Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Animal Science Experts on Pit Bulls

Animal Science Experts: Behaviorists, Biologists, Geneticists, Veterinarians, and other science professionals on pit bulls

Caroline Coile, Ph.D., Canine Research and Writing, author of "Pit Bulls for Dummies," 2015 inductee Dog Writers Association of America Hall of Fame
I am the author of Pit Bulls for Dummies. I will not have another after they, without warning, attacked and almost killed my other dog who they had been best buddies with for their entire lives. One of them choked my saluki unconscious and ran around the house with her like a panther with a dead gazelle while we tried to get her to let go. When they were good, they were delightful; when they were bad, they were deadly.
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DOUGLAS SKINNER, DVM
I have been in veterinary practice for 43 years and never have seen anything like the infusion of this breed. Having worked with more than 100,000 dogs of all breeds, I defy any apologist to offer up such experience.
Sure, there are sweet pits, but telling one from the bad ones, the Jekyll and Hyde ones that can be incited to violence by some catalyst, is near impossible. While most apologists fancy themselves good trainers, 95 percent of owners are clueless.
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MICHAEL D. BREED, Ph.D., Professor, University of Colorado, Dept. of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Certain breeds have been selected for enhanced dominance and aggression. Pit bulls and Rottweilers currently receive the most public attention in this regard, and pit bulls have been banned in many locations because they are perceived as being dangerous. While advocates of these breeds claim that maltreatment is a more likely underlying cause of the kind of aggression leading to biting incidents (some of which involve human fatalities), in fact we know that personality is fairly unresponsive to environment. Aggressive and dominant personalities likely only remain in check because dogs' owners have established themselves in a position of dominance over the animal, and other people are at risk, particularly when the owner is absent.
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EMILY WEISS, DVM, ASPCA professional contributor
I also think it is very important for us to make clear the breed traits of the dogs when we can identify the breed or breed mix.
We can share both individual dog behavior as identified in the shelter, as well as breed traits – the fact is, if someone wants a dog who points, what would we guide them to – a pointer or a Chihuahua? While we can probably teach that Chi to point, the adopter would be less likely to leave with unrealistic expectations if we sent him home with a pointer. Breed does matter. Physical characteristics lead to increased likelihood of particular behaviors and lines bred specifically for work likely being more pronounced – be it pointing, chasing or even arousal when feeling discomfort.
Ignoring breed can lead us to set dogs up for failure. Recently an individual from a shelter reached out to me for advice after a dog fight. Two, let’s say, JRT-type dogs were introduced for a play group, and while they did well together for the first few minutes, inappropriate behavior of one led to a significant fight that was quite difficult to end. Dogs who tend to grab, hold and not let go in fights with other dogs might not be the best candidates for play groups in shelters with limited resources and limited training. Obviously many JRTs will greatly benefit from play groups, and by noting both the individual behavior and, when possible, the breed, we can assure we apply the right programs for each dog. Now, let’s replace JRT with pit bull terrier in the story above and we may raise a few more eyebrows – but we are not maligning a breed, we are supporting them!  http://bit.ly/1toAQ9G 
BENJAMIN HART, professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and animal behaviorist
"It's quite common for a pit bull to show no signs of aggression. People will call it a nice dog, a sweet dog, even the neighbors - and then all of a sudden something triggers the dog, and it attacks a human in a characteristic way of biting and hanging on until a lot of damage is done."
Hart said pit bulls are responsible for about 60 percent of dog attack fatalities each year, which is "way out of proportion" compared with other breeds. Pit bulls make up less than 5 percent of the American dog population.
"It's very poor policy to allow any child around a pit bull, in my mind, let alone climb on a dog."
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HUGH WIRTH, veterinarian, RSPCA Victoria president
Dr Hugh Wirth said the dogs were a menace and were not suitable as pets for anyone.
"They are time bombs waiting for the right circumstances.''
"The American pit bull terrier is lethal because it was a breed that was developed purely for dog fighting, in other words killing the opposition.
"They should never have been allowed into the country. They are an absolute menace."
“The fact of life is that the community doesn't want American pit bull terriers. They've said it loud and clear over and over again - they want them banned.”
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NICHOLAS DODMAN, BVMS, MRCVS, ACVB, ACVA - Animal Behavior Clinic - Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine - Tufts University
After a spate of attacks by pit bulls this summer, Massachusetts lawmakers passed legislation requiring the dogs to be muzzled in public. Some pit bull owners protested, but a Tufts expert says the law may be a good idea. Breeds like pit bulls and Rottweilers, says animal behavior expert Nick Dodman, are hardwired for aggression.
“Some of these dogs are as dangerous as a loaded handgun,” Dodman– director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at TuftsSchool of Veterinary Medicine – said in an interviewwith The Boston Globe Magazine.
Genetics play a big role.
“No doubt about it, pit bulls are genetically predisposed toward aggression,” he told the magazine. “Justas certain breeds of dogs were bred to herd, certain were bred to hunt, certain to point, and others to swim.”
While most pet owners accept that their dogs have certain genetic behavioral characteristics, there is still resistance to the idea that some dogs are more dangerous than others.
“Everybody accepts [genetic behaviors like herding or hunting] until you throw in the word ‘aggression’ and things like a full, crushing bite, which some breeds were specifically bred for in the past.”
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KATHERINE HOUPT, VMD, PhD, DACVB
Says Katherine Houpt, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell and author of Domestic Animal Behavior: "Different breeds have genetic predispositions to certain kinds of behavior, though that can be influenced by how they are raised. The pit bull is an innately aggressive breed, often owned by someone who wants an aggressive dog, so they're going to encourage it."
Pit bulls have been bred specifically to be aggressive
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Kathryn Hawkins, DVM
After seeing another dog die from a pit bull attack, I feel compelled to write. The opinion that pit bulls are "mean because of the way they are raised" is often not the case.
Both of the dogs I took care of that died were attacked unprovoked by pit bulls that were in families that raised them responsibly.
Just as a retriever is bred to hunt birds -- an instinct you can't stop -- many pit bulls have a genetic tendency to attack other animals. When they do, they are extremely powerful and don't quit.
I have never been bitten or growled at by a pit bull -- they are very friendly. But when the instinct to attack another animal occurs, they cause serious damage, or death. They don't bite people any more often than other breeds but when they do, it's bad.
The aggressiveness toward other animals and damage they do is not because of "the way they are raised" -- it is usually due to a genetic instinct not in the control of the owner.
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ARTHUR HERM, veterinarian, animal control
He said he disagrees with those people who believe they can train aggressiveness out of dogs, and added he believes aggressiveness is “inherent” and “genetic” in all dogs while pit bulls “seem to have more of that.”
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MICHAEL W. FOX, veterinarian, animal behaviorist
"I spent 20 years studying the behavior of dogs and it's not in their nature. Man, has created a monster, If you wish...These dogs were selectively bred to fight, they have greater propensity to fight than other animals, which is brought out in training."
"They can attack people, and because the attitudes of Pit Bulls it is more likely they will attack people. The worry is the power of the dogs jaw...to bite and not let go. It's quite sufficient to crush right through a child's arm or leg."
SHERYL BLAIR, Tufts Veterinary School symposium - Animal Aggression: Dog Bites and the Pit Bull Terrier
Unfortunately the pit bull, when it attacks, doesn't merely bite man—or, most horribly, child—it clamps its powerful jaws down and literally tears its victim apart. "The injuries these dogs inflict are more serious than other breeds because they go for the deep musculature and don't release; they hold and shake…"
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COLLEEN HODGES, Veterinary Public Health spokeswoman
Some families think that they can raise a loving pet if they treat a pit bull like any other dog. They may not realize that the dog was bred to fight and that some of these dogs may have fighting in their genes.
They are tough, strong, tenacious. They are much more capable of inflicting serious damage, and some of them do. I would not recommend pits as a family dog.
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GARY WILKES, animal behaviorist
No other breed in America is currently bred for fighting, in such great numbers as the American Pit Bull Terrier. No other breed has instinctive behaviors that are so consistently catastrophic when they occur, regardless of how rarely they happen. The reality is that every English Pointer has the ability to point a bird. Every Cattle Dog has the ability to bite the heel of a cow and every Beagle has the ability to make an obnoxious bugling noise when it scents a rabbit or sees a cat walking on the back fence. Realistically, if your English Pointer suddenly and unpredictably points at a bird in the park, nobody cares. If my Heeler nips your ankle, I’m going to take care of your injuries and probably be fined for the incident. If your Beagle bugles too much, you’ll get a ticket for a noise violation. If your Pit Bull does what it’s bred to do...well, you fill in the blank.
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ALEXANDRA SEMYONOVA, animal behaviorist
You will also not prevent the dog from being what he is genetically predisposed to be. Because the inbred postures and behaviors feel good, fitting the body and brain the dog has been bred with, they are internally motivated and internally rewarded. This means that the behavior is practically impossible to extinguish by manipulating external environmental stimuli. The reward is not in the environment, but in the dog itself! As Coppinger and Coppinger (2001, p. 202) put it, “The dog gets such pleasure out of performing its motor pattern that it keeps looking for places to display it.” Some dogs get stuck in their particular inbred motor pattern.
As pointed out above, this kind of aggression has appeared in some other breeds as an unexpected and undesired anomaly – the golden retriever, the Berner Senne hund, the cocker spaniel have all had this problem.The lovers of aggressive breeds try to use these breeding accidents to prove that their aggressive breeds are just like any other dog, “see, they’re no different from the cuddly breeds.” But a cuddly breed sometimes ending up stuck with a genetic disaster does not prove that the behavior is normal canine behavior. All it proves is that the behavior is genetically determined.
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JOHN FAUL, animal behaviorist
Faul said they were dangerous and a threat to life. He said the pitbull was bred to be absolutely fearless and had a "hair-trigger" attack response.
"The cardinal rule is that these dogs are not pets," he said.
"The only way to keep them is in a working environment."
He said the only relationship one could have with the pitbull was one of "dominance, sub-dominance", in which the dog was reminded daily of its position.
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ANDREW ROWAN, PhD, Center for Animals and Public Policy - Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine - Tufts University
"A pit bull is trained to inflict the maximum amount of damage in the shortest amount of time. Other dogs bite and hold. A Doberman or a German shepherd won't tear if you stand still. A pit bull is more likely to remove a piece of tissue. Dogs fight as a last resort under most circumstances. But a pit bull will attack without warning. If a dog shows a submissive characteristic, such as rolling over most dogs wills top their attack. A pit bull will disembowel its victim."
"A study by Dr Randall Lockwood of the US Humane Society found that pit bulls are more likely to break restraints to attack someone and that pit bulls are more likely to attack their owners, possibly as a result of owners trying to separate their dogs from victims."
http://bit.ly/19HYAvc

ALAN BECK, Sc.D
However, Alan Beck, director of the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine Center of the Human-Animal Bond, favors letting the breed go into extinction.
“This breed alone is a risk of serious public health factors,” Beck said. “We are keeping them alive against their own best interests.”
Beck said while he does not advocate taking dogs from current and caring owners, he does feel that it has become more of a social and political issue for people than a health one.
“If these dogs were carrying an actual disease, people would advocate euthanizing them,” Beck said. “This breed itself is not natural.”
"It has this sort of mystique that attracts a population of people. Of course, most of these dogs are never going to bite, as champions of the breed will tell you. But most people who smoke don't get cancer, but we know regulations help reduce a significant risk."
"I know you're going to get beat up for this. But they just aren't good dogs to own. That's why so many of them are relinquished to shelters. There are too many other breeds out there to take a chance on these guys."
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Adapted with thanks from Craven Desires