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May 12, 2013

Pit bulls: Bad breed or misunderstood?

Experts say perception isn't always the reality

(Continued)

She said the department doesn’t keep track of just how often a specific breed bites a person. But she does know which breed she has to respond to the most — and it isn’t pit bulls.

“It’s Labradors, just because they are of the highest quantity,” Bliss said.

The last study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked fatalities from dog bites between 1979 and 1998.

In that 20-year period, the CDC found “purebred pit bull types” were responsible for 66 deaths, while Rottweilers were blamed for 39 deaths.

Data was collected from news accounts and the Humane Society of the United States’ registry databank. The study also concluded fatal attacks represent a small portion of dog bite injuries and breed specific ordinances should not be a factor in public policy.

By its own account, the CDC doesn’t identify specific breeds most likely to bite or kill.

Some 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, according to the CDC. Of those, 0.0002 percent are fatal.

“There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill,” the CDC says on its website.

Malot said the perception of pit bulls hurts their chances of being rescued. Pit bulls often stay at the shelter for six months, she said, as opposed to other breeds which are adopted within a few weeks.

Eric Tombarello, owner of Elite K-9 Kennels in Derry, breeds purebred pit bulls. He said human aggression is not part of a pit bull’s personality.

“That’s more of a trait of a Rottweiler or a Doberman,” he said. “I would take a pit bull over any other dog as far as a family dog is concerned.”

Christine Morrissey of Salem has a pit bull, Luna.

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