Photo courtesy of Bartlett Image.
With this recent Maryland ruling that “pit bull” dogs are inherently dangerous, it’s time to take a look at the popularity and population density of the breed. It’s absurd, even for owners of a docile dog of any breed, to think that there aren’t variations in the breed as well as responsibility in ownership. Because your dog does not bite, does not mean that other dogs haven’t. For the victims of dog bites, we are doing an injustice by thinking this way. Let’s take a look at some real information, instead.
I’m going to address a few breeds in particular for the simple reason that they have had marked increases in popularity over certain time frames, NOT because I believe that any other breed is better than the dogs addressed. It’s true that, as the population density of a particular breed goes up, the bite statistics go up. Let’s ignore the numerous reasons bite statistics are inaccurate, for now.
Right now on average, our local shelters have a 66% “pit bull” population versus all other breeds. (Based on five local area shelters. See breakdown at the end of article) The population density is higher the closer to the city, as one may expect. It is historically true for all dogs, that the higher the popularity of a breed, the higher the number of that breed in the shelter. 66% is probably a low estimate to the actual “pit bull” density in our area because two of the five shelters surveyed are limited admittance, and one specifically has a limited number of “pit bulls” allowed into the program. The population of “pit bull” type dogs has been significantly increasing over the last ten years or so. In fact, during the years of 1997-2007, the AKC Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a smaller relative of the UKC’s American Pit Bull Terrier, has seen a 69% AKC registration increase. (http://www.akc.org/press_center/facts_stats.cfm?page=popular_pooches)
Just 20 years ago, in the 1990’s, “the years following the release of the second movie [101 Dalmatians], the Dalmatian breed suffered greatly at the hands of irresponsible breeders and inexperienced owners. . . Dalmatians were abandoned in large numbers by their original owners and left with animal shelters.” (http://aquariumcouncil.org/docs/library/2/Release_Nemo_FINAL.PDF) This goes to show that the popularity of a breed will show in the shelters. Ten years following this, the“AKC registrations of Dalmatians decreased 90%.” . . .as did their numbers in the shelter. (http://www.akc.org/press_center/facts_stats.cfm?page=popular_pooches) If we go back 30 years, “The cocker spaniel was the most popular dog of the 1980s. It earned the No. 1 most registered dog breed spot from 1983 to 1990.” http://www.ehow.com/list_7738692_top-breeds-dogs-1980s.html#ixzz1uUGkPeNe During this same time frame, it was noted in a Palm Beach County Comparison of most severe bites by dog breed, that the Cocker Spaniel ranked #2 in 1988, during its reign of popularity. (http://www.nokillnow.com/DogBiteStudies.pdf) Is the Cocker Spaniel an “inherently dangerous” dog? I think not!
So, what’s the solution to the problem? (The problem being an over population of a specific breed, not a court ruling) Pet owners: Spay and Neuter your pets. Reputable breeders: Heavily screen potential new owners. Require spay/neuter contracts for pet dogs. Let’s address the over population and responsibility in ownership. It’s the only thing that’s going to save our dogs.
Statistics of “pit bull” density in 5 local shelters in Maryland:
TOTALS FOR ALL LOCAL SHELTERS COMBINED
Number of pit bulls/mixes- 196
Number of all other dogs- 102
Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelters- 66%
MD SPCA: 3300 Falls Rd., Baltimore, MD
Limited admittance shelter. Only selected dogs enter the program. Limited pit bulls allowed.
Number of pit bulls/mixes- 7
Number of all other dogs- 23
Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelter- 30% (As of 5/1/12)
Baltimore Humane: 1601 Nicodemus Rd., Reisterstown, MD
Limited admittance shelter.
Number of pit bulls/mixes- 31
Number of all other dogs- 6
Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelter- 84% (As of 5/1/12)
BARCS: 301 Stockholm St., Baltimore, MD
Open admittance shelter. City’s animal control drop.
Number of pit bulls/mixes- 135
Number of all other dogs- 41
Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelter- 77% (As of 5/2/12)
Harford County Humane Society: 2208 Connolly Rd., Fallston, MD
Open admittance shelter. Harford County’s animal control drop.
Number of pit bulls/mixes- 17
Number of all other dogs- 16
Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelter- 52% (As of 5/2/12)
Baltimore County Shelter: 13800 Manor Rd., Baldwin, MD
Open admittance shelter. Baltimore County’s animal control drop.
Number of pit bulls/mixes- 6
Number of all other dogs- 16
Percentage of pit bulls/mixes in shelter- 27% (As of 5/2/12)