|Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
Pit bull is the common name for a type of dog. Formal breeds often considered in North America to be of the pit bull type include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The American Bulldog is also sometimes included. Many of these breeds were originally developed as fighting dogs from cross breeding bull-baiting dogs (used to hold the faces and heads of larger animals such as bulls) and terriers. After the use of dogs in blood sports was banned, such dogs were used as catch dogs in the United States for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt and drive livestock, and as family companions, although some owners still bred and used them for illegal dog fighting. This practice continues to this day, but is illegal in many nations.
The term pit bull is often used loosely to describe dogs with similar physical characteristics, and the morphological (physical) variation amongst "bully breed" dogs makes it difficult for anyone, even experts, to visually identify them as distinct from "non-pit bulls". While mixed breed dogs are often labeled as "pit bulls" if they have certain physical characteristics such as a square shaped head or bulky body type, visual identification of mixed breed dogs is not recommended by the scholarly community.
Pit bulls were created by breeding bulldogs and terriers together to produce a dog that combined the gameness and agility of the terrier with the strength of the bulldog. In the United Kingdom, these dogs were used in blood sports such as bull-baiting, bear-baiting and cock fighting. These blood sports were officially eliminated in 1835 as Britain began to introduce animal welfare laws. Since dogfights were cheaper to organize and far easier to conceal from the law than bull or bear baits, blood sport proponents turned to pitting their dogs against each other instead. Dog fighting was used as both a blood sport (often involving gambling) and a way to continue to test the quality of their stock. For decades afterwards, dog fighting clandestinely took place in small areas of Britain and America. In the early 20th century pit bulls were used as catch dogs in America for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt, and drive livestock, and as family companions. Some have been selectively bred for their fighting prowess.
Pit bulls successfully fill the role of companion dogs, police dogs, and therapy dogs. Pit bulls also constitute the majority of dogs used for illegal dog fighting in America. In addition, law enforcement organisations report these dogs are used for other nefarious purposes, such as guarding illegal narcotics operations, use against police, and as attack dogs.
In an effort to counter the fighting reputation of pit bull-type dogs, in 1996 the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals renamed pit bull terriers to "St. Francis Terriers", so that people might be more likely to adopt them. 60 temperament-screened dogs were adopted until the program was halted, after several of the newly adopted pit bulls killed cats. The New York City Center for Animal Care and Control tried a similar approach in 2004, relabeling their pit bulls as "New Yorkies", but dropped the idea in the face of overwhelming public opposition.
Dog attack risk
Violent interactions between humans and canines have been studied by the US government, notably the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as academic veterinary researchers. The interpretation of these studies, breed identification and relevance  issues, and variable circumstances have given rise to intense controversy. In a 2014 literature review of dog bite studies, the American Veterinary Medical Association states that breed is a poor sole predictor of dog bites and that controlled studies show no increased risk in pit bulls, and has previously noted fundamental problems with tracking breed in dog bite related fatalities. In a 2013 study of 256 fatalities in the United States from 2000–2009, the AVMA determined that valid breed determination was possible for only 17.6% of cases. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that studies on dog bite related fatalities which collect information by surveying news reports employ a methodology subject to potential errors, as some fatal attacks may not have been reported, a study might not find all relevant news reports, and the dog breed might be misidentified.
Contrary to popular myth, pit bulls do not have "locking jaws". There is no physiological "locking mechanism" in the jaw muscle and bone structure of pit bulls or other dogs. Pit bull-type dogs, like other terriers, hunting and bull-baiting breeds, can exhibit a bite, hold, and shake behavior and at times refuse to release. Pit bulls also have wide skulls, well-developed facial muscles, and strong jaws, and some research suggests that pit bull bites are particularly serious because they tend to bite deeply and grind their molars into tissue. Breaking an ammonia ampule and holding it up to the dog's nose can cause the dog to release its hold.
Breed specific legislation
Widely reported pit bull attacks in popular media have resulted in the enactment of breed-specific legislation in several jurisdictions. In some cases breed specific bans have been reversed or prohibited by state legislation. These perceptions have also led to increased premiums for liability insurance.
Breed-specific legislation has been largely found to be ineffective at reducing the number of dog attacks. Research has indicated that there is resistance by those who work in the adoption industry, applying a sharper distinction before allowing a dog to be labelled as a pit bull, as well as objections from veterinarians.
Many of the jurisdictions that restrict pit bulls apply their restriction to the modern American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and any other dog that has the substantial physical characteristics and appearance of those breeds. Such jurisdictions include Ontario, Miami, and Denver. However a few jurisdictions, such as Singapore and Franklin County, Ohio, also classify the modern American Bulldog as a "pit bull-type dog". In the United Kingdom, a pit bull is an American Pit Bull Terrier.
Approximately 550 jurisdictions have enacted breed-specific legislation (BSL) in response to a number of well-publicized incidents involving pit bull-type dogs, and some government organizations such as the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have taken administrative action as well. These actions range from outright bans on the possession of pit bull-type dogs, to restrictions and conditions on pit bull ownership. They often establish a legal presumption that a pit bull-type dog is prima facie a legally "dangerous" or "vicious" dog. In response, 16 states in the U.S. prohibited or restricted the ability of municipal governments within those states to enact BSL, though these restrictions do not affect military installations located within the states.
It is now generally settled in caselaw that jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada have the right to enact breed-specific legislation. Despite these holdings by the courts, there is some public skepticism over whether the laws are effective. One point of view is that pit bulls are a public safety issue that merits actions such as banning ownership, mandatory spay/neuter for all pit bulls, mandatory microchip implants and liability insurance, or prohibiting people convicted of a felony from owning pit bulls. Another point of view is that comprehensive "dog bite" legislation, coupled with better consumer education and legally mandating responsible pet-keeping practices, is a better solution to the problem of dangerous pit bulls than BSL.
A third point of view is that breed-specific legislation should not ban breeds entirely, but should instead strictly regulate the conditions under which specific breeds could be owned, for example, forbidding certain classes of individuals from owning them, specifying public areas from which they would be prohibited, and establishing conditions, such as requiring a dog to wear a muzzle, for taking specific breeds of dogs into public places. Finally, some governments, such as in Australia, have forbidden the import of specific breeds, and are requiring the spay/neuter of all existing dogs of these breeds in an attempt to eliminate the breed's population slowly through natural attrition.
In England and Wales the Dangerous Dogs Act prohibits the ownership of American Pit Bull Terriers, along with three other breeds. The Act also bans the breeding, sale and exchange of these dogs. Similar legislation in Australia has been criticized by veterinary professionals.
Dog owners in the United States can be held legally liable for injuries inflicted or caused by their dogs. In general, owners are considered liable if they were unreasonably careless in handling or restraining the dog, or if they knew beforehand that the dog had a tendency to cause injury (e.g., bite); however, dog owners are automatically considered liable if local laws hold an owner strictly liable for all damage caused by their dog, regardless of carelessness or foreknowledge of a dog's tendencies. Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically provide liability coverage from US$100,000–300,000 for injuries inflicted by dogs; however, some insurance companies limit their exposure to dog bite liability claims by putting restrictions on dog owners that they insure. These restrictions include refusing to cover dog bites under the insurance policy, increasing insurance rates for homeowners with specific breeds, requiring owners of specific breeds to take special training or have their dogs pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen test, requiring owners to restrict their dogs with muzzles, chains, or enclosures, and refusing to write policies for homeowners or renters who have specific breeds of dogs.
Owners of rental properties may also be held liable if they knew an aggressive dog was living on their property and they did nothing to ensure the safety of other tenants at the property; as a result, many rental properties forbid pit bull-type dogs and any other breeds if the rental property's insurance will not cover damage inflicted by that type of dog. The dog breeds most often targeted by insurance companies include pit bull-type dogs, Rottweilers, German Shepherd Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Akitas (Akita Inu and American Akita), and Chows.
In 2013, Farmers Insurance notified policy holders in California that "it will no longer cover bites by pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf hybrids. A spokeswoman for Farmers said those breeds account for more than a quarter of the agency's dog bite claims."
Air carrier restrictions
|Air France||Not Permitted||Purebred Staffordshire Terriers and purebred American Staffordshire Terriers may be transported. However, dogs that "do not belong to a particular breed but are similar in morphology" to Staffordshire Terriers, mastiff (boerboel), tosa, and pit bulls may not be transported or shipped by air.|
|Alaska Airlines||Health||Dog breeds including American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, fly at their owner's risk, with no additional compensation if the dog suffers injury or dies during transit. The airline may refuse to accept the dog if it feels outside temperatures are too extreme for the animal's safety.|
|American Airlines||Health||American Airlines will not accept brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs as checked luggage.|
|Delta Air Lines||Health||"Snub-nosed dogs" are embargoed when the temperature at the departure point or any stop along the travel route is expected to exceed 75 °F (24 °C).|
United Airlines formerly embargoed American Pit Bull Terriers for safety reasons. However, pit bulls (along with American Staffordshires and other similar breeds) are now permitted, provided that dogs over six months old or weighing more than 20 pounds (9 kg) are transported in reinforced crates.
Notable pit bulls
Pit bull breeds have become famous for their roles as soldiers, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, actors, television personalities, seeing eye dogs, and celebrity pets. Historically, the Bull Terrier mix Nipper and the American Staffordshire Terrier, Pete the Pup from the Little Rascals are the most well known. Lesser known, but still historically notable pit bulls include Billie Holiday's companion "Mister", Helen Keller's dog "Sir Thomas", Buster Brown's dog "Tige", Horatio Jackson's dog "Bud", President Theodore Roosevelt's Pit Bull terrier "Pete", "Jack Brutus" who served for Company K, the First Connecticut Volunteer Infantry during the civil war, Sergeant Stubby who served for the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division during World War I, and Sir Walter Scott's "Wasp".
Contemporary significant pit bulls are: Weela, who helped save 32 people, 29 dogs, 3 horses, and 1 cat; Popsicle, a five-month-old puppy originally found nearly dead in a freezer, who grew to become one of the nation's most important police dogs; Norton, who was placed in the Purina Animal Hall of Fame after he rescued his owner from a severe reaction to a spider bite; Titan, who rescued his owner's wife, who would have died from an aneurysm, D-Boy, who took three bullets to save his family from an intruder with a gun, and Lilly, who lost a leg after being struck by a freight train while pulling her unconscious owner from the train tracks. Daddy, Cesar Millan's right-hand dog was famous for his mellow temperament and his ability to interact calmly with ill-mannered dogs.
- "Frequently Asked Questions". Pit Bull Rescue Central. Retrieved 2015-06-17.
- "The Truth about Pitbulls". ASPCA.
- "American Pit Bull Terrier". United Kennel Club (UKC). November 1, 2008. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- "Pit Bull Cruelty". American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). 2013. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
- "Dog Fighting". American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). 2013. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
- "Inaccuracy of Breed Labels Assigned to Dogs of Unknown Origin".
- "Breed Discriminatory Legislation: How DNA Will Remedy the Unfairness". Journal of Animal Law & Ethics. 161 (4). May 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
- "Pit bull Identification in Animal Shelters" (PDF).
- "Irrationality Unleashed: The Pitfalls of Breed-Specific Legislation".
- "Cool K-9 Popsicle retires". U.S. Customs Today. 38 (10). October 2002. Archived from the original on 24 Oct 2011. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- Lewin, Adrienne Mand (October 12, 2005). "Protecting the Nation – One Sniff at a Time". ABC News. Retrieved February 2, 2009.
- Simon, Scott (June 21, 2008). "Trainer turns pit bull into therapy dog". National Public Radio. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- "Dog Fighting Fact Sheet". Humane Society of the United States. 2009. Archived from the original on July 19, 2009. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- "Known prostitute' loses left arm and leg after pit bull 'viciously attacks her as she was shut inside a home with the beast". Daily Mail. London. February 17, 2012.
- Swift, E.M. (July 27, 1987). "The pit bull: friend and killer". Sports Illustrated. 67 (4). Retrieved December 2, 2009.
- Baker, Al; Warren, Mathew R. (July 9, 2009). "Shooting highlights the risks dogs pose to police, and vice versa". The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
- "'Dangerous dogs' weapon of choice". BBC News. December 2, 2009. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
- Cothran, George (June 11, 1997). "Shouldn't we just kill this dog?". San Francisco Weekly. San Francisco, CA. Retrieved September 4, 2009.
- "Bring breeders of high-risk dogs to heel". Animal People News. January 2004. Retrieved September 4, 2009.
- Haberman, Clyde (January 13, 2004). "NYC; Rebrand Fido? An idea best put down". The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved September 4, 2009.
- Laurence, Charles (January 4, 2004). "Q: When is a pit bull terrier not a pit bull terrier? A: When it's a patriot terrier". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved November 14, 2009.
- Hanna, TL, Selby LA. Characteristics of the human and pet populations in animal bite incidents recorded at two Air Force bases. Public Health Rep. 1981;96:580-584.
- Clarke NM. A survey of urban Canadian animal control practices : the effect of enforcement and resourcing on the reported dog bite rate, Master of Science – MSc 2009
- "Dog Bite Risk and Prevention: The Role of Breed". American Veterinary Medical Association. 17 April 2012. Retrieved October 2014. Check date values in:
- Duffy, DL., Hsu, Y. Serpell, JA. Breed differences in canine aggression. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2008;114:441–460.
- Roll, A.; Unshelm, J. (1997). "Aggressive conflicts amongst dogs and factors affecting them". Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 52 (3-4): 229–242. doi:10.1016/S0168-1591(96)01125-2. ISSN 0168-1591.
- Pitbull Myths vs. Fact - Animal Rescuers Without Borders
- Delise, Karen (2007). "The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression" (PDF). Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- "A community approach to dog bite prevention" (PDF). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 218 (11). June 1, 2001. pp. 1731–1749. Retrieved July 11, 2009.
- Patronek, Gary J., Sacks, Jeffrey J., Delise, Karen M., Cleary, Donald V., Marder, Amy R. (December 2013). "Co-occurrence of potentially preventable factors in 256 dog bite–related fatalities in the United States (2000–2009)". Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 243 (12): 1726–1736. doi:10.2460/javma.243.12.1726. PMID 24299544.
- "Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998" (PDF). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 1, 2008. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
- D. Caroline Coile (April 18, 2011). Pit Bulls For Dummies. Retrieved March 31, 2013.
- "Toledo v. Tellings, -REVERSED-, 2006-Ohio-975, ¶25" (PDF). Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth Appellate District. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
- "The Truth About Pit Bulls". American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 2013. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
- Clark, Ross D., DVM; Stainer, Joan R.; Haynes, H. David, DVM; Buckner, Ralph, DVM; Mosier, Jacob, DVM; Quinn, Art J., DVM, eds. (1983). Medical & Genetic Aspects of Purebred Dogs. Edwardsville, KS: Veterinary Medicine Publishing. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-9641609-0-3.
- "Breaking up a fight". Pit Bull Rescue Central. 2008. Retrieved August 16, 2009.
- Cherry, James (2014). Feigin and Cherry's textbook of pediatric infectious diseases – Animal and Human Bites, Morven S. Edwards. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier/Saunders. ISBN 978-1-4557-1177-2 – via the University of Pittsburgh.
- "Aurora May Lift Citywide Ban On Pit Bulls". cbslocal.com.
- Lexi Sutter. "Roeland Park City Council revisits pit bull ban, in place since the 1980s". KSHB.
- "Worldwide failure of breed specific legislation" (PDF). National Canine Research Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 15, 2014.
- "Australian officials to kill pit bulls, other 'dangerous' breeds - VIN". vin.com.
- Pit Bulls being sold as Staffy crosses by the RSPCA, Australia. YouTube. March 14, 2012.
- "T&F Newsroom". taylorandfrancisgroup.com.
- "An Act to amend the Dog Owners' Liability Act to increase public safety in relation to dogs, including pit bulls, and to make related amendments to the Animals for Research Act". Government of Ontario, Canada. August 29, 2005. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
-  Archived April 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Revised Municipal Code – City and County of Denver, Colorado". City of Denver, Colorado. May 19, 2009. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- "Veterinary Conditions for the importation of dogs/cats for countries under Category A (1/4)" (PDF). Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore. August 4, 2008. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
- "Pit Bull Information". Franklin County, Ohio. Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. Retrieved July 30, 2010.
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (March 2009). "Dangerous Dogs Law: Guidance for Enforcers" (PDF). Retrieved May 20, 2011.
- "Toledo v. Tellings, 114 Ohio St.3d 278, 2007-Ohio-3724." (PDF). Supreme Court of Ohio. Retrieved June 29, 2009.
- "Certeriorari – Summary Dispositions (Order List: 552 U.S.)" (PDF). United States Supreme Court. February 19, 2008. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
- "Cochrane v. Ontario (Attorney General), 2008 ONCA 718" (PDF). Ontario Court of Appeal. October 24, 2008. Retrieved July 21, 2009.
- "Who let the dogs out?". Center for Constitutional Studies, University of Alberta, Canada. June 12, 2009. Retrieved July 21, 2009.
- "Garrison Policy Memorandum #08-10, Mandatory Pet Micro-Chipping and Pet Control". US Army Installation Management Command, Fort Drum, NY. February 3, 2009. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
- "Marine Corps Housing Management" (PDF). United States Marine Corps. August 11, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 22, 2009. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
- Palika, Liz (January 31, 2006). American Pit Bull Terrier: Your Happy Healthy Pet. Howell Book House. ISBN 978-0-471-74822-9. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
- "States prohibiting or allowing breed specific ordinances". American Veterinary Medical Association. October 2007. Archived from the original on November 28, 2008. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
- Campbell, Dana (July–August 2009). "Pit Bull Bans: The State of Breed–Specific Legislation". GP-Solo. American Bar Association. 26 (5). Retrieved July 30, 2009.
- "Why Breed Specific Legislation Misses the Mark and Doesn't Work". Pitbulls.org. 2010. Retrieved March 1, 2011.
- Nelson, Kory (2005). "One city's experience: why pit bulls are more dangerous and why breed-specific legislation is justified" (PDF). Municipal Lawyer. 46 (6) (published August 2005). pp. 12–15. Retrieved July 11, 2009.
- "HSUS Statement on Dangerous Dogs". Humane Society of the United States. 2009. Archived from the original on March 31, 2009. Retrieved July 11, 2009.
- Phillips, Kenneth (October 10, 2008). "Breed Specific Laws". dogbitelaw.com. Retrieved July 11, 2009.
- Barlow, Karen (May 3, 2005). "NSW bans pit bull terrier breed". Sydney, Australia: Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
- Hughes, Gary (October 20, 2009). "Pit bull bite prompts call for national approach to dangerous dog breeds". The Australian. Sydney, Australia. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
- ASPCA. "Pit Bull Bias in the Media". Archived from the original on March 16, 2013.
- "Dog Bite Liability". Insurance Information Institute. September 2009. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
- "Homeowners Insurance Available to Breeds Previously Excluded with CGC Certification". American Kennel Club. October 1, 2004. Retrieved February 4, 2009.
- Sodergren, Brian. "Insurance companies unfairly target specific dog breeds". Humane Society of the United States. Archived from the original on July 7, 2009. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- Gephardt, Bill. Some dog breeds too risky for insurance companies. KSL.com, May 8th, 2013
- "Frequently asked questions". Air France. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
- "Traveling with pets". Alaska Airlines. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- "Traveling with pets". American Airlines. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
- "Pet Travel Requirements and Restrictions". Delta Air Lines. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
- "Pet restrictions". United Airlines. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
- "Famous Women and Their Dogs: Billie Holiday and Mister". Urban Hounds. Retrieved September 11, 2013.
- "Famous People". All About Pit Bulls. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- "Buster Brown and Tige". Stubbydog – Rediscover The Pit Bull. Archived from the original on January 18, 2012. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- "American Pit Bull Terrier ( APBT ) breed History". American Pit Bull Registry. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- "The Pit Bull—American's Sweetheart". A Brief History of the American Pit Bull Terrier. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- "Jack Brutus". Encyclopedia of the American Pit Bull Terrier. Retrieved February 20, 2012.[dead link]
- "A Popular History of the Pit Bull in America". Adams Red White & Blue Kennels. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- Green, Ranny (March 13, 1994). "Can Weela's Heroics Change Pitbull Image? Can Weela's Heroics Change Pitbull Image? Pit Bulls have been used for advertisement such as the case of Spuds McKenzie of the laste 80's Bud Light commercials". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- "Kool K-9 Popsicle retires". US Customs Today. Archived from the original on October 24, 2011. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- "Inductee: Norton". Purina Animal Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on June 22, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- "Family Dog Takes Bullet to Save Family". News 9 Oklahoma. By Amy Lester, NEWS 9. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- "'Hero' pit bull Heads Home to Recover". Retrieved November 7, 2013.