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Ever wondered WHY pit bull's attack? Read this

Published Oct 20, 2021


I was reading through a few local news articles last week and came across a headline on Facebook which seemed all too familiar, Pit bulls turn on their Phoenix family - mom, dad and son attacked.

Then, as expected, there were two common, distinct themes coming across in the comment section, those who blamed the owners and those who blamed the breed.

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A top comment came from a woman who declared that “having worked with animals, I know its 99%, not the animal's fault. All pit bull’s I’ve known are quite friendly,” to the amusement of 10 other users. Another user commented, “I am sure the owner is not a registered breeder. Female recently had pups. Why do my friendly pit bull’s never attack? Hmmm, but yes, the breed is blamed.”

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One user commented, “I love all dogs but I know that some breeds are innately more aggressive than others. That’s just the way it is” with another blaming the owners for “keeping a hyena as a pet” and imploring people to “stop keeping that vicious breed.”

Granted, pit bull attacks are not commonplace but the breed is involved in more severe dog attacks than any other breed in South Africa. According to Animals24-7, pit bull’s were responsible for 50 out of 66 recorded fatal dog attacks in South Africa from 2004 to 2018. Why is this?

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “A pit bull is a fighting dog developed in 19th-century England, Scotland, and Ireland from bulldog and terrier ancestry for hunting, specifically for capturing and restraining semi-feral livestock” and goes on to explain that although the pit bull was originally bred for trained to be aggressive toward other dogs, aggression against humans was not encouraged because even while fighting, the dogs had to be handled by their trainers. Keep in mind that dogfighting is not a new phenomenon.

Dogs displaying this trait were not selected for breeding. However, the resurgence of dogfighting has led to irresponsible breeders encouraging such traits in their animals and mistreating them in order to induce a vicious temperament.

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The Pit Bull Federation of South Africa emphasised that “temperament is over 60% inherited and you cannot remove a dog’s genetics, a human aggressive dog should be euthanised. They should not be sold, or re-homed, or given away.”

I spoke to Nicole Jack, Chairperson of Durban-based Pit Bull Rescue organisation, Serendipitty Rescue to gain more insight into the controversial world of pit bulls.

Sharing the same sentiments as the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa, Jack agrees that if a dog attacks a human, irrespective of the breed, should be euthanised but also said that it is extremely important that people take responsibility.

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“The genetics of a dog is not to attack people, it is the mistreatment and inadequate understanding of these dogs which often causes issues.”

With regards to the recent attack on the family in Phoenix, Jack said that “backyard breeding is on the rise with people thinking they can make money selling pit bull pups. Selling animals on Facebook is illegal for this very reason. When a female dog has pups, they become extremely protective over them. If a person or even the father tries to approach the pups, incidents like the one we saw last week, may occur.”

On the popularity of pit bull’s in South Africa, Jack said that “many people are getting these dogs as a kind of status symbol. They can be incredible family pets if they are treated with respect with owners requiring a deep understanding of their needs and health requirements. There are too many people wanting a pit bull for security reasons. This is not why someone should get a dog; these dogs should be an integral part of the family. They bond strongly with their owners and thrive when incorporated as part of the family.”

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Dogs which have been neglected or abused either physically, mentally or emotionally are more likely to attack their owners and people around them. In-breeding is another factor responsible for the introduction of highly aggressive animals into family homes.

Jack highly recommends pit bull’s as family pets but agrees that not every home is a pit bull home. She implores people to do their research before adopting any breed because each breed has specific needs.

“It is like raising a child,” she says, “if parents do not give the child proper love, care and guidance, the child may very well turn out to be a very angry adult who may lash out.”

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