Greenwood County was rocked to its core when a woman was killed by a pit bull on January 8. Less than a week later, on January 14, another pit bull attacked a 6-year-old girl, who received 10 stitches and lost part of her ear as a result. Both dogs have reportedly had a history of violence, according to officials with the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office.
The latter incident occurred on Belle Oaks Drive. The dog was taken to the animal shelter and quarantined. It had a microchip, but the owner listed on the microchip was not the current owner of the dog. Authorities contacted the owner listed and discovered that the animal had previously bitten another child.
The former owner told authorities that he had given the dog to another woman, but she gave the animal back after it bit her daughter. That incident was not reported to authorities. The man says that he then gave the dog to its current owner. The current owner had no knowledge of the previous incident.
The January 8 attack on 65-year-old Betty Anne Chapman Todd was by a family pet. Initially, authorities believed that the animal had no previous history of violence, but officials say that, through the course of the investigation, they discovered that the pit bull responsible for Todd’s death had killed another family pet, a siberian husky, just four months prior to the attack on Todd. Authorities say that, following that incident, the dog’s owner had the dog neutered the first week of January to take away its aggression.
The statistics for dog maulings by breed leave little doubt that a pit bull is a dangerous animal. Many believe that pit bulls have a bad reputation because of their size and that other breeds bite just as frequently. Statistics from the publication Animal People tell a vastly different tale.
Animal People was founded in 1992 and, according to their website, their mission is a "charitable corporation dedicated to exposing the existence of cruelty to animals and to informing and educating the public of the need to prevent and eliminate such cruelty." They have both printed and online publications and maintain the only continuously updated database on dog-related incidents, commonly referred to as the Clifton Report.
The Clifton Report has data compiled from September 1982 through December 31, 2012, and lists all deaths and maulings by dogs according to breed. You can view the document in its entirety by clicking the link at the bottom of this article.
According to the Clifton Report, pit bulls and pit bull mixes are responsible for at least 2,383 deaths and maimings. Those numbers do not include numerous other incidents where a pit bull was involved, but not directly linked to a death or injury. Such attacks not reflected in the numbers include a man who had a heart attack while being chased by a pit bull and a 14-year-old girl killed by a car while running from a pit bull that rushed her at her bus stop. By comparison, there were only 1,508 deaths and maimings by all other breeds, including rottweilers, which comprised 525 of the total by other breeds.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals calls pit bulls “sweet and loyal family dogs” on their website and attributes the negativity surrounding the breed to media bias against pit bulls. Prior to Byrd’s daughter being bitten by a pit bull, he had previously owned four pit bulls, with his last one passing away just three months ago.
In general, pit bulls aren’t aggressive with people but are “less tolerant” of other dogs than many other breeds, says Pamela Reid, PhD, vice president of the ASPCA’s Animal Behavior Center in New York. They also have “great tenacity. They put their mind to something, and they do it. That’s what makes them great dogs for sports like weight pulling. They are very strong, athletic animals," Reid says.
While animal activists argue that negative media attention has brought an unjust perception to pit bulls, the evidence clearly shows that pit bulls are far more dangerous than any other breed and, for two local families, the effects are very real.
The Clifton Report