Pit bulls' reputation takes new hit
Doctors, nurses say injuries prove danger, but others disagree.
By Don Finley
Updated 06:32 a.m., Monday, May 9, 2011
Weary of mending the mauled victims of dog attacks, doctors and nurses looked back at 15 years of serious bite injuries treated at University Hospital and produced a study likely to offer new ammunition for those looking to ban or regulate pit bulls.
They found that attacks by pit bulls were more likely to kill people than those by other breeds. In fact, all three deaths seen at the hospital during the period — two children and a 90-year-old man — were from pit bull attacks, records showed. A fourth fatality wasn't seen at the hospital, a 64-year-old Von Ormy man also killed by a pit bull, death records show.
In addition, they found that pit bulls caused more serious injuries — injuries more likely to put their victims in the hospital. Once admitted, those victims rang up higher medical costs.
“Fortunately, fatal dog attacks are rare, but there seems to be a distinct relationship between the severity and lethality of an attack and the breed responsible,” they wrote in an article published in the April issue of the medical journal Annals of Surgery. “These breeds should be regulated in the same way in which other dangerous species, such as leopards, are regulated.”
Advocates, dog owners and some experts disagree. They argue passionately against singling out pit bulls, saying the problem is one of irresponsible owners, not an irredeemable breed. People often confuse pit bulls — a generic term for various bull terrier breeds and mixes — with other kinds of dogs, making statistics suspect, they say.
The study began two years ago when a series of attacks in the area led to renewed calls for regulating pit bulls. Lawmakers in Austin considered bills permitting local bans on specific breeds, which now are forbidden under state law. None passed.
The study's authors argue that pit bulls deserve the special attention they get. Pit bulls, originally bred as fighting dogs, have different attack patterns than other breeds, they say — attacking indiscriminately, without warning and, often, with little interest in stopping.