Animal Rights

Is There Such a Thing as 'Accidental' Death by Pit Bull?

| by Denise A Justin

The following comment was made on an October 4 article, “3 Pit Bulls Maul Toddler to Death in Aunt’s Apartment.” The coroner ruled that it was an “accident” that these dogs neighbors said were aggressive escaped the room in which they were supposedly secured and killed a sleeping 20-month-old baby girl. This comment made us wonder what others think—can “death by pit bull” be accidental?

“ACCIDENTAL???? It's not an accident when it comes to pit bulls. This thinking is only leading to more attacks. When you own a breed that was designed to do one thing and only one thing, kill, when it does, it ain't no accident.”

Opinion #1 – by “HonestyHelps”

“Accidental is not a word to associate with death by pit bull. Unfortunately, in too many cases of these deaths, the coroner, the police, the pit community rule death by pitocide is accidental. A dead tree falling on your house during a windstorm is not an accident. You knew the tree was weak and if you take no precautions to cut the tree down, when it does fall, it is not an accident, it is neglect.

“The definition of "accidental" is occurring unexpectedly or by chance. so this rules out the use of "accidental" in relation to a pit bull attack. When you have a breed of dog that was designed for only one thing, to kill, then you can expect something to happen. So how can a pit attack be called an accident? With all the media reports on pit bull attacks, one cannot use the excuse of ignorance.

“Pit bulls are 14 times more likely to escape containment and 6 times more likely to attack their owners, according to studies. With information like this, how can you consider a pit bull attack to be an "accident”?

We, as a society, are failing to recognize the consequences of our actions, blaming others, not taking the blame for ourselves, our roles in all of it, our decisions. Our decisions can affect others and that's why those who chose to have pit bulls need to recognize how their breed can affect others. The "accident" is allowing pits to continue unabated in their maulings and killings without sending a message to those who own pits, you must take responsibility for their actions and stop blaming the rest of society.”

Opinion #2 – by “FormerPitOwner”

It seems to me the question of whether “death by pit bull” can be accidental needs a little more definition. Did it kill another animal, or a human?  Is it accidental because the owner made a mistake and either left the dog where it could escape or took it into a public place, NOT realizing the dog might be vicious? (That would mean with absolutely no prior indication of aggression toward animals or people.) Or, is it “accidental” because the dog did not intend to kill? Let’s just consider them all in a discussion.

“Pit bulls are inherently animal-aggressive and the pit bull that isn't is the anomaly, not the norm. Pit bulls were originally, and still are, fighting dogs, not “nanny dogs”—first bulls and bears and then later pitted against each other.

“Pit bull is a term for any bully-type dog that was used in the “pit.”  It is not a distinct breed.  Most commonly, it’s believed to originally come from various crosses of the larger Molosser (Mastiff guard dogs) of the time and rat terriers. The term “bull dog” comes from the pushed-in nose (brachycephalic) which allowed the dog to breathe while it held onto the throat of the bull with deep folds of skin. So the bull dog genetic provided tenacity and stamina and the rat terrier blood line gave the dog the instinct to go after a moving creature without hesitation or warning. Plus the breeding with the smaller dog created a fighting dog of a size that could last longer in combat and be maintained in a smaller space and with less food. 

“Regardless of all the hype that, if BSL were passed, other breeds would be used by dog fighters, it isn’t true.  Pits are small, can be chained up and taught to not bark or respond to pain. They are loyal to their master through all kinds of abuse and torture and will give their life in the pit for someone who has chained, beaten and burned them. Try that with another breed!  Denying that protective BSL is needed is what is continuing to make them victims.

"So, regardless of the myths and fairy tales developed to convince soft-hearted animal lovers and rescuers that these dogs were historically babysitters, sorry, but it ain’t so! These dogs were bred and always have been bred to kill other animals—it’s in the genetic of the dog (called the “bloodline”) and all the discussion in pit bull breeders’ and dog fighters’ articles about “preserving the breed” means retaining the aggression in the bloodline of pit bulls and not allowing that trait to be bred out of them (as it has in Boxers.) 

The plea that this is a misunderstood dog and there must not be any BSL to protect it is not for the benefit of the dog, but to allow those who exploit them to not have any interference with their “business.”  They have duped rescuers to be their first line of defense against laws that would actually protect this horribly abused breed of dogs from their abusers!

"In earlier times, dogs were kept for guarding and hunting.  Strays cleaned up spoiled food and garbage which was thrown in the streets. That was before God made trash trucks!  Pit bulls were traditionally kept on chains because they would kill each other, any other dogs or cats, and livestock. They were (and still are) kept on chains by dog fighters who want them close enough to each other to become antagonistic but not close enough to develop social skills with other dogs.

"Pit bulls were sometimes seen with children (such as in Our Gang), but that was because the family knew the dog would kill any strays that might attack or harm the kids, and they did.

"Pit bulls developed their loyalty and obedience to humans because those who didn’t, didn’t eat and thus didn’t live. They were kept in isolation and had to depend upon the owner for everything….and that’s just the way the dog fighters want it. Old time dogmen admit that a pit that turned on humans was killed immediately to be sure no traits of human aggression were continued in the bloodline. It was bad for business to have one of your dogs attack a human.

“So, with few exceptions, pit bulls have genetic animal aggression and anyone who owns one must be honestly educated and prepared for this fact. It is an ‘accident’ waiting to happen.”

Opinion #3 – “StraightTalkAboutPits”

The biggest problem for the owner who might not be knowledgeable about the breed is that no matter how animal-friendly the pit may be as a puppy, once it starts to mature, there is really no way to tell if/when it will start to develop “gameness.” That’s the word that means it is willing to fight to death to win. Often there is no indication the dog will be aggressive with another animal until it happens.

“That is when trainers and rescuers get the panic call that the pit bull that slept from puppyhood on the owner’s pillow and was socialized with other pets just tried to kill the Golden Retriever that raised it.  t is human nature to justify and forgive that first-time attack by the adorable creature who stands there wagging its tail and looking into your eyes questioningly as blood drips from its mouth. But it’s a signal that can’t be ignored. Waiting for the next time is too late. That’s the problem for pit bulls, mauling and even killing another animal is what they are genetically bred to do, and they don’t feel the doggy equivalent of remorse when they maim or kill their own.

“Most dogs will stop an attack on another dog when it submits, but once a pit bull’s adrenaline is revved up, there’s no turning back.  However, it doesn’t usually happen the first time.  Killing for pit bulls is a learned art and the steps come from practice—although some do get the jugular the first time, and it might be a dog or a child.  That might be the only time the kill (not the intent) is an “accident.”

“The novice owner—and sometimes even the experienced one—does not recognize that their pit bull just took the first step toward becoming a killer when he placed his head across the neck of another dog in a show of dominance.  The sad part is that it may be a dog that the pit has loved for many months or even years.  With a pit, it’s a short step from dominance to death—and what made them feel “challenged” is often indiscernible.  It may just be that the dog walked in front of their property.  It may be that their territory increased because they were allowed to roam, so first they “owned” the yard, then the block and pretty soon the entire community.

“So why are we seeing so many severe or fatal attacks on humans—not just annoying children or owners who are beating them, but innocent sleeping babies and elderly people who are attacked from behind?  Are these “accidents?” 

“After hearings in Sacramento CA around 1990 regarding a possible statewide ban on the breed because of increasing reports of attacks, gangs became more aware that pit bulls could guard illegal activities as well as bring in revenue from dog fighting.  That began a different type of breeding and genetic. The dogs began to be deliberately bred for human aggression.

“This fostered the idea that they would make good family watchdogs, except that an increasing number had a hard time determining who was “family.”  Animal shelters all over the country have up to 70% pit bulls. The sad part for these dog and for people who live in the communities into which they may be adopted, is that rescues and shelters are releasing dogs that already have a history of aggression—telling the new owners they can be rehabilitated or they were just in an abusive home.  So when the “accident” happens, who is really liable?

“The last myth that leads to “accidents,” is that pit bulls are “just like any other dog” unless they are trained to fight or bite or they are abused. That’s not true. They are not like any other dog. People who breed pit bulls (there may be a few exceptions) know they are breeding a dog that is potentially dangerous. When breeders produce Australian Shepherds, they know the dogs will herd. Hounds are bred because they will hunt, retrievers retrieve, and pointers point. The genes/bloodline is the determiner of innate behavior. It’s the same with pit bulls. When they kill, it’s no accident.”


Note: The growing problems with pit bulls starting in 1972 was chronicled in The Pit Bull Dilemma, the Gathering Storm - 1000 Annotated Abstracts from Books, Journals, Magazines, Newspapers and Reports.  Editor Donald H. Clifford, et al. (Lots of other good stuff on this site.)