Pit Bulls and Children

Updated on July 28, 2009
P.C. asks from Portland, OR
7 answers

We are going through mediation to work out visitation and other issues, and one of the things that I wanted to agree on was to not expose our beautiful son to pit bulls.

She does not think that pit bulls are any more dangerous than other types of dogs. She takes the matter pretty lightly.

Aside from seeing countless reports on the local news about "harmless" pit bulls suddenly turning vicious and attacking a small child, I do not have any documentation of an official position from any child-oriented medical organization or any child-oriented organization at all that specifically labels pit bulls as especially dangerous.

Does anyone know of any organization that has an official position on the dangers of pit bulls to children, or figures on pit bull maulings of children?

She has full custody because she was unmarried (and is) when she gave birth.



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answers from Portland on

I just want to start by saying that I think it is really important to be cautious of all dogs, no matter the type, even your own dogs. I don't mean don't ever allow children to be around dogs, just that it is important to always supervise their interaction. That being said, it would seem that perhaps the insurance company's breed restriction list would support your position - their underwriters have obviously looked at data. Many insurance companies have quite a few dogs on their breed restriction list, not just pit bulls.

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answers from Portland on


I will be ever so glad when at long last people accept that it's not the breed or even the dog but the person in charge of the dog. Any dog can attack your child...ANY DOG. As a parent your child must be taught how to be with dogs. Those who own dogs, Pit Bulls or any other breed of dogs, must be in charge of their dogs and most certainly must be present whenever any child, especially small children, are around dogs no matter what breed of dog. Children with dogs, no matter how friendly or safe the dog appears, MUST be supervised closely by adults and more importantly by adults who are in complete control of their dogs.

Statistically Pit Bulls are responsible for more attacks than any other breed but new studies are coming out today that indicate that even highly experienced experts on canine geneology are not able to correctly identify a dogs breed based on the dogs appearance. It is quite possible that many 'Pit Bull Terriers' that make up the statistics weren't Pit Bull Terriers at all or even part Pit Bull Terrier but only looked like a Pit Bull.

It is only our fear that has put out this propaganda about Pit Bulls. I've been around for a while (I'm 54) and can remember when Doberman Pinschers were the dangerous dogs to be around and then when Rottweilers where the dangerous dogs to be around. Attack and bite statistics 'supported' the fear about those breeds at that time as well. It's nothing more than propaganda. DON'T, please don't, allow your child to grow up fearful of any dog breed or dogs. It is our fear that the dog senses that causes the dogs to attack. By our fear we are putting our selves in danger. It is NOT the breed of dog but the ability of the owner of the dog to be a pack leader to their dog. I 'live' this with my two large dogs that are half Rottweiler and half Pit Bull Terrier so I can speak with authority on this matter. My dogs are very safe around people, other dogs and other animals but I must be in charge of them. You would be better off to watch out for how the owners of dogs are with their dogs than to fear a certain breed of dog.

Here's an article I just got yesterday regarding the new studies I referred to earlier:

How well can we really identify breeds of dogs?

Our friends over at the National Canine Research Council have been having some fun with DNA testing of late.

Last week I noted some new research from the AVMA is indicating that DNA testing may just be debunking any studies ever done on dog bite studies by breed. Basically, every dog bite by breed study out there is based on people's visual identification of the dog breed -- and we're finding out that people really aren't that good at identifying breeds of dogs by looks -- and in fact, it is more or less impossible.

But when you put images with it, it is really telling.

So last week, the NCRC published a "Find the Labrador Retriever mix" visual ID game. Similar to other version of the Find a "Pit bull" game, it turns out that a lot of mixed breed dogs that we assume to be mixed breeds that are predominently common breeds don't often contain any of those breeds at all.

Most people, including many who work in animal rescue, are not all that great at knowing the looks of all the different dog breeds. The AKC/UKC combined recognize over 150 different breeds of dogs....but at this point, there are over 400 recognized dog breeds. And often, when these breed intermingle, they don't carry with them looks of any of the breeds they represent.

However, because we are familiar with a few dog breeds, we have become pretty good at grouping dogs together in groups with other similar looking dogs. Is the dog about 80 lbs and black? "Lab Mix." Boxy head and muscly? "Pit bull". Long hair and snout? "Shepherd mix". Never mind that there are several breeds of "Shepherd" that don't look all that much alike -- and many of the "shepherd mixes" don't really look like any of those breeds.

We group them, because in our mind, it's easier to classify them. Besides, what does a Chesapeake Bay Retriever/Chihuahua mix look like? And what does that mean to a potential adopter? Mostly nothing. But it's a cute black dog that kind of looks like a Lab, so let's call it that.

So what do our classifications mean? It means we group a lot of mixed breed dogs of uncommon breeds into a grouping of more popular breeds. So go to PetFinder, your local shelter, or look at any bite study. Almost anywhere you look for classifications by breed, you see "labs", "shepherds" and "pit bulls" as the most common breeds. Most often it's not because these dogs share the same DNA -- but because the LOOK similar to each other and it they are more easily categorized that way.

I think this is a really important distinction. When communities say they are putting restrictions based on "breed" because they say they are "inherantly dangerous based on their DNA" -- we need to be honest about what that means. These communities are not making decisions based on DNA, or breed at all -- but on LOOKS. They are determining that a LOOK is aggressive - not genetics. Which is an even crazier notion than the genetics argument which doesn't hold up to science either.

It's turning out that the more we learn about dogs and breeds, we find out the less we ever knew in the first place. And that pretty much every study we have ever done about dogs and breeds is completely irrelevant now because we didn't identify the breeds right in the first place.

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answers from Portland on

Hi Paul. I applaud your efforts to keep your son safe, and would like to share my experience with you.

I worked in an ER for over a year, and saw many dog bites on children. Not one was caused by a pit bull. The most frequent dog bite was from a chow-chow. Needless to say, I don't like those cute, cuddly dogs one bit.

As others have said, it's more how the dog is raised than the dog breed (although I'd have to argue that chows are the exception--LOL). I've met pits and rotties that are the sweetest, most docile pups, and poodles and Jack Russels that would tear your face off.

If you're truly worried about your son's exposure to dogs, maybe ask for a more general order...one that limits his exposure to all dogs.

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answers from Portland on

Hi Paul,

While it is true that pit bulls have a reputation for turning on their loved ones, if it is risk you are assessing, having your little one traveling daily in a car is far more likely to end in an accident. This stuff is sensationalized when it is put on t.v. so we get the impression it happens more often than it really does. Does your ex have a dog that would make it more likely she'd be at a park where pit bulls might be as well? Responsible pit bull owners would have their dogs on leashes and will likely tell you not to come near if they feel their dogs are aggressive. That being said, a quick Google search gets you some info. Try these links:


Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

This might go without saying but is this an issue because she has a pit bull or are you thinking ahead of what could go wrong? It is painful to not be able to be there with your children all the time and there are a lot of things you won't be able to control and that's just one of them. If she owns a pit bull you could try to negotiate for requiring education for children, owner, & animal. I think it's important to educate children how to approach animals in general. I hope you can agree on other issues about raising children like discipline, education, environment,etc...



answers from Portland on

Dear Paul,
You're asking for proof that isn't proof at all. If your son has been fine around the dog before there's no reason to suggest that it will turn around and become vicious. There is no scientific proof to backup what the media has been over-exagerating. You shouldn't blame the breed. Blame the owner's who have not been good or responsible with their pit bulls. And your son shouldn't have to be restricted from being around any breed of dog. Children love having pets and you shouldn't deny him the companionship of a good dog. My sister's son is in love with their dog, and rightly so. He's had the dog for a long time. A pit bull is no different than a cocker spaniel or chihuahua.



answers from Portland on

Hi Paul,

I totally understand your concern, but having worked as a vet tech and as an employee of a humane society, you need to understand that "pit bulls" are not the only kind of dogs out there that bite. I agree with the other posts, it is a lot about the responsibility of the owners, not turning them into watchdogs or protective. And if an owner does have a "psycho" dog, they SHOULD (but not always) know better to take out in public.

Do not keep your children away from dogs, including pit bulls. Educate them and teach them how to respect them. Don't let them approach a dog without supervision. Also, back to the pit bull situation, any breed can bite, and in my experiences with dogs, chows, sharpeis, akitas, huskies, malamutes, BLACK LABS (yup many blackies are agressive in nature), and any primitive species dog are more likely to bite than a pit bull. Pit bulls and other less primitive species have that "pack behavior" instinct bred out of them, and in many cases pits were bred for fighting or were abused, then they end up at the pound, some family adopts them not knowing what to expect, and their kids get bit.

Do some research, and ask the humane society in portland, or even your county dog control for information. Also, do some breed research (books not internet). In any case, please educate your children, never let your guard down around ANY dog, nice or not, and don't condemn the pit bull because of its bad reputation. Heck, I got bit by more chihuahuas and dachshunds working at the vet clinic! lol

Good luck!

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