10 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Pit Bulls Like Mickey
Although Mickey the pit bull mauled 4-year-old Kevin Vicente, a judge decided this week to spare Mickey's life, amid outcry from many people who wanted to have the dog killed.
Many of the people who called for Mickey's head are misinformed or just plain wrong about the situation surrounding Mickey. Read on to find 10 things everyone should know about pit bulls, and dogs in general:
10.) "Pit bull" can refer to several dog breeds
"Pit bull" is not a breed of dog. There is an American Pit Bull Terrier, but other dogs, like Bull Terriers or American Staffordshire Terriers can also be called "pit bulls." Mickey is said to be an American Bulldog mix, which falls under the broadest definitions of "pit bull."
9.) Pit bulls are often misidentified
Since there's no universal definition of what makes a pit bull, you better believe a "pit bull" gets blamed for the actions of a dog that wasn't a pit bull. Don't believe it? Take any number of quizzes online that challenge you to identify pit bulls, and report back when you've mastered it.
8.) There's no proof pit bulls bite humans more than other dogs
There's a commonly cited study from the '80s, which purportedly proves pit bulls were responsible for 40 percent of fatal dog attacks. If you read the study, it openly admits (last page) that, "It has . . . been suggested that any short-haired, stocky dog is likely to be called a pit bull." The study relied on media reports for identify the breeds.
7.) There is proof they don't bite humans more than other dogs
A similar study done in the '90s set out to find what types of dogs bite children. The researchers found that German Shepherds and Chow Chows bit more children than any other breeds.
6.) A pit bull's breed is not the cause of a bite
Instead of blaming this breed or that breed, realize that the latest and greatest research likely shows that breed isn't a factor in dog bites. In the study of fatal dog attacks, the researchers couldn't identify the dog's breed with certainty in most cases, but were able to identify 45 of the dogs -- which were of 20 different breeds, and another two recognized mixes.
5.) Pit bulls make bad guard dogs because they're too friendly
This is specifically about the American Pit Bull Terrier. According to the United Kennel Club, "The APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable." They may bark and look mean, which is really all you're expecting out of a guard dog anyway.
4.) They're adorable
Fine, this is subjective, but c'mon.
3.) There's no such thing as a dog having a "locking jaw"
This is apparently a thing people believe -- that pit bulls have some sort of magical locking mechanism in their jaws that makes it impossible to keep their bite on something. Complete nonsense. Whoever made that up is probably the same person who came up with the "pit bulls are bad" tale.
2.) Killing pit bulls (and other dogs) doesn't solve anything
While the debate over Mickey's fate was ongoing, there were plenty of people calling for Mickey to be killed. Why? Dogs don't know the death penalty is an option for them if they bite someone.
The only argument is that the dog won't bite anyone again, as if every biting dog is out for blood like Cujo. The dog can be taken away from the owners without being killed, which brings us to the most important fact about pit bulls . . .
1.) Pit bulls are not to blame
Remember that study we referenced that found dog breed really had nothing to do with bites? Well, here's what they did find while researching fatal dog attacks:
The researchers identified a striking co-occurrence of multiple, controllable factors: no able-bodied person being present to intervene (87.1%); the victim having no familiar relationship with the dog(s) (85.2%); the dog(s) owner failing to neuter/spay the dog(s)(84.4%); a victim's compromised ability, whether based on age or physical condition, to manage their interactions with the dog(s) (77.4%); the owner keeping dog(s) as resident dog(s), rather than as family pet(s) (76.2%); the owner's prior mismanagement of the dog(s) (37.5%); and the owner's abuse or neglect of dog(s) (21.1%).
More than 80 percent of the fatal dog bites included at least four of the above-mentioned conditions.
According to reports, Mickey met at least five of those conditions. He was kept on a chain, in an apartment complex where he bit Kevin. Kevin, age 4, was playing with a 5-year-old boy near the dog when he was bitten. Mickey had not been neutered. The attack is hardly surprising. It's certainly not the boy's fault, and it's certainly not the dog's fault.
It's not pit bulls that attack people -- the science shows it's dogs with irresponsible owners that attack people.
Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.