Dear University Hospital in San Antonio, Stop Discriminating Against Pit-Bull Type Dogs
Dr. John Bini of University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, recently published "Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs" in the Annals of Surgery medical journal purporting to prove the link between fatal dog attacks and pit bulls. Of all the supposed data collected, Dr. Bini fails to reconcile several key issues when addressing the dangerous-dog debate. The study does not explain how each statistic was determined to include a pit bull, after all "pit bull" is not a breed of dog but rather a class of dogs that typically include three breeds but has grown exponentially in recent years to encompass almost any dog with a boxy head. Leading organizations, such as the American Veterinary Medicine Association, agree, dog-bite data is often manipulated to justify a certain position and is seriously flawed in its acquisition.
"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," the study argued. "These breeds should be regulated in the same way in which other dangerous species, such as leopards, are regulated."
This analogy is surprising from a doctor. Comparing a domesticated animal to a non-domesticated, wild animal is a stretch at best, and fear mongering at worst. Dr. Bini fails to acknowledge that breed discrimination never works. From Miami, Florida, to Denver, Colorado, breed bans have not decreased fatal dog attacks in their 20-year existence, rather the number of attacks have remained the same or, more often, increased. However, the study is intent on showing that pit bulls are an inherent community danger and is unwilling to look at proven policies that combat the incidents of dog attacks such as anti-tethering and reckless owner laws.
"That will be the argument that a lot of people have, that it's not the dog. It's the owner. But I think you really have to throw the emotion out. Yeah, it's emotional. But throw it away and let's look at our data," Dr. Bini told Chron news.
Sorry, Dr. Bini, emotion is involved because too many dogs die because of misguided studies like yours and your flawed data. Breed-discriminatory measures never work and rather than support the efforts to put the burden of responsibility where it should be - on canine guardians - your study engages in antiquated science that hundreds of cities and counties, and hundreds of thousands of dog owners know is as useless as the policy it promotes.
The data in Dr. Bini’s study are highly questionable for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it is nearly impossible to accurately identify a “pit bull” visually, which is what hospital staff members are relying on when they record bite reports. According to Dr. Victoria Voith, even animal shelter employees are wrong 75% of the time when guessing the heritage of a mixed breed dog compared to DNA testing. Also, the results blatantly ignore the role of causal factors. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the Center for Disease Control have found that 70-75% of dog bites are caused by intact male dogs of a variety of breeds.
There is no evidence that breed bans reduce bite incidents. In fact, just the opposite -- studies of pre and post breed ban dog bite rates in the United Kingdom and Spain concluded that their pit bull breed bans had no effect whatsoever on reducing dog bites. The Center for Disease Control came out against breed specific regulations in a report it issued in the 1990s. Dr. Bini joins the ranks of those using junk science to push a viewpoint that has very little application to predicting or preserving public safety.
As a responsible pet owner who cares about public safety and treating all dogs equally, regardless of breed, I urge you to disavow Dr. Bini’s “study.” It is damaging the credibility of your hospital as a research institution and failing to improve public safety.
Thank you for your consideration in this humane matter.