Pit Bulls No. 1 In Maricopa County For Reported Bites

Pit bulls have been tied to two attacks on humans this week, the first involving an unsuspecting 9-year-old girl petting a person's leashed dog on Monday, the second involving a family's futile attempt to save their pet that was attacked by two pit bulls on the loose.

Are pit bulls truly more aggressive than other dogs, or are they simply getting a bad rap?

"Typically bites are more severe, so they get a little more attention from the media because they are severe bites," said Al Aguinaga, a field manager with Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. "People go to hospitals. Animals are attacked or killed. That gets more people upset, and they feel it's not safe."

Just where do pit bulls rank on the list of most reported dog bites? No. 1, Aguinaga said, followed by German shepherds and Chihuahuas.

Aguinaga said Animal Care and Control receives about 10,000 dog bite calls per year. He said a little more than half the calls involve actual bites. Of those, 12 percent are from pit bulls.

"People don't realize what they have when they adopt or get a pit bull," Aguinaga said, adding that pit bulls are often not socialized and that they are often ignored in the back yard.

Pit bulls are frequently owned for protection, and their owners often have another dog inside the home they treat like their own child, while a pit bull or other large dogs are kept outside and away from people, he said.

Two most frequent bite situations are a meet-and-greet, where a person has been invited by the owner to pet a dog, as was the case with Monday's attack, and when a dog is chained and a lot of people are within its environment, Aguinaga said. He said the last small percentage of bites is from stray dogs.

"The majority of bites take place with people a dog already knows," Aguinaga said.
It might be a neighbor, someone visiting, even a family member, he said. But a lot of bites are suffered by service people, such as postal workers, utility workers, or UPS delivery people, he said. Many times the dogs are chained.

Compounding the negative perception of pit bulls is their physical strength, he said.
"It took five officers, a whole squad, to chase that down" on Tuesday, Aguinaga said. "They have amazing strength and endurance."

The second of two dogs captured Tuesday ran five miles before it was contained.
Tuesday's attack, in which the family pet had to be put down and two family members treated for bite wounds, is still under investigation, Aguinaga said.

The owners of the two dogs in Tuesday's attack have not come forward, he said.
Aguinaga was quick to point out that there are many responsible owners and good pit bulls.

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