Recently I was walking to the farmer’s market pulling my toddler in a red wagon. A big black SUV slowed and stopped beside me. I was feeling a little nervous until the window slid down and a woman with a very concerned look on her face warned me that she had just seen a big pit bull heading my way with no owner in sight. I thanked her for letting me know, and paused as I considered my options. I have known people with incredibly well trained and obedient pit bulls. However, I know that all dogs are unpredictable, so the ones that can easily kill me or my child if they decide to for whatever reason, make me very nervous. Just as I was deciding to turn around and take a detour I saw it. My skin prickled as all my hair stood on end. It was like seeing a mountain lion, I had the sense that I was completely helpless. I turned around and headed in the opposite direction, turned the next corner and never saw it again.

I suppose I am guilty of being programmed by the media to feel like anytime I see a pit bull I may be attacked. It’s the same programming that makes us feel like shark attacks are common and we are likely to be attacked if we get our feet wet at the beach. To be honest though, I wasn’t afraid of much of anything before I had a child. Now I am constantly on alert to make sure I can protect her. Since children are statistically the primary victims of dog attacks, my concern is valid. Another scary statistic is that in the first third of 2013 there were 13 people killed by dogs in the USA, 12 of those were by pit bulls. So, statistically it is still much more dangerous to drive my car to the grocery store, but avoiding random rogue pit bulls still seems like a no-brainer.

Whose Safety Is More Important?

Because certain breeds of dog have been shown to pose an unacceptable level of risk to human beings, and especially children, I have to wonder why it is so controversial to have breed specific laws. There are facebook pages and website dedicated to protecting pit bull owners, and their dogs from these laws. People who love their pit bulls all say the same thing; their dogs are good dogs, cuddly, gentle. I believe them. I will also believe them when, after their dog hurts someone, they say that they can’t believe it happened. The reason it is so unexpected is that most dogs are put down after they brutally attack someone so it’s not like a specific dog is allowed to develop a pattern of mauling people. It happens unexpectedly.

As a parent, it only makes sense to me to regulate the ownership of dangerous dogs. In areas where the pit bull population has been lowered there has been a reduction in the number of attacks. Over 600 cities in the US have adopted breed specific laws to address the danger of pit bulls. These laws include mandatory sterilization of pit bulls, liability insurance for owners, and strict rules on containment. Not only have these communities seen a drop in maulings, they also see a significant drop in pit bull euthanizations. Some places have gone as far as to ban pit bulls which means that breeding them is illegal, as is bringing new ones into the area.

Danielle Nottingham is a veterinary techinician and pet blogger who writes about anything from strange and wacky animal trivia to reviewing excellent dog training products.