Pit bulls may be getting the short end of the stick, according to recent DNA tests administered by the University of Florida in Tampa. Mistaken breed labeling can lead to shelters euthanizing hoards of dogs that might not be pit bulls at all. In a report by WTSP News, a study published in the Veterinary Journal revealed that nearly 48 percent of dogs labeled by shelter workers as being pit bulls were misidentified, according to the DNA testing.
Pit bulls are constantly making headlines in horrific stories of aggressive behavior. This morning, a homeless man in Palm Beach was hospitalized after he was attacked by “at least three pit bulls.” The Palm Beach Post reported that the man was asleep near a Yamaha dealership north of the Palm Beach International Airport, when around 3:30 a.m., he was mauled by a pack of wayward animals.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera said that a deputy shot and killed one of the pit bulls, but two others escaped. The sheriff’s office searched for them, but they were never found. The dead dog was collected by animal control.
This raises the question: Who identified the fleeing dogs as pit bulls, and how was the breed of the dead dog established?
The sad story of a young mother mauled to death by a dog she had just adopted is labeled the same way. But looking at the dog raises questions. What breeds were really involved in this mix?
The New York Daily News reported today of a pit bull attacking an off-duty police dog on Long Island. According to the story, NYPD Transit Officer John O’Connor and his K9 partner, Wyatt, were walking through Hempstead on Monday afternoon.
— Law Officer Magazine (@LawOfficer) March 25, 2015
O’Connor said he looked over across the street to see a woman with a large grey pit bull.
“I looked over again. The dog isn’t on a leash, and I hear her saying, ‘Come here, Apollo! Come here, Apollo!’ “
The grey dog charged across the street and launched himself at Wyatt. O’Connor jumped to his dog’s aid.
“I kicked the dog six, seven times. As I’m turning and spinning, the dog is lunging at my dog.”
The woman scooped up Apollo and ran into a nearby housing development, despite O’Connor’s orders to stay put. Wyatt, a seven-year-old Belgian Malinois, was taken to a veterinarian, but was not badly injured.
O’Connor said that Apollo and his owner were not located.
“I don’t know where that investigation’s going.”
This cites another incident where a dog was identified as a pit bull but there is no actual proof of the breed. The media has labeled Apollo, and the story is out there as undisputable fact.
The mystery dog, Apollo, has become another statistic. The Inquisitr reported earlier this year of a North Carolina boy who attempted to save his brother from a dog attack. Those dogs also were described as pit bulls. One was killed during the attack, and the others ran away.
A very sad case of mistaken identity happened earlier this year when two boxers, Cope and Penny, got loose from their home in Valley Acres, California. The Examiner reported that the dogs were gunned down by a neighbor with a 20-gauge shotgun, who claimed he thought they were pit bulls. He said the dogs were attacking his Yorkie. But the boxers, their owner claims, were gentle with other dogs. Change.org is circulating a petition to bring justice to the killer.
About three weeks ago, the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center started doing selective DNA testing, in hopes of helping their adoption rates. The DNA testing takes about a week’s time, and it has been hugely successful. Prior to the testing, as many as 70 percent of the dogs in the shelter were labeled as pit bulls, or pit bull mixes.
It’s well worth the $60 per test, shelter worker David Morton says, since it costs $20–$30 per day to keep a dog sheltered. Every dog that has been proven as not a pit bull mix, according to Morton, has been adopted.
Realistically, we may never know whether the Palm Beach dogs were all pit bulls, or if, in fact, any of them were. But the new DNA evidence supports the theory that irresponsible dog ownership is more to blame than the breed of dog.
Is the pit bull living up to its reputation as a “land shark”? Or is the media just engaging in a feeding frenzy?
[Image of Dogue De Bordeaux via Sherwood/Shutterstock]