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Dangerous Dogs

Dangerous DogsCertaindogs – like pit bulls and Rottweilers – are as dangerousas loaded guns, but their owners are in denial about the risks. No.Grafton, Mass.

No. Grafton, Mass. [10.25.04] After a spateof attacks by pit bulls this summer, Massachusetts lawmakers passedlegislation requiring the dogs to be muzzled in public. Some pitbull owners protested, but a Tufts expert says the law may bea good idea. Breeds like pit bulls and Rottweilers, says animalbehavior expert NickDodman, are hardwired for aggression.

“Someof these dogs are as dangerous as a loaded handgun,” Dodman– director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at TuftsSchool of Veterinary Medicine – said in an interviewwith The Boston Globe Magazine.

Genetics play a big role.

“No doubt about it, pit bulls are geneticallypredisposed toward aggression,” he told the magazine. “Justas certain breeds of dogs were bred to herd, certain were bredto hunt, certain to point, and others to swim.”

While most pet owners accept that their dogs havecertain genetic behavioral characteristics, there is still resistanceto the idea that some dogs are more dangerous than others.

“Everybody accepts [genetic behaviors likeherding or hunting] until you throw in the word ‘aggression’and things like a full, crushing bite, which some breeds werespecifically bred for in the past.”

Statistics on dog attacks reinforce the link betweencertain dogs and dangerous behavior.

“It’slike a scene from “Casablanca” when they say, ‘Roundup the usual suspects,’” Dodman told the Globe.“It’s always German shepherds, chow, husky, pit bull.The numbers do the talking.”

He added that pit bulls and Rottweilers aloneaccount for more than 50 percent of the fatal dog attacks everyyear. Despite the danger, the owners of these dogs often failto take proper precautions.

“A lot of owners of aggressive breeds aresuffering from denial and ignorance, because no one wants to befingered as having that kind of dog,” Dodman said.

Laws requiring dangerous dogs to be muzzled mayhelp reduce the risks. But Dodman was quick to note that dog attacksshould be kept in perspective.

“Althoughit’s too many, the number of deaths from dog bites is verysmall, about 10 per year,” the Tufts animal behavior experttold the Globe. “Homicides – people killingpeople – far exceeded that. If you ask yourself which ismore dangerous, the dog or the person, the answer is obvious.”



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