Pit Bulls: Facts and Figures

By Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips, author of Dog Bite Law (dogbitelaw.com)

Pit bulls are disliked by most Americans

Americans believe that pit bulls are at least somewhat dangerous and that a family with small children should not harbor a pit bull. (YouGov.us, Poll Results: Pit Bulls, July 24, 2014, https://today.yougov.com/news/2014/07/24/poll-results-pit-bull.)

More than 50% of all pit bulls in the USA are up for sale or adoption. (Merritt Clifton, Breed Survey 2019, cited above.)

Most of the pit bulls offered for sale or adoption have been given up by their former owners. (Merritt Clifton, “Rescued” pit bulls now outnumber pit puppies, http://www.animals24-7.org/2017/06/14/rescued-pit-bulls-now-outnumber-pit-puppies)

Between 19% and 32% of all dogs taken to shelters are pit bulls. (Emily Weiss, Rising from the Pitt [19%]; Merritt Clifton, “Rescued” pit bulls now outnumber pit puppies [32%], cited above.)

Pit bulls remain in shelters approximately three times as long as other breeds. (Lisa M. Gunter, Rebecca T. Barber, Clive D. L. Wynne, What’s in a Name? Effect of Breed Perceptions & Labeling on Attractiveness, Adoptions & Length of Stay for Pit-Bull-Type Dogs, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0146857).

Forty percent of pit bulls in shelters are euthanized every year. (Emily Weiss, Rising from the Pitt, ASPCAPro, https://www.aspcapro.org/blog/2017/05/19/rising-pit).

Pit bulls are less than 6% of all dogs in the USA

There are approximately 4.5 million pit bulls in the United States, making up approximately 5.8% of the country’s canine population. (Merritt Clifton, Breed Survey 2019: More Puppies Yet Fewer Homes for Pit Bulls, https://www.animals24-7.org/2019/07/09/breed-survey-2019-more-puppies-yet-fewer-homes-for-pit-bulls/.)

Pit bulls bite more humans than other breeds

From February 2013 to the present, animal control agencies and health departments in 19 U.S. states report that pit bulls are leading all breeds in biting incidents. The studies are summarized and linked at Dogsbite.org, Pit Bulls Lead “Bite” Counts Across U.S. Cities and Countieshttp://blog.dogsbite.org/2009/07/pit-bulls-lead-bite-counts-across-us.html.

In the 10 years from 2009 to 2018, pit bulls killed or maimed 3,569 people in the USA and Canada. (Merritt Clifton, Dog Attack Deaths & Maimings, U.S. & Canada, 1982-2018 Log.) They killed over 80% of all Americans who are killed by dogs. (Colleen Lynn, 2015 U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities, at http://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-fatalities-2015.php.)

In the 13-year period from 2005 to 2017, pit bulls killed 283 Americans. (Colleen Lynn, 12-Year U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Chart and Colleen Lynn, 2017 U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities.)

Pit bull bites are more deadly than those of other breeds

From 2011 to 2019, 14 peer-reviewed retrospective medical studies from Level 1 trauma centers spanning all major geographical regions in the United States — Northeast, Southeast, South, Southwest, Midwest, West Coast, and Northwest — all report similar findings: pit bulls are inflicting a higher prevalence of injuries than all other breeds of dogs. The majority of these studies (12 of 14) also report that pit bulls are inflicting the most severe injuries, requiring a higher number of operative interventions — up to five times higher — than other dog breeds. Four studies from this period — all from Level 1 trauma centers in the Denver metro area — show a mixture of results, possibly due to Denver and the surrounding metropolitan regions enforcing pit bull bans for the last 3 decades. (See a compilation of studies with citations by Lynn, Colleen, Level 1 Trauma Center Studies, https://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-studies-level-1-trauma-table-2011-present.php.)

Studies by health care providers establish that pit bull attacks are associated with higher median Injury Severity Scale scores, a higher number of hospital admissions, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death. (Bini, John K. MD; Cohn, Stephen M. MD; Acosta, Shirley M. RN, BSN; McFarland, Marilyn J. RN, MS; Muir, Mark T. MD; Michalek, Joel E. PhD, Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs, Annals of Surgery: April 2011, vol. 253, iss. 4, pp. 791–797, cited at http://journals.lww.com/annalsofsurgery/Abstract/2011/04000/Mortality,_Mauling,_and_Maiming_by_Vicious_Dogs.23.aspx.)

Another study authored entirely by physicians concludes that injuries from pit bulls are both more frequent and more severe. (Essig Jr., Garth F., et al., Dog Bite Injuries to the Face: Is There Risk with Breed Ownership? A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis, Int. J. of Ped. Otorhinolaryngology 117 (2019) 192-188; accessed 3/25/2019 at https://bit.ly/2HShg80.)

Similarly, an additional study found that pit bulls inflict “more complex wounds, were often unprovoked, and went off property to attack” and that “[t]he probability of a bite resulting in a complex wound was 4.4 times higher for pit bulls compared with the other top-biting breeds.” (Khan K, Horswell B, and Samanta D, Dog-Bite Injuries to the Craniofacial Region: An Epidemiologic and Pattern-of-Injury Review at a Level 1 Trauma Center, J Oral Maxillofac Surg, November 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31816277.)

Pit bull owners are more likely to be irresponsible

In nearly all of the cases in which I have been consulted, where a pit bull killed a person the pit bull owners had no insurance, and therefore the victim’s family received no justice in the form of compensation.

Published, peer-reviewed studies in authoritative journals of psychology and forensic science establish that pit bull owners as a whole — statistically — are more likely to be socially deviant, engage in crimes involving children, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, and violent crimes against other persons. (Jaclyn E. Barnes, Barbara W. Boat, Frank W. Putnam, Harold F. Dates, and Andrew R. Mahlman, Ownership of High-Risk (“Vicious”) Dogs As a Marker for Deviant Behaviors, J. Interpersonal Violence, Volume 21 Number 12, December 2006 1616-1634, abstract at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17065657; Laurie Ragatz M.A., William Fremouw Ph.D., Tracy Thomas M.A., Katrina McCoy B.S., Vicious Dogs: The Antisocial Behaviors and Psychological Characteristics of Owners, Journal of Forensic Sciences, Volume 54, Issue 3, pages 699–703, May 2009, abstract at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1556-4029.2009.01001.x/abstract; Allison M. Schenk, B.A.; Laurie L. Ragatz, M.S.; and William J. Fremouw, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., Vicious Dogs Part 2: Criminal Thinking, Callousness, and Personality Styles of Their Owners, J Forensic Sci, January 2012, Vol. 57, No. 1, doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01961.x, available online at: onlinelibrary.wiley.com.)

Pit bull owners have engaged in extremely bizarre and vicious behavior, including these examples:

  • Laquandra Kinchen Ligons stabbed to death a neighbor who poked Ligons’ pit bull with a metal rod to protect the victim’s cats. (Pablo Lopez for The Fresno Bee, Fresno woman sentenced to 12 years for killing a woman in a dispute over pets, http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/crime/article19643112.html#storylink=cpy.)
  • Matthew Thomas Oropeza killed a man who asked Oropeza to put a leash on his pit bull. (See the article in the Inquirer at Philly.com.)
  • Rashawn T. Washington-Clark ordered his pit bull to bite an officer and then attempted to bite the latter himself. (Charles Winokoor, Taunton police say man sicced pit bull on them, then tried to bite officer himself, https://bit.ly/37eIJcR.)

When they attack, pit bulls kill or maul their owners and the owners’ family members or visiting babies more than half the time

In the years 2016 through 2021, when pit bulls became homicidal they killed either their owners or members of their owners’ families most of the time. This can be called “eruscide” from the Latin word “erus” which means “owner” or “master of the house.”

In 2016, of the 31 Americans killed by dogs, 23 were killed by pit bulls and their mixes, and 12 of those 23 victims were either the owner of the pit bull or a member of the owner’s family. (See details given by Colleen Lynn, http://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-fatalities-2016.php.) The eruscide rate was 52%.

In 2017, of the 39 Americans killed by dogs, 29 were killed by pit bulls and their mixes, and 18 of those 29 victims were either the owner of the pit bull or a member of the owner’s family (including a relative). (See Colleen Lynn, https://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-fatalities-2017.php.) The eruscide rate was 62%.

In 2018, of the 34 Americans killed by dogs, 25 were killed by pit bulls and their mixes, and 14 of those 25 victims were their owners, the owners’ family members, or babies that the pit bull owners were watching. (Phillips, Kenneth, Pit Bull Killings – 2018, https://bit.ly/2Wubi1j.) The eruscide rate was 56%.

In 2019, 48 Americans were killed by dogs, pit bulls and their mixes killed 33, and 13 of the 33 victims were their owner or the owner’s family member. In one additional case, the victim was a visiting baby. (Phillips, Kenneth, Pit Bull Killings – 2019, https://bit.ly/2S5zcko.)  The eruscide rate was 40%.

In 2021, of the 51 Americans killed by dogs, 37 were killed by one or more pit bulls and their mixes (in some cases in combination with one or more other breeds), and 21 of those victims were either the owner of the pit bull or member of the owner’s family. The eruscide rate was 57%.

The average eruscide rate during the past 5 years, therefore, was 53%.

Pit bulls also have been known to eat their owners. In 2019, when the police went in search for Freddie Mack (57, Johnson County, TX), they could not find him, but they found bits of his bones and clothes in the excrement of his 15 pit bulls. (Sheriff: Missing North Texas man was eaten by his own dogs, Fox4News.com, July 10, 2019, https://bit.ly/2YR4BrD.) In 2017, police looking for Bethany Stephens (22, Goochland County, VA) found her two pit bulls eating her rib cage. (Goochland County Sheriff James Agnew, press conference, Dec. 18, 2017) In 2022, Marina Verriest’s husband returned home from work to find his wife being eaten by their own pit bull. (See Colleen Lynn, https://blog.dogsbite.org/2022/07/family-pit-bull-mutilates-kills-70-year-old-woman-in-nassau-county.html.)

Common sense leads to the conclusion that when they attack, pit bulls bite (without necessarily killing) their owners and their owners’ family members and visiting babies in the same relative numbers, namely more than half the time.

Pit bulls are the No. 1 canine killers of women and girls, killing more than half of the females killed by a dog

In 2018, 28 American females were killed by dogs, and 19 of the killings were by pit bulls. (Phillips, Kenneth, Pit Bull Killings – 2018, https://bit.ly/2Wubi1j.)

In 2019, 26 American females were killed by dogs, and 16 of the 26 were killed by pit bulls. (Phillips, Kenneth, Pit Bull Killings – 2019, https://bit.ly/2S5zcko.)

Keep in mind: pit bulls are less than 6% of all the dogs in the USA. Yet they are responsible for more than half of the fatal attacks on women and girls.

Pit bulls are the No. 1 canine killers of children, killing more than half of the children killed by a dog

As of 2021, pit bulls have killed 249 American children in recent memory. (See Colleen Lynn, https://www.fatalpitbullattacks.com/children-killed-by-pit-bulls.php.) Yet there are few laws requiring the muzzling of pit bulls in public, even though we require children to wear masks for the prevention of COVID, which has killed far fewer kids (just 172 as of December 2020, per Academy of Pediatrics, https://www.aappublications.org/news/2020/12/29/covid-2million-children-122920).

In 2017, dogs killed 15 children out of the 39 total human fatalities. Pit bulls kllled 8 of the 15 youths. (See Colleen Lynn, https://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-fatalities-2017.php.)

In 2018, dogs again killed 15 children, and pit bulls killed at least 9 of those 15 (“at least” because the authorities have concealed the breed of one of the dogs that killed a child.) (See Colleen Lynn, 2018 Dog Bite Fatalities and Phillips, Kenneth, Pit Bull Killings – 2018, https://bit.ly/2Wubi1j.)

In 2019, dogs killed 16 children, and pit bulls killed 10 of the 16. (Phillips, Kenneth, Pit Bull Killings – 2019, https://bit.ly/2S5zcko.)

As stated above, pit bulls are less than 6% of all dogs in the USA. Yet they are responsible for killing most of the children who get killed by a dog.

Pit bulls are the No. 1 canine killers of other people’s pets and animals, killing more than 75% of those killed by a dog

In 2017, pit bulls killed 13,000 dogs, 5,000 cats, and 20,000 horses and other farm animals. (See Merritt Clifton, ‘Pit Bull Roulette’ killed 38,000 other animals in 2017.) Having destroyed more than 90% of other animals killed by dogs, the breed became the number one killer of other people’s pets, horses and farm animals.

In 2019, pit bulls accounted for 91% of all reported fatal attacks on other animals, 91% of all fatal attacks on other dogs, 76% of all fatal dog attacks on cats, and 82% of all fatal dog attacks on other pets, poultry, and hoofed species. (Clifton, Merritt, Record Pit Bull Attacks on Other Animals in 2019, https://www.animals24-7.org/2020/01/13/record-pit-bull-attacks-on-other-animals-in-2019-pro-football/.)

Pit bulls engage in home invasions more often than any other dog

Approximately once per month during 2015, 2016, and 2017, a pit bull has entered the home of a person not its owner for the purpose of killing or injuring people or pets. In addition to homes, the invaded premises have included apartments, schools, and even a police station. There were 16 such incidents in 2015, 17 in 2016, and 11 in 2017, with the first recorded one in 1912. (See Safety Before Pit Bulldogs, Extreme Attacks: List of Invasion Attacks by Pit Bulls, at http://safetybeforebulldogs.blogspot.com/2014/03/collection-of-home-invasion-pit-bull.html.)

Pit bull attacks (deaths and disfigurements) are on the rise

Fatal and disfiguring attacks by pit bulls have risen 830% since 2007. (Merritt Clifton, Record 33 fatal pit bull attacks & 459 disfigurements in 2015, at http://www.animals24-7.org/2016/01/04/record-33-fatal-pit-bull-attacks-459-disfigurements-in-2015/)

Repealing their pit bull ban was a disaster for Youngstown, Ohio

Youngstown banned pit bulls from 2007 to 2015 but repealed the ban in November 2015 under activist pressure. At least two disfiguring pit bull attacks on humans occurred in Youngstown since then, while a pit bull influx has overwhelmed the Mahoning County dog pound, which serves Youngstown. “Currently, 98% of the dogs at the Mahoning County dog pound fall under pit bull breeds,” reported Molly Reed of WKBN earlier in 2018. (Clifton, Merritt, “Educate yourself”: pit bulls in schools run amok, https://www.animals24-7.org/2018/12/16/educate-yourself-pit-bulls-in-schools-run-amok/.)

The pit bull attack cover-up is on the rise

The authorities either unwittingly or purposely are engaging in a cover-up pertaining to pit bull violence. In the three decades from 1982 t0 2013, only 45 canine homicides or disfigurements were by dogs of an unidentified breed, but in 2014 there were 36 and in 2015 there were 78. (Merritt Clifton, Record 33 fatal pit bull attacks & 459 disfigurements in 2015, at http://www.animals24-7.org/2016/01/04/record-33-fatal-pit-bull-attacks-459-disfigurements-in-2015/)

The breeding of pit bulls adds to the pit bull problem

Over 40% of the USA’s pit bulls are homeless, according to the latest survey (Merritt Clifton, 2018 Dog Breed Survey: At Least 41% of U.S. Pit Bull Population Are Seeking Homes, at https://www.animals24-7.org/2018/06/18/2018-dog-breed-survey-at-least-41-of-u-s-pit-bull-population-are-seeking-homes/). The percent of homeless pit bulls is probably over 50% because rescues and shelters falsely advertise two out of ten pit bulls as being some other breed. This means half or nearly half of the nation’s pit bulls are seeking homes. Breeding pit bulls potentially adds to that number.

“Pit bull” is a term that describes all descendents of the Old English Bulldog

The Old English Bulldog was adapted into a fighting dog referred to as the “Bull and Terrier,” which then became the Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, English Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, etc. All such varieties are referred to as “pit bulls” or “pit bulls and their mixes.” (See, i.e., Staffordshire Bull Terrier from The Book of the Doghttp://www.staffordmall.com/phildrabble.htm.)

Dogs that attack other dogs are dangerous to people

A study in Orange County, Florida, established that in a 12-month period 7% of all bites to humans occurred when two dogs met. (WKMG 6 News, Web Extra: Animal Bite Statistics,” June 2, 2015, cited at http://www.webcitation.org/6Z1dDCYdp.)