Chows, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, and Rottweilers have received the reputation of being “dangerous dog breeds.” This label has caused some counties and towns to pass breed specific legislation. Additionally, some insurance companies have refused to provide coverage to dog owners who have certain “dangerous breeds,” while other insurance companies have raised premiums on these owners of “dangerous breeds.” These changes by local government and insurance companies have caused dog lovers to debate the merits of singling out and labeling specific dog breeds.
Dog Breeds Commonly Identified As “Dangerous”
- Alaskan malamutes
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shepherds
- Great Danes
- Pit Bulls
- Presa Canarios
- Saint Bernards
- Siberian Huskies
- Staffordshire Terriers
Why Are These Breeds Considered “Dangerous”?
These dog breeds are considered dangerous for two reasons (1) their training and (2) their physical characteristics. Historically, these dog breeds were trained to be aggressive so that they would be effective attack dogs, fighting dogs, guard dogs, and hunting dogs. Unfortunately, people still train these dogs to be aggressive and even train them to fight. Additionally, studies have found that vicious dogs are more likely to be owned by people with a criminal history of aggressive crimes as well as crimes involving alcohol, domestic violence, drugs, and firearms (i).
The physical characteristics of these “dangerous dog breeds” create the potential for serious injuries. For example, on average Alaskan Malamutes, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers all weigh at least 75 pounds as adults. Additionally, the size and power of these dog breeds can cause greater injuries than other breeds. Pit Bulls in particular are dangerous because they have been known to attack without warning, they hold and shake after biting, and they keep attacking despite being injured or restrained. Wolf-hybrids are also dangerous because they cannot be domesticated like other dog breeds. These dogs are always seeking to establish their dominance, are not easily housebroken, and are very possessive.
Pit Bulls and Rottweilers have been singled out as dangerous breeds because statistics show that these two breeds and their mixes are responsible for the majority of fatal dog attacks. Between 2005 and 2012, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers were responsible for 73% of all fatal dog attacks (ii). One study that looked at fatal dog attacks in the United States and Canada found that Pit Bulls were responsible for 245 deaths and Rottweilers were responsible for 84 deaths (iii).
Many counties and towns have passed breed-specific legislation that prohibits or regulates ownership of certain breeds. It is estimated the 630 towns in 38 different states have passed laws regulating certain “dangerous breeds.” Additionally, 38 countries around the world have passed similar breed-specific laws (iv). People supporting these prohibitions and regulations argue that the statistics show the danger of these dogs. People opposing these laws argue that breed does not indicate whether a dog is dangerous. Whether a given dog is dangerous is more likely to be determined by the actions of its owner than its breed, but the fact remains the larger more powerful dogs have the potential to cause greater injuries than smaller dogs.
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- (i) Journal of Interpersonal Violence, December 2006.
Journal of Forensic Sciences, November 2011.
- (ii) DogsBite.org, Dog Bite Fatalities 2012.
- (iii) Animal People, Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to December 31, 2012.
- (iv) DogsBite.org, U.S Cities, Counties, States and Military Facilities with Breed-Specific Laws.