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Dangerous dogs: does breed determine aggression?

For better or worse, certain types of dogs are widely considered to be especially dangerous. Though pit bulls are the most common example, other breeds, such as Dobermans and Rottweilers, are viewed with concern as well.

Around the country, many local governments have therefore imposed breed-specific restrictions. Critics contend that such restrictions engage in stereotyping of certain breeds.

Does breed determine aggression? In this post, we will address that question.

Breed-specific legislation

California law does not allow breed-specific restrictions at the city or county level. But many states do allow local governments to impose bans on the ownership of certain breeds.

This of course isn't a uniquely American issue, either. In the United Kingdom, pit bulls are one of four types of dogs that are subject to very strict controls under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Scientific research

Are breed-based restrictions based on science?

The research literature suggests that breed is not as big of a factor in dog bites as other factors more specific to a particular dog. These other factors include how it was trained, whether it was neutered and how the dog was kept. The behavior of the victim is of course another possible factor, though many dog attacks are unprovoked.

In short, a breed label serves as a stereotype, tending to lump all dogs of certain types together. But this does not mean that being wary of a pit bill, a German Shepherd, a chow or any other dog breed is off base.

Data on dog bites

Regardless of breed, being wary of dogs is understandable because bites are so common. There are 4.5 million dog bites a year in the U.S. and nearly 20 percent of those involve infections. Many of these bites are to the face and require expensive plastic surgery.

Children are especially vulnerable. The leading age group for dog bite injuries is kids from 5 to 9.

Dog attacks aren't as random as they seem, either. The most frequent place where dog bites occur is at home. More than half of the bites occur there - inflicted by dogs who are familiar to the victim.

Your right to seek compensation

In short, the problem of dog attacks goes way beyond pit bulls and a few other breeds with a reputation for aggression. If you or someone in your family was attacked by a dog, it's important to get the legal counsel you need to understand your options for seeking full and fair compensation.

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