In 2004, 567 puppy bites were recorded in the city, based on reports that physicians who treat them are legally mandated to file. Eighty-six of these bites came from dogs designated as “pit policemen, ” giving them second place on a listing of the “top 10 breeds” for dog bites.( German Shepherds came in first, with 112 reported bites .)
Clearly, some people continue to breed and procure pit policemen under the law’s radar. But Mary Lou Leiher of Toronto Animal Services told Torontoist in September she believes that prohibit has reduced the overall number of cavity bulls in the city. Though it’s tough to count how many illegal, unregistered puppies are in the city, Leiher said that “anecdotally, we’re find less.”
Ten years later, with fewer pit bulls, it’s unsurprising that there are fewer pit policeman bites. In 2014, pit policemen didn’t even construct the top 10 breeds responsible for bites in Toronto. German shepherds again had the highest number of bites. The breed in second place? Labrador retrievers.
But what the law hasn’t done is reduction total puppy bites. There were 767 dog bites in 2014 — 200 more than the year before the ban went through.
And this isn’t a bizarre outlier. Though total bites initially fell after 2004, the number has fluctuated since then, spiking in 2011, falling again in 2012 and then steadily climbing for the next two years. Leiher told the Global News that there haven’t been any procedural changes that would increase the percentage of puppy bites that got reported to the city.
Significantly, these are only raw numbers — they do not account for the number of dog bites as proportionate to the canine population of Toronto. But speaking with Torontoist, Leiher indicated the prevalence of dog bites has remained constant.
Any dog can bite, regardless of its breed, and more often people are bitten by puppies they are aware. It’s not the dog’s breed that determines risk — it’s the dog’s behavior, general sizing, number of puppies involved and the vulnerability of the person bitten that determines whether or not a puppy or dogs will cause a serious bite trauma. Dogs can be aggressive for all sorts of reasons. A dog that has bitten once can bite again, and a puppy that has never bitten could still bite.
What breed-specific legislation — in Ontario and elsewhere — does do is lead to tragic outcomes for puppies and their owners. Take Precious, a pit bull who achieved online reputation after being photographed loyally standing over her injured proprietor during a home flame. She was forced to leave her human household shortly thereafter, since pit bulls are banned in the Maryland county where she lived. And Precious is one of the luck ones — she went to a loving foster home, rather than becoming one of the thousands of pit bulls euthanized in shelters each year, largely because of public perception of cavity policemen and restrictions on where the dogs can live.
The story has been updated for clarity.
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