Amid growing alarm among Broward County's bureaucracies concerning the ownership of pit bulls -- and whether they should be banned -- scientific research offers a very different perspective on the animal.
According to a 2008 study, "Breed Differences in Canine Aggression," pit bulls are markedly less aggressive toward their owners when compared to other dogs. And the breed has displayed below-average levels of aggression when encountering strangers.
"There's no scientific evidence to indicate that one type of dog will bite more than another dog," said Donald Cleary, spokesperson of the National Canine Research Council. "In fact, pit bulls have tested less aggressive than other dogs."
According to the study, published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science:
That notwithstanding, there has been an incipient push across Broward County to ban pit bull ownership. On Thursday, Barbara Sharief, vice mayor of the Broward Commission, called for the prohibition of pit bull ownership.
While it's unclear whether that's possible, considering state law says no local ordinance can ban dogs based on breed, Sharief says it may be important. (Miami-Dade's ban on pit bulls was grandfathered in 23 years ago.)
The City of Hollywood also said yesterday that it's lobbying the state to enact individual legislation to ban pit bulls -- just in case the city decides that's necessary.
"We're absolutely going to get backlash for this," Sharief said. "But we have more supporters than backlashers. And all I have to say to you is wait until it's your pet or your child that has been attacked. Those people have a totally different appreciation for the situation."
Although that may be true, Cleary said concern regarding pit bulls is exaggerated. Besides, he said, even if there were cause for alarm, it's unlikely the county or any governmental body could assuage risk.
"I'm not aware of a jurisdiction in the world in which regulating dogs by breed has reduced dog bites," Cleary said.