Pit bulls: the perfect pet or a risky responsibility?

They're man's best friend, but what happens when your pet turns violent?

Experts claim any breed of dog can be aggressive, but many times specific breeds, like pit bulls, are signaled out as being more dangerous than others.

So why do they get such a bad rap? It often stems from stories like Colin and Wendy Clevenger.

"My dog was so badly torn apart that the trooper offered to bury my dog for me because he didn't want me to see it and he didn't want my wife to see it," Colin said.

It was an August day. Police said the family's 14-year-old beagle was brutally killed in their Bedford County backyard by two pit bulls.

Their story is just one of many recent attacks in our region. Surveillance video shows a man being attacked by two pit bulls in Johnstown. Officers said the dogs charged after them, forcing them to shoot. The owner spoke out.

"I feel bad that he got attacked by the dogs," Angel Powell told us in August. "It's an unfortunate situation. They are our pets, but they were family to us."

It's stories like these that advocates argue hurt the breed's reputation.

"It goes with history," Shorty Rossi, reality television star and pit bull activist, said. "In the 70s it was the doberman and in the 80s it was the rottweilers and german shepherds. It's a continue of what people get hooked on."

Across the country, 41 states have laws restricting specific types of dogs. Pit bulls are included in legislation in 40 of those states.

Megan Stanton works at the Central PA Humane Society, but she also trains dogs. She said a pet's attitude is usually a reflection of their owner.

"Bad things can happen to any animal, any species," Stanton told us. "It's not really a pit bull problem. It's just a problem when you have humans with animals and you have to give them what they need to thrive."

The American Temperament Test Society offers a survey to determine a dog's overall mood based on an owner's experience.

Out of nearly 1,000 surveys, pit bull owners rated their dog's temperament as positive almost 90% of the time. Other dogs like chihuahuas and dachshunds scored positively between 70% and 80% of the time.

"Any dog can be vicious," Rossi said. "Unfortunately these dogs are big, they're stronger and they're more powerful. There's a difference when a chihuahua attacks then when a pit bull attacks."

According to State Farm, Pennsylvania ranks 4th in the country for insurance claims connected to dog attacks.

Insurance agent Tammy Kehr told us when you're bitten by a dog, the breed isn't always the first thing they look at.

"We don't ask," Kehr said. "We don't track what kind of dog somebody has. We believe it's more important to educate them on being a responsible dog owner and avoiding things that may stress the dog to do those things."

As for the Clevengers, they're hoping their family's tragedy can inspire legal action to prevent more dog owners from experiencing the pain they went through.

"We would like to see that something be written into the law to not only label a dog as dangerous, but to label a dog owner as dangerous," Wendy said.

According to the CDC there are 4.5 million dog bites a year. In just this year 1 out of every 72 people were bitten.


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