Pit bulls rehomed by shelters & rescues killed more animals than prosecuted sadists
Pit bulls killed more dogs, injured more dogs, and killed more cats in 2018 than ever before, according to the sixth annual ANIMALS 24-7 survey of dog attacks against other animals.
The numbers of dogs, cats, and hoofed animals killed by pit bulls in 2018 were nearly triple the numbers of dogs, cats, and hoofed animals impounded in reported neglect cases in any year on record, and around 30 times greater than the numbers of dogs, cats, and hoofed animals killed in prosecuted criminal violence.
(See data table concluding “Rescue hoarding” cases horrify Iowa.)
20% of U.S. pit bulls have been in shelter custody in each recent year
About 20% of the total U.S. pit bull population has passed through the custody of animal shelters and rescues in each of the most recent several years––about the same number as have been acquired from breeders.
(See 2018 dog breed survey: at least 41% of U.S. pit bull population are seeking homes.)
Thus it is almost certain that pit bulls rehomed by animal shelters and rescues, or actually in animal shelter and rescue custody, killed more animals in 2018 by dismembering them alive than the sum of animals killed in prosecuted sadistic acts in any of the 26 years for which composite records of cruelty prosecutions exist.
96% of dogs who killed other animals in 2018 were pit bulls
The 2018 volume of pit bull attack mayhem against other animals boosted the six-year average numbers of attacks on dogs and cats to what would have been record highs as recently as 2016. (See chart below.)
Altogether, 50,850 dogs of all breeds combined appear to have participated in killing or injuring 47,500 other domestic animals in 2018, including horses, livestock, and poultry as well as dogs and cats.
Among the dogs who killed other animals were an estimated 48,975 pit bulls (96%).
Pit bulls killed 86% of dogs, 88% of cats
The pit bulls killed 37,362 other animals, “only” 79% of the total because dogs of other breeds accounted for just over a third of the deaths of horses, livestock, and especially poultry, most of whom––as in most years––were killed in rampage attacks by just a few small packs of dogs who somehow gained access to large poultry barns.
Pit bulls killed 14,850 dogs (86% of the victims), injured another 16,800 dogs (93% of the victims), and killed 8,850 cats (88% of the victims.
10% of dog victims killed or injured at dog parks
Of the 14,850 dogs who were either killed or injured by pit bulls, approximately 1,500––about one in ten––suffered death or injury at a dog park.
There are now about 4.4 million pit bulls in the U.S., according to the annual ANIMALS 24-7 surveys of classified ads offering dogs offered for sale or adoption.
(See 2018 dog breed survey: at least 41% of U.S. pit bull population are seeking homes.)
One pit bull in 90 killed an animal or human
Thus in 2018 about one pit bull in 90 participated in killing an animal or a human.
(For the data on attacks against humans, see 40 Americans & Canadians killed by dogs in 2018, 31 by pit bulls.)
Pit bulls are just 5% of the total U.S. dog population of 88.7 million, estimated by the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey, conducted by the American Pet Products Association.
Pit bulls excluded, only one dog in 45,000 killed another pet, livestock animal, or person in 2018.
Pit bulls 500 times more deadly than all other dogs combined
Thus, in simple terms, pit bulls in 2018 were 500 times more deadly to other animals and humans than all other dog breed types combined.
Based on the 2018 data, over the 10-year average lifespan of a dog, about one pit bull in nine will become a killer––if the pit bull lives a normal lifespan. With a turnover rate of nearly 33% per year, and 50% for adult pit bulls, most do not live even half a normal lifespan.
Risk comparable to driving
By way of further comparison, the odds are about one chance in 520 that any given licensed driver will be involved in an accident that kills a human in any given year, and one chance in 62 that a driver will roadkill an animal during the year. (See Roadkill counts, 1937-2006, showed longterm decline.)
In other words, keeping or being around a pit bull starts out being approximately as dangerous to humans, other pets, and livestock as driving, which has long been recognized as the most dangerous thing that the average American does.
Driving safety is closely regulated
But vehicular safety is subject to strict regulation.
Drivers are required to be heavily insured, and to take classes and pass tests before they get a driving permit. Both drivers and passengers are required to wear seat belts.
Traffic lights and stop signs at every intersection reduce the risk of collision.
Nothing stops speed freaks or drunks from taking their pit bulls to a dog park––or just letting them out the door to run.
No radar guns on pit bulls
Police patrol the roads around the clock, with radar guns, to try to intercept speeders and drunk drivers before they kill anyone, including themselves.
No similar measures exist to limit the risk from pit bulls. Anyone can take a pit bull almost anywhere, without passing any safety tests and without being insured.
Even if a pit bull kills another animal and is apprehended by animal control, the pit bull––unlike in the 20th century––is now more likely to be returned to the owner, no matter how negligent, or to be rehomed, than to be euthanized. (Nonetheless, pit bulls, about a third of canine impounds, still account for about two-thirds of dog euthanasias, chiefly for behavioral reasons.)
As with driving, any reckless behavior on the part of a pit bull owner can markedly increase the odds that a pit bull will kill or injure another living being.
How is the ANIMALS 24-7 data on animal attacks derived?
First, ANIMALS 24-7 collects and logs published accounts of dog attacks on other pets and farmed animals throughout each year, just as we have collected accounts of fatal and disfiguring dog attacks on humans since 1982.
However, fatal dog attacks on humans are always reported by news media––we are unaware of any verified exceptions––and disfiguring dog attacks on humans often make news, though there is a significant under-reporting factor.
Compensating for under-reporting
Comparing published accounts of disfiguring dog attacks on humans to insurance industry payout data indicates that only about one human injury in 25 that results in a payout involves a disfigurement reported by media. In other words, the disfigurement data we track amounts to only the worst 4% of serious dog bites.
By contrast, ANIMALS 24-7 has learned from reviewing accounts of dog attacks on other pets and farmed animals that they are almost never reported unless either of three other circumstances were involved in the same incident: a human was killed or disfigured in the same attack; someone, usually law enforcement, shot the attacking dog or dogs at the scene; or farmed animals valued at more than $1,000 were killed.
Also, dog attacks on other pets and farmed animals belonging to the same household are almost never reported, since police are rarely called in such cases. The exception is if a human is killed or disfigured in the same attack that kills or injures an animal.
ANIMALS 24-7 experimented with several different methods of accounting for the under-reporting factor, before discovering that applying the same factor involved in reporting human injuries produces the most consistent results from year to year, with one adjustment: the reported numbers from documented attacks should be multiplied by at least three, to compensate for non-reporting of attacks occurring within the dogs’ own households and attacks in which no one is seriously injured, the attacking dog or dogs are not killed, and there is no loss of animals with market value of more than $1,000.
Our formula, accordingly, is that reported dog attacks on other pets and farmed animals are presumed to be 4% of the cases that might result in insurance claims, i.e. involving someone else’s animal and a significant monetary loss (usually for veterinary care), with the total number of attacks three times as high.
Each year a small but significant number of reported dog attacks on other animals are committed by dogs who are not identified or apprehended: 5% in 2017, 7% in 2018.
Paradoxically, these attacks tend to account for a high percentage of the reported deaths of horses, livestock, and poultry, who are often housed out of sight and earshot of human caretakers.
ANIMALS 24-7 proportionately allocates the dog-inflicted animal deaths and injuries in cases where the attacking dogs are not identified. In other words, if any given dog breed killed X-percentage of animals in cases where the attacking dogs were identified, that breed is presumed to have accounted for the same percentage of attacks in cases where the canine perpetrators were not identified.
Attacks on farmed animals, listed as “Other” animals in the appended chart, may be divided into two categories: hoofed animals, including mostly sheep, cattle, horses, and goats; and poultry, mostly chickens, but also including some ducks, geese, quail, and exotic birds.
Dogs in 2018 killed about 11,325 hoofed animals; pit bulls killed about 6,000 of them (53%), while dogs of all other breeds combined to kill 5,325 (47%).
The numbers of poultry killed tends to fluctuate widely from year to year, because of the very high numbers killed in the worst reported incidents, in which dogs break into commercial poultry barns.
The lowest figures for “other,” from 2016, reflect that we received few reports of dog attacks on commercial poultry barns during that year.
Thus the 2016 “other” totals were projected mostly from attacks on hoofed animals, whereas the 2017 and 2018 “other” projections included several of the most serious attacks on commercial poultry barns of which we have record.
Rick Prince says
Fantastic beth and Merrit. Thank you for crunching these numbers.
Jamaka Petzak says
The facts don’t lie. Statistics don’t lie. Sharing to social media with gratitude, hope, and disgust.