New British study confirms frequency of injuries to intervenors in pit bull attacks on other dogs
GARNER, North Carolina; GLOUCESTER, U.K.––Did Jayden Belle Henderson, age seven, die trying to stop a dogfight?
Two pit bulls on April 27, 2021 killed Henderson and severely mauled her mother, WRAL television master controller Heather Travaskis, 39.
Trevaskis, now hospitalized in reportedly stable condition with multiple severe injuries to her hands and arms, may eventually shed light on exactly what happened.
What is known for now, according to local news reports, is only that Henderson and Travaskis were helping to look after the two pit bulls for unidentified owners who were out of town.
Killer pit allegedly rehomed by Wake County Animal Shelter
The pit bulls, ironically, were readily identified.
Athena, a female, was adopted in December 2019, according to social media postings, apparently after impoundment by the Wake County Animal Shelter.
Subsequent to that impoundment, Athena became the 52nd pit bull rehomed by a U.S. animal shelter known to have participated in killing someone since the April 2007 arrest of football player Michael Vick made rehoming pit bulls fashionable.
Altogether, 72 dogs rehomed by U.S. animal shelters are known to have participated in fatal attacks since April 2007, with 44 human victims.
Only four dogs rehomed by U.S. animal shelters are known to have killed anyone earlier––two wolf hybrids in 1988, and a pit bull and a Doberman, both in 2003.
Athena may have been rehomed through a third party rescue after the Wake County Animal Shelter promoted a “Pit Bull Adoption Special” in October 2019.
“Emotional Support Animal” & “Service Dog”
Posted photos showed Athena wearing an “Emotional Support Animal” vest.
The second pit bull involved in killing Henderson and mauling her mother, Blitzen, is a neutered male, shown in photos wearing a “Service Dog” vest.
The photos of the pit bulls were identified with hashtags including #pitbullsofinstagram, #dontbullymybreed, #servicedog, #furchild, and #pittienation.
Most common attack scenarios
Possibly Jayden Belle Henderson was killed in an unprovoked pack attack, the second most common scenario in fatal attacks both by pit bulls and by other dogs.
The most common scenario is simply that a pit bull jumps someone vulnerable, usually a child or an elderly person.
Trying to stop a pit bull, specifically, from attacking another animal is perhaps the third most common scenario in fatal attacks, but usually the attack occurs in the victim’s home, without witnesses.
Security cameras, meanwhile, are increasingly often confirming that both fatal and disfiguring pit bull attacks on humans frequently originate as attacks on another animal––sometimes another pit bull, but usually a smaller dog, sometimes a cat or other pet.
When the human victim intervenes, the pit bull or several pit bulls turn on the human as well.
“Dog bites dog”
ANIMALS 24-7, documenting and quantifying dog attacks on other animals since calendar year 2013, annually posting the data since 2014, was already at work on an update about dog attacks on other dogs when word of Jayden Belle Henderson’s death arrived.
Seven years after ANIMALS 24-7 first shared our findings, our observations are now independently confirmed by a study of British data published by the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, a Dutch study compiled from police reports, and a reappraisal of the data from both studies by Dogsbite.org.
Evolutionary biologist V. Tamara Montrose and four colleagues produced the Journal of Veterinary Behavior study, entitled “Dog bites dog: The use of news media articles to investigate dog on dog aggression.”
“Common behavioral problem”
Opened Montrose et al, “Dog on dog aggression is a common behavioral problem and has the potential to result in dog and/or human injury, the need for veterinary treatment, and financial and legal repercussions. Despite this, few studies of dog on dog aggression have occurred. News reports of dog on dog aggression provide a method of understanding the demographics of these attacks.”
Montrose and colleagues collected, they explained, 151 “national and local news articles [describing dog attacks on other dogs] between September 2016 and February 2020 identified through Yahoo and Google.”
The Montrose et al approach was similar to the approach used by ANIMALS 24-7, except that our sweep of news reports is much broader, and we had already been logging fatal and disfiguring dog attacks on humans since 1982, when in 2013 we began adding to our collection and analysis the data on from 300 to 400 dog attacks on other animals per year..
“Most reported attacking breed” was pit bull
Summarized Montrose et al, “In the majority of these attacks, one dog initiated the attack and this dog tended to be a medium sized breed and off-leash. The most reported attacking breed was the Staffordshire bull terrier,” perhaps the most common variety of pit bull, though exempted from the definition of pit bull included in the British “Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.”
“The owner intervened in just under half of cases and often suffered injuries defending their dog,” Montrose et al confirmed.
Reported attacks occur mostly in public space
“All incidents of dog-on-dog aggression occurred in a public space, such as a park or street,” Montrose et al continued, confirming the ANIMALS 24-7 observation that dog-on-dog attacks occurring within the owner’s home and involving only animals kept by the same family are rarely reported, unless a person is also injured or killed and/or police shoot the attacking dog.
Altogether, 188 dogs were among the attackers, of whom 155 were identified by breed. Forty-eight of those dogs were reported to be Staffordshire bull terriers; 76 were pit bulls according to U.S. definitions stated in law.
59% of the attacking dogs were not on a lead, Montrose et al found, while in 30% of the attacks “whether the attacking dog was restrained was unknown.
Owners of attacking dogs “intervened 19% of the time”
“The owner/caregiver of the attacking dog intervened 19% of the time,” continued Montrose et al. In 35% [of the] cases, the owner/caregiver did not intervene,” with intervention by the owner or caregiver of the attacking dog not reported in another 48% of the incidents.
At least 19% of the victim dogs were on a lead when attacked; 29% were not, Montrose et al reported.
The victim dogs required veterinary care after 70% of the attacks considered by Montrose et al.
(The ANIMALS 24-7 data on dog-vs.-other animal attacks does not include incidents in which the victim animal was neither killed nor required veterinary care.)
“The owner/caregiver of the victim was present during the incident in 144 (95.4%) out of 151 reported incidents,” Montrose et al found. “In 74 (49.0%) incidents, the owner of the victim intervened.
Owners of attacked dogs were injured in more than a third of incidents
“In 54 (35.8%) incidents, owners of the attacked dogs stated that they had suffered some form of physical or psychological injury. The majority of injuries (63%) occurred to the hands or hands and other parts of the body.
“In 129 incidents of 151 (85.4%), the incident was reported to the police,” Montrose et al said.
“Although a range of breeds were reported, in one quarter of cases, the attack was described as being carried out by a Staffordshire bull terrier,” Montrose et al noted. “This result is similar to Schilder et a., (2019) who found that over half of dogs seized by authorities in the Netherlands for killing or severely wounding other dogs were American Staffordshire and pit bull terrier types.”
ANIMALS 24-7 has found that 87% of the dogs killed by other dogs––an average of 9,800 per year since 2013––have been pit bulls, including Staffordshires.
Pit bulls, since 1982, have also inflicted 61% of all dog attack fatalities on humans in the U.S. and Canada (526 of 864), and 76% of all disfiguring dog attacks on humans (5,112 of 6,770).
Montrose et al shy away from own findings
Unfortunately, instead of facing up to the reality documented by their own study, Montrose et al concluded with a 270-word disclaimer postulating––without providing a scrap of supporting evidence––that possibly the owners of dogs attacked by “Staffordshires” failed to distinguish them from “pit bulls,” though they are in truth exactly the same dogs everywhere except under the “Dangerous Dogs Act 1991,” or that “Staffordshires” are victims of “media bias,” resulting in “Staffordshire” attacks being reported by news media when similar attacks by other dogs might not be.
ANIMALS 24-7 has found, and repeatedly confirmed, that dog-on-dog attacks involving pit bulls are actually disproportionally likely to not be reported, either to police, animal control, or news media, since attacks occurring within a household are rarely reported.
This is actually what Montrose et al found, if the Montrose team and the Journal of Veterinary Behavior had the integrity to report only documented findings, instead of reciting the tropes of pit bull advocacy.
Hiding the obvious
The Schilder et al study, done from Dutch police reports, found that 72 of 128 dogs impounded for attacking other dogs were pit bulls, who killed 38 other dogs and severely injured 42 other dogs.
Charged Dogsbite.org on March 11, 2021, after applying the U.S. legal definitions of “pit bull” to the British and Dutch data, finding that Montrose et al significantly understated the frequency of pit bull attacks on other dogs by failing to recognize Staffordshires as pit bulls,
“The glaring absence of data about the most common type of dog attack in the US, dog-on-dog attacks, is the direct result of multi-million dollar humane and veterinary organizations refusing to collect data or to investigate this area of damaging attacks. They don’t want the public to know the self-evident results: fighting breeds are largely responsible.”