Reno Gazette-Journal from Reno, Nevada on July 17, 2011 · Page 3
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Reno Gazette-Journal from Reno, Nevada · Page 3

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Reno, Nevada
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Page:
Page 3
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SUNDAY, JULY 17, 2011 3A Fact Checker ONLY IN PRINT The Fact Checker column only appears in today's print edition of the.RGJ. The column will be released to RGJ.com on Tuesday. What's so scary about RENO GAZETTE-JOURNALRGJ.COM pit bulls? The claim Northern Nevadans should be especially fearful of pitbulls. The background Nevada Humane Society and the Reno Gazette- . Journal held a contest where readers shared stories of adopted pit bull type dogs whom they've loved. A few readers complained, saying pit bulls are vicious and should be banned. A typical letter came from S.C. Freed of Reno: "The risks posed by pit bulls are a matter of common knowledge and frequent discussion. Pit bulls are a particular danger. ... At a minimum, every person adopting a pit bull should be furnished with the following: 'WARNING: This dog is one of a breed known to the . . state of Nevada to pose a danger to small children, the elderly and other dogs."' In a second letter, Freed tells of a pit bull mauling a service dog in Arizona and states "The preponderance of the anecdotal evidence is against you and you need to modify your position to better serve the community." One prominent source used to criticize pit bulls is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on dog bites from 2000 that looked at 238 dog-related fatalities over 24 years. It found that 32 percent involved pit bulls or pit mixes. But the CDC adds a disclaimer warning the study does not and there currently is no accurate way to identify which breeds are more likely to bite or kill. Another common source about pit bull dangers is Merritt Clifton, editor of ! Animal People newspaper, j His latest report claims l that there have been 173 fatalities from dog attacks j over the past 28 years and I 47 percent involved pit ! bulls or pit mixes. ! But Clifton's research covers less than 2 percent of dog bites requiring hospitalization and relies only on reports in the media, which have been shown to emphasize pit bull attacks over those by other breeds. There are bite sources in Nevada that may shed i light. In 2005, the Nevada Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Health Planning and Statistics 0 released "A special report on dog and cat bite injuries - and costs in Nevada, 1999-2003." The report says breed is not important when analyzing bite statistics and "singling out one or two specific breeds for control may result in a false sense of security, and often ignores the true scope of the problem." It reported that a far better bite predictor was . whether a dog is male and unneutered; these accounted for 3 out of every 4 bite incidents. Bobby Smith, field supervisor for ir-fesfe "CX I 05 BMW X5 j 03FonlF159 k rnfl Jkr -0- jfc I honda jJwtyffl raEc?flm nwnsm iMaiaa) P mmw L if r 'h' r .Llw,, Ls& :: VT K Si J P & ) v JLfisdl Ml Which of these four dogs is a pit bull? See the bottom of the dog. PHOTOS FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS Washoe County Regional Animal Services, agrees that breed is not helpful in evaluating the danger posed by a dog. However, by state statute, his agency is required to investigate every dog bite report and list a breed. The purpose is to help track rabies cases. Bite reports come from animal control, hospitals and the Washoe health department. A bite is defined as the skin being broken, which includes full-on maulings down to a dog turning his or her head and accidentally scraping your skin lightly with a tooth. Smith said he and his staff did not have time to hand-tally bites by breed. But, he said, Fact Checker was welcome to do so. After a couple of hours of tedious counting, an analysis was made from just over 1,000 Washoe County animal bite reports for the last fiscal year. And the No. 1 biter of humans in Washoe County? Cats. They accounted for 13.6 percent of reports. Here are the numbers by dog breed: Pit bull type dogs such as Staffordshire terriers and American pit bull terriers accounted for 13.4 percent of bite reports Retrievers such as golden and Labrador: 9.7 percent Chihuahuas: 7.8 percent Medium herding dogs such as Australian shepherds and border collies: 6.9 percent German shepherds: 5.2 percent Small terriers including Jack Russell, rat, Boston, Yorkshire: 4.5 percent Does this prove pit bulls are the most frequent biters? To declare so, it must be shown that they make up a larger percentage of dogs in Washoe County than their percentage of bites. Before trying this, we've got to switch percentages. The ones above represent the percentage among all animal bites including those for cats, ferrets and even pigs (there was one pig bite reported last year). Looking at just dog bites, pit bull types accounted for 18.6 percent of reports. Next, it needs to be determined how many pit bulls live here. If they're the most popular breed, then having the most bite reports is to be expected. Unfortunately, there is no dog breed census. Washoe animal story for the breeds of each control manager Mitch Schneider said regarding dogs taken in by his agency, "If our impounds are reflective of our community and there's some evidence to support com or call Kelly Ann Scott at 775-327-6785. that then those numbers may be as good a gauge as we can get." Impound stats by primary breed show that pit bulls make up about 17.3 percent of dogs, retrievers 15.8, Chihuahuas 9.5, medium herding dogs 6.5, German shepherds 5.8 and small terriers 4.5. So pits are 17.3 percent of the impounds and 18.6 percent of bites, or the bite rate is 9.3 percent higher than their impound rate. If impound data is reflective of general population (a big if), this seems to show pits are a bit more dangerous than their population would predict. Schneider disagrees. He said irresponsible people gravitate toward pit bulls and that dogs with poor socialization skills, little training, and running at large or chained get in more trouble so he would expect pit bulls' bite rate to be higher than it is if they were more dangerous. Chow chows, by comparison, have a bite rate more than twice their impound rate. "As an officer or a private citizen, give me a pit bull any day over a chow chow, a German shepherd or a Rottweiler," said Schneider, who trained dogs for years, specializing in aggressive ones. He added, "If you want to look at anecdotal evidence, talk to people who deal with pit bulls daily. We see 5,000 dogs every few years, and you won't find anybody on my staff who thinks pit bulls are aggressive." Hundreds of pit bull type ASK FACT CHECKER Mark Robison is the Reno Gazette-Journal's data editor. Check his blog at RGJ.comnevadata, and view online-only Fact Checker columns at RGJ. comfactchecker. Fact Checker is our weekly analysis on whether the facts and figures floated in the media are true. Have something you think we need to get to examine? E-mail factcheckerrgj. dogs are adopted out each year by Nevada Humane Society yet Smith couldn't think of a fatality involving a dog attack, let alone a pit bull, in the 4 years since he's been here. The last prominent Washoe County attack was last year in Spanish Springs when a dog went after a woman's two little dogs . one was killed, the other injured and her arm was ripped open. The attacking dog? A boxer. Twenty-seven dogs are registered as dangerous in Washoe County; three are pit bulls. It's also worth noting that the Netherlands had a ban on pit bulls for 15 years before repealing it in 2008 after concluding the ban did not decrease dog bites. The verdict No good evidence has been presented by critics of pit bulls about their excessive danger to Northern Nevadans. If one uses media reports to determine rates of danger as pit bull critics do then over the past decade in Washoe County, you're more likely to be killed by your own mother than a pit bull. Truth Meter: 3 Dog photos: The images, clockwise from upper left, show a bulldog, a boxer, a Presa Canario and an American pit bull terrier. TRUTH METER k Mlckadttoklttondm.mMUkM I

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