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Dangerous breed: dog or man?

KPCC's Crawford Family Forum

Whether we grew up with Fido sleeping at the foot of our bed or wave to the neighbor walking Buddy every morning, most of us encounter dogs on a regular basis. Over the past two decades, a specific group of dogs has been the source of nationwide controversy, controversy that has only gained intensity in recent years.  Breeds like pit bulls, rottweilers and German shepherds have been deemed “dangerous” by the public for their use in dog fighting rings and attacks on adults and children.

While it is true that in recent years, 60 percent of all fatal dog attacks in the United States were committed by pit bulls or rottweilers*, is the killer instinct part of their nature or is human influence to blame for this extreme aggression?  Each time another attack occurs and the news media and blogosphere cover the often inflamed conversation around the event, these and many other questions are asked.  What is it exactly that makes a dog “dangerous” - an athletic build, strong jaw muscles, DNA? Can hostile dogs be rehabilitated? When an attack occurs, why is the dog typically put down, while the owner faces no retribution – who is responsible?

German shepherds have been loyal police dogs for years, and pit bulls are increasingly used as therapy dogs for military veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Most of us know someone with a “dangerous” breed dog that is a loving member of the family. Yet some insurance companies refuse to cover homeowners with these animals, landlords won’t approve rental applications from renters who own them, and some counties and municipalities have banned them entirely. 

Which is the dangerous breed, dog or man?  KPCC’s crime and safety reporter Erika Aguilar took up these questions at the Crawford Family Forum with animal researcher Dr. David Haworth, dog behaviorist Brandon Fouché and PETA’s Lisa Lange


Erika Aguilar, KPCC’s crime and safety reporter


David Haworth, DVM, PhD:  president and CEO of the Morris Animal Foundation, a nonprofit organization that invests in science that advances veterinary medicine for companion animals, horses and wildlife

Lisa Lange: PETA Senior Vice President of Communications

Brandon Fouché, dog behaviorist who is expert in aggression; his Internet radio program, The Fouché Way, is broadcast Thursdays at 1:00pm at LA Talk Radio

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- Do you believe certain breeds are dangerous? What informs your belief.   


- POLL: Are some dog breeds more dangerous than others?   


Additional photo credits (top to bottom): Dan Kitwood/Getty Images, Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images, Attila Kisbendek/AFP/Getty Images

* This statistic was pulled from a study by the CDC entitled, Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998.