Bennard family attack: Debate on whether pit bulls are aggressive by nature or are owners to blame regnites

Bennard family attack: Debate on whether pit bulls are aggressive by nature or are owners to blame regnites
(Representational Image/J Albin Berlin/Pexels)

SHELBY COUNTY, TENNESSEE: A five-month-old boy and his two-year-old sister were mauled to death by their pet dogs in their own home. This story is heartbreaking, but what makes it worse is that the animals were beloved members of the family and that they were pit bulls.

Two toddlers, Hollace Dean Bennard and Lilly Jane Bennard, died at the scene, while their mother, Kristie Jane Bennard, 30, was severely injured in an attack that allegedly lasted over 10 minutes. Once again, the tragic incident has rekindled the stereotype that pit bulls display aggressive and unpredictable behavior. It does not help their case that over the years, there have been many shocking pit bull attacks on humans or other dogs, further cementing the notion that pit bulls are dangerous. However, are pit bulls really to blame for these attacks, do the pet owners have no liability? Let's find out 

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According to a five-year review of dog-bite injuries from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which was published in 2009 in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, pit bulls were responsible for almost 51% of the attacks, Rottweilers for almost 9%, and mixed of those two breeds for 6%. The majority of fatal dog attacks in the state of Kentucky occurred with pit bulls, Rottweilers, and German shepherds, according to a 15-year study published in 2009 in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, cited by Live Science.

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In a news report in 2014 by WAPT, a KFC employee asked a three-year-old dog attack victim to leave one of their eateries because "her face is disrupting our customers." Three pit bulls attacked Victoria Wilcher in April 2014 at her grandfather's Simpson County home. Because of the attack, she suffered from broken facial bones and lost an eye. 

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Pit bulls make up only 6% of the dog population but are responsible for 68% of dog attacks and 52% of dog-related deaths since 1982, TIME cited a research compiled by Merritt Clifton, editor of Animals 24-7, an animal news organization that focuses on humane work and animal-cruelty prevention.

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Two people are hurt by pit bulls every day, according to a different study that was published in the Annals of Surgery in April 2011; young children are particularly at risk. One person's life is claimed by a pit bull every 14 days. In its conclusion, the report states that "these breeds should be regulated in the same way that other dangerous species, such as leopards, are regulated," cited by TIME.

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Although statistics may favor critics of the dog breed, the question also arises about the role of owners in these attacks. The Pit Bull breed is known for its aggression, but it is also known for its loyalty to its owners. Owners do not command their pets to be aggressive or attack family members or strangers, but carelessness could also play a role.

Here's an instance: The Detroit Free Press reported in 2016 that a pit bull owner was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after his pet mauled 4-year-old Xavier Strickland to death in front of his mother in December 2015. The owner, 42-year-old Geneke Lyons, was also found guilty of possessing dangerous animals causing death. According to the jury, Lyons, who owned four pit bull mix dogs, created a situation that contributed to the boy's death by not securing the dogs.

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It is wrong to blame the breed when how the dog is handled at home and even how it is trained matters the most. Experts agree that dogs are not killers by nature, but they must be properly trained and cannot be confined to a particular area. In fact, aggression is a defense mechanism for dogs when they feel threatened, and attacking the person/animal in front of them comes naturally.

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Pit bulls are now trending on social media, as debate ignited again after the latest horror attack. One user on Twitter wrote, "My respects to the children as all children are vulnerable to hyper violent dogs. No one is shocked by this. Pit Bull owners will blame their upbringing; rational people will blame a hyper violent dog." Another user wrote, "Every pit bull owner is always like "oh my dog is so cutesy cuddly wuddly, he would never hurt a fly", and every pit bull horror story starts "but my dog was so cutesy cuddly widely, I thought he would never hurt a fly till he ATE MY FACE" A formor vet assistant said that aggressiveness is not breed specific and tweeted, "I worked as a vet assistant for several years. Every pit bull that I ever assisted was friendly, and gentle. The breed that bit me the most was the dachshund. Aggressiveness is not breed specific, it how the owner handles the dog."

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One user blamed the breed and said they are bred to attack and tweeted, "You said good owners raise good dogs, which implies dogs that kill were raised by bad owners. The pro pit bull lobby keeps repeating the myth “it’s always down to bad owners.” It’s actually genetics. Pit bulls were bred to attack. Not their fault, but they should be banned."Another user wrote, "I hate that pit bulls carry such a Bad reputation when the whole time it really be the owners fault." One user penned, "One of my Dobermans has been on the receiving end of two completely unprovoked pit bull attacks. Both times the owner was “100% sure” their dog would never bite. It’s the breed, not the owner."

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This article contains remarks made on the Internet by individual people and organizations. MEAWW cannot confirm them independently and does not support claims or opinions being made online

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