Pit bulls bite less than 'family dogs'
NIAMH HORAN CUDDLY family pets such as Golden Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels are more likely to bite people than "vicious" dogs such as Pit bulls, according to new research into aggressive behaviour in dogs.
Although the research is not complete, Edmond O'Sullivan, a veterinary inspector with Cork County Council, has debunked some of the myths about vicious dogs.
His study, the first of its kind in Ireland, has also warned that dog owning is turning into a legal minefield.
The preliminary research found that "restricted breeds" such as the Staffordshire Pit Bull are not more likely to bite than non-restricted breeds.
It is the damage that a dog can do and not the likelihood that it could attack, which is central to a dog's restricted status, he explained.
"The idea of saying a breed is dangerous is neither here nor there. The reason certain breeds are restricted is not because they are more likely to bite but because, if they do attack, they are more likely to kill you.
"For example one of the restricted breeds, the Staffordshire bull terrier, on the basis of our results, was one of the five breeds that were least likely to bite."
The five breeds he cited as being most likely to attack are the Golden Retriever, Labrador, German Shepherd, Rottweiler and Cocker Spaniel.
Mr O'Sullivan is now calling calling for the compulsory micro-chipping of all dogs in Ireland because of the significantly low rate of owner prosecutions.Speaking before the findings of his project were due to be released, he said the entire area of dog owner responsibility had turned into a legal minefield.
"Micro-chipping of all dogs or even just restricted breeds is an absolute must. We have an absolute nightmare trying to enforce legislation here because owners can argue so easily that the dog isn't theirs. It's been a legal nightmare for us and there have been very few prosecutions in Ireland as a result."
The research, which took into account 100 dogs that had been previously involved in a biting incident, focused on both their past behaviour and the event itself.
With the data collected, O'Sullivan was able to find characteristic links between the dogs that had no history of previous aggressive behaviour and the dogs that had.
Preliminary findings suggested that adult dogs, which had been fully house trained, began to have house wetting accidents a certain period before the attack took place.
The project, which is due out in the next few weeks, was jointly undertaken by the Cork County Council veterinary department and the faculty of veterinary medicine at UCD. The aim of the scheme is to put together an education package which will teach how to prevent aggressive behaviour and biting by dogs.