Are pit bulls really more dangerous than other dogs or are they just getting a bad rap? It’s a debate that ignites passion from both sides so we decided to dig into the numbers.

BARC Animal Shelter provided a list of all reported dog bites in Houston in the last 12 months.

There were a total of 1,913 dog bites in Houston from May 2016 to May 2017.

  • 33% pit bulls: 627 bites
  • 14% German shepherds: 268 bites
  • 12% labradors: 225 bites
  • 8% Chihuahuas: 149 bites
  • 34% all other breeds: 644 bites

According to BARC statistics, KHOU can verify pit bulls are the most dangerous dog in Houston when it comes to bites. However, that conclusion requires some context.

Pit bull mix playing with toy, stock image.

First, pit bull bites are more likely to cause injuries – and even deaths -- because of the strength of their jaws. That means pit bull bites are more likely to be reported.

“It's a big dog. It's a strong dog. They've got big powerful jaws. When they bite, they can do a lot of damage to somebody,” said Ray Rentschler, Arlington’s top dog catcher.

Arlington Animal Services ranks dog bites on a scale of 1 to 6. A level 6 is fatal.

“When you get into those high-level classifications, how much is coming from pit bulls?” WFAA asked Ray.

“This year we've had 10 level 4 bites. Out of those, 5 of-the 10 were pit bull-type dogs,” he answers.

One of those cases involved a pit named Poseidon.

Pit bull, file photo

“He was running at large and he attacked a man who was sitting in his garage and bit his arm and ripped it open where all his muscle was exposed,” Ray says.

Some argue that pit bulls are bred to be aggressive.

“Every breed of dog is capable of biting. In many cases, it comes down to the environment they’re in currently as well as the circumstances under which the bite happened,” said Ashtyn Rivet, with BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions.

The American Veterinary Medical Association agrees you cannot predict how aggressive a dog will be based on breed alone.

An AMVA literature review done in 2014 says you also have to factor in things like the individual animals’ characteristics, the target of the bite and the environment.\

Despite the bad reputation, pit bulls remain popular around the state, including in Houston.

“We do see a higher number of pit bull bites here at BARC, but that’s also because we take in so many pit bulls. There are many, many pit bulls in Houston,” said Rivet.

Count 5-year-old Mason Barbay and his mom Kyndal among the pit bull fans. Mason is best buddies with the family’s two pits.

“They're inseparable. They just run around with him and cuddle on the couch. He lays on top of them. They lay on top of him,” Kyndal says.


BARC Animal Shelter

The American Veterinary Medical Association