Rhoda Wagner, 60, was killed by three dogs that appear to have been some variety of pit bull-type breeds or pit bull breed mixes. She was caring for the dogs for her roommate. Jonathan Turley flagged the story for his own purposes: he was interested in talking about how the law treats such attacks. This one was in Pennsylvania, which has no “dangerous breed laws” (yet), and the owner had the dogs euthanized. However, as in almost all of the tragedies exploited by dog bigots to cast any dog that looks like pit bull supposedly looks as dangerous monsters, this story is missing too many facts to know who to blame and what happened.
Turley doesn’t help, and reveals himself as a a dog breed tyro by referring to the dogs as “pit bulls.” “Pit bull” isn’t a single breed, and as I’ve written here already too often, incidents involving eight or more distinct breeds, as well as mixes, are routinely reported as involving “pit bulls.” This accounts for the extreme statistics reported by anti-pit bull breed propagandists like dogsbite.org (which was naturally used as an authority in several of the articles about the Pennsylvania attack).
The police called the dogs “pit bull terriers.” The American Pit Bull Terrier is a breed, but unless abused or trained to fight, not one known for aggression. The few, inconclusive photos I’ve seen of one of the dogs suggest a Staffordshire Terrier mix of some kind, but who knows? There is no information so far about whether the three dogs were even the same breed or mix or from the same litter: police don’t know dog breeds. An incident can’t be used to impugn a breed or breed of dogs without accurate identification of what they were.
Next, as Turley notes, we don’t know if any of the dogs had been abused or had any prior incidents of aggression. Were they rescues? Many, maybe most, pit bull breeds and mixes are. Rescues—of all breeds— have special issues and triggers. Most important of all, how well were the dogs trained? All of the pit bull breeds are intelligent and train relatively easily. They also often will obey only their master. Not training large dogs adequately is negligence. (No, I still can’t get Spuds to lie down.)
Third, what was the relationship between the dogs and the victim? I assume that the room mate was well-acquainted with the dogs, and also had no special reason to fear them. However, I am a 6′, 200 pound man; I am used to dogs and have owned dogs bigger than any of the pit bull breeds along with having Spuds as a companion now. Yet I would never house sit for three large, powerful dogs that I didn’t own. I wouldn’t dare own three large dogs either. Dogs are animals, and have moods, off-days and moments of unexpected behavior. They are also pack animals. Three dogs is a pack, and a pack can be like a human mob. A woman who does not own them taking care of three large dogs is a disaster waiting to happen. It wasn’t the dogs that arranged this.
Finally, one report claims that the victim tried to break up a fight between two of the dogs. If so, she chose…poorly. Even in “Babe,” the loyal Boarder Collie Rex bit Mr. Hoggett when he tried to stop a fight with another dog. At the dog park I go to, where dogs occasionally have brief spats, it takes two or more owners to break up the dogs safely. If the woman (her name was Rhoda Wagner, and she was 60) tried to interfere with two battling dogs of 50 pounds or more with a third one around, she was risking life and limb. It doesn’t matter it the dogs were pit bull terriers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Greyhounds, Huskies, Standard Poodles or Golden Retrievers. The pack could have turned on her.
Incidentally, the dog above, a newish breed called an “American Bully,” is not a “pit bull,” and as far as I can determine none of them has ever attacked anyone. But I guarantee you that if one did. it would be reported as a “pit bull attack.”