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.)