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City Allows Pit Bulls, Dog Bites Fail To Skyrocket

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In the few months since Pawtucket, Rhode Island, overturned its ban on pit bulls, life has continued pretty much as before.

There hasn't been a sizeable change in dog bites, Pawtucket animal control officer Kevin Mooney told The Valley Breeze, though he pointed out dog attacks are more likely to occur in warmer seasons. Of the 10 serious incidents in the two months since the ban was lifted, a mix of breeds was involved, including one pit bull type dog described as a pit-English bulldog mix. Other biters included a husky, a Rottweiler and a small stray dog.

The early trend follows observations made by governments and researchers in the U.S. and U.K.: Banning certain dogs, by breed or appearance, doesn't change the incidence of dog bites.

The U.K., for example, banned dogs who look like pit bulls in 1991. Two years later, as researchers at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary reported in the journal Injury, the rate of mammalian bites remained the same: 1.2 percent of patients admitted to the emergency department. Both before and after the legislation passed, dogs were responsible for about three-fourths of these bites. (German shepherds were the most common dog offenders, the scientists reported, though humans nearly matched them bite for bite.)

In a 2012 review of dog bite studies, the American Veterinary Medical Association stated, "it has not been demonstrated that breed-specific bans affect the rate or severity of bite injuries occurring in the community." What works, the AVMA noted, is enforcing leash laws and other ticketable offenses, as well as targeting "dangerous dogs" based their actions, not their breed.