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OUR OPINION: Grand Forks, other cities need pit bull bans

Two pit bulls were killed last month in Montevideo, Minn., after they attacked students and staff near that city's middle school. It's another incident involving this dangerous dog breed, and one that resulted in injuries. It could have been much worse.

It's hard to deny the breed can be dangerous and unpredictable. Certainly, there are docile pit bulls that have been faithful to the human race and have resisted the instinct to attack. Yet it just cannot be argued that pit bulls, when riled, can be deadly -- deadlier than other dogs.

Statistics tend to show that pit bulls attack humans at a higher rate than all other breeds.

According to school and police reports, the pit bulls that attacked staff and students in Montevideo were running loose. Three staff members and three students were bitten, and when an officer arrived, one of the dogs turned on him.

The officer shot both dogs; the animals later were euthanized at a veterinarian's office.

The injuries to the staff and students required medical attention, but didn't prove fatal. That's the good news.

The bad news is that it will happen again.

Grand Forks does not have a pit bull ban, but several North Dakota cities do, including Devils Lake. Dozens of other cities nationwide have pit bull bans, with perhaps the largest being Denver.

Why the bans? Because some cities are recognizing the danger that pit bulls present.

A few examples from stories that have appeared in this newspaper:

▇ In 2011, a Grand Forks police officer killed a pit bull after it bit a woman and charged the officer.

▇ In January 2011, Minneapolis police shot two pit bulls after the roving dogs attacked a man.

▇ In August 2010, two people were charged with misdemeanors when their two pit bulls attacked a mail carrier in Minneapolis. The dogs caused 41 wounds on the victim.

▇ In September 2009, a Crookston police officer shot a pit bull when the dog cornered him.

▇ Also in September 2009, a Grand Forks police officer shot a pit bull when the dog lunged at him.

▇ In August 2009, a girl in Richmond, Minn., was attacked by a pit bull.

These are just in Minnesota and North Dakota, and they are just the attacks documented in the pages of the Herald. The trouble, and source of controversy, is that so many people are tracking these numbers -- and in potentially unscientific ways -- that it raises questions about the authenticity and accuracy of the statistics.

For example, according to statistics compiled on the website fatalpitbullattacks.com, there have been 24 U.S. fatalities related to pit bulls this year alone.

The website dogsbite.org shows that in 2014, there were 42 American fatalities attributed to dog attacks. According to the website, 27 of those deaths were blamed on pit bulls, which make up just 6 percent of the nation's dog population.

A 2006 study that listed breeds involved in human attacks -- dating over the course of the previous 24 years -- showed that pit bulls were involved in more than 1,100 of approximately 2,200 documented attacks that caused bodily harm to humans. Note, however, that the study's author, Merritt Clifton, is accused by detractors as basing his study on inaccurate, misused information.

On the other side, the American Pit Bull Registry claims that the odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 600,000 in the United States, while the odds of being killed by a pit bull are approximately 1 in 145 million. Many pit bull owners blame the media for stirring this hype, and they also say victims are incorrectly identifying a dog's breed when filing reports of an attack.

Believe whatever you prefer.

But consider this: The cities that have enacted bans against certain dog breeds -- pit bulls, rottweilers and the like -- are the ones that have it right and are doing their best to protect residents from needless danger.

-- Korrie Wenzel for the Herald

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