Mar 4, 2014 12:10 AM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham
TUCSON - If you're like most of us, you love your dog. But what happens when their bite is as bad, or worse, than their bark?
There are an over 83 million dogs in U.S. homes. But a recent incident in Marana led the News 4 Tucson Investigators to raise the question: Which dogs do animal care workers encounter as biting most?
The incident happened on Jan. 22 at the community park at Gladden Farms. Marana police responded to contain a pitbull mix and her puppy. Witnesses say the dog was aggressive and holding people at bay. They called 9-1-1 and pleaded for authorities to do something to help.
According to a police report obtained by the News 4 Tucson Investigators, an officer shot the dog three times when it was approximately five to seven feet away from that officer.
That incident prompted the News 4 Tucson Investigators to take a look at which breeds have the most bites that required medical treatment in Pima County.
There were a total 710 of those bite cases last year. We found boxers were behind 13 bites. Followed by Queensland heelers with 14. Short-haired Chihuahuas were encountered in 30 bite cases. Then Labrador retrievers at 36. Next came German shepherds with 44. And, with 85 bites, pitbulls.
But Pima Animal Care's Steve Montano tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, the numbers can be a bit deceiving.
"If you look around Tucson, there is a high percentage of people that own pitbulls. They're probably more represented than any other breed in Pima County," Montano says.
And Montano says there's another factor when it comes to those numbers, and those breeds behind the highest number of bites for which medical treatment was required.
"They are a strong breed. They're big strong animals, low to the ground, very stocky. Kind of the same thing with German shepherds, another large breed dog. If they're going to bite you, they're going to cause some damage," Montano says.
Elida Burnette, with the group, Pit n' Proud, tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, aggressive dogs are a product of their environment. Her group advocates for all breeds, and also offers affordable training.
"What was happening with the dog? Was the dog alone, was there supervision, was the dog sick, was the dog medicated? What's the home environment like? What the training situation like? In everything that affects that dog in his everyday normal environment, affects the situation," Burnette says.
It's also up to the dog owners to make sure a walk in the park, doesn't end with another dogbite victim.
"A lot of it goes down to control of the animal. Obviously, if you're walking this animal, keep it on a leash, have it controlled. That's when your problems start," Montano says.
Animal Care workers also tell the News 4 Tucson Investigators, it's also up to dog-lovers to keep themselves from becoming a dog bite statistic.
"We've had a lot of those cases where people just go up and reach out at a dog. Well, the dog doesn't know who the person is, and often times we'll have bites as a result of those cases," Montano says.
"I think they get a bad rap because, not only because of the things that have been done to them, but the way that they've been shown in fighting, and in other stereotypes. Just like other breeds who have stereotype issues, they get a bad rap," Burnette adds.
By far, the largest number of bite cases requiring medical attention, 309 cases, involved dogs that were gone by the time Pima Animal Care workers arrived. Experts also say, many people end up misidentifying breeds, making it unclear what breed of dog was responsible for the bite.
If you have something you'd like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at 955-4444.