Pit Bulls: Bad Breed Or Bad Rap?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The pit bull attack in Ross Township that left a man injured, and Chihuahua barely alive, has sparked debate about the pit bull breed.

Is it simply a dangerous breed? Or do pit bulls get a bad rap?

After a two-hour surgery, Gidget the Chihuahua, is able to peek at her owner, Tony Laspada.

The little dog lost a kidney, had two crushed ribs and skin ripped from her body.

Her owner, Laspada, had bites to his hands and nose after two pit bulls attacked them during their daily walk.

Gretchen Fieser from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society says as sad as the case is, all pit bulls should not be judged by what some do.

“No. A pit bull is not an inherently dangerous breed,” said Fieser as she held her pit bull named Joey.

“Any dog can get into a fight with another one. Any dog can bite somebody.”

But she does say some dogs inherit more of something called “prey drive.”

“If you’ve ever seen a dog chase a frisbee or chase a cat, that is prey drive,” said Fieser.

“Pit bulls have a high degree of prey drive generally speaking. I’m talking in stereotypes. But that’s something that a responsible owner is going to work with.”

She says dogs should be socialized with people and other dogs, training is available and there’s something else: “Usually when you hear about dog bites, the vast majority are animals that are not spayed or neutered.”

Fieser says also says there are many misconceptions about pit bulls, perhaps the biggest being that they can lock their jaws. She says that’s simply not true.

After two pit bull attacks made the news last fall, we interviewed the supervisor of Pittsburgh Animal Control, Gerald Akrie.

“The majority of the time, it wasn’t really the dog’s fault,” said Akrie.

He told KDKA’s Ross Guidotti at the time that out of 133 animal bites so far in the year, pit bulls were being blamed for 40 percent of them.

“The next breed that comes in line after pit bulls is Labrador retrievers,” said Akrie.

It’s difficult to find reliable national numbers on dog bites broken down by breed.

Fieser says many times people mistakenly identify short-haired, muscular dogs as pit bulls.

With Joey at her side, Fieser explained that she brings her dog to speeches to dispel some of the myths about pit bulls.

Western PA Humane Society
Chihuahua’s Owner Recalls Attack
Pit Bulls Attack Dog, Owner In Ross Township

More from David Highfield
  • niedbala2025

    This is a good breed of dog! Dogs, like children, are molded from how they are raised. You teach a child from an early age to be a hard a$$ and he/ she will grow up to be a hard a$$. Teach a dog to be aggressive and it will be aggressive. Case and point this breed is an intimidating dog and this dog gives the media great ratings and as a result these dogs are being banned from towns, and worse yet spending their lives in shelters hopping someone will take them before they die alone. Pitts are not the only breed that attack people or fight dogs, but its the only one that gets named in the media “witch hunt.” Give them a chance because they, regardless of how we treat them, give us a chance and love us unconditionally.

    • Kathleen

      Pit Bulls have become a symbol of thugs,using them to be macho, the answer is to have a high licensing fee & have liability insurance to own such a dangerous animal. I would never trust a Pit Bull around children or other dogs.
      This is a puff piece, without any research to the number of mauling by Pitt Bulls, A Pitt Bull killed a man in Fl. he tore his arm to shreds and he bled to death.
      I am a n animal lover but consider Pit Bulls evil…………..

  • Amanda McDonald

    Thank you KDKA for the responsible reporting of this story, all of us RESPONSIBLE Pit Bull owners appreciate the investigation and work put into this story. For anyone who is interested in seeing just how many “Bully type” dogs are mistaken to be Pit Bulls here is a link to Hello Bully website where they have a game called “Pick the Pit Bull” http://hellobully.com/pickthepitbull/pickthepitbull.html It really is amazing how many dogs get mistaken for Pit Bulls. Thank you again KDKA for the most responsible reporting of this type of story I have seen in a long time!!

  • Paul

    Well this piece seemed to try and shed a good light on Pit Bulls but why does Ken Rice have to have a Snarling drwelling picture of a pit bull behind him when he sets up the piece. Why not show a picture of Joey behind him (the dog from the story. I am a responsible pit bull owner whos had one for almost 7 years and got her when she was 8 weeks old. Most of the time its a smaller dog that starts the fights bc of their personalties. I live in a condo with tiny dogs all around and all they do is bark and yip at everything that moves. Its even hard to sleep sometimes bc of it, my dog pays it no mind. I know my dogs capabilities and I keep her out of situations that could get her in trouble or myself and thats what all pit bull owners should strive for. Blame the deed not the breed.

  • Nicole

    Well said everyone!!

  • Lisa Christy

    I love my pit bull she is an amazing dog I was in a bad accident and was unable to walk for almost 4 months and she stayed by my side I think anyone who stereo types dogs is an idiot she is the most loveable dog I have ever had she has never tried to bite any of my 3 children and she is protective of my house. I agree with Paul when he stated small dogs are the ones that are more aggressive and noisy. I have had a dalmation that was just a nasty dog he snarled and tried to bite my children and I found a different home for him to go too. I think if people would take time to get to know the breed and owners would take more of a pro active approach to the animals we are entrusted with it would be a better situation all around. I think people hear Pit Bull and think fighting dog how can a verocious dog shake and quiver when it rains and there is a thunderstorm going on.

  • Dingo

    Where is Dr Mike? Would KDKA dare interview a man who works with animals EVERYDAY? How about a veterinary scientist from CMU or Pitt……anyone who is an EXPERT in dog breeds…………..dogs have been biting people for ever……PITBULL=Headlines

  • darius

    Dont defend the animal. its a garbage story abbout a dog that should not exist. HERES THE FACTS. Sixtey five percent of all DBRF, that stands for dog bite related fatalities from 1982 thru 2006 were from two breed of dogs., pit bulls and rottweilers. I saved a childs life from one ten years ago, but it was the ugliest thing i have ever see. Owners of pit bulls need to do prison time when their animals attack, we dont need the breed to exist even.. oh my statistics come from two separate studies, one being the famous Clifton study

    • CARRIE


    • Missy Responsible Pitbull Owner!

      First off well SAid everyone else! Secondly are you freaking kinding me?!?! Okay I get it you had one bad experience with them and you are going to doom them for ever?!?! Thats one dog with a BAD owner that doesn’t make it every Pitt out there should be PTS (put to sleep) And what would have happened god for bid it was a a freaking labradoodle are you going to tell me that you would have the same feelings about that labra that you have about the whole Pitbull breed? I very highly doubt it someone would say aww it was an accident that dog doesn’t have to be PTS. Or I personally like this one ” It was the childs falt” You can;t blame any one but the owner of that dog! People like you are the very reason I hate most of the human race!

      • Victim of a pitbull attack

        I can’t help but reply to your post. I can honestly say that many (if not most) people ARE responsible pitbull owners; I’ll grant you that. But unfortunately it is those that are not the responsible ones that have given this breed a bad rap. I happen to be a vicim (as well as my younger sister) of a vicious pitbull attack. Granted it happened when we were kids, and I am now 40 years old but the physical and emotional scars still remain with us both. We were on our way to our grandmothers house. I was on my bike and sis decided to walk so I was along side of her. Minding our own business the owner let his dogs out as we were walking down the street. These dogs leaped the fence and this one grabbed my sister and (long story short) took the left side of her face off. It then came after me. I was running (on my bike) for my life with my leg in the dogs mouth!! And YES, ITS JAW WAS COMPLETELY LOCKED!!!!!!! There were a total of 72 witnesses in court but funny how no one could get the dog off of either of us!!!??? Not even the owner. To this day, when we as much as see a pitbull on TV, we cringe. If we see them in person, we freeze where we stand. We are dog owners now but that breed has scarred us for life. Period. Unless you are a victim yourself, you will never ever understand how devastating the trauma can truly be. Yes, any breed can attack and create trauma, but there is nothing like having a body part trapped in a dogs mouth locked in place thinking your going to lose that body part. Sis almost lost the side of her face!!! I had nightmares for months and sis had nightmares for years over that. (We still have the pictures from the attack packed away) It’s sad for the pitbull breed, but it is a sad FACT!!!!

  • Clifford

    The famous Clifton study also states that blacks are a bad breed and should be PTJ( put to jail), because they are prone to violence and will even kill their own kind

  • Karen S.

    I’ve known very sweet pit bulls and rottweilers, and I have also seen people who are idiots choose these breeds because they are so trainable, and so powerful, and these idiots WANT to train them to be aggressive. Again — this is a problem with the OWNERS.

  • Rev Jim

    These are DOGS for crying out loud!!!!! This violence happens in Homewood everyday and nobody cares as much

  • Sara

    Its just a bad rap and the media is part of the blame. Its all about headlines for them and of course with all the sterotypes surrounding the breed the media will jump on it. Why don’t they start reporting every other dog attack. I’m sure you will find majority of the attacks are not pits!!!!

  • cindi dini

    I agree, a month ago my daughter was walking our jack russwll puppy, and her friend was walking our 100lb 6 year old pitt bull. A neighbors big snauzer broke out of a yard and tried to attack our puppy and my daughter.she was save by our pitt throwing himself between her and the dog. after the snauzer attacking our pitt 3 times in the neck and face did he respond and fight back.animal control wer called and nothing was done to the snauzers owners and said it was our word against theirs.if it was our pitt that broke lose ,we would have been on the news. double standard for pitt bulls ? ya think ?

  • darius

    another pit bull attack just occurred yesterday, oil city pa.
    And don’t confuse the Cllifton Study with other studies, but you are welcome to look at the national statistics for yourself. The reason i feel the owner should be held accountable is real basic. It is a very strong breed of animal thats fine, but the stats are what they are..

  • darius

    sorry sara 4.7 million dog bites reported evry year and 65% of the bites reported are about two breeds of dogs, rottweilers and bitbulls. there are definitely other breeds too, but the stats are what they are.

  • Twosweetpits

    I have two pit bulls and my parents own a toy fox terrier, you should see the way the toy fox terrier jumps, plays, and interacts with my pits…. And my pits just roll over and let her crawl all over them. Lets spend less time attacking breeds and use that energy to responsibly train our dogs :) And if you have a bad misconception of ANY type of dog…. Please go volunteer and learn about them!

  • Reality Check

    You have a right to own a pit bull….but you better keep it on a leash, keep it fenced in, and make sure it is not aggressive toward other people or pets when out in public. Your pit bull might be warm and cuddly to you, but it’s always one impulse away from causing serious harm.

    And it’s laughable that some of you are so blinded by your love of dogs (and/or hatred of people) that you try to justify pit bull attacks by blaming the media. The reason pit attacks make the news so often is because they kill or cause traumatic, disfiguring injuries….you can bet if a lab or a poodle or a yorkie attacked and killed or maimed a child it would make the news.

    So stop pretenting that your pit bull is no different from any other breed. It is much more likey to cause serious harm in the hands of the ignorant and uneducated. The stats and the facts bear that out.

    • kristy

      you’re dead wrong about the media covering any other dog besides the pit bull. reality check – YOU need a reality check.

    • Seeking balance

      Regardless of the breed, KEEP THE DOG ON A LEASH – it’s the law in Pittsburgh.

      If you don’t train them, can’t control them – DON’T HAVE THEM.

      Jeez, people, use common sense – if the EXISTING laws were followed and enforced, we wouldn’t have much of a dog bite problem. Sorry, but if ANY dog got away from it’s owner and attacked ANY of my dogs (from the 14lb one to the 75lb one), I would do EVERYTHING legally to have that dog declared dangerous. Sorry, but responsible ownership and consideration is the best recourse.

      All of that being said, there are bloodlines of PitBulls that have HIGH dog aggression, you can deny it all you want, but it is there! Also, most Pits you see in the city are NOT purebred or even well bred PitBulls – they are pit/Rottie, Pit/Cane Corso & Pit/American Bulldog crosses. This increases territorial aggression in a breed with high prey drive and ridiculously high pain tolerances, which is part of the issue everyone likes to deny.

  • vinny

    Marty Griffin says only stupid idiots have pittbulls and they should all be shot…..the dogs and the owners

    • dill doe

      MArty Griffin is stuck on stupid

  • amanda

    “if we ban pit bulls, lets ban black people too” I heard someone say this the other day. Its a problem because these dogs are victims of gang members and drug dealers. I think some education on pitbulls is needed in areas such as homewood and wilkinsburgh.
    Pitbulls are very strong animals and they’re not for everyone. If you plan on geting one I suggest you do your research. Too many people get these dogs because of their potential to be agressive. They also have greater potential to be loving and loyal dogs. You have to be a stable and centered individual.. this goes for any dog.

    You can’t hate all pitbulls just because there are some aggressive ones (blame the owner) its like saying all black people are bad.. unless you’re a racist then maybe I can understand your narrow-mindedness..

  • kristy

    Applied Animal Behavior Science involved researchers from University of Pennsylvania. List based on snaps, bites, attempted bites in various situations. Most likely to bite: 1 – Dachshund 2 – Chihuahua 3 – Akita 4 – Australian Cattle Dog 5 – Pit Bull 6 – Beagle 7 – Springer Spaniel 8 – Border Collie. So much for all of the “expertise” from all of you armchair dog “professionals, trainers, and behaviorists.” LOL.

    • Reality Check

      Most likely to kill or cause devestating injuries: 1) PIT BULL 2)Akita 3)Austrailan Cattle Dog 4)Border Collie 5)Springer Spaniel 6) Beagle 7) Daschund 8)Chihuahua….so much for YOUR expertise.

      Keep your pit bulls locked up and away from the rest of us and we’ll all be just fine..

      • reality truth

        We all know any dog can attack. BUT, pit bulls do bite and attack. They do more damage most of the time. Some breeds are not meant to be own as family pets. Until there is a control on the breeds breeding, you should be licensed as someone allowed to own one.

      • kristy

        where did you get your information, may i ask?

      • Reality Check

        kristy – Go to this web site that lists statistics for dog attacks (and severity of attack) by breed from 1982 through 2006, and scroll down to “pit bull terrier”: http://www.dog-obedience-training-online.com/dog-bite-statistics-by-breed.html

        Pretty eye-opening, huh? Nothing comes close to the pit bull, eh? Like I said, keep your pit bulls locked up and away from others.


    No such thing as a bad dog — ONLY BAD OWNERS! I’ve been looking to adopt a shelter dog, and all the shelters are FILLED with pit bulls. Perhaps they need to be better licensed and regulated. Ridiculous to see the gangsta’s walking the streets with their PB’s when they probably don’t know ANYTHING about the breed, only to toss them into the street like a bag of garbage. ANY dog can become mean and vicious in the wrong hands. Pit Bulls are baby dolls when treated with the love and respect they deserve. We must educate!

    • JS

      And do you think the gangstas, wannabe gangstas, dog fighters, white trash, and rural meth dealers that walk the streets with their pit bulls want to be educated? Do you think they give a f#*$ about being a responsible dog owner? They have chosed the pit bull as their breed of choice because that breed can be raised to be the most vicious and dangerous of dogs. Therein lies the crux of the problem….too many bad owners raising bad dogs. Eduction will never work with those people. The only thing they understand is when they go to jail when their dog kills or maims an innocent person. Our criminal justice system needs to be adjusted where necessary to make sure that you will do serious jail time if your pit bull hurts someone else. If it kills a child or person, you go to jail for murder….period.

  • Ian Captain

    The same people who have “DOGS THAT ATTACK PEOPLE and animals” are the same type of people who have kids that attack people and animals. Ban the deed not the breed.

  • pat

    After a two-hour surgery, Gidget the Chihuahua, is able to peek at her owner, Tony Laspada.

    The little dog lost a kidney, had two crushed ribs and skin ripped from her body”

    Someone please explain to me WHY that owner didn’t do the HUMANE thing and put that poor baby down

  • RAND

    To me this is a simple issue. Pit Bulls are more likely to be aggressive than other dogs and physically they can do MUCH MUCH more damage to a person. The owners say that if you treat them this way there is no problem. What percentage of owners will follow all these guidelines, maybe 50%. Many aggressive irresponsible people seek to own these dogs. So we as a society will live with this high degree of danger ? It seems incredulous. With all of the information available, owners of these dogs who commit damage should be held criminally liable.

  • 18 years in dogs

    One thing owners and anyone who breeds dogs should know is that temperament is inherited. You can raise a dog anyway you like but the temperament will come out if the sire and dam or theirs , etc had bad ones. The only way to stop this is by regulating the breeding of pitbulls to those people who wish to improve the breed, are willing to health test and temperament tests all the dogs, their progeny, etc. Breeding of any animal should never be taken lightly. There are far too many pitbulls and their mixes. I personally do not like them, mainly because they are not my type of dog. I would never own a lab either, but they require more energy then I can give. People should be screened before allowing to own a breed such as this. So that only responsible people have them.

  • elouevil

    @ Darius- Did you know that about 30 diffrent Breeds are mistaken for pit bulls? so if someone walks into an er and says they were bit by a pit due to mistaken identity guess who gets the statistic? the wrong breed…. so i honestly wonder how correct your statistics are?

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