John Boyle, email@example.com
The numbers don't lie.
And when it comes to pit bulls and fatalities, here's what they say: "In the 10-year period from 2005 to 2014, pit bulls killed 203 Americans and accounted for 62 percent of the total recorded deaths (326). Combined, pit bulls and rottweilers accounted for 74 percent of these deaths."
That's from dogsbite.org, a national dog bite victims' group dedicated to reducing serious dog attacks.
If you're thinking that maybe we just have a lot of pit bulls in America, so of course they bit more people, no. They make up about 6 percent of the total dog population in the country.
Every time another fatality occurs involving a pit bull, pit bull lovers yell at us in the media for identifying the dog breed, especially if we put it in a headline. One Facebook commenter accused the paper of horrible journalism for vilifying the breed, once again, when we wrote about a recent fatality.
Sorry, but all of my sympathy goes to 6-year-old Joshua Phillip Strother and his family. Joshua died Tuesday after a neighbor's pit bull attacked him in the neighbor's fenced backyard on Piney Ridge Drive in the Mountain Home area of Henderson County.
The boy had climbed a fence into the yard, a fatal mistake of trust. Joshua's grandfather said the neighbors had had the dog about three weeks, and Joshua had played with it several times.
He probably thought he could trust a pit bull.
I don't think you can. Yes, I know I'm going to make a lot of pit bull owners angry, but honestly, I don't care.
For a decade, I've lived near one who charges the fence, barking and snarling, every time he sees me or my family members. When my boys were little, I'd see the dog literally stalking them from behind his chain link fence.
The owner is a nice lady, and she assures me he's a big baby at heart.
Pit bull owners always say this. And indeed, I know another resident of my neighborhood who has two, including one who is a big playful baby, and another who looks incredibly menacing, with a head the size of a catcher's mitt, but is pretty sweet.
They're not all bad, and yes, sometimes it is the owners who make the dogs mean. And yes, all dogs can bite, including my ding-dong basset hounds.
But these other breeds don't bite with the tremendous force of a pit bull, which has been bred over centuries for powerful jaws and an ability to clamp down and shake vigorously — until the threat is dead.
I keep coming back to that 62 percent figure. It's not basset hounds or Chihuahuas or golden retrievers or poodles or German shepherds or border collies or Saint Bernards or Labradors or Great Danes who are responsible for 62 percent of dog bite deaths.
It's pit bulls. Over and over and over again, the same story. It's partly why I would never, ever trust a pit bull around children.
The truth is these dogs were first bred for baiting bulls in England 1,000 years ago, then interbred with terriers to give them more speed and agility. They became the dog of choice for dog fights because of their tenacity, pain tolerance and incredible jaw strength.
To me, it's not surprising that a dog bred for aggression and fighting would be unpredictable, aggressive and powerful, especially when some of their owners want them to be that way. It's no more surprising than a retriever who's obsessed with a tennis ball and wants to play fetch all day.
It's what they were bred to do.
Yet, people defend the breed fanatically. On the Citizen-Times website, an argument raged back and forth between pit bull lovers and those who consider them dangerous.
First comment, from Cindy Crawford: "How many more horrific injuries and fatalities will it take to outlaw these dogs with such aggressive tendencies?"
Reply, from Nancie Wilson: "OK, Cindy, let's also outlaw doberman pincers, German shepherds, poodles, cocker spaniels, Pekinese, dalmatians, and all mixed breeds. Happy now?"
Here's the problem, Nancie: Those other breeds aren't doing the killing. Pit bulls killed 62 percent of the people who died from dog bites in a 10-year period.
If we knew a certain make of car was prone to failure and responsible for 62 percent of all fatal car wrecks, would you buy one?
Other breeds may bite, but they let go. Pit bulls do not.
One critic of mine referred me to dog expert Cesar Millan, who suggests that people often incorrectly blame the breed when it comes to dogs with aggression problems.
"Any breed can cause trouble," Millan writes on his website. "The difference between an aggressive Chihuahua and an aggressive pit bull is that the bigger breeds can cause proportionately bigger damage."
"It is important to recognize the power of a strong breed, like the pit bull, the Cane Corso, and the Mastiff. These dogs are very powerful and, if they are unbalanced, they can cause serious injury," Millan states. "Bad things happen when powerful breeds (or mixes of powerful breeds) live with humans who like the breed but don't understand and fulfill the animal in the dog."
To control such a breed, "you need to become the dog's pack leader and establish rules, boundaries, and limitations."
That's great advice, and more owners need to heed it. Sadly, a lot of pit bull owners I've seen seem to want them for the intimidation factor, to stoke their machismo, or for protection.
If you feel comfortable owning a pit bull, be a responsible owner. I hope you have one of the "big babies" that wouldn't hurt a flea.
But don't suggest I should trust your dog. I believe that deep down, pit bulls are beholden to their DNA, and they were bred for fighting and killing.
When that genetic switch flips, as it did with little Joshua, they detect a threat and have one reaction: to bite until the other animal is dead.
Last year, the United States had 42 dog bite-related fatalities, according to dogsbite.org. Pit bulls contributed to 64 percent, or 27 of those deaths.
The numbers are screaming at you, like a child under attack.
This is the opinion of John Boyle. Contact him at 828-232-5847 or firstname.lastname@example.org