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May 'pit bulls' really aren't, according to study
It's all too common a story.
A pit bull attacks someone, maiming or even killing them, and has to be put down.
The breed has such a bad reputation that some municipalities have banned the breed -- It is illegal in Miami-Dade County, Florida, to own or keep "American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers" or "any other dog that substantially conforms to any of these breeds' characteristics" according to Miami-Dade County Animal Services.
Other communities have created similar restrictions, but exactly what is a pit bull?
That question isn't that easy to answer, according to a new study from the University of Florida.
Researchers evaluated breed assessments made on 120 dogs by 16 staff members at an animal shelter, all of whom had at least three years of experience.
Blood samples were taken from the dogs, and researchers compiled DNA profiles for each animal to see how accurate the shelter workers were.
Researchers found that true pit bulls were identified only 33 to 75 percent of the time, depending on which employee did the assessment.
On the other hand, dogs with no pit bull DNA were labeled as pit bulls as much as 48 percent of the time, also depending on the employee.
Florida state law now bans breed-specific laws, but the Miami-Dade law was passed before the state restriction.
It's true that certain breeds tend to have certain characteristics -- shepherds like to herd, terriers like to kill small animals, pointers like to hunt, etc. Any dog owner, however, can tell you pets' personalities are as varied as the coloring of their coats.
Plus, not all of the 70 percent of dogs that wind up in shelters, labeled as pit bulls, are actually that type of breed. Follow the DNA back far enough, in fact, and nearly all modern dogs are descended from types of wolves.
Regardless the type of dog or its behavior, the final responsibility for its behavior rests on the owner.