Reporting on dog attacks in this newspaper, like others around the country, varies by breed of dog. In comparing stories of dog attacks, words such as “vicious” and “rampage” appear when the stories involve pit bulls. The language is far tamer when other breeds are involved, and the fact that shepherds or huskies were involved is barely mentioned.

This type of reporting is misleading. A pit bull is not a breed of dog but rather a term for a group of breeds, typically the American pit bull terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, the American bulldog, and the American Staffordshire terrier. This incorrect use of the term “pit bull,” the public’s lack of understanding of the term, and the inaccuracy of identifying breed only by sight leads to these dogs being unfairly portrayed as killers. Their appearance in media as blood-thirsty fighting dogs only leads to the further misguided prejudice against these animals.

“Pit bull” breeds fill animal shelters across the country because of this stigma. Unfortunately when some people adopt these animals it is for the use as guard dogs or as fighting dogs, mostly having to do with the portrayal of these animals in the news. When these animals are abused and lash out as a result, the media again portrays them as sub-animals not fit to be called dogs. It is a cycle that can be stopped in part by fair and accurate reporting.

I hope that this paper will change its reporting style to a more uniform way of reporting dog attacks. Waiting for confirmation of the dog’s breed, or better yet, acknowledging that any dog that is abused and in a dangerous situation will lash out and defend itself will go a long way to repairing the pit bull’s unfair reputation.

Ian Magill

Augusta