Welcome to the archives for NewsTalk, an IBJ blog published from November 2007 through December 2010.

What to do when a pit bull attacks

March 24, 2010

News of pit bull attacks just keeps coming.

In March alone, an Indianapolis cop was bitten on a knee while looking for someone for questioning. Another officer shot and killed one of two of dogs that attacked a man while he carried out trash. The dog, by the way, had been at a Humane Society shelter and adopted out months earlier.

The stories are worse farther from Indianapolis. Three children mauled in California by a roaming pack of five. A woman’s arm nearly ripped away during a two-minute-long frenzy in Australia.

There were nearly 300 pit bull attacks in Indianapolis last year. Police spokesman Jeff Duhamell expects activity to pick up again as the weather warms and more people resume jogging, bicycling and other outdoor activity.

“They are an extremely vicious breed, and they always have been. They’ll come after you,” Duhamell says. “The more you pull way from them, the more they’ll lock down and start ripping skin and muscle.”

Pit bull owners say the bad rap comes from unrestrained animals or those trained to be mean. It doesn’t help that the breed is favored by drug dealers and other folks who don’t like attention, aficionados say. Treat the dogs responsibly and train them to be passive, and they’re fine.

(If pit bulls can be trained to be unaggressive, can labs be trained not to fetch? Just asking.)

Mayor Greg Ballard and the City-County Council have been reluctant to single out the breed for special regulation.

So what’s a person to do?

Duhamell says pit bulls running loose are the most dangerous, because they’re aggressively territorial. Stay away from them, and get inside a car or house if you feel threatened, he recommends. Or shout “No!” or “Down!” in the hope they’re educated. Other dogs set them off, so leave yours at home.

A Taser might work if you’re accurate enough to get the probes on the dog, he says. And Mace might help.

Duhamell muses about the potential of pepper spray designed to ward off grizzly bears. The spray, which hunters are required to carry in areas of Wyoming, squirts 30 feet from a small canister.

If all else fails, Web sites focused on dog attacks recommend curling up in a fetal position and protecting the head and face—areas where plastic surgery is harder to hide with clothing.

What are your thoughts about pit bulls? Are they maligned? Any ideas for preventing attacks you can share?

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