In the 1980s and the 1990s, the average annual death rate from dog attacks was 17.  By the year 2006, the number had jumped to 30.  The following year was about the same.  Dog attacks are a serious concern for Kansas City families.  Even as the numbers climb, the debate rages on.  What makes a dog dangerous?  Whether it is a matter of the dog's breeding or his environment, one thing is clear.  Certain dog breeds seem more prone to attack; even area communities are taking notice.

Pit Bulls
In August of 2006 the city council of Independence, Missouri passed a ban on pit bulls within the city limits.  The measure was meant to curb a rise in pit bull attacks.  The ban required current pit bull owners to register their dogs and have them fit with a microchip.  Owners were further required to carry liability insurance on the dogs.  Opponents argue that banning specific breeds is an exercise in futility.

Regardless, pit bulls have a reputation as a dangerous dog breed.  Pit bull attacks accounted for 28 percent of deaths from a dog attacks in 2008.  When a pit bull does attack, the dog will often strike with little advanced warning.  Pit bulls are indiscriminate with their victims; they will attack a child or a full-sized adult.  Pit bulls have extremely powerful jaws  and were first bred in England to fight and destroy other animals.  In fact, a pit bull is capable of bringing down a bull that weighs 1,000 pounds. Whether their aggression is an inherent trait bred into the breed throughout the centuries, or if it is a learned mechanism resulting from poor living conditions and abuse (among other things), is still largely in debate. Either way, pit bulls should always be approached cautiously.

German Shepherds
German shepherds are a favorite of law enforcement, due to their intelligence and ability to be trained; however, this same breed can be quite vicious.  They are fearlessly aggressive and have been known to attack as well.  German shepherds are fiercely loyal and protective, and will attack with a vengeance.  German shepherds require extensive training and patience.  Animals that have not been properly trained are more likely to become aggressive towards people.

"Guard Dogs"
The term "guard dog" often conjures up images of a Rottweiler.  Rottweiler dogs are extremely territorial and will attack if they feel that territory is being violated.  Doberman pinschers are very similar and commonly used as guard dogs as well.  These breeds usually attack only when they feel threatened, but have been known to attack totally unprovoked.  It is impossible to know a strange dog's background and early life.  These can be factors in the dogs' propensity toward aggression as well as their natural instincts.

Dalmatians, chows, huskies, and boxers are other breeds that can be aggressive at times.  Unlike the cartoon version of the breed, Dalmatians are fiercely protective and have been known to attack humans.  Each of these four breeds reaches a  large size when fully grown, and are capable of mauling an adult and causing extensive damage or even death.

Regardless of the source of a dog's aggression and likelihood to attack, it is imperative to keep small children away from large dogs.  Controversial breeding bans on pit bulls are thought to help control the population.  In fact, in some areas certain animal shelters simply destroy pit bulls that come thought their doors rather than try to have the dogs placed for adoption.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.