In the past 18-months 3 people have been attacked by dogs in Wichita Falls. It's a frightening trend. All 3 of those attacks involved pit bulls, or pit bull mixes. We went to an expert and checked the facts to find out if the pit bull breed gets a bad rap after those vicious attacks.
The 3 Wichita Falls attacks were from December of 2010 to February of 2012. Two of the attacks sent people to the hospital. The worst of the attacks cost a man both of his eyes and 14 hours of surgery once he was flown to Dallas for treatment. The owner of the dogs in that attack is facing a second degree felony charge.
Nationally from January of 2006 to December of 2008 DogsBite.org in Austin recorded 88 fatal dog attacks. Nearly 60% of those attacks were by pit bulls. What may be even more startling is according to Pediatrics Digest 73% of dogs that attacked children were familiar to the kids they attacked. In 75% of those attacks the child provoked the dog.
It's statistics and stories like these that spark a growing debate. Many people want the pit bull breed outlawed, but supporters are quick to stand up for pit bulls. They say the breed isn't the problem.
Eamon Riley has been training dogs for more than 30 years. He said, "it's not the dog it's the irresponsible owner."
Riley says dogs reflect their training, or lack of it. Even simple discipline can go a long way when it comes to a dog.
Riley introduced us to a pit bull by the name of "T.R.".
"T.R." Is a service dog for his owner David Knight. A motorcycle accident left Knight disabled.
He says he thanks God everyday that he is alive.
"I'm suffering from a handicap," said Knight. "I have a bad leg, I'm blind in one eye, and T.R. provides balance and helps me with my motoring around places."
David is an attorney and T.R. pretty much goes anywhere with him.
We asked David what kind of a reception he gets when this 90-pound pit is at his side and he walks into the courtroom with the most feared breed of dog around.
"Initially their reaction is somewhat of shock," said Knight. "Once they see how he reacts and how he is interacting with people they like him very much and they are very glad he's there."
For Knight using a pit bull as his service dog was not his first choice.
"My initial reaction was revulsion and fear," Knight said. "I was not interested in having a dog that I knew had a reputation of being a very violent and vicious type of animal."
So is T.R. an example of how every pit bull can be or is he the exception to the perception..
Knight said,"I'm convinced that if a dog is trained and is socialized properly that
the dogs can be very effective partners for a person."
With T.R. being an example of a trained pit bull from almost birth, we wanted to know if pit bull rescue groups who save dogs from bad environments were doing the right thing in putting dogs trained to be aggressive back on the streets. It begged the question 'can you teach
an old dog not just new tricks but a new lifestyle?' Eamon Riley brought up the Michael Vick case and the dogs that were seized from him as an example.
Riley said, "16 pit bulls were taken off (when Vick's property was raided). These were fighting dogs. 2 were completely unsalvageable, they put them down. That left 14 pit bulls. 12 of those pit bulls are now certified therapy dogs. So yes, you can train and old dog new tricks."
Riley also told us that the best of the rescue groups use foster homes for the dogs that are not ready to go into society when they are rescued. Those dogs are placed in homes with people who know the breed well. The dogs stay in those foster homes until they are deemed ready for a permanent home.