Video Editor: Rajbir Singh
(This story was first published on 13 Sep 2022. It has been reposted from The Quint's archives in light of Kanpur Municipal Corporation banning rearing of Pit Bulls and Rottweilers within city limits ‘in order to protect the public.')
After incidents of attack by a pit bull in Lucknow, where an elderly woman was mauled to death, and then in Ghaziabad and Gurugram, over the past few months, questions were raised on whether these breeds are inherently dangerous.
With many wondering if pit bulls are more aggressive than other dog breeds, The Quint spoke to experts in the field, who emphasised on the owner's role in moulding a pit bull's behaviour and laid importance on proper training and breeding practices.
Experts laid importance on the role played by training (or the lack of it) and said that the responsibility of the animals lies solely with the owner.
Renowned dog trainer and founder of Delhi’s K9 School, Adnaan Khan, said that the biggest myth surrounding pit bulls is that they are “inherently aggressive.”
Khan emphasised on the presence of high prey drives and protective instincts in pit bulls, which break out into violent incidents due to improper care.
“What happens is that if you get a breed like this, if you don't exercise them, don't channelise their prey drive and are not able to teach them the right methods before their defence drive starts kicking in at around 8-9 months of age, then the dog has slipped out of your control and is more likely to have a misdirected drive.”Adnaan Khan
Khan also drew a parallel between the breed and athleticism in children and explained, “You're taking an athletic child, and for two months, you are cutting out any sports or any gym or any exercise from their activity.”
“They are very likely to start taking out their frustration by punching walls, punching the younger sibling or fighting with people on the road and redirecting all that pent-up mental and physical energy into wrong ways.”
Experts Blame Faulty Breeding Practices
Over and above bad upbringing, several veteran dog trainers are also blaming faulty breeding practices, which lead to incidents like in Ghaziabad, where an 11-year-old was bitten by a pit bull and left with over 150 stitches on his face.
The Quint spoke to Tandrali Kuli from Friendicoes, a popular animal shelter in Delhi, who laid emphasis on proper legislature around dog breeding and said, “We don't have good laws for breeding. So, anyone is breeding anything they want to. No one is stopping them.”
She further said, “ No one in the public has knowledge. There is no awareness, no interest, and no sensitivity to even know about it.”
She attributed such attacks to improper handling and said, “Unfortunately, a lot of them (pit bull attack incidents) are because of wrong handling or because their needs are not met.”
Meanwhile, Nikhil Mahesh, founder of Umeed for Animals Foundation called dog breeders, “the worst breed ever” and attributed such incidents to lax implementation of breeding laws.
“The government of India, the people of India need to understand that we really need to work on this breeding industry. There are a lot of laws which come into picture, which say that they (breeders) need licences, but implementation of those laws is not there.”Nikhil Mahesh
Khan also laid emphasis on the role of faulty breeding practices and said that in a scenario where dogs who are closely-related or from the same bloodline are bred, it leads to inbreeding, which is breeding between closely related people or animals, and line breeding.
Khan said that as a result, “There will be a lot of temperament, behaviour, and medical problems that pet owners will face with their dog throughout their life.”
He added, “They will always be spending a lot of time and money at the vets and the trainers because they didn't invest the right time and money on the dog in the beginning.”
A Rise in Pit Bull Abandonment After Lucknow Incident
The experts further said that two direct fallouts from the pit bull attack in Lucknow have been a rise in pit bull abandonment and an increased difficulty to get this breed adopted.
Nikhil Mahesh pointed out that pit bull abandonment has risen since the incident in Lucknow.
“Look at the number of abandonment cases from the day that (Lucknow) incident happened... Every day since that day, I've seen one new case of abandoned pit bull across India.”
Tandrali, who also manages Friendicoes' adoption programme, said, “The maximum number of abandoned pets that Friendicoes are these breeds of dogs – German Shepherds, Rottweilers, pit bulls, Pakistani bullies, and some Labradors.
“The number of pit bulls that have been abandoned at Friendicoes has increased tremendously. Unfortunately, their reputation does not help in the re-homing process.”Tandrali Kuli
She further said that demonising a particular breed, in this case pit bull, is a “big curse on the adoption programme because people who already have a wrong image of this breed, get further fodder to feed this bad reputation.”
“Unfortunately, pit bulls are just like any other dog,” she said.
Why Do Only Pit Bulls Dominate Headlines?
Adnaan Khan also explained why pit bulls continue to feature in news.
He claimed, “Statistically, Labradors, golden retrievers, chihuahuas, shih tzus, and lhasa apsos, bite a lot more than these breeds.
“A lot less pit bulls and rottweilers end up biting someone but that's almost always through bad breeding and bad upbringing.”
He added that these bites, however, are forgiven and go unreported because of the comparatively lower intensity of such attacks and the inherent strength of a pit bull’s jaw.
“But once a rottweiler or a pit bull ends up having an incident, they always make it to the news."
Khan further added, “When humans do that, they get corrected but their entire religion or the entire breed doesn't get ostracised for it. People try to understand the mindset about that particular person.”