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Wilton dog attack raises questions about 'pit bull' designation

People who own, study and care for dogs will tell you that how a dog is raised is the primary factor in whether or not the animal will viciously attack someone. In some instances, a dog bite might happen after a person's unexpected move triggers a reaction in the dog. Still, dog owners are ultimately responsible for their pets' behavior, and in some cases, people who have been injured by a serious dog bite may need to seek legal compensation for injuries.

A recent dog attack in Wilton, Connecticut, has again raised the question of dog training versus dog genetics. In other words, does a dog's genetics factor largely in why the animal attacks a person, or is the more likely culprit the negligent or abusive owner?

The attack in question was vicious. A 56-year-old woman lost all of one of her arms and part of the other when she was mauled by a dog reportedly owned by her sons. A police officer ended up shooting and killing the animal, whose type was reportedly "pit bull."

But there was debate about that breed designation, since the dog appeared to be a kind of Staffordshire terrier. According to Angel Capone Pit Bull Rescue's director, "pit bull" is a generic term people use for dogs that share similar physical traits. She went on to say that whenever an attack happens, dogs that seem to fall into the pit bull category get the blanket term without any kind of DNA test.

Still, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that of the 101 dog-attack deaths in which the animal's breed was named, more than 40 percent involved pit bull breeds.

So the question remains: are these particular attacks more prevalent because of how the dogs were raised, or is there a genetic disposition at work? What is clear is that if a person injured by an animal bite believes the incident resulted because of the pet owner's negligence, then there may be legal avenues for holding that negligent party accountable.

Source: ctpost.com, "'Pit bull' label clarified in Wilton case," Frank Juliano, Nov. 19, 2013

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