Are pit bulls good pets?

Pit bulls absolutely make good pets, provided that you're willing and able to care for them properly.

Pit bulls have a bad reputation, and many cities have ordinances banning them or requiring owners to obtain special licenses or insurance. These "breed-specific" laws are highly controversial, but when digging into the statistics, it's easy to see why people would think pit bulls are inherently dangerous.

One five-year review of dog bite injuries reported in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that about 51 percent of serious dog attacks were from pit bulls. Another 6 percent were from pit bull/Rottweiler mixes. Additionally, a 2000 study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that pit bull types and Rottweilers were involved in more than half of the 27 reported dog-bite attack deaths from 1997 to 1998.

The latter study is frequently cited by pit bull opponents; however, the study's authors note that "other breeds may bite and cause fatalities at higher rates," as several key issues might cloud their statistics--the authors, in fact, specifically guided against breed-specific laws.

Those issues include breed-identification errors (victims might erroneously identify their attackers as pit bulls due to their bad reputation) and potential underreporting of non-pit bull attacks (the researchers estimated that they found only 72 percent of fatal dog attacks). Further, socioeconomic factors influence dog-bite statistics: A 2008 study by Carrie M. Shuler, et al, found that "biting dogs were more likely than non-biting dogs to live in neighborhoods where the residents' median incomes were less than the county median income value."

In other words, biting dogs are more likely to come from poor households, where they're less likely to be neutered or to receive proper training. So it doesn't seem to be the dogs' fault, but how they're raised--when pit bulls are banned from communities, bite statistics for other dog breeds usually increase, according to the ASPCA.

Bronwen Dickey, author of Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon, told National Geographic that pit bull statistics are frequently exaggerated and misreported.

"A study on fatalities between 2000-2009 in the journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that in over 80 percent of those cases there were four or more significant factors related to the care and control of the dog," Dickey said. "These were dogs that had not been socialized; were large and sexually intact; and had no relationship to the person who was killed. In other words, perfect storm of factor upon factor."

Furthermore, "pit bull" is not really a breed, per se. It's a generic term to describe various terrier and bulldog breeds, including the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, the American pit bull terrier, and the American bully, along with various others. Many pit breeds have positive temperament qualities that make them ideal companions; American pit bull terriers, for instance, are typically affectionate, kid-friendly dogs that learn quickly. They require plenty of exercise, but they're not inherently dangerous--although they do have a decent prey drive, and they can be territorial.

So, what can pit bull owners (or any dog owner, for that matter) do to reduce their animals' aggressive tendencies? For starters, they can follow game show host Bob Barker's advice: Spay and neuter their pets. Unneutered male dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs, per the ASPCA, while unspayed females are likely to attract unneutered males, raising the risks for nearby humans.

Dogs are also much more likely to bite if they haven't been properly trained. If you're considering a pit bull, look for dog-training classes in your area. You might also speak with your veterinarian to find low-cost options if you can't afford professional training (although, if that's the case, remember that dogs can be expensive; PetFinder estimates that the first-year costs of bringing home a new puppy range from $395-2,455).

You'll also want to make sure that you've got time to exercise your dog properly, as pit bulls can be destructive when left alone for hours on end (that's true of just about every dog). As they're muscular dogs, they can be a handful, so if you live a sedentary lifestyle, you might want to consider another breed.

With all of that said, responsible owners love their pits, and for good reason; the dogs make wonderful pets when properly trained and cared for. If you're willing to do the work, there's no reason to avoid pit bulls or pit bull mixes.

There will be several opnions on this question I am sure. Pitbulls can be very safe and friendly pets, if the dogs family tree properly branches. Inbreeding of the breed to retain specific deminsions and traits has caused mental disorders with the breed. They can be VERY tempermental and have been known to attack their owners without provacation. They can also develope a highly territorial sense and attack, maime or even kill another pet or person. It all comes down to the pits bloodline and raising!