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Pets

Pit bulls generate plenty of barking between supporters, detractors

Posted February 2, 2016 7:13 p.m. EST

— Dog attacks such as one that killed a Lumberton boy a week ago account for a small fraction of the dog bites that occur nationwide every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Talen West, 7, and his 8-year-old brother were playing in the woods near their home on Jan. 24 when they encountered a neighbor’s pit bull. The dog attacked both boys, and Talen died of his injuries at a nearby hospital.

DogsBite.org, a nonprofit group that advocates banning ownership of pit bulls, claims that the breed was responsible for 62 percent of the deaths from dog attacks in the U.S. between 2005 and 2014. Rottweilers accounted for another 12 percent, according to the group.

"If I had kids, I would not have a pit bull," said Alberto Palomares, who keeps an eye out for the dogs whenever he takes his dog to the Ashley Wilder Dog Park in Knightdale. "My personal belief is that a pit bull can't be trusted. It can be a two-faced kind of dog. One day, it can act a certain way; the other day, it can turn on you."

Camrin Park, who visited the Knightdale dog park with her little girl and her little dog, said she has seen a pit bull attack.

"The pit bull picked (a small dog) up and bit down," Park said. "They are so strong, and (the dog) just died."

Dr. Jennifer Federico, the director of the Wake County Animal Shelter and the owner of three pit bulls, said the breed is misunderstood.

"They are a wonderful breed. They're funny, and they always want to please their owner," Federico said.

Other veterinarians said pit bulls are no more aggressive that other dogs, but they are stronger and have the physical ability to not release when they bite, which can cause more serious injuries.

"They can do damage. They're big dogs," Federico said. "Any big dog can – a German shepherd, a Doberman – any of those large-breed dogs can attack and kill somebody."

Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg, filed a bill in 2013 that would have required permits and training to own a pit bull, Rottweiler or three other breeds considered "aggressive." The proposal was buried in a House committee and never came up for a hearing.

Edenton is the only municipality in North Carolina with a dangerous dog ordinance, according to DogsBite.org.

"I think that, at the end of the day, with all of these stories that come out, it's responsible pet ownership," Federico said.