A pit bull attacked and killed a 4-year-old boy, reigniting debate over whether the breed is inherently violent

GettyA pit bull attacked and killed a 4 year-old boy on Oct. 29.
  • A family in Hazel Park, Michigan agreed to dog sit a pit bull, which attacked and killed their 4-year-old son, Benjamin.
  • People who believe pit bulls are inherently dangerous say this incident is proof that the dogs should be banned. Advocates for pit bulls say they’re stigmatised and such attacks get a disproportionate amount of media attention.
  • Between 2005 and 2013, dogs killed 433 people in the US. Of those incidents, 66% were perpetrated by pit bulls, more than any other type of dog, according to data compiled by Dogs Bite.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When a friend asked the Cobbs if they could dogsit, the Michigan family didn’t hesitate. That kind gesture led to a tragedy when the pit bull they were watching attacked and killed the Cobbs’ 4-year-old son, Benjamin, last month, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The incident has reignited a debate over whether pit bulls are inherently dangerous, or if they’re unfairly stigmatised.

A pit bull a family was dog sitting attacked and killed their 4-year-old boy

On Oct. 29, the pit bull suddenly attacked Benjamin at the family’s home in Hazel Park, Michigan. Benjamin’s mother tried fighting back with scissors and a kitchen knife, while Benjamin’s sister called 911. The boy died of sharp force trauma, WXYZ Detroit reported. When officials arrived to the scene, they tasered the dog and he was later euthanised.

The family is currently raising funds for the boy’s memorial and said on their GoFundMe page that Benjamin’s death has “taken an unimaginable toll on our family, friends, and all those who knew our sweet boy.”

The incident has again raised the question as to whether pit bulls are more violent than other dogs, due to their history of being bred to fight.

Some say pit bull bans are necessary; others say pit bulls are unfairly stigmatised

Those who support pit bull bans say this incident is just more proof that this type of dog shouldn’t be a household pet. But advocates for pit bulls say the media tends to disproportionately report on incidents related to pit bulls and that they are no more dangerous than any type of canine.

“You’re much less likely to hear about a labrador that bit a person versus an ‘aggressive’ breed that did,” Lauren Haley, a veterinarian in San Diego, California told Insider. “And trust me, both happen.”

Beware of dogGettyThose who believe pit bulls are inherently violent say these types of incidents support the need for pit bull bans.

Between 2005 and 2013, dogs killed 433 people in the US. Of those incidents, 66% were perpetrated pit bulls, more than any other type of dog, according to data compiled by Dogs Bite, a group that aims to educate about the dangers related to dogs.

Between 2005 and 2013, pit bulls were responsible for 66% of human deaths caused by dogs

This summer, three pit bulls escaped from their yard in Detroit, Michigan and mauled a 9-year-old girl to death. The owner, in that case, was charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and having a dangerous animal causing death. In September, another pit bull killed a 1-year-old boy in his California home.

The owner of the pit bull that killed Benjamin said the pet had never previously demonstrated aggressive behaviour.

But many people, at no fault of their own, often miss indicators that a dog is about to strike, Haley said.

Pit bullGettySome advocates say pit bulls aren’t inherently violent and that pit bull attacks are disproportionately reported on in the news.

“Behavioural cues are often ignored and missed by people who don’t understand the intricacies of animal behaviour,” Haley told Insider. “Children are especially culprits of this because they don’t know any better.”

Some say the media disproportionately reports on pit bull attacks

A dog who’s typically friendly might “snap” and show hostility due to any number of triggers, including illness, frustration, possessiveness, fear, or an attempt to show dominance, according to the Spruce Pets, a site that offers tips to pet owners. For example, a dog that’s been chained in a yard all day may bark or growl and ultimately redirect its frustration by biting a person.

To protect against dog attacks, some cities and counties in the US have enacted laws and regulations, called breed-specific legislation, which bans or restricts housing specific dog breeds in a home -most typically, pit bulls.

In 2012, Hazel Park, the city in which Benjamin Cobb was attacked, banned pit bulls, in response to a number of pit bull-related attacks. In 2015, the ordinance was repealed.

Advocacy groups – like Pit Bull Advocates and BAD RAP – are part of a movement to put an end to breed-specific legislation and work to educate the public about what they describe as “the most misunderstood breed of dogs.”

“In yearly tests of over 240 dog breeds by the American Temperament Testing Society, pit bull-type dogs consistently achieve a passing rate that’s as good or better than the other most popular breeds,” BAD RAP noted on its website. “Like any breed of dog, a healthy pit bull that is raised and managed responsibly will reflect the good care his owners have invested in him.”

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