Ralliers Say SGF: “Blaming the Wrong End of the Leash”

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — In an attempt to provide context for the city’s decision to increase pit bull restrictions, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department has released a memo addressed to Mayor Ken McClure. In it, the department displays its most recent numbers on pit bull bites.

According to the graphs in the Health Department’s memo, pit bulls and pit bull mixes are responsible for 38 bites or attacks between 2015 and 2017.

Other memos compare that number to the number of bites or attacks from other breeds. According to those charts, Lab mixes are responsible for 18 bites in that same number of years. German shepherds are responsible for 23 bites.

As the memo continues, stats begin addressing not just bite frequency, but severity too.

As one chart describes:

“Animal Control Officers use a nationally recognized metric called the Dunbar Scale to rate the severity of dog situations. The scale ranges from least severe, but without a bite, at a 1 to fatality at a rating of 6.”

The memo goes on to explain each of those ratings.

“Each rating has a general outline,” it reads.

According to the memo, the criteria for each of these Dunbar ratings are:

  • Level 1: Dog growls, lunges, snarls-no teeth touch skin. Mostly intimidation behavior.
  • Level 2: Teeth touch skin but no puncture. May have red mark/minor bruise from dog’s head or snout, may have minor scratches from paws/nails. Minor surface abrasions acceptable.
  • Level 3: Punctures ½ the length of a canine tooth, one to four holes, single bite. No tearing or slashes. Victim not shaken side to side. Bruising. 
  • Level 4: One to four holes from a single bite, one hole deeper than ½ the length of a canine tooth, typically contact/punctures from more than canines only. Black bruising, tears and/or slashing wounds. Dog clamped down and shook or slashed victim. 
  • Level 5: Multiple bites at Level 4 or above. A concerted, repeated attack.
  • Level 6: Any bite resulting in death of a human.

While the Health Department memo mentions no cases of a level six dog attack, it does say pit bulls are responsible for 15 Level 2 attacks, 15 Level 3 attacks, five Level 4, and three Level 5 attacks.

Pit bulls are the only breed responsible for a Level 5 attack between 2015 and 2017, according to the memo.

The Springfield City Council is now scheduled to take up a first reading of the new, more restrictive pit bull ordinance at a public meeting on September 18.

At a rally held on Friday, August 25th, people gathered with their dogs to show support of the breed. 

There, ralliers said any kind of breed-specific ban in Springfield would be an unjust punishment, as many of the issues surrounding the breed are the result of poor ownership.

“They are still dogs,” said one rallier. “It’s just important that we train them properly.”

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