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New study raising awareness on dog attacks

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Cities across Arkansas have Pit Bull bans and restrictions – and many have declared them a dangerous breed. But animal advocates say these stereotypes cause problems for pet owners and adoptions.

It’s a polarizing issue for folks on both sides of the debate. But an Arkansas doctor is hoping a new study will shed light on the dangers of dog bites.

When a dog seriously bites a child – parents are on the clock to get them to the hospital. Here in state, they come to Arkansas Children's Hospital and see Dr. Michael Golinko, a plastic surgeon that specializes in pediatric dog bites.

Right now – he says he’s seeing on average one child injured a night: “The vast majority like I said will be just a simple laceration, but the spectrum of things you could see is cranial penetration, in once case hands bitten off.”

In one of the most comprehensive pediatric dog attack studies, Dr. Golinko’s studied examined over 1,500 bites: “Any dog can bite bottom line.”

But his new report shows that pit bulls were implicated in half of surgeries performed, and pitbulls are 2.5 times as likely to bite in multiple anatomic locations as compared to other breeds.

"In other words if you have a Chihuahua or a Labrador they would just bite in one location and then let go on the leg for example, but a Pit Bull would bite the leg, head and neck, hand,"

That’s what happened to Wisconsin resident Jeff Borchardt’s son Dax: "His whole body was mangled. It looked like a hand grenade went off underneath him,"

Jeff says their family had two pet pit bulls that snapped - attacking the 14-month-old. "These dogs never showed any signs of aggression before. They were great dogs up until the day they weren't."

He now runs the non-profit Daxton’s Friends – and is working to educate the public on safety.

Pit Bull advocates understand that dogs can be dangerous - but "Finish Forward" dog trainer Jon McCabe says this is typically the result of their environment.

"They're sweet and gentle; they're no different than any other dog. It's a lot about training humans not as much sometimes about the dog.” Adding that he believes that they can make great pets.

"I think they're great family dogs. I've had great success with all of them. I would never choose a different breed."

But while adults can make decisions about their safety, Dr. Golinko says it’s important to think about protecting kids. “We get lulled into a false sense of security because it’s the family dog or the neighborhood dog, oh well, they would never do this or that, when the opposite is true. And we never want to take that risk.”

He recommends thinking twice before introducing a pit bull into the family, and talking to your neighbors about securing their dogs if you have small children

The CDC says there are several factors that affect a dog’s likelihood to bite – including heredity, early experience, socialization and training, quality of ownership, and victim behavior.

Statistics

Some people have raised the point that pit bulls are a common breed, saying this could be one of the reasons they're behind so many dog bites.

Dr. Golinko's study also discusses Labradors - another common breed of dog. 8% of bites he saw were caused by this breed. It's hard to tell because we don't do a dog census. Another problem that happens when it comes to these statistics - is that we're generally guessing the dog's breed based on how it looks, but that's not necessarily the most accurate way to determine a dog's breed.

So the main thing again - is taking the available evidence, asking those questions, and making the right decision for yourself and your family.

Additional reporting by WGME's Jon Chrisos. Follow him on Twitter here.


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