Is ‘No Kill’ Changing the Genetics of Pit Bulls?

ANIMAL WATCH-Pit Bull attacks are increasing  at a terrifying rate, as agencies like LA Animal Services and major humane organizations are following or considering the Best Friends Animal Society plan for "No Kill," No Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL), no breed ID in shelters,  and increased or no  animal limits.  

But a new phenomenon is also developing as a common occurrence -- multiple Pit Bulls attacking as a pack. 

Colleen Lynn, founder of DogsBite.org, which tracks and investigates fatal dog maulings, reports that, of all fatalities65% involved two or more dogs, a reversal from early CDC (Centers for Disease Control) study years when 70% of fatalities involved a single dog. 

Could the number of dogs involved in attacks listed below signal that these expanding policies -- which allow unlimited adoption, ownership, or keeping of Pit Bulls per household be influencing and changing the genetics of Pit Bulls -- and not in a good way? 

The following is a single Pit Bull attack that occurred recently. I am providing it to show what was required to stop this dog in an enclosed location with animal-handling experts present. Imagine the terror and damage if there had been more Pit Bulls involved: 

Attacking Pit Bull Shot in Animal Shelter to Save Life of Supervisor 

Here is a terrifying example of the relentless nature of a Pit Bull attack. It was recorded on the kennel video in the Oakland County animal shelter and reported this week by the Detroit Free Press. The severely injured supervisor was a 25-year veteran of animal care and control. 

The four-year-old Pit Bull involved, Roscoe, and had been surrendered after he attacked an adult and two children in the family that had reportedly loved and raised him since a puppy. 

"When three Oakland County dog shelter workers couldn’t dislodge a raging pit bull mauling the kennel supervisor, a police officer shot the dog in the head, saving the supervisor. . . Yet, the 80-pound dog — after being shot “at point-blank range, between the eyes,” seemingly rose from the dead, the Oakland County spokesman said. 

The officer returned to the hallway of the six kennels housing dangerous dogs and found that the pit bull had regained consciousness and "now posed a fresh threat." 

“The officer saw it was now a wounded animal and the possible threat played through his mind, so he immediately ended its suffering” with a second shot that was fatal," the spokesperson said. 

The report states that, even after the incident was conveyed to the family, the mother refused to give permission to euthanize the dog, blaming the serious attack on herself and her two children to the fact she had been "talking too loud." 

Roscoe had also previously bitten a shelter worker who took him out for a walk.  


Three Pit Bulls Kill Woman in Houston, TX on December 21, 2019. DogsBite.org reports one woman is dead and another severely injured after a vicious dog attack in north Houston, according to police. . .KTRK reports that all three dogs are pit bulls.  

Woman Attacked by 6 Pit Bulls While Walking Dog. . .   

Apr 26, 2019 - A woman is recovering after police say she was attacked by six pit bulls while walking her daughter's dog Wednesday night in Taunton, Massachusetts. . . .The officer then witnessed six pit bulls following and attacking 51-year-old Rochelle Silva. 

4 Pit Bulls Attack Woman Walking Dog. . .  

Jun 24, 2019 - A woman was recovering after she was attacked by four pit bulls while walking her roommate's dog in Calgary, Canada, on Friday night. 

Woman critically injured in Maryland pit bull attack   

Nov 14, 2019 - A woman was critically injured in an attack by two pit bulls. . .Helicopters were used to search for the dog. . . 

5 Pit Bulls Attack Woman On Bike, 'Tore Her Apart', Husband. . . 

Apr 2, 2019 - A Florida woman underwent surgery Monday after suffering serious injuries following an attack by five pit bulls on March 28. 

Five Pit Bulls Maul Philadelphia Toddler to Death 

Aug 2, 2018 - A 2-year-old boy was mauled to death by five pit bulls at his aunt's house in the Port Richmond area of Philadelphia, local police have said. Officers responding to the incident at around 5:35 p.m. Wednesday fired at the dogs to stop the attack, killing one and injuring two others, reported WPVI. 

For shocking and informative quick-stats and graphs, see: Deadly Dog Attacks.   

Read also: CA Hits Record High in Fatal Dog Attacks in 2019 -- Are Animal Control Policies Protecting Us?   


Human aggression by Pit Bulls was not acceptable in past generations, including by dog fighters. The early 1900's photos which are now purported to be "Nanny Dogs" were actually ads used to show that the breeding stock by a dog man was NOT human aggressive and would not attack a human at a dog fight/match -- it did not mean they were house pets. 

Dog fighting was legal in the U.S. at that time and advertising Pits bred for that purpose was rampant. They were bred to attack another dog without provocation and kill quickly and efficiently. They were not intended to be released into society. (Google 'Pit Bulls for Sale' ads in the early 1900's in Dog Fancier magazine.) 


Following an ad for pups from the line of "Old Family Red Noses and "Red Devils" with photos of "Wilder Red Inferno" and "Mean Girl, " here are excerpts from an op-ed that appears in the American Pit Bull Terrier Gazette (FALL 1997)

SIMPLY RETROSPECT OR RESPECT?  (by Charlie Stephens, President, Lone Star APBT Club.)  

"LET'S LOOK AT THE 1920'S AND1930'S. Things were very different then. We went to church on Sunday with no thought of burglary or theft, and the dog we had didn't dare bite a human being.  If a dog, any dog, was aggressive toward humans it was killed. No, not gassed or injected, it was shot! It was a simple time and that type of dog simply was not tolerated. And this was especially true for the American Pit Bull Terrier. Dogmen of the 1920's and '30's would not allow it! 

Today, however, it is different.  People are scared, real scared, and they believe they need protection. So, they go out and buy a dog. 

(He mentions five incidents of APBT attacks.)

In closing, I make a plea to all dog owners of America. Please take responsibility for your dog. . . If you must own a dog that is human aggressive, then keep it away from humans.  And, keep it away from windows too. 


A  January 18, 2019 article, "The so-called modern bloodlines," by Neylor Zaurisio, discusses and documents his personal study of  how, since the 1800's, modern living necessitated adaptations that changed the name of the breed and also affected its size. 

 "In the late 1800's, with the industrial revolution, thousands of families migrated from rural areas to large industrial centers in search of employment. 

Some of these families had as a form of “extra” income and tradition sold and bet on fighting dogs, “Pit Bull” dogs. When they saw the opportunity of a better future in the big cities they started to move and took their dogs with them, changing drastically from a habitat where they developed completely, to small spaces in apartments and other cheap options where they were confined most of the time, [loss of] exercise and losing their habit, combined with the selection for smaller dogs, caused a visible reduction in muscular and bone structure. 


Pit Bull genetics have been changed several times. In the United Kingdom, bull-and-terriers were used in blood sports, such as, bull baiting and bear baiting until this was officially eliminated in 1835 when Britain introduced  animal welfare laws. 

Since dog fighting is cheap to organize and far easier to conceal from the law, blood-sport enthusiasts begin to develop dogs that could be pitted against each other. 


 Dog fighting was used as both a blood sport (usually involving gambling) and a way to continue to test the gameness and maintain fighting blood lines. Maintaining these bloodlines is the reason dog fighters do NOT want "Breed Specific Legislation" (BSL) nor mandatory spay/neuter laws.  

If this centuries-old lineage is destroyed, it cannot be replicated.  The characteristic of "gameness" means the animals will attack and kill without provocation--including its own breed.  It also means it will continue to fight until it is dead or physically incapable of movement. 


Pit Bulls have traditionally been kept as the only dog in a household, chained or caged in isolation because of their propensity to attack/kill. (Dog fighters keep them caged or "tied out" on chains in their yards. A yard can be any size property, and many keep dozens of dogs -- each far enough from the others to be unable to engage physically. They did not indulge in "play groups." 


The "No Kill" movement as prescribed by Best Friends Animal Society has imposed rigid rules for animal shelters and animal owners regarding  euthanizing a dangerous dog, and many veterinarians are afraid to take this risk because of the criticism that can be generated on the Internet. 

Prior to this, rules and laws of animal ownership were created and enforced for public and animal health and safety, animals were limited to the number that did not create excessive noise and exhibit behavior issues that decreased or threatened the safety and quality of life of a community. 

Best Friends policies links: 

Save Them All - Best Friends Animal Society  - Best Friends Animal Society is leading the way.  

Best Friends Position Statements on Issues  Best Friends is opposed to mandatory spay and neuter laws. 

Dog Breed Labels | Best Friends Animal Society - Apr 6, 2018 - Labeling shelter dogs as a particular breed is problematic. Shelter staff are wrong a majority of the time when identifying a dog’s prominent breed. . . 

Pet Limit Laws in Los Angeles | The Best Friends Blog  

Dec 14, 2010 - Los Angeles is looking to raise its animal limit laws. Five reasons why pet limits are a bad idea in the first place. 

Pit Bulls, Dog Breed Discrimination & BSL | Best Friends.  

One of Best Friends' primary goals is to end pit bull breed discrimination, breed-specific legislation (BSL) and the killing of pit bulls in shelters. 

Read also:  Best Friends Animal Society in Dog Fight over Shock Collars (Nov 25, 2019) 


In 1990, Donald H. Clifford, DVM, and two other noted staff members at the medical College of Ohio, published THE PIT BULL DILEMMA - The Gathering Storm," annotating 1.000 abstracts from books, journals, magazines, newspapers and reports of dog fighting and Pit Bull Attacks. 

This was a warning that a new threat was being unleashed on society.  (CA enacted a No Breed Specific Legislation prohibition in 1989.) 

After Pit Bulls began to be kept as pets, owners generally kept only one or perhaps with a dog of the opposite gender (but even this may not stop them from inevitably fighting or killing each other.)  

However, the basic behavior seems to be changing--perhaps as an adaptation to multiple-Pit households--so that numerous Pit Bulls can live together without killing each other but attack as a pack. Is this an anomaly, or is there a change occurring in the genetic structure of the dogs? 


In the study, "Both Environment and Genetic Makeup Influence Behavior," the following conclusion was reached: 

How do genes and the environment come together to shape animal behavior? Both play important roles. Genes capture the evolutionary responses of prior populations to selection on behavior. Environmental flexibility gives animals the opportunity to adjust to changes during their own lifetime. 

I am not a geneticist, but I think it is worth questioning whether creating a living environment for Pit Bulls as pets in large or unlimited numbers in the same household is also creating changes in genetics which allows them to act in unison during attacks, but not turn on each other? 

And, if so, judging from the recent increase in multiple Pit Bulls attacking as a pack, what issues does this pose for the future of society and community safety? 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of Los Angeles employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.