So-called dangerous dogs have been in the spotlight over the last year, after a series of attacks left multiple people in hospital.
But an investigation by CKNW has discovered the breed most often classified as “dangerous” might not be what you’d expect.
In many media reports, Pit bulls were identified as the aggressive dog.
But through Freedom of Information requests, CKNW has learned the breed with the most number of incidents in Metro Vancouver is actually… the German shepherd with 103 dogs registered.
Despite popular belief that the Pit Bull breeds are the most “aggressive,” the bull took spot number two at 86.
Number three on the list? The Labrador Retriever.
Numbers given to CKNW were the most recent statistics between September 2016 and January 2017, which means the numbers could be higher by time of publishing.
But data does not account breed population size, which means numbers could be higher based on the number of Labradors and German shepherds in Metro Vancouver.
Some of the data also specified between different Pit Bull breeds. When given a specific breed (i.e.Staffordshire bull terrier) the difference was noted and added as a separate incident on CKNW’s data, but some of the incidents did not specify the breed and were categorized as “Pitt Bull” or “Pitt Bull X.”
Currently, there are more than 650 dogs registered as dangerous, aggressive or vicious across the region – depending on the severity of the incident.
The City of Vancouver has the most number of dogs registered at 155.
And the least? City of North Van with three.
However, comparing across municipalities can be difficult, as many cities classify dogs differently.
Some cities automatically designate dogs as dangerous due to their breed, but CKNW has only included those with an incident reported.
Changing the conversation
Pit bull advocate April Fahr is hoping the new numbers will shift the conversation from breed to owner.
Despite the data not showing the population size for each breed, she says the numbers show aggressiveness is not a breed-specific issue, and can instead be caused by poor breeding or bad owners.
“I can’t say I’m surprised by the results, it does show that any dog, any breed, is capable of biting or being a nuisance dog or an aggressive dog.”
She says that even though German shepherds and Labradors may be more popular than Pitt bulls and therefore have more incidents based on that, it still shows any breed is capable of displaying aggressive behaviour.
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Fahr says people need to look at the numbers rather than follow stereotypes.
She says Pit Bulls are usually portrayed as a naturally dangerous breed, unlike Labrador retrievers, who made the top three.
To find the number of registered dogs, CKNW had to file 17 Freedom of Information requests.
That’s why Pitt Meadows Councillor Janis Elkerton says there needs to be a province-wide registry.
“It would be better. There would be a province-wide decision on what classifies a dangerous dog and the qualifications. And the tattooing, the registry, would all be uniform, instead of this that’s going on in hodge-podge municipalities.”
Elkerton, who has presented a motion calling for the registry to the Union of BC Municipalities, says the current system makes it difficult to track aggressive dogs.
“Two of the fatal attacks here in Pitt Meadows, one was “Tucker” and one was “Buttons.” Those people have now moved from the municipality, and we have no means of informing the next municipality because there isn’t a province-wide registry.”
Elkerton says having the registry would also help to prevent attacks, as dogs would be more closely monitored.