Pit bull

The hospitalization of a 20-month-old boy this week after a dog bite in the face in Manheim Township is more than a momentary horror.

Even if, as all no doubt hope, the boy recovers fully and suffers no permanent scars, Monday afternoon’s attack should serve as a strong warning to dog owners: When putting children in the presence of a dog, be careful.

 And that goes double for “extremely aggressive” dogs, and perhaps with certain breeds.

“Extremely aggressive” was Lancaster County SPCA director Susan Martin’s description of the boy’s grandmother’s pit bull. With the owner’s permission, the SPCA euthanized the dog Tuesday.

Many say that pit bulls are not the monsters many believe them to be.

Defending the breed in an Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era story earlier this month, Karen Dinkel, Lancaster’s animal enforcement officer, said that she’d rather deal with a pit bull than a Chihuahua.

 She said she has “a harder time with Chihuahuas” and finds she “can read a pit bull.”

That defense of pit bulls — made after a Lancaster city police officer fatally shot a dog that first was identified as a pit bull but turned out to be a mastiff —   does not apply in this case.

A child cannot be expected to “read” the danger signs in a dog’s behavior.

Most dog owners with children know this. They  know they have to either train Fido to respect and tolerate kids pulling his tail and trying to ride him like a horse, or find a new home for him.

Defenders of pit bulls say the dogs’ owners are to blame when the dogs inflict injury.

Whether it’s their owners’ fault, the fact is that pit bulls make up 41 percent of the 562 dogs on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Dangerous Dog registry.

That’s substantially more than the next category of dog on the list.

Non-pit bull mixed breeds make up 23 percent of state’s dangerous dogs — and that’s not even a single breed.

The single breed with the second-highest percentage on the list is the German shepherd, at just 7 percent.

The pit bull also is a stronger breed of dog, meaning that when it gets out of control, the effects can be deadly.

Statistics from DogsBite.org bear this out: Pit bulls were responsible for 25 of 32 – or 78 percent of — dog bite-related fatalities in the United States in 2013; 23 of 38 fatalities (61 percent) in 2012, and 22 of 31 (71 percent) in 2011.

Not every pit bull is dangerous. But if you’re an owner of a pit bull, consider these statistics — and do whatever necessary to keep your pit bull from becoming a statistic, too.