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Dog attack raises old debate: Who is to blame?



Pitbull Yesterday, a St. Petersburg woman was attacked by her own pit bull in her backyard and is in serious condition at Tampa General Hospital. Patricia Thiel survived the attack due to a neighbor's intervention -- Joseph Wharton, on left, shot and killed the 100-pound dog.

Thiel and her husband, Robert Jacks, had rescued the Labrador-pit bullterrier mix four years ago after finding it on the golf course where Jacks works. It was afraid of people, and they figured it had been abused.

The two dog lovers named it Jake and worked to rehabilitate it. It became part of the family and often would sleep on the couple's bed. But on Thursday afternoon, something went terribly wrong when Jake suddenly attacked Thiel in her Lakewood Estates yard.

A St. Petersburg Times story has reignited a longstanding debate over the danger of pit bulls. The story ranks as the one of the most popular on this morning and is the most discussed, with more than 200 comments posted so far.

Many readers are saying pit bulls are too dangerous and should be banned. One reader, Scott from Palm Harbor, referred to pit bulls as a "dangerous breed, like playing with a loaded gun."

The breed's defenders have joined the discussion, too. "I can almost bet the owner was responsible for not training this dog properly," wrote Tim from Tampa.

I contacted Art Fyvolent of Tampa, a pit bull owner and founder of PitPositive, a local organization that aims to change the image of pit bulls.

"I don't think we know the whole story," Fyvolent said. "Rarely do dogs attack without provocation --  I'd like to know exactly what happened in that backyard. That truth will never be known, but it would be something to find out what set the dog off.

"Stray dogs taken in by people can have terrible histories, and it's important that you take care and have some training in how to handle big dogs. I'll also bet $100 the dog was not fixed. How many times must we tell people that getting their dog fixed is healthier and safer for the humans and the animals."

Share your thoughts: Do you blame the breed or think pit bull owners need to take responsibility for their dog's actions?

[Last modified: Monday, May 24, 2010 3:57pm]


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