LOS ANGELES — The majority of American pet owners believe a well-trained dog is safe — even if it comes from one of the "bully breeds." • Some dog breeds, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers, are considered truly dangerous by 28 percent of American pet owners, but an Associated Press-Petside.com poll found that 71 percent said any breed can be safe if the dogs are well trained.
"It's not the dog. It's the owner that's the problem," said Michael Hansen, a 59-year-old goldsmith from Port Orchard, Wash. "The dog will do whatever it can to please the owner, right down to killing another animal for you."
"If they are brought up in a loving household, they can flourish just like any other dog," agreed Nancy Lyman, 56, of Warwick, Mass.
Sixty percent of pet owners feel that all dog breeds should be allowed in residential communities, while 38 percent believe some breeds should be banned, according to the poll conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications.
Denver and Miami-Dade County have pit bull bans that go back decades. The Army and Marine Corps have put base housing off limits to the dogs.
Of the pet owners in the poll who support breed bans, 85 percent would bar pit bulls. Other breeds considered too dangerous were Rottweilers, Dobermans, German shepherds and chow chows. Seven percent said any violent, vicious or fighting dog should be banned, and 2 percent said all large dogs should be outlawed.
Asked specifically about pit bulls, 53 percent of those polled said they were safe for residential neighborhoods, but 43 percent said they were too dangerous.
Age played a major role in the pit bull questions — 76 percent of those under age 30 said pit bulls were safe, compared with just 37 percent of seniors.
Janice Dudley, 81, of Culver City, Calif., was taking out her garbage when she was charged by a pit bull whose owner had been walking him in her neighborhood for years.
"He came within a few inches of my leg. It was shocking. There was nothing I could do. The owner controlled the dog and they went on their way but it was really very frightening," she said.
She goes to great lengths to avoid the man and dog now, she said.
Dudley would stop short of imposing a widespread breed ban, but she believes pit bulls are too dangerous. "I think it is in their nature to be more vicious than other dogs," she said.
She blames breeders for the dangerous behavior of the animals and believes the dogs are genetically at risk. "People I know who have had them maintain they are the sweetest things in the world. I don't believe it," she said.
Older pet owners were more apt to support a breed ban than younger ones — 56 percent of seniors believe some dogs should be outlawed compared with just 22 percent of those under age 30.