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Richmond SPCA

Robins-Starr
Humane Center

2519 Hermitage Road
Richmond, VA 23220
804-521-1300

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Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Admissions Hours
Mon. - Fri. by appointment.

Administrative Hours
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CEO Purrspective

February 2007

Dear Fellow Animal Lover:

Recently, I wrote an editorial that was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the preponderance of serious attacks on humans by pit bulls and rottweilers. The catalyst for the piece was the recent killing of a small boy in Henrico County by two rottweilers.

The statistics are staggering. From September 1, 1982 until January 1, 2007, there were 2,227 reported attacks causing human bodily harm by dogs kept as family pets (guard dogs, police dogs and dogs trained to fight were excluded). Of these reported attacks, 267 resulted in death and 1,329 resulted in maiming (i.e., loss of a limb or other permanent disfigurement).* Pitbulls, bull mastiffs and rottweilers were responsible for 73% of the total attacks, 66% of the deaths and 72% of the maimings. Children and elderly persons were the victims in almost all of the deaths and maimings.

As I made clear in the editorial, I firmly believe that there are many pit bulls and rottweilers that are gentle dogs and good family pets. A member of my own family has a wonderful pit bull. But there is no question that a disproportionate number of the serious attacks on humans are caused by those breeds and that we know why that is true. It arises from the large numbers of them that are intentionally bred and/ or trained to achieve aggressive behavior. In addition, the failure of most owners of these dogs to have them spayed or neutered and the common practice of chaining them outside greatly contributes to the likelihood of aggressive behavior. What has been done and continues to be done to many dogs of these breeds by humans is inexcusable and it is now causing serious injury to innocent people as well.

It has taken courage to speak out on this issue. There exists something of a code of silence in the humane field with respect to the issues surrounding pit bulls and rottweilers. While many people recognize that many members of these breeds present real dangers to people, they are fearful to speak about the topic because of the hostile reaction of certain members of the humane community. The time to have the courage to speak up has come.

We must confront honestly the immense damage being done to both innocent people and animals by the activities of irresponsible people related to these breeds and take action to reverse it. The dogs of these breeds that are not dangerous should not suffer for the ones that are but they will do so if we refuse to recognize reality and take action to reduce the risks presented to human safety. Some cities in the United State have already enacted bans specific to these breeds and insurance companies have begun to refuse homeowner’s coverage to insureds with these dogs for pets. Both actions are inhumane and over broad.

What we can do is press our local city and county councils and state legislature to prohibit the chaining of dogs, require that these breeds be spayed or neutered, limit the acquisition of these dogs to pounds and shelters and prohibit them from being transported in from other locales. These steps will make life better for the dogs and will also reduce the risks of human injury. I am not going to be intimidated from speaking out for these measures and I hope that, for the well being of both animals and people, you will do so too.

Sincerely, 



Robin Robertson Starr
CEO