Tina Pounds used to believe that a dog will only attack if it has been abused or trained to fight. That changed on September 9, 2016.
The day started off innocently enough. Pounds, then 60, had plans to take her 5-year-old grandson Briar to her landlady’s home to eat pizza.
“As we walked over from my place, her pit bull attacked my grandson, knocking him down,” Pounds told Oxygen.com. She grabbed the dog around his body to tear him away from Briar. “Beyond that, I just knew I had to fight to hold onto the dog as he exploded even more violently. He had selected his prey that night and it wasn't me. He kept trying to get back to Briar.”
During the struggle, the dog’s collar came off yet Pounds kept fighting him, trying to protect her grandson.
“The dog turned back to me again and began to try and tear my throat out. I had to put my hands in his mouth to keep him from my throat. The scar on the front of my throat is a daily reminder of how close we came to death.”
Minutes later, a rescue squad arrived and shot the dog six times before he stopped attacking. In all, the pit bull was shot eight times.
Her grandson required stitches in his ear from the attack, but Pounds’ injuries have been extensive. She has had over 13 surgeries and has more scheduled. She has suffered scarring on her face and said that she lives with daily pain. She said the dog ripped parts of her face apart and surgeons don’t know if everything can be reconstructed.
“I drool [as a result of the injuries]. My anxiety is through the roof. I learned I have lost the central vision in my right eye due to scar tissue in my retina resulting from the severe facial trauma.”
Incidents like Pounds' attack have given pit bulls a bad reputation. When you hear about a violent dog attack in the media, it's often reported that a pit bull — an umbrella term used to describe several different kinds of bull terrier breeds and mixes — is involved. There are even laws passed around the world banning these dogs in particular places. In the United States, pit bulls are specifically prohibited to some degree in parts of Colorado, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The laws are backed by several studies' findings. In 2016, family dogs inflicted 45% of all dog bite fatalities and family pit bulls accounted for 86% of these deaths, according to Dogsbite.org. And a five-year review of dog bite injuries from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that more than half (more than 51%) of attacks were from pit bulls. The study, which was published in the 2009 journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, also found that 9% of bite injuries were from Rottweilers and 6% were from pit bull-Rottweiler mixes.
While the attacks people like Pounds describe are terrifying, for every scary account there's also a photo on social media of a pit bull cuddling with a baby and there are hundreds of pro-pit bull Facebook groups.
The nonprofit National Canine Research Council said pit bulls' reputation for being stronger and more vicious than other kinds of dogs is untrue, and that there's media bias against the dogs. Oxygen spoke to Janis Bradley, the nonprofit's director of communications and publications, who said, "There is no scientific evidence at all that any breed of dog is any more likely to inflict that kind of injury than any other group of dog. Part of the reason that it doesn't exist is that there is no greater inclination to do damage to people with that specific a breed. What makes it particularly erroneous with pit bulls is that it’s not a breed at all. A pit bull is whatever the person you’re speaking to at the moment says it is. Usually, people are referring to a blocky-headed dog.”
A spokesperson for the Pit Bull Rescue Central explained to Oxygen that the term pit bull doesn't describe one specific breed, but is an umbrella term that is used to describe any of the following breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and mixes. The group said that because the term is loose, and because most people can't tell the difference between dog breeds in general, when a dog bites, someone at the scene will often say they thought it was a pit bull.
Pounds told Oxygen that the attack completely changed her perception of pit bulls. She said before the attack she believed a dog's behavior is simply related to how they are raised.
“This dog had been in my home,” she said of the dog who attacked her and her grandson. "He was not abused or raised to fight. Never. When the switch is flipped on these dogs they do not stop. The breed has been developed for hundreds of years with massive jaws to bring down their prey. They do not respond to pain or commands. They are out to kill.”
Pounds said that as a result of speaking out online, pit bull advocates and apologists have called her a liar.
The Pit Bull Rescue Center maintains that there is always a reason that a dog attacks, whether an owner understands the reason for the behavior or not. Common causes include a dog being chained up, left without human contact or isolated, trained agressively or being under fed. The center said that for the last 160 years, pit bulls in general have been systematically bred to be less agressive towards humans. However, they did add that American Pit Bull Terriers are the most popular breed used in dogfights.
After being horribly attacked by a pit bull, Lisa McEwen, 42, of Chicago, can't help but believe there's something about this kind of dog. She told Oxygen.com that on May 2, 2013 she was babysitting her cousin’s Siberian Husky, taking the dog for a walk near her home.
“Out of the corner of my eye there was a dog,” she recalled. “ I turned around and there was a huge pit bull. I didn’t panic but inside, I told myself, 'This is how I am going to die.”
She said she tried to back up slowly.
“The dog then did a half circle around us,” she said. “I would describe it as sizing us up. Then he went for the dog’s belly and started thrashing. I had her leash tightly around my hand and he began biting my hand and the dog.” That’s when her fight or flight mode kicked in. She told Oxygen she began punching and kicking the dog in the face.
“The dog had a collar on and a neighbor came out and started trying to pull the dog back by his collar and he wasn’t stopping,” she said, adding that another neighbor called 911. A few minutes later, McEwen was on the ground. She said the dog was on her back.
“An off-duty sheriff [her neighbor] came out and he tried to get the dog off and then he said, ‘don’t move, I’m gonna shoot.’ He shot the dog in the throat and it fell off my back. He saved my life. I felt I was one bite away from getting my throat torn.”
The Husky suffered tears to the stomach but it didn’t perforate the stomach’s lining so she survived. Lisa suffered bites to her hands. Her left hand was bitten and her right hand was bruised badly from punching. She said it’s taken an emotional toll on her, and that she suffers from PTSD and has trouble even walking around the block. She didn’t have insurance so all her bills went to collections and it ruined her credit for a while.
“I used to be one of those people who said it’s all about how they are raised,” McEwen said. “it’s not.”