By Danza Johnson, NEMS Daily Journal
Clint Mauney is a Lee County animal control officer. In his brief time on the job the 36-year-old has dealt with pit bulls. Daily Journal reporter Danza Johnson asked him questions about pit bulls and aggressive dogs after a man died in Pontotoc County on Wednesday after being attacked by pit bulls.
Q: As an animal control officer you often are called out to deal with dogs that are aggressive. Have you ever dealt with this breed of dog or heard any horror stories from any of your colleagues about pit bulls?
A: The Sheriff's Office has had numerous calls concerning pit bulls and other breeds. We have dealt with dog calls involving aggressive Dachshunds, Great Danes, and every type of breed in between, including pit bulls. There have been some pretty gruesome injuries caused by pit-type bulldogs in our county; however, I would have to say that a greater number of animal-attack injuries reported in Lee County have been caused by dogs other than pit bull and pit mixes, in my experience.
Q: You see a lot of dogs of all breeds, shapes and sizes. In your opinion, what makes this breed such a danger to people?
A: Pit bulldogs and pit mixes in particular can pose a threat because of their extremely powerful jaws and their unpredictability. They are very strong, tenacious dogs that do not give up easily under pressure. The nature of a pit bull attack tends to be very destructive very quickly. I recall a fairly recent case where a young lady was at a good friend's house, was petting the friend's pit bull with which she was familiar, and for no apparent reason the dog lunged at her face a few moments later. She had been around the dog several times before and had never had any problem with it until then. They can be unpredictable, even if you are around them regularly. However, in my experience, our department has handled more calls of pit-type bulldogs showing aggression toward other animals rather than toward people.
Q: Do you feel that pit bulls get a bad reputation?
A: Pit bulls do have a bad reputation. Have they earned it? Yes and no. Some of the sweetest, funniest, most well-behaved dogs I have ever been around were pit bulls. Some of the meanest, most terrifying dogs I have ever been around were pit bulls. In my opinion, it is not wise to categorize all of one breed as dangerous or vicious. There are always exceptions. The demeanor of an animal is developed by a complex mixture of nature and nurture. If you own a dog, it is imperative that you know how to properly raise, train and handle the dog.
Also, some dogs are lumped into the pit bull category that are not technically pit bulls. I have dealt with purebred pit bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers, and all sorts of mixes among them and other breeds. Some dogs I have encountered that were supposed to be "pit bulls" were not even close, but were assumed to be pit bulls because of cropped ears, or some other feature common to the breed. This type of "mistaken identity" has helped contribute to their bad reputation.