ROCK HILL — No one knows for sure why Dallas, a 2-year-old pit bull, mauled an 11-year-old Rock Hill boy last week.
But what many agree is that dogs tend to become aggressive in an effort to defend themselves when a tight rope and short leash is all they know.
Hours after it tore off pieces of Kenny Allens scalp, Dallas was taken Animal Control and euthanized. The body was shipped to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control for rabies testing.
Kenny, who returned home Friday from Carolinas Medical Center, faces reconstructive skin grafting to repair his scalp.
Since the attack, Dallas owner, Anthony AJ Smith, has been defending his decision to attach a collar and cable around his dogs neck. The dog broke free of the cable and attacked Allen.
My dog was not a tethered dog 24/7, he said.
Smith said he never left Dallas outside overnight. The dog barked and howled anytime it was out longer than 8 p.m., Smith said.
I raise my dogs with love, Smith said. Dallas had a conscience.
Dallas born in Smiths laundry room wasnt a fighting dog, he said.
The dog was neutered and was current on its vaccinations, Smith said. Dallas wasnt a mutt and didnt come from inbreeding, Smith said.
Registration papers certified by the United States Kennel Club show that Dallas was a purple ribbon American Bull Terrier. With a purple ribbon classification, he was bred to be a show dog, not a brawler, Smith said.
At the same time, Smith said, Kenny should have never got bit. Dallas sealed his fate when he bit that boy.
There isnt a way to determine if Dallas time being tethered made him more aggressive and more likely to attack, said Steven Stuber, York County Animal Control director.
We cant pin down that the reason the dog did what it did was because it was tethered, Stuber said.
Stuber also said that pit bulls arent inherently aggressive animals.
We wouldnt offer up for adoption dogs we thought were dangerous, Stuber said.
Quality time, Stuber said, can change any pets behavior.
Theyre social animals and they love people, he said. They can be trained one way or the other way, like people.
The word pit bull, Stuber said, is often misused and overused. Pit bulls are a combination of many dog breeds, including American pit bull terriers, American bulldogs, Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers.
Pit bull, he said, is a nickname.
For Matt Burgess, owner of an 18-month-old pit bull, the word pit bull means protection, not aggression.
Walking his white-in-color blue bred pit bull on the front lawn of his apartment, Burgess said: She would never hurt a fly.
Nina, he said, has never been aggressive.
To prove his point, Burgess told Nina to give him five. Without hesitation, Nina placed her paws in Burgess hands twice.
Everybody gives them (pit bulls) a bad name, Burgess said.
Burgess agreed that human interaction makes a difference.
People dont let other people pet their own dogs.
Burgess said having Nina in the house when hes not is an added bonus.
Her bark, he said, is more intimidating than a Chihuahuas.
Unlike some dogs, Nina is free to roam inside Burgess home.
Owners who intentionally neglect or fail to socialize their canine risk damaging it emotionally and mentally, said Burt Platt, a veterinarian with Catawba Animal Clinic.
The basic cause of any aggression is isolation.
Dogs are specifically made to be social animals, he said.
The problem with tethering is the same problem as a dog being in a cramped dog pen with little stimulation, Platt said.
The results in both situations are the same: The dog is unfamiliar with human interaction that when any person crosses its path, it attacks.
Many owners, Platt said, who chain their dogs to trees or lock them behind fences dont take time to develop a relationship with their pet.
A lack of socialization, coupled with inadvertent neglect, will result in an angry or aggravated dog, Platt said.
Dogs have personalities on the spectrum, just like people and suffer from separation anxiety, he said.
Among dog breeds, pit bulls have a poor reputation because people use them for fighting and their intimidating, tough appearance, Platt said. Yet, more people are bitten by cocker spaniels than pit bulls, he said.
Unfortunately, (pit bulls) are the dogs without unintimidating social experiences, he said The bottom is line is relationship; that is the most important thing.
With their powerful bodies and strong jaw muscles, pit bulls can cause severe damage when they bite, Platt said.
Kristin Blank, owner of Old Dogs-New Dogs in Fort Mill, said pit bulls arent genetically programmed to be violent.
What makes pit bulls dangerous, she said, is their jaw power and the strength of that jaw.
When they do bite, the damage theyre going to do is going to be much more extensive than a dachshund, she said. A dachshund has a much higher bite rate than many other breeds.
According to a 2008 study published by the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, the dogs most likely to bite are Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Australian Cattle Dogs, American Cocker Spaniels and Jack Russell Terriers.
When it comes to tethering, breed hardly matters, said Blank.
Chaining a dog up is a recipe for disaster when and if it finally gets access to something else, Blank said. The dog gets no...real understanding of how to relate to its world. They get inept at how to interact.
Similar to humans, dogs respond to danger with fight or flight, she said.
Dogs restricted by chains, cables and ropes dont have the privilege of flight, she said. So its going to fight.