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Breed Of Dog In Wilton Attack Stirs Up Controversy

The American Staffordshire Terrier is one breed of dog considered by many as pit bulls. Photo Credit: Contributed
The American Pitbull Terrier (pictured) shares a lot of the same features of the American Staffordshire Terrier. The term pit bull is used to refer to both breeds. Photo Credit: Contributed

WILTON, Conn. — A debate has begun over the breed of dog in last week’s attack on a 65-year-old Wilton after Wilton Police Capt. John Lynch told the Board of Selectmen on Monday night that the dog was technically not a pit bull.

But Lt. Donald Wakeman on Tuesday clarified that statement. The dog, according to the veterinarian that treated it, was an American Staffordshire Terrier— one of several breeds commonly referred to as pit bulls, Wakeman said.

Westport dog expert Michele Wan said depending on who you speak to, the term “pit bull” can be used to refer to one breed — the American Pit Bull Terrier —multiple breeds or mixes of those breeds.

“Colloquially, when many people use the term ‘pit bull,’ they are thinking of dogs that look a certain way — stocky, muscular body, broad head — which could include the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Bulldog, and/or mixes of these breeds,” Wan, a certified applied animal behaviorist,  said in an email to The Daily Voice.

“Part of the problem is that visual breed identification can be unreliable. How do we know whether we are talking about an American Pit Bull Terrier, an American Staffordshire Terrier, some other breed, a mix, or none of the above?” Wan said. “Even professionals can make mistakes when identifying breeds using visual identification alone.”

Like Wan, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals — commonly known as the ASPCA—  says the term pit bull doesn’t describe a single breed of dog. Rather, the term can refer to two or five breeds, as well as all mixes of these breeds.

“The most narrow and perhaps most accurate definition of the term ‘pit bull’ refers to just two breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) and the American Staffordshire Terrier (AmStaff),” the ASPCA says on its website.

The dog in the attack Nov. 11 seriously injured Range Road resident Anne Murray, who lost one arm and part of the other. As of Tuesday, Wakeman said police have not been able to interview Murray, so it is unknown what caused the dog to attack.

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