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Pit bull expert discusses breed's history, traits
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Once, Paul Miller could unclip a pit bull he wasn't familiar with from its chain without fear. Today, that's no longer the case, he said.
Miller, the executive director of the Humane Society in Hagerstown, Md., and an expert on pit bulls, gave a public lecture Saturday at University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine on the history of the breed.
He said in the past almost all pit bulls were bred to fight other dogs and never harm humans.
Trait dilution in the breed since the 1980s has changed things.
One pit bull might be happy in the company of other pets, he said. But another might attack humans with the same fight-to-kill mindset traditionally reserved for other dogs.
"With the unknown breed history in a lot of them, you have to be aware of the factors in their environment," Miller said. He later added, "How far they are from fighting, we don't know."
Miller's talk to about 30 people, including many pit bull owners, was the third about the topic he has given in the past few days in Knoxville. He has also spoken to law enforcement officers and shelter workers.
Pit bulls have gained notoriety for fatally attacking humans in recent decades, including a 21-year-old woman in Knox County in November.
Several pit bull owners spoke about the good qualities they see in their dogs, like eagerness to please.
Joyce Montgomery, who owns one herself, said before she attended the event she was unaware of how much pit bulls had been bred for fighting.
"I thought it was more training, but there is genetics," Montgomery said, adding that although her pit bull is sweet to people and pets at her house, she probably wouldn't take him to a dog park.
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