NORTHRIDGE, CA — In many countries, especially in America, a culture war is being fought over the myriad canines that are considered to be pit bulls. After tragic events like attacks upon children and the now-infamous fighting rings, the animals have gotten a pretty bad name in the press and advocates have long fought to change public perceptions. The most difficult hurdle has been the argument that the breed is violent by nature, and that opinion has often been criticized by owners and allies alike: Don't blame the breed, blame the owners. Proponents of legislation specifically aimed at the breed, however, received some backing on Wednesday as researches at California State University Northridge released a study after having located a gene that looks to cause aggression in pit bulls.
Dubbed the "violence" gene, researchers were able to locate it by collecting DNA samples at the dogs' births and analyzing it for the gene variant. Owners of over 1,500 dogs submitted their pets for the five year test and were required to keep track of its aggressiveness in all kinds of situations. Regardless of training and environment, the animals with the variant of the gene were recorded as having violent outbursts – some even resulting in actual attacks. There were a total of 714 pit bulls submitted to the program and all of them were included in the 722 total instances of the strain.
Charles Snowdon, director of the program's research, said: "Our results would indicate that, unfortunately, this incredibly popular animal is genetically coded to be violent."
He added: "It is still important to look at ownership carefully because dogs who exhibit these aggressive behaviors can still be managed."
Conservative talk radio host, Rush Limbaugh, long known for his support of banning the dogs, praised the research. "If it wasn't apparent to the public that these are dangerous animals requiring strict laws, this research proves it." He pointed, also, to information from the city of Boston, which saw 661 dog bites in the last two years – of which 150 were by pit bulls. "When a fourth of the bites come from these dogs, that's a clear indicator."
The ASPCA's science advisor, Dr. Steven Zawistowski, responded to the study: "California State University Northridge is well known for its research on animal behavior. However, if you believe the results of this study I would suggest you probably aren't paying attention."