“pit bull locking jaw” controversy that advocates frequently refute. Due to artificial selection for the purposes of dogfighting, pit bulls developed a killer bite. Unlike other dog breeds, pit bulls “hold and shake” their victims. Unless a crow bar or break stick is used to pry open a pit bull’s jaws, shooting the dog may be the only way to get the animal to release. Though the pit bull’s jaws may not “structurally” lock, they do not release naturally either.
Zupf references the Baltimore Sun pit bull street fighting video (See: Pit Bull Fight), which depicts pit bulls “locked on” to each other in a curbside fight. On the DogsBite.org Attack Video page (See: Attacks on Animals), we show examples of this bite behavior as well. The combination of a pit bull’s powerful jaws, the “hold and shake” bite style — designed to inflict maximum damage — and the pit bull’s unmatched tenacity is partly why cities, counties and entire countries regulate these dogs.
Myth #7: Pit bulls do not have a locking jaw
Pro-pit bull groups continuously attempt to debunk the pit bull “locking jaw” expression that is often used by the media and the public. A pit bull’s jaw may not physically lock, but due to selective breeding for a specific bite style — to hold on and to shake indefinitely — we consistently hear in news reports that the dog “would not let go.” DogsBite.org has recorded numerous tools used to try to get a pit bull to release its grip including: shotguns, hammers, baseball bats and pipes.
Learn more in our Pit Bull FAQ: Why do people say that pit bulls “don’t let go?”
Through selective breeding, pit bulls have developed enormous jaw strength, as well as a ruinous “hold and shake” bite style, designed to inflict the maximum damage possible on their victims. This bite trait delivered winning results in the fighting pit. When the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the Denver pit bull ban in 2005, the high court set aside characteristics that pit bulls displayed when they attack that differ from all other dog breeds. One of these characteristics was their lethal bite:
“[pit bulls] inflict more serious wounds than other breeds. They tend to attack the deep muscles, to hold on, to shake, and to cause ripping of tissues. Pit bull attacks were compared to shark attacks.”11
Leading pit bull education websites, such as Pit Bull Rescue Central, encourage pit bull owners to be responsible and to always carry a “break stick” — a tool used to pry open a pit bull’s jaws — in case their dog “accidentally” gets into a fight. These same websites also warn that using a break stick on any other dog breed may cause serious injury to the person.12 This is true because no other dog breed possesses the pit bull’s tenacity combined with a “hold and shake” bite style.
One of the most powerful examples of a pit bull “not letting go” occurred in an Ohio courtroom. During the Toledo v. Tellings trial (Tellings was convicted of violating the City of Toledo’s pit bull ordinance), Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon showed a videotape of a tranquilized pit bull hanging from a steel cable. The dog is essentially unconscious and still does not release its grip. At the time of the taping, the pit bull was being housed at the Lucas County Animal Shelter.1
How about court citations claiming pitbulls have different jaws and are violent ?
Toledo v. Tellings trial
The trial court cited the substantial evidence supporting its conclusion that pit bulls, compared to other breeds, cause a disproportionate amount of danger to people. The chief dog warden of Lucas County testified that: (1) when pit bulls attack, they are more likely to inflict severe damage to their victim than other breeds of dogs; (2) pit bulls have killed more Ohioans than any other breed of dog; (3) Toledo police officers fire their weapons in the line of duty at pit bulls more often than they fire weapons at people and all other breeds of dogs combined; (4) pit bulls are frequently shot during drug raids because pit bulls are encountered more frequently in drug raids than any other dog breed. The trial court also found that pit bulls are “found largely in urban settings where there are crowded living conditions and a large number of children present,” which increases the risk of injury caused by pit bulls. The evidence presented in the trial court supports the conclusion that pit bulls pose a serious danger to the safety of citizens.