Pit bulls account for nearly half of dog bites in Woonsocket

Pit bulls account for nearly half of dog bites in Woonsocket

WOONSOCKET – Pit bulls far outpace all other dog breeds when it comes to dog bites, accounting for nearly half of all reported incidents in Woonsocket since 2014.

According to data obtained from the Woonsocket Police Department through a Freedom of Information Act request, 171 dogs have been involved in reported dog bite incidents in the city since 2014. Of these, 72, or 42 percent, were pit bulls or pit bull-type breeds.

Other breeds involved in multiple dog bite incidents in that time included shih tzus (six), chihuahuas (six), German shepherds (five), Labrador retrievers (five), poodles (three), Rottweilers (three), boxers (three), huskies (two) and bulldogs (two).

The data shows the number of dogs involved in reported bite incidents has fluctuated over the past five years, peaking at 44 dogs in 2014 compared with 18 dogs in 2017. As of Sept. 9, 24 dogs had been involved in bite incidents this year, including eight pit bulls.

The incidents included bites of both people and other animals, including one cat and several dogs. Since 2014, there have been four reports of dogs biting police officers in the city. Four incidents involved mail carriers, while one involved a delivery driver and two involved state constables serving paperwork.

According to Deputy Chief Michael Lemoine, Woonsocket police officers do not receive specific training in dealing with vicious dogs, but do have equipment such as a snare pole available to them. In the case a vicious dog is discovered at a site, he side, the normal course of action is to alert the animal control officer and call them to the scene.

However, due to a particularly high-profile dog bite incident that took place over the summer, the city does not currently have an animal control staff. In July, Assistant Animal Control Officer Tiffany Marie Forrest was attacked by a pit bull while transporting the animal from a home in Woonsocket to a veterinary hospital in East Greenwich. At the time, she was the only animal control officer working for the city after the retirement of former ACO Doris Kay earlier this year.

The bite was severe enough that Forrest was transported to Rhode Island Hospital and remains out on leave, according to Lemoine. In the meantime, the city is utilizing the services of Kevin Sullivan, the animal control officer for Blackstone, on an as-needed basis. The Animal Control Shelter, overseen by the city and the Woonsocket Police Department, is operating on a limited basis.

“We are still functioning, but just more on a very limited basis of what we need to do instead of being a full service-type animal shelter that we were before,” he said.

Over the years, various municipalities have explored banning pit bulls. In 2004, Pawtucket enacted a ban on pit bulls in an effort to limit the number of dog attacks in the city. Around 2008, under a previous administration, said Lemoine, there was some discussion in Woonsocket over whether the city should enact a similar ban.

“Back then, we were also in communication with the animal control officer who oversaw Pawtucket’s animal control,” he said. “They had a brand new facility, quite large, and we were exploring regionalizing back then with Pawtucket.”

However, in 2013, the General Assembly passed a law banning breed-specific legislation. The following year, a Superior Court judge overturned Pawtucket’s ban, ruling it was not allowed under state law. Since then, said Lemoine, talk of banning pit bulls has mostly dried up.

Current city ordinance requires dog owners to license their pets, but Lemoine acknowledged the law is difficult to enforce. In most cases, he said, the city rarely comes in contact with an animal unless the dog goes missing or is involved in a reported incident. In some cases, he said, the animal control officer might check for dog tags in city parks, but it’s more likely an unlicensed animal would go unnoticed.

“Overall, generally, we wouldn’t know that unless a specific incident happened,” he said. “If we never had a reason to go to that property, then we may never know that an unlicensed dog was at that property.”

Lemoine emphasized the importance of owners licensing their dogs so that the city can contact them if a dog ever goes missing and turns up atanimal control. Dog licenses cost $5 annually and are available in the City Clerk’s office. All licensed dogs must have a current rabies vaccination.

Forrest, he said, is expected to return to the job in the near future. The city is currently exploring whether it will hire a second, full-time ACO to replace Kay or alter the position.


It's the law to have ALL cats and dogs current/vaccinated against rabies.....not just the licensed ones. Owners need to do their job in doing so. If you love your pets, you make sure of that.

Being a former owner of a female Pitt, I find this article as BIAS to this breed. What facts about each Bite are just grouped into one fact, How many of these bites are the fault of the owner? But the article just reports on the number of bites, if the bite was due to the owner not being responsible then that should not be counted as a bite! Stop blaming the breed, and focus on the irresponsible owner!

Just facts. And the fact is that pit bulls are responsible for far more bites than any other breed, town to town, state to state, all over the country. If the bite was due to the owner not being responsible that should not be counted as a bite? Absurd.

I have a chihuahua mix little guy. WHen the grandchildren coming running up to him too quickly he gets spooked and defends with an aggressive assault on their face. The outcome, a tiny bruise, a crying child, and a lesson learned. If I owned a pitbull, despite proper training, a surprise to the dog leading to an aggressive bite to the face will render half the face gone, significant reconstructive surgery, or maybe, death. Therein lies the difference.

Mr. Shorey, your in tiled to your opinion, but my opinion is the media over emphizes pitt attacks and bites like they are monsters. If a pitt is loose and bites someone, is it the fault
of the dog or the owner? How many media stories to you hear about other breeds causing a bite or an attack, none! but let a pitt get into a altercation its all over the news and tv, like any dog when it is protective, or startled it will bite,
so my opinion is STOP BLAMMING THE BREED. This report does not state how many dogs are not licensed or vaccinated, so they can not be a honest amount of dogs in the city,

bites someone then you can blame the owner.

Sunnyvale rules
don't understand what your trying to say! Other then yes the owner is responsible for all breeds, to insure their dog doesn't bite anyone. if the dog bits then yes its the owner responsibility. watch Judge Judy, she agrees with this too!

is irrelevant in this is my point. What matters is the breed of dog that bites more often than others, the "My Pitbull is a big baby" argument is getting tired. You may not like it but as the old colloquialism goes. "Them the facts".

Sorry but not only do they account for over half while EVERY OTHER BREED less than half ; the severity is ten fold. Owners should have to take a class on how to care for these dogs. I have 7 on MY BLOCK my neighbor lets his 4 year old walk theirs. My little dog got attacked today by another not on a leash. It shouldn’t be so easy to get them especially when it’s the worst owners getting them.