Dangerous or misunderstood? Local governments in Georgia restrict pit bulls

File photo

File photo

More than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For some families, these bites turn into attacks with devastating consequences.

Tragedy struck a  community when a boy was killed and a girl was injured early Tuesday in a dog attack on the way to school, according to Atlanta police. One of the dogs involved in the attack was a pit bull mix and the other was a border collie, according to Fulton County Animal Control.

More than two dozen people have been involved in fatal incidents with pit bulls in Georgia since 1980, according to DogsBite.org, a group that tracks serious dog attacks across the country.

Between 1982 and 2014, pit bulls were responsible for 68 percent of dog attacks and 52 percent of dog-related deaths.

Pit bulls are often represented as "dangerous" because they are often bred and trained to be fighting dogs. Authorities arrested a Georgia man in 2016 suspected of mistreating and training dog - mostly pit bulls, for dogfighting, according to reports by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But is the reputation deserved? The American Kennel Club, which classifies pit bulls as American Staffordshire Terriers, describes the breed as "people-oriented" and "intelligent and excellent guardians."

In 2015, the Georgia General Assembly considered preventing local authorities from banning pit bulls, but eventually backed away from that effort. A law passed in 2016 permits local governments to continue writing own measures to deal with "vicious dogs, abandoned dogs, or stray dogs."

Senate Bill 184 was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal and went into effect July 1, 2016.

Pit bull ordinances in metro Atlanta

Cobb County: The city of Marietta prohibits pit bulls and Rottweilers from dog parks or off-leash areas.

Gwinnett County: The city of Lawrenceville has restrictions against pit bulls and ordinances against "vicious dogs."

Fulton County: The city of East Point declares pit bulls, rottweilers, doberman pinschers and German shepherds as "potentially dangerous."

Explore DogsBite.org’s interactive map below for more local ordinances and media reports of pit bull attacks in Georgia:

This story has been updated.