BARNEGAT, NJ – Local residents expressed their sympathies concerning the weekend fatal attack of a treasured pup by two wayward dogs. Police identified the killer animals as pit bulls. Meanwhile, some pet owners objected to the characterization.

“Pit bull is not even an actual breed,” shared Amber Noel in a social media post. “It’s a term used to describe multiple breeds.”

Noel’s comments aren’t actually off base. However, even some local shelters label unknown mixed breeds as pit bulls. Other dogs often classified as pit bulls are the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, American Bully, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

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While it’s true that pit bulls have a bad reputation with many, New Jersey state law doesn’t single them out as unlawful. For that matter, the state statutes don’t exclude any breeds by name. However, owners should know that they can be held liable if any kind of dog bites a person. The penalties hold the same for small breeds and large ones.

The viciousness of the dog proves irrelevant when it comes to making a claim against the dog owner. It also is of no consequence if the owner was aware of the vicious nature of their pet.

Tracy Sutton of Barnegat is a local Animal Rights Advocate and owns a couple of dogs. “I have a pitty and a pitty mix,” says Sutton. “Most loving dogs ever. They get such a bad rap. It’s nauseating, all because of some humans.”

According to a position paper presented by the ASPCA, today’s pit bulls descend from dogs “bred to bite and hold bulls, bears and other large animals around the face and head.” While that behavior was outlawed centuries ago, some continue to breed pit bulls to fight for sport.

Sutton explained why that works for some pit bull type dogs. “They have a desire to please their owners,” said the Animal Rights Advocate. “That’s one of the reasons that dog fighters use pit bulls. They know that the dogs want to make them happy.”

A couple of years ago, a national veterinary professional journal considered the dangerous dog debate.  It disputed one organization’s suggestion that 65 percent of canines that killed Americans over a specified time period were pit bulls.

The research somewhat confirms assertions made by those who defend the nature of their own pit bull type animals. Even the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stopped collecting breed data related to dog-attack fatalities. Too often, breeds were improperly identified.

In the meantime, the murderous attackers of a Barnegat woman’s loving pet have not been apprehended. Like they do with human suspects, police rely on descriptive information provided by witnesses.

“My heart breaks for the woman who lost her dog,” said Sutton. “I can’t even imagine what she’s going through.”

Whether the dogs in question are pit bull types or not remains to be seen. However, the devastated dog owner identified them as such. She warned that the pair are “capable of killing larger dogs or even a small child.”

Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at