It's hard to read things like that, because they aren't wrong. This is Time Magazine here; they're able to present a compelling argument and back it up with sources. It's what they're for. But they aren't right, either, and I feel leaning on PETA for citation weakens their case. "Even PETA, the largest animal-rights organization in the world, supports breed-specific sterilization for pit bulls" says Time magazine. Well, PETA thinks it would be best if this convention of keeping pets never existed. We all probably know by now about PETA's high euthanization rate of animals surrendered into their care (that one's from Time, here's one from The Washington Post).
The problem with pit bulls? Not every dog recognized, owned, and reported as a pit bull is one. I'm not trying to be semantic between American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers; I mean there are a number of other powerful, square headed breeds which might be recognized and mislabeled as such, from Presa Canarios, to Cane Corso, to Boxers, to American Bulldogs. And then there's the mixes, and mixed breeds cannot be reliably held to any breed specific behavioral rubrick.
The CDC page on Dog Bites links to a paper done by the American Veterinary Medical Association, "A Community Approach on Dog Bites". It's interesting to note that article says "singling out one or two breeds for control can result in a false sense of accomplishment." It also says, no the very first page:
Dog bite statistics are not really statistics, and they
do not give an accurate picture of dogs that bite. Invariably the numbers will show that dogs from popular
large breeds are a problem. This should be expected,
because big dogs can physically do more damage if
they do bite, and any popular breed has more individuals
that could bite. Dogs from small breeds also bite
and are capable of causing severe injury. There are several
reasons why it is not possible to calculate a bite
rate for a breed or to compare rates between breeds.
First, the breed of the biting dog may not be accurately
recorded, and mixed-breed dogs are commonly
described as if they were purebreds. Second, the actual
number of bites that occur in a community is not
known, especially if they did not result in serious
injury. Third, the number of dogs of a particular breed
or combination of breeds in a community is not
known, because it is rare for all dogs in a community
to be licensed, and existing licensing data is then
incomplete.7 Breed data likely vary between communities,
states, or regions, and can even vary between
neighborhoods within a community.
The ASPCA website has a nice "The Truth About Pit Bulls" article I recommend. It discusses the importance of training and socialization, though it does seem to keep everything relentlessly cheerful.
So, is the problem really Pit Bulls? Is the problem people who breed them casually, with no eye towards temperament or health, because they have two dogs to throw together? Is the problem the type of people who want pit bulls to have that reputation?
Many of the "pit bull people" are unable to acknowledge, at all, that some of these dogs can be dangerous. And many of the "anti pit bull people" are unable to acknowledge, at all, that some of these dogs are as safe as any other dog.
And that's the thing. We want dogs to be safe. We have a certain level of expectation regarding these animals we've welcomed into our lives and homes. There are so many factors, breed included, that go into an individual dog's makeup that decide whether that individual dog is "safe" or not, and some of these factors change over time. There are also many factors which go into why a dog might bite.
A dog might bite due to pain, injury, or health changes (thyroid having gone off, for an example). A dog might bite due to perceived threat to his or her own personal safety.
Then there is the bite with intent, where the dog sees a "target" and proceeds to that target. There is the redirected bite, when the dog was already biting or focused on another dog, say. There are the bites we will never know the cause of, because a very small child was left with a dog and the results were damaging if not fatal.
I think education is perhaps THE primary thing to prevent dog bites, because nearly every other opinion I have on this predicates upon people knowing things. Knowing about temperament, about spaying and neutering, knowing about socialization and training and appropriate housing. Of course, my assumptions also predicate upon peoples' intent. If somebody breeds two of their fighting dogs together and then sell the puppies they don't want to keep on Craigslist...well, those puppies, from their origin, theoretically have a higher potential to be "less safe" than somebody who bred two of their non-fighting pets together, or bred two titled and health tested champions together.
Stop breeding dogs when your only criteria is having a male and a female. Spay and neuter if you are unwilling or unable to handle an intact animal.
Stop fighting dogs (though I doubt regular dog blog readers are doing this. I had to include it on principle).
Socialize your dog.
Train your dog.
Love your dog.