MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Pit bull is a term used in the U.S. for a type of dog descended from bulldogs and terriers, but if some people had their way, the breed would no longer be allowed to exist.

The deaths of two children in a pit bull attack this week have renewed the debate over whether the breed is inherently violent.

Wednesday afternoon, a baby and toddler were killed, and their mother was seriously injured when their pet pit bulls turned on them inside their Shelby County home.

Emergency personnel respond to pit bull attack near Millington

One local man told WREG he recently stopped breeding pit bulls over safety concerns for his own children, and lots of people have been sounding off on Facebook for and against the dogs.

“Any dog can be made vicious, from a teacup poodle to a Saint Bernard. It’s not the breed; it‘s how they are trained,” said Wanda Bates.

“Tell me about a time a chihuahua killed two young children. A bite that kills a child far outweighs the nip of a 4lb dog. But no dog is worth more than my children, so any dog that shows aggression toward kids doesn’t get to live in my house. So tired of these dogs being compared to tiny breeds. It’s not the same. One has the reputation of the most fatal bites, for crying out loud,” said Rebecca Thom. 

Memphis Animal Services employees also weighed in after seeing what they described as inflammatory language on social media about pit bulls.

“At Memphis Animal Services, we stopped using breed labels for both dogs and cats in 2016 because science tells us that visual identification of breed is highly unreliable. Dogs are individuals, and we believe they should be evaluated and treated as such. Genetics are important, but breed is a small part of genetics, and breed does not determine behavior. A recent study that sequenced the DNA of more than 2000 purebred and mixed-breed dogs found that “dog breed is generally a poor predictor of individual behavior and should not be used to inform decisions relating to the selection of a pet dog,” said Marketing & Communications Supervisor Katie Pemberton.”

The mother of the children killed has not been officially identified, but a relative is calling her a hero because she never gave up trying to save their lives.

She is in the hospital being treated for bite wounds all over her body but is expected to recover.

A family friend has set up a GoFundMe page to help the woman and her husband deal with tragedy. Family members say this is the only legitimate GoFundMe for the family.

Family members say arrangements are still being made for the children.