My Head is Spinning

One of the blogs that I have been following is Play Hard, Bark Often. This site is written by Monica and Theresa and centers around their two beautiful Pit Bulls Rosie and Simon. Please check out their blog for some great articles and pictures of their dogs. I have followed Monica and Theresa through many trials and stories of discrimination against their beloved family pets. Their post from six days ago “In Response to : “Breed Specific Protection” has weighed heavy on my mind since I read it.

The article written by Theresa is a thoughtful, insightful and heartfelt piece in response to PETA’s support of banning Pit Bulls. (Here’s a link for more information on PETA’s position.) Since reading the post, I have searched and read countless articles about Pit Bulls. My goal was to write a well-balanced and well-researched piece on the breed. Instead my head is spinning with information and with the preponderance of misinformation swarming around on the internet and in the media.

I read some very scary statistics on DogBites.org that made me want to lock my doors and never venture out again. This was followed by reading several articles about the “lies” and misinformation spread by DogBites.org. (There is even a facebook page for Stop dogbites.org). I read articles about how until the 1980’s Pit Bulls were considered “nanny” dogs. Then I read articles on the “myth of the nanny dog” designation for Pit Bulls. I am not sure which side is more credible. I did find an article “Larger-Than-Life Lap Dogs: Pit Bull Myths Debunked” on the Martha Stewart site, which gives some food for thought-

Pit bulls not only have been trusted to care for human infants, but large companies — and even countries — have branded them as “spokes-beings” for their products and causes! Their professional portfolio includes serving as the face for Radio Corporation of America (RCA), and they were America’s choice to convey loyalty and integrity on WWI and WWII campaign posters to enroll troops.

President Woodrow Wilson’s best friend was not only a pit bull; he was also a war hero. Canine Sgt. Stubby served our country in WWI and was reportedly wounded in action twice. Stubby actually captured a German spy and succeeded in saving his entire platoon by warning them to retreat from a poisonous gas attack. If that doesn’t define “man’s best friend,” what does?

Original caption: Washington, DC: Meet up with Stubby, a 9-year-old veteran of the canine species. He has been through the World War as mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division. Stubby visited the White House to call on President Coolidge. November 1924
Original caption: Washington, DC: Meet up with Stubby, a 9-year-old veteran of the canine species. He has been through the World War as mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division. Stubby visited the White House to call on President Coolidge. November 1924

So what went wrong!

It seems that the breed’s history may be their very downfall. One thing most articles agreed on is that these dogs were bred to fight. Unfortunately, they are still being used to fight. Something that was highlighted by the Michael Vicks case in 2007. Here’s a link to an uplifting story of the successful adoption of many of the dogs rescued from his home.  Vicktory Dogs.

This quote is from an article on Cesar’s Way that highlights the unfortunate roll of Pit Bulls –

For one thing, despite being illegal in all fifty states, dog fighting made a comeback in the 80s, and the pit bull is the dog of choice. It is also the preferred guard dog for drug dealers and gangs, with a hugely publicized attack in 1987 in which a pit bull guarding a marijuana crop in California mauls and kills a two-and-a-half year-old boy.

And so the moves to ban Pit Bulls started. Despite information from credible sources that these bans do not work, they continue to this day. An article on the ASPCA website discusses the ineffectiveness of breed specific bans. Here’s a summary from the article –

BSL carries a host of negative and wholly unintended consequences:

  • Dogs go into hiding Rather than give up their beloved pets, owners of highly regulated or banned breeds often attempt to avoid detection of their “outlaw” dogs by restricting outdoor exercise and socialization and forgoing licensing, microchipping and proper veterinary care, including spay/neuter surgery and essential vaccinations. Such actions have implications both for public safety and the health of these dogs.
  • Good owners and dogs are punished BSL also causes hardship to responsible owners of entirely friendly, properly supervised and well-socialized dogs who happen to fall within the regulated breed. Although these dog owners have done nothing to endanger the public, they are required to comply with local breed bans and regulations unless they are able to mount successful (and often costly) legal challenges.
  • They impart a false sense of securityBreed-specific laws have a tendency to compromise rather than enhance public safety. When limited animal control resources are used to regulate or ban a certain breed of dog, without regard to behavior, the focus is shifted away from routine, effective enforcement of laws that have the best chance of making our communities safer: dog license laws, leash laws, animal fighting laws, anti-tethering laws, laws facilitating spaying and neutering and laws that require all owners to control their dogs, regardless of breed.
  • They may actually encourage ownership by irresponsible people If you outlaw a breed, then outlaws are attracted to that breed. Unfortunately some people take advantage of the “outlaw” status of their breed of choice to bolster their own self image as living outside of the rules of mainstream society. Ironically, the rise of Pit Bull ownership among gang members and others in the late 1980’s coincided with the first round of breed-specific legislation.

After reading many articles,  with all the sensational headlines and with PETA supporting a ban, I understand why some people fear Pit Bulls. However I think concluding all Pit Bulls are dangerous is a leap too far.  I firmly believe that you should not judge a book by it’s cover. You should not judge an individual dog by the breed’s rep.

Due to the discrimination against Pit Bulls, the fact that they are often the result of “backyard breeders” and owners caught up in the machismo of owning an unaltered male dog that has a bad rep, shelters across America are overflowing with Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes needing good homes.

cute pit bull
Click this adorable picture for more cuteness!

As always, I am advocating adopting your next pet and as always I am stressing choosing a dog that is right for you and your family. It may or may not be a Pit Bull, but make that call based on the individual dog.

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