Pit Bulls strike the fear in people. Shelters are overrun with them. Cities are enacting Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) that is banning people from owning these dogs. The mainstream media seems to take great pleasure highlighting stories featuring Pit Bull attacks regularly. They are now notorious for being vicious fighting dogs. The irony is that a well trained Pit Bull, living in a loving, caring environment, is completely opposite of the “killer” dog that is sensationalized and portrayed in the mainstream media. How did this breed go from gentle “nanny” dogs in the 1950’s to a vicious predator today?
It seems like every generation has a dog breed that has been stigmatized as being “vicious and dangerous”. In the past German Shepherds, Dobermans and Rottweilers were widely feared and vilified. This generation’s breed to be discriminated against is the Pit Bull. If you take the time to research this “breed” you will find that the term “Pit Bull” is a very generic classification and falls under the Terrier class. This group specifically includes American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers and types of Pit mixes. As a breed they are described as happy, docile, intelligent, excellent guardians, wonderful family pets, and eager to please. The one caution in owning a PIT is that they need regular, vigorous exercise and they will let you know if it’s not adequate enough.
What are we doing about these so called dangerous breeds in our communities? We are “attempting” to provide a quick fix to the problem by legislation. And we all know how well laws work. We have created Breed Specific Legislation or (BSL) in an effort to control or completely outlaw certain breeds in hopes to reduce dogs attacks on humans and other animals. These laws are absolutely discriminatory at face value. Dogs that would be impacted are not just the Terrier type class, but include American Bulldogs, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Dobermans or any mixes of these breeds. The most disturbing part is they will judge dogs who are deemed to resemble any of the said mentioned breeds which is absolutely outrageous.
BSL does NOT work. It’s costly and difficult to enforce these regulations. More importantly “there is no evidence that breed-specific laws make communities safer for people or companion animals”. (ASPCA) Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opposes legislation after conducting their own extensive study regarding dog bites and human deaths. They found it nearly impossible to accurately discern the correct breed of the dog and a lot of dog bite date was incomplete. For example in some cities police are required to report scratches and muzzle punches as a bite if it left a mark on the skin. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
Dogs and their human counterparts suffer greatly with these laws. Owners bond with their pets and would rather cut their arm off then give up their animals. So as a result dogs are being snuck into housing to avoid detection. It is definitely not an optimal environment to have an animal thrive. Animals, like humans, are sensitive to stress and this can cause health issues. Pit types need a great deal of exercise and keeping them cooped up can cause destructive behavior. Last but certainly not least, having to hide an animal, humans are more fearful of seeking regular veterinary care. So it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. A hidden dog hinders socialization, stresses them out, and prevents regular exercise and other animal interactions. You now have created a badly adjusted dog, which is a bigger overall concern to safety.
Their is a much simpler solution. It’s not the breed but rather the owners. These dogs need to be properly trained and that requires a commitment from owners to take time and to socialize them. They can be naturally aggressive towards other animals, but that trait can be virtually eliminated if socializing is continued throughout the animal’s lifetime. Socializing a Pit as a puppy helps them be accepting of new people and new situations. Otherwise they will become fearful, which will lead to problems in adulthood. It’s true that in the wrong hands Pit Bulls can be vicious. But in the right hands they can be, as some owners describe them as, “a baby in a dog’s body”. They LOVE being with people and want to be included in family activities such as car rides, neighborhood strolls or just a simple romp in the park.
It seems lately every story about a Pit Bull attack continues to vilify this majestic “breed”. People really need to dig deeper into these stories and analyze what is happening. In MOST cases it’s the owner NOT the dog at fault. Set up a dog for success, not failure. I am not casting aspersions on anyone that is attacked , but let’s not forget the dog often is the forgotten casualty. They are usually victims of circumstances such as; bad training, lack of common sense, poor living conditions and overbreeding. This is true for ANY breed of dog. We have to realize that although they are domesticated, dogs are still animals. We have to educate ourselves and others, and ALWAYS be respectful of an animal’s body language and signs they are giving us. Let’s stop discriminating against these magnificent dogs and stand up to our legislators and say NO to BSL. We need to speak up for those without a voice and those who have proven worthy through their loyalty and devotion. Their lives are at stake.
Paula Grabow joins the Be The Rain staff as an Animal Rights advocate and activist. More of her work will be seen here in upcoming installments.
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