Debunking the pit bull stereotype
Stereotyping pit bulls is no different than stereotyping people. We can all find incidents in the news where someone of a particular race, ethnicity or religion committed a crime and then decides that everyone of that group is to be feared. We do the same with breeds of dogs. Pit bulls are the target right now.
I have been involved with dog and cat rescue for the past 10 years and have known many pit bulls, the great majority of them being great dogs. A few are not. Currently, the focus is on those that are not.
Other dog breeds in Nevada County have sent people to the hospital; in one case, for five days. None of the dogs in these incidents were pit bulls, yet not one word was written about it in the paper.
A shelter volunteer says the following: “In the beginning, I was a little afraid of the pits, but after one and a half years of dog walking, every dog I have fallen in love with has been a pit.”
A veterinarian with a very long tenure in our county says: “My best patients are pits and Labs. They are the only breeds that I’m confident won’t bite me.”
Every year, 2,000 children are killed by their parents, through abuse and/or neglect. A child is 800 times more likely to be killed by their adult caretaker than by a pit bull.
Every day, 50 people are murdered in this country. You could conclude that humans are dangerous, yet we know most aren’t. Each year, 3,000 women die of spousal abuse, yet we know most men do not abuse their wives.
It is at least 100,000 times more likely that a pit bull will be killed by a human, than the other way around. Nine-hundred-thousand pit bulls are euthanized in shelters every year because there is no home for them.
Every irresponsible person who has a pit bull thinks they need to have puppies or their male needs to stay intact, yet we know 95 percent of dog attacks are by unaltered animals.
San Francisco County and City established an ordinance in April 2005 requiring that all pit bulls be spayed and neutered. Other counties have followed suit. San Francisco Animal Care and Control Director Rebecca Katz said that she has seen a 25 percent drop in pit bulls housed in San Francisco shelters, and she added: “We haven’t had any attacks by altered pit bulls since the ordinance went into effect 5 years ago.”
On the one hand, some people believe pit bulls are bred to be fighting machines. On the other hand, there are people who think their temperament is based on the way you raise them. If a pit bull has been bred to fight, it has a propensity in that direction, much like herding dogs like to herd and hunting dogs like to hunt. Most pit bulls are not bred to fight.
Many pit bulls live peacefully with other dogs. However, a higher percentage of pit bulls will get into dogfights than will Labrador retrievers, for example. Eighty-six percent of pit bulls given the American Temperament Test pass the test. This test measures stability, shyness, aggressiveness and friendliness, as well as the dog’s instinct for protectiveness toward its handler and/or self-preservation in the face of a threat. This is a higher score than Australian shepherds, Queensland heelers, German shepherds, golden retrievers and various other breeds.
The way your pit bull turns out is a combination of nurture and nature. Being a responsible parent is important and so is being a good guardian of your pets. An analogy would be that of having a spirited child. If properly nurtured and directed, this child may excel at sports. If not, he may be beating up the neighborhood kids.
Any responsible pit bull owner will educate themselves about the breed, have their dog spayed/neutered, have their dog in a fenced yard, not allow the dog to roam freely and not tie it on a rope. Tying a dog on a rope in a yard tends to make any dog mean – and it is illegal. The above applies to any dogs. Your dog needs to be educated on how to be a good citizen, just as your children do.
Spaying and neutering your dogs would end all this misery for everyone. Please call Sammie’s Friends if you have a pit bull to be spayed/neutered and you have insufficient funds. We will help.
Cheryl Wicks is founder of Sammie’s Friends animal welfare group.
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