In defense of pit bulls

I apologize for the lack of posts this month.  I’ve been travelling, working, and slowly losing my mind.  I started this post last week and now I’m finishing it because it still rings true.

There are a few things I love dearly in life.  Hanging out with dogs is one of them, and it’s even better when those dogs happen to be of the bullie variety.  At some point in my life, I fully intend to start my own pit bull rescue. 

Naturally, every time I read stories like this, my heart sinks a little because I know that the anti-pit bull fervor will go back up to a fever pitch and that a whole bunch of ignorant things about pits will make it into the media, thus perpetuating the “pit bull=bloodthirsty killer” stereotype.

A 5 year old boy was mauled and killed by a pit bull last Wednesday night in Weslaco.  Yes, it’s a tragic occurrence that should never have happened, but I was also very angered by the reporting of the story as well as the sensationalism that’s pervasive in these types of stories.  From an article that was published the day after the mauling:

Hidden behind the tidy garden shed, far away from the picnic bench and playhouse in the wide, well-kempt yard, was Greco’s den.

The 1 1/2-year-old pit bull, described by his owners as sweet and submissive, lived here under a roof of wooden pallets and played with the children of the house.

Until he killed Pablo.

Wednesday night, according to witnesses, Greco flew into a frenzied rage stoked by a passing dog and tackled 5-year-old Pablo Lopez, fatally mauling him in a powerful attack.

Thursday afternoon, Greco was Jekyll once again, wagging hopefully at a visitor to his quarantine kennel at the Palm Valley Animal Center, a private, nonprofit animal welfare agency in Edinburg. But the bloody wounds along the right side of his face and leg from a sheriff’s deputy’s shotgun blast were painful reminders that Hyde lurked within. […]

Pablo toddling out the door alone. Greco the dog, agitated by another animal. The den and the chain. The leap and the bite, the powerful jaw clamped down on the boy’s neck. The screams.

I utterly despise the sensationalism that always goes into pit bull attack stories. 

And from the original breaking news report:

Palomo recalled hearing about 20 seconds of screaming, and then nothing. He said the dog locked its jaws around the boy’s neck, quickly killing him.

“These types of accidents can be prevented,” Justice of the Peace Treviño said, cautioning the public about owning pit bulls.

“No one needs to keep these types of dogs,” she said. “These dogs turn on you.”

First off: pit bulls don’t have locking jaws.  If they did, they’d be classified as a different species.  I’m ready to rip the newspaper a new one for not doing a little research and reprinting that sentiment.  Second, I’m ready to rip J.P. Treviño a new one for saying “no one needs to keep these types of dogs.”

“Pit bulls” have been historically bred to have aggression toward other dogs, but they should never show aggression towards people.  Ever.  (I say “pit bulls” because “pit bull” isn’t actually a breed; a whole bunch of breeds fall under the “pit bull” umbrella).  They’re not good guard dogs because they’re so friendly, and if you have an aggressive pit on your hands, you’ve got a problem.

Unfortunately, wannabe-gangstas and plain ignorant people give pits a bad name, when in reality, pits are also the beloved family pets in thousands of homes.  It takes a lot to raise a pit: a lot of education, a lot of exercise, a lot of socialization and training.  They’re strong dogs that need exercise and socialization, and to keep them chained in your yard (as was the case in the Weslaco mauling) is just asking for trouble.

So of course it just drives me insane when I hear about ignorant people being somehow involved in pit bull bites/maulings, because the sensationalism just drives the public’s fear of/hatred toward pits.  I used to be one of those people, thinking that they were insane dogs who would suddenly snap and lock their jaws around my arm.  I’m ashamed to think of how many pit bulls I was terrified of at the first shelter I ever started volunteering at (because the director wouldn’t let anyone touch the pit bulls, then proceeded to repeat the locking jaws myth).  These dogs never stood a chance; every single pit entering that shelter was euthanized regardless of its (usually sad) personality, which is pretty common policy in shelters across the nation.

It wasn’t until I started working at the ASPCA that I had to walk these dogs as a part of my job.  I fell in love with them–one dog, Madsterina the Incorrigible (my own personal name for her), in particular–and haven’t looked back since.

So grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!  Damn the media, and damn ignorant dog owners for fueling these bullshit breed stereotypes.


About Melissa

I love donuts. Chocolate iced, hold the sprinkles.
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6 Responses to In defense of pit bulls

  1. Skitepper says:

    You are living in a fairtail land. Pit Bulls were bred for bull baiting and dog fighting, and breeding works. Those dogs are just simply not worth the risks. I dont care how much you like them or what cute name you give them, they are still what we made them. Yes there are many iresponsible owners, but they are a small part of the problem. If you say that its the owners, then your saying that ever other dog owner is an expert dog trainer bc their dogs dont attack?
    There is a Pit that goes to my local dog park. The owner may not be a great trainer but certainly doesnt abuse it and never trained it to fight. It has been agressive since day one and its gotten worst. Yesterday it attacked a small dog and the poor thing lost its eye. There are many types of dogs there but which one is the vicious dog, THE PIT BULL!

  2. True, they’ve been bred for fighting, but not not bred for human aggression. It’s not until very recently that some backyard breeders have started breeding for aggressive traits toward humans in order to create guard dogs, but pit bulls should NEVER show aggression towards people. Many pit rescues will euthanize any pit that shows human aggression; it’s just too dangerous to adopt those dogs out.

    You don’t have to be an expert dog trainer to have a dog not attack, but you do have to use a lot more judgment. You’re building a straw man by bringing up dog-human attacks, then giving a dog-dog attack as an example.

    Also, you say irresponsible owners are a small part of the problem, then you go and cite an example of an extremely irresponsible owner! It’s irresponsible to take a pit to the dog park precisely because they might have animal aggression traits, and worse still if you *know* you have an animal-aggressive dog. That owner is exactly the kind of idiot who helps give pits a bad name.

    Pit-types are just the latest in the long line of dog fighting breeds. In the 80s it was the rotweiler and german shephard. Bull dogs, bull terriers (the Target mascot), and shar peis also have long histories of being bred for fighting, not to mention countless other breeds.

    Furthermore, do you have any idea how many newborn dalmations are euthanized every year for being breed-“defective” (deaf)? You have any idea how many pit bulls are used as bait dogs rather than fighters precisely because they won’t fight back? Just because a dog is bred to have certain traits doesn’t mean it’ll actually have them, which is why you shouldn’t judge by the breed and instead judge by each individual dog’s temperament, regardless if they’re a pit bull or a chihuahua.

  3. musichistory says:

    Great post! I agree that pit bulls have gotten a bad rep for being aggressive dogs. Unfortunately, this is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The dogs are labeled as “mean” or “killers,” so the kind of idiot human who thinks its a badge of honor to have bad-ass dogs buys pit bulls and trains them to be mean — or worse, just neglects them. Then when that dog attacks as a result of its improper training, the media jumps all over it, and the cycle repeats.

    Any breed of dog can be a sweet, well-behaved family pet. On the flip-side of that coin, any dog can be trained or neglected into becoming a societal menace and danger. As pet owners, we have the responsibility to ourselves, our neighbors, and our dogs to make sure the dogs are well-balanced, socialized, and have physical and mental challenges into which they can direct their energy.

    Thanks for promoting awareness!

  4. Tumerica says:

    Great post–I agree–controversial topic with no easy answers. I adore dogs and my last three have been adopted from animal shelters or rescues. My first dog was an alpha female, and because she was aggressive toward other dogs–didn’t matter if they were twice her size–she’d attack. I knew that very well, so she was never taken to dog parks or allowed to run off-leash (she was a Husky-German Shepherd mix). It would not be fair to other dogs. Before I was allowed to adopt her, the rescue people made sure I understood her behaviour, because it was not going to change. She lived a long and happy life and died at the ripe old age of 14. But I didn’t give her any opportunities to pick on other dogs.

    The owner of that pit bull who took that dog to a dog park where it proceeded to put out another dogs eye was irresponsible–and that pisses me off because it could have been prevented. I’ve seen many an adorable and lovable pit bull and heard lots of stories about their innate cuddly side and how good they can be with families. But then in the news, we hear the ugly side, and it’s usual, maybe always from owners who were lax or cruel.

    As a child I was attacked by a pack of Doberman Pinschers (a breed which I still dislike). As a teen I was bitten twice by German Shepherds (a breed I have nothing against, even though they have a reputation as biters), and was attacked and chased by a Pit Bull when I was pregnant (the owner laughed and made fun of me), and yet I don’t harbor any bad feelings about the breed. A Rottweiler attacked my husband once and another Rottweiler attacked my dogs and drew blood and somehow, a get a shiver of fear when a Rotty walks by me, on or off leash. I don’t know why some breeds cause fear while others don’t. I do understand that some breeds tend to be biters more than others, but know there’s definitely a mixture of breed characteristics and trained ones.

    It’s a messy world. I worry about my five-year-old getting hurt by an aggressive off-leash dog and don’t fully trust the owners of biting-tendency breed dogs until I know them to be responsible.

  5. patty says:

    pitbull like my pitbull there are cool

  6. I am doing a project for a college class and I am starting a blog about Pit Bulls. If you could please follow me and comment on my page id really appreciate it 🙂

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