Celebrating Pit Bulls
For quite some time, Pit Bulls have endured the reputation of being labeled ‘aggressive,’ ‘hard to handle,’ and ‘unfriendly.’ News story after news story has perpetuated these dogs as ‘violent’ and discriminatory legislation and company policies have forced Pit Bulls into a narrative far from their true origin. This is partly why you see so many Pit Bulls in shelters (along with their overbreeding), and why approximately 40% of all dogs euthanized in shelters across the country are Pits.
At the SPCA Albrecht Center, nearly 30-40% of our yearly canine intakes are Pit Bulls, yet they are less likely to get adopted due to the presumptions surrounding them. This can be seen in shelters across the country and why, in 2007, ‘Pit Bull Awareness Month’ was created for the month of October – to help dispel the stereotypes of Pit Bulls and help foster a positive image of these dogs.
When discussing Pit Bulls, it’s always crucial to start with stating that “Pit Bull” is not a breed. Rather, it is a term that loosely encompasses a variety of dogs with characteristically similar traits. Some may use this term to include Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers, as well as mixed breeds.
As a distant relative of English bull-baiting dogs, who were later bred with smaller terriers for fighting, the Pit Bull was placed into a category of inherently aggressive dogs. However, many Pit Bulls were also bred as loyal, gentle and loving family dogs. And, just because they are a distant relative of fighting dogs, this does not make them unpredictably aggressive. In fact, based on a dog temperament test conducted by the American Temperament Test Society, the American Pit Bull Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier scored 87.4% and 90.9%, compared to the Golden Retriever’s 85.6% and Beagle’s 79.7% (atts.org).
With this stereotype came the myth that Pit Bulls have ‘lockjaws.’ However, Lesa Staubus, DVM with American Humane Rescue explains that it is “not anatomically possible to have a lockjaw.” And, breeds like Dobermans, Huskies, Rottweilers and German Shepherds all can out-bite a Pit Bull.
Pit Bulls may not have a ‘lockjaw,’ but they account for the majority of dog bites – right? Actually, no. There is no central data reporting system for dog bites. Yes, we may hear about more Pit Bull attacks in the media due to the stereotypes surrounding these dogs, but there isn’t data to support that Pit Bull dog bites are more frequent. Furthermore, there are many dog bites that go unreported by families when the injury isn’t as serious, and victims are more likely to report a dog bite from dogs they deem more aggressive, like the Pit Bull.
With breed specific legislation in states across the country that is directly harmful to Pit Bulls and even entire cities banning the ownership of Pit Bulls, it’s never been more important to continue advocating for these dogs. Luckily, there are more than a few ways you can help support Pit Bulls:
If you are Pit Bull owner, make sure your pup is a model for the ‘breed’ by training and socializing. Your companion can represent Pit Bulls in a positive light and show passersby that their preconceived ideas are incorrect.
Educate yourself! Like any issue you’d like to advocate for, you must start with educating yourself on the facts. By understanding the truth behind Pit Bulls’ temperament, history, and characteristics, you can help break down the stereotypes. Using this knowledge to share the ‘Good News’ of Pit Bulls via social media and help educate the younger generation is also a wonderful way to stop the generational prejudices surrounding the ‘breed.’
Spay and neuter your Pit Bull. This will ultimately lessen the Pit Bull population in your local shelters and diminish the idea that this breed is ‘unwanted’ based on their biases.
The term ‘prejudice’ is defined as: “a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” Just as prejudices against certain humans, prejudices against certain dogs ‘breeds,’ like Pit Bulls, are ideas that must be rejected and a new narrative based on facts and compassion must be created. Join us in October and on October 24th (National Pit Bull Awareness Day) as we create positive awareness, educate our peers and appreciate the true nature of Pit Bulls as intelligent, kind, loving animals.
An Aiken native and self-proclaimed cat lady, Claire Grimes is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Communications Director, working in marketing, grant writing and media correspondence. She attended College of Charleston, where she graduated with a degree in Nonprofit Business and interned with Charleston Animal Society, the leader in No-Kill South Carolina. When not working, you can find Claire hanging out with her 18-pound Maine Coon mix, Anakin.