By: Sarah A. Neikam, CAWA
“Why are so many of your dogs pit bulls?” asked a visitor to the SPCA Albrecht Center last week. You can’t miss it—the abundance of wagging, whip-like tails and floppy ears belonging to pit bull mixes awaiting adoption. While those who work or volunteer in animal shelters across the southeastern U.S. are well acquainted with the intelligence, loyalty, and cuddly nature of these dogs, they’re notably overrepresented compared to other breeds. Let’s unravel the factors contributing to this phenomenon.
The Pitfall of Public Perception and Breed-Specific Legislation: It’s no secret that pit bulls face a bad rap. The media often stigmatizes these dogs, focusing on the breed in stories about dog attacks, sometimes without proper identification. This skewed representation leads to breed-specific legislation (BSL) in certain localities, banning pit bulls and forcing families to surrender their beloved pets—thus inflating the number of pit bulls in shelters.
The Backyard Breeding Dilemma: Unregulated breeding practices, commonly known as “backyard breeding,” add fuel to the fire. Coupled with a general lack of spay and neuter awareness, this contributes to a surge in pit bull populations. The southeastern region’s warm climate further facilitates year-round breeding, making the problem even more acute.
Socioeconomic Influences: The economic conditions of the Southeast also factor into this. Limited resources can lead to pet abandonment or surrender. The lack of affordable veterinary care options, including spay and neuter services, exacerbates overpopulation.
Cultural Connotations: For some, particularly among the youth, owning a pit bull is a status symbol. However, the novelty can wear off, and responsibilities can pile up, leading to surrender or abandonment.
The Vicious Cycle of Extended Shelter Stays: Once they’re in the shelter, pit bulls face a new challenge: extended stays. Negative public perception and breed restrictions contribute to slower adoption rates, thereby lengthening their time in the system.
So, What’s the Solution? Here at the SPCA Albrecht Center, we’re committed to providing these misunderstood dogs with a positive experience in the shelter and showcasing their true, loving nature. We also strive to educate potential adopters on responsible pet ownership, aiming to lower surrender rates. In addition, our Veterinary Care Center provides affordable wellness care and spay and neuter services for all pets, including pit bulls, in an effort to curb overpopulation.
You Can Make a Difference! By understanding these underlying issues, you’re already part of the solution. We invite you to meet our adorable “bully mixes” and consider making one of them part of your family. We’re located at 199 Willow Run Rd, Aiken SC and we’re open Monday through Saturday from 11 am until 4:30 pm.
Join us Wednesday, October 18th from 5:00 – 7:00pm for our last Yappy Hour of the season: Trunk or Treat at the SPCA! We’ll have costume contests, games to play, live music, raffle prizes, grilled burgers & hotdogs, hot apple cider, a cash bar, open dog park and FREE pet adoptions during the event! Admission is also free, but you can reserve a Trunk-or-Treat parking space for just $10 to give out candy and compete with other decorated trunks for the Best Trunk prize!
Sarah Neikam is the SPCA Albrecht Center’s Marketing Director and has been a staff member since 2012, serving first as Volunteer Coordinator, then Digital Media Manager and as Director of Operations & HR from 2018 until 2023 when she returned to her marketing role. Sarah earned her Certified Animal Welfare Administrator credential in January, 2022. She lives in Aiken with her husband Tom, their three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna & Grady, plus three former feral cats: Phoebe, Big Boy & Willow, who are happy to take advantage of the safety and consistent meals the Neikam home provides.