Friday night I sat staring at those words on a friends Facebook page, “Why no one should own a pitbull”. Attached, as you might expect, was the link to an article about the tragic loss of a child killed by *one*. Then came the comments: I have 3 wonderful pitbulls who tolerate the shenanigans of my young children beautifully; That’s the biggest load of BS I’ve ever heard. You are clearly deluded to think they are safe. Pitbulls are bred to kill just as labs are bred to retrieve; No, its environment that shapes the animal. Give them love and they will; Pitbulls can be friendly right up until they snap.
The friend, a dog trainer.
I have come to expect the public to be woefully misinformed, to buy into the fear-laden stories pushed by media outlets, and to regurgitate snippets from headlines. In my mind, tolerance and intelligence are linked so I do not expect the same hate-filled rhetoric from persons of the animal professional world. They should know better. Shouldn’t they?
Are we not all entitled to our own opinions? Even when they are wrong? Who are we to decide someone’s wrongness? So usually I do not react to these things unless I am specifically asked or actively engaged in the debate. My thoughts are mine. I want to lead by example: pitbull owners are not criminals and our dogs are not frothing at the mouth ready to draw blood at the first light of day.
Friday night I reacted. I wanted to say something. I needed to. I’m not an expert, I don’t even play one on T.V. but I’ve researched some stuff, read reports, listened to people, and I’ve met dogs. I am informed and still learning. Here is what I know
Pit bulls were bred for fighting, not killing. They are so named for their use in the sport of bull-baiting. As a direct result of the enormity of their opponents (bulls) and their penchant for being trampled and maimed during fights they were bred for looks and size: muscular build, big head, strong jaw, in order to be better fighting companions. Even then a win was the dropping and pinning of a bull (still not killing). This practice was banned in the 1800s and they were then sent to fight dogs. When dogs were selected for breeding any dog that showed any sign of human aggression was immediately eliminated from the gene pool (read: killed). Saying that these dogs were bred to kill is inaccurate. Dog-aggression and human-aggression are not related behavioral issues. A dog may show aggression to other dogs and never towards humans and vice versa. Or both. Or neither.
Contrary to public opinion, loyalty is the pit bulls most well-known attribute. One that is exploited by the owners of the dogs who engage in dog fighting. Owners build loving relationships with their dogs. They then use this bond to motivate their dogs to fight. If a dog begins to tire or weaken, his owner will change his position in order to be within sight of the dog to show his continued approval of continued fighting. These dogs have an incredible desire to please and will fight to the death if they see that this is what pleases the master. This incredible desire to please, makes the pit bull easy to train and a loving and wonderful companion.
If you are interested in facts beyond the media twaddle that can be easily parroted, read the dog-bite related fatalities reports from 2007-2010 prepared by the National Canine Research Council, a third-party organization. The NCRC painstakingly revisits and reinterviews all law enforcement agencies, officers and witnesses involved in each incident to fully investigate the circumstances of each dog-bite related fatality for that year. As the statistics show each year in more than 50% of the cases the dog were initially identified as a “pitbull” type dogs but after conferring with dog-breed experts, the breeds of the dogs were not able to be accurately identified. Also taken into consideration are the circumstances of the dogs’ socialization level, human interaction level, living situation (indoor/outdoor/tethered/caged). The NCRC’s 2007 and 2008 reports on media bias illustrates how the media selects which news stories to report and which ones are not interesting enough for the Nightly News.
And finally, for my own point of clarification…when you say “pitbull” do you mean specifically the American PitBull Terrier? Or do you mean also American Staffordshire Terriers? Staffordshire Terriers? Bull Terriers? Bulldogs? American Bulldogs, only? Also English and French? Is it a terrier thing? Do you then include Border Terriers? Cairn Terriers? Yorkshire Terriers? No. Of course not. Now I’m being silly. You mean, as stated *clearly* in BSL legislation: dogs with certain physical attributes. (Square heads, muscular builds). So you mean to also include Presa Canario, Cane Corso, Mastiffs: English, Italian, Argentinian. And then, any mix of any breed herein which would exhibit “certain physical attributes.” So please, tell me what type of dog should we own?
What I said, though, was:
“I respectfully disagree with breedism.”
I don’t know it all and I’m not a douche. I wonder, though, when is the right time to speak my mind in all it’s douchey glory?