02 Feb Pit Bulls and Our Misconceptions
When people tell me Pit Bulls are a menace and they hate them I wonder if they know we systematically slaughter this breed in shelters. I recently read a statistic that said only 1 in 600 pit bulls will find a forever home and I thought that can’t be right? I didn’t think they had it good by any means but 1 in 600? Sure enough these numbers kept coming up and the more I researched the more depressing the results became.
There are an estimated 35,000 pit bulls up for adoption in shelters across America and that number does not take into account all the back yard breeders or professional breeders that produce thousands each year. Pit Bulls make up 33 % of shelter dogs and in major cities they can make up as much as 65%. About 75% of municipal shelters euthanize Pit Bulls immediately upon intake, without them ever having any chance at adoption. ONE MILLION Pit Bulls each year are euthanized. That’s 2,800 per day!! Some estimates are double that number. In the Los Angeles area alone, 200 per day are put to sleep. A study by the organization Animal People reports a 93% euthanasia rate for Pit Bulls. We basically mass slaughter this breed of dog and also demonize the breed as we do it. Arin Greenwood wrote last year in an article for the Huffington Post, “Pit Bulls are subjected to an almost unimaginably cruel world, in which they are subjected to every kind of violence – and then at the end of it, are euthanized in shelters at shockingly high rates, because families are afraid to take them home.” Breed prejudice and over breeding are the two biggest problems we face. Here are three factors that play into this Pit Bull tragedy.
With ONE MILLION pits dying each year in shelters it’s pretty clear that greed is the dominant factor in this breeds’ tragedy. Pits typically have anywhere from 6-12 puppies per litter. That’s a lot of homes to find for these animals and based on the statistics above, homes for all of them are not available – not even close!!! So, breeding these dogs is incredibly irresponsible.
2) BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) and Breed Prejudice.
Places like Denver and Miami outright banned pit ownership, and in countless other places it is next to impossible to find Pit friendly housing which inevitably leads to people having no choice but too surrender the animal to a shelter adding to the euthanasia counts. BSL is not only costly but also ineffective. Studies have shown that banning Pit Bulls does NOT decrease dog bites and, in fact, merely highlights the fact that other breeds like labs and boxers are just as responsible for reported bites. This just goes to show that these reported statistics are biased against Pit Bulls.
3) The belief that Pits are inherently fighters.
This, sadly, is widely believed and constantly professed by people who have done little to no research on the breed. So let’s take a look at some good old fashioned facts. Let’s start with the fact that historically they were referred to as “Nanny Dogs” because of their level of patience and tolerance with children. Pretty surprising considering we now view them as things that should be kept far away from children.
According to a study in 2008 by the by the American Temperament Testing Society, the passing rate of a Pit Bull Terrier is 85 percent. Last year’s testing showed that out of 218 breeds tested 119 scored lower than 83 percent. Breeds that scored lower included Beagle, Border Collie, Dalmatian, Greyhound, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Toy Poodle.
So why are these dogs used for fighting?! They are strong, quick to learn, and eager to please their owners. Their desire to respond to commands and deep loyalty to owners make them prime targets for cowardly abusers to fight. Bottom line, if in the hands of an evil person who abuses and neglects them they can do damage but most of the damage is done to them. Pit Bulls like many other large dog breeds must be raised with consideration of their size.
Last week a friend wrote a beautiful message about the resilience of these dogs. “What does it tell you about the Pit Bull that in the brutal world of dog fighting, the animal is so focused on pleasing its owner that it will readily accept injury, or even death? And what does it tell you about the breed’s resilience that, even after being systematically trained to fight, many of these animals can be rehabilitated, and some now work as therapy dogs? People who rescue and love Pit Bulls, I can assume, are independent thinkers who have transcended a long-standing prejudice, and more importantly, know a damn good dog when they see one.”
This article is dedicated to the memory of Sugar who was rescued and rehabilitated after years of abuse and was one of the most gentle animals I have ever met.