Pit Bull Type Dogs, Their Images Slowly Being Resurrected

Pit Bull Type Dogs, Their Images Slowly Being Resurrected

If there's a dog breed that represents Chicago - it's actually not a breed but a mix of breeds which offers certain common features - we call these dogs pit bulls.

Pit bull-looking dogs may be the most common dog in the city, and is arguably at the moment among the most common All American dog.

Still, if  tomorrow any dog alleged to be a  "pit bull" attacks and seriously hurts a person in - say Chicago - there will be an instant call for a breed ban, to somehow eliminate all dogs who anyone might call a pit bull. Just as tragic but a far different outcome if a dog of any other breed or mix attacks.

In early January that's exactly what happened. There was an attack, as two dogs identified as pit bulls attacked a man innocently jogging along South Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. He survived but was very seriously injured. Though, some called for a breed ban, overall, Chicago Aldermen were more enlightened. Still, the incident remained in the headlines for over a week. A little boy was killed that same week by errant gang gunfire; his story fell out of the news cycle in 24 hours.

There could be 500 murders (or more) in Chicago alone in 2012.

In 2010 (the last year stats are available), there were only a few shy of 13,000 murders in the U.S.

The number of deaths due to dog attacks nationwide, around 12 to about twice that many since records have been kept by the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC no longer tracks the breed allegedly involved in an attack, though of course not all are alleged to be pit bull type dogs. Certainly one fatality as a result of any dog is too many.

The bottom line is that people are far more dangerous to people than dogs are to people, of any breed or mix - it doesn't matter. Not even close!

Face it - love 'em or hate 'em - here are some undeniable facts about dogs we call pit bulls:

- There are a lot of them. Because there is no registry to what amounts to a mixed breed, there's no data on exactly how many. Likely this cross - generally referred to as pit bull-type dogs, are among the most common dogs, right up there will Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Yorkshire Terriers and German Shepherd dogs.

- Some animal shelters are doing so well they are seeking to 'import' adoptable dogs form other cities, counties or states. Other shelters remain overwhelmed with far too many dogs (and sadly far too many are euthanized). However, no matter where you are in America most shelters - those doing great and those doing not as great - all have an abundance of dogs called pit bulls. Supply is greater than the demand for these dogs.

- Most dogs fitting the description of pit-bull type dog are upstanding citizens....Some even work for you and me, for local, state or even the U.S. government in many roles, from cadaver dogs to crime sniffing. Every day countless pit bull type dogs work side by side with children, as reading dogs (children read to the dogs) or in animal assisted therapy programs, etc. Some pit bull looking dogs are even assistance dogs.

- I concede - these dogs are also sometimes in the news - in a bad way, involved in dog attacks. There are various reasons to explain this - including that sometimes bad guys use these pit bull looking dogs as dangerous weapons; some not only lack socialization but also may have been abused; I have no doubt very poor genetics may play some role. Also, there are simply lots of them- and the media (an exemplified in the Chicago example above and many other examples) loves to exploit stories when a dog alleged to be a pit bull attacks.

In her blog, Sarah Goodyear calls Pit Bull the ultimate urban dog. She's right on with that!

And change is coming - slowly, but it is happening.  Goodyear writes about a recent instance in New York City, when yes - the first response was to shoot a pit bull looking dog, but later the dog wasn't vilified in the press but instead depicted (accurately) as a loyal companion. The dog survived.

Starting in the 1980s, pit bulls came to embody all of the public’s fears and anxieties about what was wrong with America's inner cities. The dogs have been stock images in a familiar, grim urban picture that includes drug dealing, racial tension, gun violence, and decay. Many cities and counties have banned them; Miami-Dade County in Florida just upheld a 23-year ban on pit bulls and related dogs by a 63.2 percent to 36.8 percent margin. But the law there isn't enforced, an it seems just matter of time before the breed ban is over-turned, as it was in Ohio.

Doubts about the effectiveness of breed-specific legislation have been raised worldwide, and the same authorities who enacted these bans are now reconsidering them. In Spain, a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior in 2007 concluded that the 2000 Dangerous Animal Act, which targeted several breeds, had not reduced dog-related injuries.In 2009, Italy abolished its breed-specific regulations, which affected to 17 breeds, in favor of legislation that holds the individual owner responsible. A similar approach has been suggested for the U.S. by the American Veterinary Medical Association, among others.In 2008, the Dutch government repealed a 15-year nationwide ban on pit bulls after a government study showed it to be ineffective; education was suggested (and accepted) as a preferred approach. In a recent British poll, 88 percent of respondents felt that current breed-specific legislation in the U.K., which targets four breeds, was not effective, and 71 percent called for repeal

Books have always been an education tool in this country, and there have been many in recent years that simply offer the truth about these dogs, many are heart-warming, and compelling. One is  Jim Gorant's "The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption."  I think the public gets (or is starting to), people like Vick are the villains, and the dogs are merely the victims (as is our nation and communities when it comes to dog fighting).

Foster is the author of "The Dogs Who Found Me: What I've Learned from Pets Who Were Left Behind," a 2006 memoir that tells how he got through a tough patch in his life thanks to his relationships several dogs  including pit bulls. Foster's new book offers the most perfect title, "I’m a Good Dog: Pit Bulls, America’s Most Beautiful (and Misunderstood) Pet",  published by Penguin in October.

Meanwhile, shelters and rescues are working on marketing approaches, understanding the marketing does work, as they attempt to positively spin these dogs.

Yesterday when out walking our dogs we met two proud new "parents" to a pit bull-type puppy. Their last dog, a pittie, passed away at 13 earlier in the year. They said said it's much easier today that it was back with their other dog - more people seem enlightened and fewer seem fearful.

I think they're right....Still, though, as I write this. there are public officials who insist that breed specific bans are a viable solution.

One dog attacks - it is a tragedy, of course...and there should be a response, the owner of that dog (doesn't matter what the breed or mix is) should be held responsible. One little boy is shot, 100 little boys are shot, likely several hundred for every serious dog attack. Why don't some public officials understand?

Comments

Leave a comment
  • fb_avatar

    Thanks to articles like this, the media will finally catch up to what America already knows (especially in urban centers like New York and Chicago): Pit bulls make wonderful, loyal, loving pets -- yes, for children. You can even get a plush pit bull toy now (www.charliedogandfriends.com)!

  • thank you for your post Suzy!

  • fb_avatar

    Let's not change a thing. Let's keep breeding oh, say, a million too many pits/pit mixes every year and then killing them in pounds from coast to coast.

    Let's keep letting pits live with uncaring owners, so that pits escape daily to maim and kill other dogs.

    Let's support those who fight pits, let's keep them supplied with pits.

    Before pits infested our community, we NEVER had a home broken into by a dog intent on killing the resident dog. Now we have had this occur several times, with the pit bull "successfully" killing the terrified victim dog. Do pit mongers consider the victim dog ever?

    It is never the pit's fault, but it is the fault of the pit breeders and pit mongers that these horribly handicapped dogs continue to be created. "Most pit bulls display some degree of dog aggression." Of all traits, there is no worse trait than unpredictable, unprovoked dog/dog aggression, at least to those who care about the welfare of ALL dogs.

    Pits ARE different. Proof? Essentially ALL US dog fighters use pit bulls. It would take many decades to change a non-bully do to be as "good" a fighting dog as the pit bull.

    Don't ban the pit bull, but do ban breeding of pits/pit mixes/ all dog aggressive dogs. Pit mongers insist that breed doesn't matter, that all dogs are the same, that pits are "just dogs." Great. So let pits become extinct. Adopt any dog and train/manage her to be your charming pet.

  • In reply to Debbie Bell:

    Can you try writing a more coherent reply so people can understand your argument?

  • In reply to Debbie Bell:

    Ignore what Richard and Steve said, Debbie. Your reply made perfect sense - they just don't want to hear it, so they dismiss it. They're too busy trying to appear all tough and macho with their whining about pit bulls being discriminated against.

    All you have to do is go to dogsbite.org, which keeps track of dog bites across the U.S. Despite accounting for only 5% of the dog population in America, pit bulls were responsible for 71% of the fatal dog attacks in America last year. (And that's only fatal attacks, not attacks in which the victim survived.) Last year, seven pit bulls killed their primary caretaker or owner. How 'bout this one: between the years 2005-2011, pit bulls killed about one person every 20 days in the U.S.! Holy cow.

    They're dangerous animals, that much is clear. But this is what pit bull defenders cannot seem to comprehend: those of us who wish for pit bulls to be allowed to become extinct do not think pit bulls are BAD, per se. No. They're just pit bulls, being pit bulls, and therein lies the problem.

    But pit bull defenders have created this false narrative that anti pit bull people are just prejudiced (for no reason!!! Waaaaahhh!) against their beloved puppies, and so they'll be the noble humans to stand up for the dogs in the face of such injustice. We just don't KNOW the dogs the way they do!! We're just ignorant of how sweet the dogs really are!! Really!!

    Only....no. For the same reason that there are laws in place so that people can't own a lion or a grizzly bear for a pet (because of the extreme danger involved to the owners and those around them), the same should apply to pit bulls. I don't know anyone who thinks lions or grizzly bears are innately bad or evil, but rather most folks just recognize the nature of the beasts (that they will more than likely attack at some point, and it won't end well for their chosen victim) and respect that. Most citizens understand why laws are in place regarding these animals.

    Bafflingly, this is not true when it comes to pit bulls. Their defenders are just that - too defensive to recognize that their position defies all logic and common sense. (And statistics.) It's bizarre to me. They've dug in their heels and think of themselves as martyrs, fighting the good fight. Soaked in their own sanctimoniousness, they consider the rest of us just big old meanies who want to hurt the doggies!! Waaaaaaaaah!!!

    *yawn*
    Seen it a million times both in real life and in comments sections whenever another pit bull attacks. As the number of pit bull attacks mounts, pit bull defenders' arguments are getting more and more stale.

    Maybe someday pit bull defenders will develop the nuance of thought required to see this issue clearly, but I wouldn't count on it.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Ginjoint:

    Dogsbite.org is not a reliable source of information. It was created by ignorant/scared people who think any dog who has a block shaped head is a "pitbull", and for your information "pitbull" is not even a breed, but a general characterization in which THREE breeds fall under;
    1) American Pitbull Terrier 2) American Staffordshire Terrier 3) Staffordshire Bull Terrier. All three of these breeds (along with many other breeds) share similar features.

    The American Temperament Society (a neutral dog temperament testing organization) is a place where owners can take their dogs to be evaluated under many different scenerios. The dogs are tested on: Shyness, Instinct to protect owner, and friendliness. Every dog is tested in the same manner which includes a walk in the park on a 6 foot leash. While on the walk the dog is presented with different situations; neutral, friendly, and threatening. While the dogs are being tested no commands are allowed to be given by the owner, in order to get accurate measure of how the dog will react. There are numerous tests involved. Here is the site if you are so compelled to do some research and look at accurate statistics. www.atts.org.

    Just in case you choose not to educate yourself here are a few facts from the website. As of Feb 19, 2012: 1)Out of the 839 American Pitbull Terriers tested, 728 passed giving the breed an 86.8%. 2) Out of the 646 American Staffordshire Terriers tested 544 passed giving this breed an 84.2%. 3) Out of the 124 Staffordshire Bull Terriers tested 112 passed giving this breed a whopping 90.3%! Lets just compare this with the beloved Golden Retriever, out of 776 tested 661 passed giving them an 85.2%. So when looking at actual FACTS from someone who is not bias you will learn that the pitbulls have wonderful temperants, comparable to Goldens.

    We so often hear about the "pits" that attack but have you heard of these heroic pits? :
    1) Popsicle- Rescued when police officers were doing a drug bust and found this dog, nothing but skin and bones in the freezer. Popsicle is now part of law enforcement and works as a drug sniffing dog. (www.pitbullsontheweb.com)

    2) Weela- Saved her 11 year old owner from a rattlesnake when she sensed the danger and plowed into the young child knocking him out of the way in order to take the snake bite herself. A couple years later this same Pitbull saved thirty people, twenty-nine dogs, thirteen horses and a cat from severe flooding. This dog was recognized as a hero in Outside Magazine in 1996. (www.pitbullsontheweb.com)

    On this website http://bslnews.org/pit-bull-heroes-hall-of-fame/ you will find numerous acts of heroism by these pits to save children, owners, and other animals. These acts of heroism out weigh the attacks.

    Pits also make great therapy dogs because of their great disposition and you can find many stories of their community service here: http://www.ourpack.org/therapy.html

    This breed is a wonderful breed! They should not be held accountable for SOME of the irresponsible owners who either choose not to train and socialize their dog or the criminals who use these dogs for the wrong reasons.

    If you meet any true lover of this breed I am willing to bet they dog is an upstanding citizen. Responsible owners encourage spay/neuter, take our dogs to training, and socialize our pups. Please don't lump all pitbulls or their owners under one negative category.

    Maybe someday ignorant people will decide to learn about the breed and get actual facts instead of fear based non-sense, but I wouldn't count on that either!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Ginjoint:

    Referencing dogsbite.org discredits your information immediately. They have no fact based information. Even they admit that all of their "statistics" come from the media and it is well known how unreliable they are. There are 38 different breeds of dog misidentified as "Pitbulls" regularly, especially by the media as they specifically look for anything "Pitbull" related.

    You act as though my love for my dog makes me ignorant. I can read, I am educated, I am capable of understanding the fact that this entire "war" against "Pits" is fear based. More people are killed by coconuts, bathtubs, drunk drivers, motorcycles, cars, and HUMANS individually in each category annually than by "PITS". This need to incriminate MY dog based on breed alone and not temperament is archaic. There are MANY "Pits" who serve our people as working dogs every day but the media can't feed that to our horror hungry people as much as the gory stuff.

    All I ask for is that my dogs be judged based on their character and temperament and not that of another dog that "allegedly" shares DNA with them. Truly draconian though process as far as I'm concerned.

  • Your argument makes no sense - but doesn't matter...As I point out the REALITY is that pit bull type dogs aren't going anywhere. Good-bad or otherwise

  • Hi Steven,
    Thank you for your article. I live and work out of Miami Dade where the embarrassment of BSL BDL continues. I have written several articles for local newspapers and in my blog that you may find interesting. Please keep up the great work, with more people advocating common sense, education and science to the general public who is brain washed and ignorant on the matter, the better chance we have at ridding the world of BSL BDL once and for all. Russell Hartstein CPDT dog training in Miami

  • In reply to FunPawCare:

    Keep fighting it - have some experts - I should have a new tool by the end of the year, stay tuned

  • Thanks Steve. I have a few friends that own pit bulls. They are no different than any other breed if they are trained correctly and cared for correctly.

  • fb_avatar

    this article is poorly written with the author stating that there is no pit bull registry and hence referring to them as " pit bull looking" when the breed is called the American Pit Bull Terrier or APBT and In the late 19th century to early 20th century, two clubs were formed for the specific purpose of registering APBTs: the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association. http://www.ukcdogs.com/Web.nsf/WebPages/Registration/APBTSingleReq
    Furthermore the APBT is not recognized by the AKC but the American Staffordshire Terrier or Amstaff http://www.akc.org/breeds/american_staffordshire_terrier/index.cfm which is often mistaken for a pit bull IS recognized by the AKC and a dog that is Amstaff and APBT can have double registration with akc/ukc
    hird are the "American Bully" dogs whom are yet another breed and NOT a pitbull. The Bully is not recognized by the AKC or UKC as both frown upon the genetic defaults found in these crossbred canines. They have four of their own registries: American Bully Kennel Club (ABKC)
    United Bully Kennel Club (UBKC)
    Bully Breed Kennel Club (BBKC)
    United Canine Association (UCA)
    ow as the owner of an American Staffordshire Terrier myself whom is registered with the AKC as were his parents etc etc these articles while they may be written with the best intentions however they can cause more damage because they are full of nonsense and obviously written by persons whom know absolutely NOTHING about the animal that they are writing about and in the animals defense! the term "pit bull looking" is incorrect. It either is an American Pit Bull Terrier or it is not. They have a registry. And so on and so forth because the ones whom are NOT APBTs are not "mixed breed" dogs as stated but more than likely one of the other two closest relatives of the APBT that I listed above. Please do not write articles that provide false or misleading information to the public it is BAD press.

  • fb_avatar

    this article is poorly written with the author stating that there is no pit bull registry and hence referring to them as " pit bull looking" when the breed is called the American Pit Bull Terrier or APBT and In the late 19th century to early 20th century, two clubs were formed for the specific purpose of registering APBTs: the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association. http://www.ukcdogs.com/Web.nsf/WebPages/Registration/APBTSingleReq

  • fb_avatar

    Furthermore the APBT is not recognized by the AKC but the American Staffordshire Terrier or Amstaff which is often mistaken for a pit bull IS recognized by the AKC and a dog that is Amstaff and APBT can have double registration with akc/ukc
    http://www.akc.org/breeds/american_staffordshire_terrier/index.cfm

  • fb_avatar

    ow as the owner of an American Staffordshire Terrier myself whom is registered with the AKC as were his parents etc etc these articles while they may be written with the best intentions however they can cause more damage because they are full of nonsense and obviously written by persons whom know absolutely NOTHING about the animal that they are writing about and in the animals defense! the term "pit bull looking" is incorrect. It either is an American Pit Bull Terrier or it is not. They have a registry. And so on and so forth because the ones whom are NOT APBTs are not "mixed breed" dogs as stated but more than likely one of the other two closest relatives of the APBT that I listed above. Please do not write articles that provide false or misleading information to the public it is BAD press.

  • Yeah, got to love that image.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/glen_ellyn/chi-glen-ellyn-baby-injured-by-pit-bull-terrier-20120905,0,3159571.story

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Sammy007:

    Really? well gee check this one out
    http://www.igorilla.com/gorilla/animal/2001/pomeranian.html

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Arielle Leigh:

    http://amarillo.com/stories/100900/usn_pet.shtml

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Arielle Leigh:

    seriously why are you arguing with this article...Pitbull is a "Type" not a breed and most places with BSL include over 20+ breeds and mixes... seems like a bunch of wasted effort for nothing lady

  • In reply to BullyOne:

    Please BullyOne continue to attempt to explain that....people don't get it....I will try in a general comment below

  • In reply to Arielle Leigh:

    Funny that you had to go back 11 years to find an article while all I had to do was look at the front page of the Tribune today for mine.

  • fb_avatar

    Thanks, Steve!

    Your writing is much appreciated!
    Pretty sad that with all battles "Pit bull" advocates fight every day, some now find it necessary to fight each other over what a "Pit bull" is or isn't…
    I'm glad the "Pit bull type" dog is here to stay.

  • fb_avatar

    Steve,

    Wonderful article, as an advocate for this breed for many years now. It is great and refreshing to see well written that is not only positive for our Bully buds but educational. I will share and spread with all!

    From BSL land Denver CO,
    Jesse "BullyOne" Eastburn
    Pit Bull Art Show

  • In reply to BullyOne:

    Thnak you BullyOne - please share.....And Nashville Pittie - can thanks for your comments

  • As a point of fact: There are pedigreed (pure bred bully breeds)....Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, etc. Relatively speaking, not too many of these dogs. Then there is the all-American pure bred American Pit Bull terrier, and various similar breeds - pure bred. But your average street pit bull-type is just that ---- a type.....a mix which in many (likely most - but no one knows how many) have no real pit bull in their genes, or might need to go back several generations. The way a dog looks .....and dog....phenotype, may often not match genotype (what a dog's genes demonstrate what a dog is). In other words, many (likely the vast majority) of pit bull looking dogs in shelters (you can believe it or not), in fact, have little or no true pit bull in their genes. It is a good - heavy shoulders and neck, large head, etc. Just as their are so called German shepherd mixes....but really that is a guess....and often isn't a good one, it's just a look the dog developed over time like an mutt does, based on whatever mixes are in the dog. There's lots and lots of science to demonstrate this if folks don't believe it....and more will even be available before year end.

  • fb_avatar

    Your article is excellent, Steve. I only have had beagles and dachshunds before. Now I have a big black Pit Bull type dog who was going to be killed for "aggression." A No Kill organization rescued him and I met him at the kennel where he was being boarded until adopted. He was so sad that I took him home. He is not aggressive - he just failed the stupid "temperament" test at the kill facility because he was terrified. He slept in our bed the first night with our other dogs. He spend days in my lap, until he finally recovered from the horror of the kill SPCA. He is the happiest, goofiest dog. He is wonderful with our grandchildren. I have now had the pleasure of knowing many Pit Bulls at the shelter where I volunteered for years. They are wonderful dogs, great for families! Millions of people have Pit Bull type dogs as pets. Check out this terrific video http://vimeo.com/37605097 Open your minds and hearts, people. Blame the deed, not the the breed. Labs and Chihuahuas bite more often than Pit Bulls, according to the Center for Disease Control. Pit Bulls do not have "locking jaws." The media is at fault for demonizing these dogs - much as they used to demonize Dobermans, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds. Dogs, like people, should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

  • 14 years ago, we were young and getting ready to start a family. I was sure we had to get a lab or golden retriever in order to have the perfect dog for our kids. I worked at a vet clinic and a pair of bully pups came in, extremely sick, one died and the owner never came back for the other. I convinced my husband that with a little bit of research we could have a "pitbull" and babies and everyone would live in peace (and safety), so we adopted "Ditka". We bought a couple of books and trained Ditka the way they he needed to be trained and we never had a single fear about him hurting our kids, or anyone else's. We had more than a dozen babies pass through our house in Ditka's lifetime and he LOVED them all! He would lie next to their baby seats while they slept, and cover their faces and feet with kisses when they were awake. As the kids grew, so did Ditka, he topped out at 95 pounds. The kids would hang on his back, pull his ears and tail and return his slobbery kisses. Ditka simply wagged his tail and took it like a champ! All that being said, he was dog-dog aggressive. We tried to socialize him with other dogs, but he would have no part of it. This would seem like I am trying to concede the point of the pitbull nay-sayers, but quite contrary. After Ditka passed away 2 years ago, we waited 3 days and adopted a rottweiler mix from the pound and named him Lunchbox. Lunchbox is a sweet, people-loving dog. However, we believe he was left to starve on the streets and learned to fight for his food. We found out a few months after adopting Lunchbox that he, too, is dog-dog aggressive. I can't be positive, but I'm pretty sure there's no pitbull in Lunchbox. Any dog can be dog-dog aggressive. I love when people think it's so cute and funny when a chihuahua or pomeranian has a bad attitude towards another dog. "He's just a small dog with a big dog attitude." Uh, no, he's dog-dog aggressive. It happens in all breeds, it's just that pitbull-types are the ones villified by an uneducated press and society.

  • For all you haters, I own two wonderful pitbull type dogs, they were rescued from a high kill shelter in Las Vegas, NV. Both were only three months old and listed as strays. I have socialized them with chickens, goats, horses, cats and strangers that come over. They are well mannered, they don't bother the animals. It is how you raise them. Just like children you don't teach them they grow up to be gangsters, thugs and druggies. Point being, you teach anything right it will be right. Teach it wrong is good and well you have idiots with dogs teaching the dog to be an idiot, regardless of the breed. I Love my pit bull boys, one is 3 yrs, the other is 1.5 yrs.

Leave a comment