I have created a new career for myself in retirement as an animal advocate. I write articles to create awareness of shelter pets.
The Plight of Pit Bulls in Our Society
Pet parents who own and love their pit bulls encounter many obstacles with ownership of these dogs. There are hundreds of articles in the media that describe horrific attacks by these dogs, and breed-specific laws are still on the books in towns and cities that prohibit the ownership of these dogs.
One can find stories that describe the plight of families that are forced to move because they own a pit. Homeowners who are allowed to live with their pitties face unreasonable demands from their homeowners' associations. What's more, insurance companies sometimes charge more for insurance if they do agree to provide insurance (though many insurance companies still straight-up refuse to provide insurance for a homeowner if they own a pit bull).
Shelters Are Full of Pit Bulls Waiting for Adoption
Owner surrenders account for a large number of pit bulls in shelters around the country. Pit bulls account for the largest percentage of dogs that find themselves in shelters around the country because of owner surrenders, strays, and overbreeding.
Statistics show that 40% of dogs that are euthanized in shelters are pit bulls. People still view these dogs as unadoptable. Shelter staff sometimes label dogs as pit bulls, and the wrong use of this label can be prohibitive to adoption when potential pet parents visit their local shelter to adopt a new family member.
All of these factors contribute to a dismal future for these dogs. Education is needed to raise awareness of the fact that these dogs can live amazing lives if the right families adopt and provide a loving home.
Can You Really Identify a Pit Bull?
How many people can really identify a dog that receives the label of "pit bull"? Pit bulls are not a recognized breed. The typical physical characteristics of dogs that receive this label are that of a large, "blocky" head and a thick, muscular body.
Dogs such as the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, and other mixes fit into the group labeled as "pit bulls". Some mixed breeds are actually small in size and weight.
The good news is that shelters around the country are using DNA tests to determine the actual breed of a particular dog. The cost of a DNA test is sometimes prohibitive to shelter budgets, but it's worth the cost to a responsible pet parent who wants to adopt. Changing the breed name for an adoptable dog can eliminate the fight that homeowners encounter in purchasing insurance and avoiding discrimination with homeowners' associations.
These dogs are winners when they receive a correct breed label and can be adopted into a loving and responsible home. Pet parents can purchase a DNA kit from several companies that are now providing the kits. Veterinarians are also able to perform a DNA test on a dog to determine the genetic makeup of the dog. The use of a DNA test is good news for dogs that have been labeled as a "pit bull".
Can You Find the Pit Bull?
Trending Jobs and Activities for Dogs That Are Labeled as Pit Bulls
The good news for these dogs is that they are being recognized as dogs that are capable of performing tasks that were previously given to other breeds. Police departments around the country are taking these dogs from shelters and training them to be K9 officers.
Costs for the typical dogs that have been used in the past by law enforcement agencies have risen. It can be cost-prohibitive for some police departments to purchase the German Shepard that has always been used. Law enforcement agencies around the country are now going into shelters and acquiring dogs that have been labeled as a pit bull in order to train these dogs for search missions.
Dogs that have received this label are also being adopted by responsible pet parents who are active in participating in canine sports events around the country. More pit types are participating in the sport of flying discs that is a part of canine sports events. Jim Gorant wrote the story of Wallace, a pit bull that was rescued and became a champion in the sport. Wallace was instrumental in proving that these dogs can enter and win in canine sports.
It is up to people who are owners and supporters of pit bulls to continue the fight to provide amazing lives for these dogs.
Owners and Pet Parents Can Unite to Give These Dogs an Amazing Life
Passion for Pitties
I am a volunteer for the Manatee County Animal Services shelter in Palmetto, Florida. I mainly provide publicity for the shelter with press releases to highlight events and adoption promotions.
My involvement with this shelter came about in an unusual way. This shelter is a very small shelter that because of location has mostly been hidden away for many years. Oddly enough, a German Shepherd that was labeled as aggressive brought me into involvement with the shelter.
The short version is that this dog was saved at the 11th hour because of my determination along with another volunteer to find this dog a responsible home. We succeeded and my involvement with this shelter has continued.
The population of this shelter does consist of pit bulls that are owner surrenders, victims of dogfighting rings, and abandonment to the streets as strays. Overbreeding is a major factor in this community.
The new dream team for this shelter works tirelessly every day to overcome the reputation of these dogs that find themselves in the shelter. I have seen what training can do for socializing these dogs. These dogs participate in play groups supervised by volunteers. These dogs are adoptable to the right homes.
Love a Bull
© 2016 Cindy Hewitt
Cindy Hewitt (author) from Sarasota on November 29, 2017:
Did anybody see the national dog show in New York this past weekend? The Staffordshire Terrier won best in his breed. All shelters are now trying to get people to stop using the term "pit bull" and label these dogs what most of them are-the Staffordshire terrier. I was thrilled to see this dog win best in his division.
What Official AKC Breeds Are the Most Similar?
The AKC registers many other dogs that could fall under the “Pit Bull” category. This includes the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Cane Corso, and Dogo Argentino. Many humans will argue that these are “expensive purebreds” and not Pit Bulls, but any dog with a broad head and a muscular body could be called a Pit Bull, which could prevent them from living in rented homes.
As confusing as the AKC’s database is, it’s not something that dog parents should stress about. All dogs are special and loving, whether they’re an official breed or a mutt. Humans need to stop worrying about labels and start loving their dogs for who they are. After all, we’re a part of the family.
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Q: What is the history of the pit bull?
The phenotypes of dogs that share the common definition of "pit bull" derive their heritage from "the Butcher's Dog" 4 developed through the sport of bull-baiting in England, which had progressed to Britain’s national pastime by 1500. Bulldogs were first mentioned by name in 1631, referring to their function rather than a distinct dog breed. By 1800, and through further selective breeding, the bulldog developed into a compact muscular dog characterized by tremendous jaw strength. 5
Due to public outrage, bull-baiting was banned in England in 1835. Bulldog breeders and owners then moved to the sport of "ratting," where a number of rats were placed into a pit and wagers were made on how many rats the dog could kill in a certain time period. To increase agility, quickness and prey-drive in the bulldog, ratters crossed the breed with terriers. Essentially, it was the sport of ratting that combined the bulldog and terrier into the modern day pit bull terrier.
On the heels of ratting, dogfighting developed. Pit bulls and dogfighting were exported to America as settlers made their way to the New World. In 1884, the American Kennel Club was formed but rejected pit bulls due to their use in dogfighting. In response, Chauncey Z. Bennett formed the United Kennel Club in 1898 to bring formal recognition to the pit bull breed. At that time, Bennett also drew up the rules and regulations for dogfighting to bring "organization" to the blood sport. 6
Myths and Facts About Pit Bulls
By Robin Rock
It is a fact that Pit Bulls are one of the most maligned and misunderstood dog breeds in the world. Here are some of the myths I’ve encountered while working with Pit Bulls:
MYTH: Pit Bulls have locking jaws.
Reality: Pit Bulls do not have any special physical mechanism or enzyme that allows them to “lock” their jaws. If you compare a Pit Bull skull to a skull of any other dog breed, you can see with the naked eye that both skulls share the same characteristics and general bone structure. However, one personality trait of the Pit Bull breed is determination. Whatever Pit Bulls do, they do it with a great deal of enthusiasm, and it is this trait that can make it seem like they have a locking jaw when they bite down on something and are determined not to release it.
MYTH: Pit Bulls are all inherently vicious.
Reality: This is a stereotype that is biased toward generalizing and condemning an entire breed based on the actions of a few bad people. The truth is that each dog should be evaluated by his own merits and not by his breed. A corollary truth is that there truly are no bad dogs, only bad people. In his essay Troublemakers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses what Pit Bull stereotypes can teach us about the wrongness of racial profiling of both humans and dogs.
MYTH: A Pit Bull that is aggressive toward other dogs will also be aggressive toward humans.
Reality: Dog-aggression and people-aggression are two distinctive traits and should not be confused. Unless a Pit Bull has been poorly bred or purposefully trained to attack humans, they generally love people. They are, in fact, one of the most loving, loyal, friendly and dedicated companions you can have.
MYTH: It is dangerous to adopt a Pit Bull that has an unknown history and parentage from a rescue or shelter, rather than buying a Pit Bull from a breeder.
Reality: Remember: each dog is an individual and should be judged by his current personality and behavior. Certainly he may be influenced by his genetics and history, but after working with thousands of Pit Bulls, I can assert unequivocally that many (if not most) Pit Bulls of unknown parentage that have been horribly abused, neglected, and/or forced to fight still love people more than anything, and still will be loving family pets. Responsible rescues and shelters evaluate dog behavior prior to adoption, and then adopt out only those Pit Bulls that display the proper temperament toward humans.
MYTH: It is better to adopt a Pit Bull puppy instead of an adult.
Reality: It’s a fact that puppies are adorable! But the thing about puppies is, well, they grow up. And as they mature, their personality develops and that’s when you really find out whether your Pit Bull is dominant or submissive with people, or whether she is aggressive toward some, none or all dogs. Dog-intolerance and dog-aggression are traits that do not develop in some dogs until they are fully mature. It is possible that the cute little puppy you adopt who is friendly with all other dogs may not like other dogs at all later in life, even dogs she has grown up with and lived with for her entire life. Both nurture (environment) and nature (genetics) play a role in determining a dog’s mature personality. This doesn’t mean that Pit Bull puppies should not be adopted, but if you want to know how big your dog will ultimately be and how she will act around humans and other animals, you may want to consider adopting an adult.
Ultimately, the decision to adopt any dog requires much thought on what is the right fit for your family, and your ability to commit to the dog for his or her lifetime.
Robin Rock is the founder and director of Measle’s Animal Haven Pit Bull Rescue, a 501(c)(3) non-profit rescue and sanctuary consisting of foster homes in Central Ohio. Robin has been rescuing, rehabilitating and advocating for Pit Bulls for over 10 years, and she has worked with thousands of Pit Bulls. She lives with her husband Joe, their five children, adopted dogs and cats and various foster dogs.