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American Pit Bull Terrier: Demon or Darling?

By       Message Karen Batchelor       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   7 comments

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“I work as a paramedic and have seen bites from all kinds of breeds. In 6 years I have responded to approx 10 dog bite calls. Only one call was actually a pit, the worst bite was from an 80 lb black lab who mysteriously morphed into a 95 lb pit bull between the incident and the news story” (from 12/03/08)  Such ‘misidentification’, whether the result of ignorance or an agenda, is the reason why the Centers for Disease Control no longer includes breed in their dog bite stats since they recognize how likely the information is wrong.

Too often, when there is a newsworthy incident involving a dog, the media will report the animal as a Pit Bull if the incident is of a negative nature.
The public obviously trusts the media if the number of them out here in the real world parroting hype is anything to judge by.  They have taken the propaganda regarding the Pit Bull on board big time, not that most would know a Pit Bull if he up and licked them.  The result is that the bull terrier type the world over has been unfairly demonized – whether they are Pit Bulls or not.
Around the world there are innocent dogs dying as the public pass them over for adoption because they have ‘that’ look about them.  They are going to the needle instead of to their forever homes because the public is terrified of them, yet they have arguably the best temperament you can get in a family dog.
For example, one of my computer technicians related a ‘scary’ experience he had when having to cross a narrow bridge with a gang member coming the other way with “one of those Pit Bulls”.   Stroking my Pit Bull b*tch he said: “You can see why people die!” I asked him to describe the dog and he described the (I thought) unmistakable look of the English Bull Terrier.  Having corrected his mistake I pointed out that “that dog there with her head in your lap is a Pit Bull”.  He thought that a hugely funny joke since he knew her sweet nature well. When I spread her 6-generation pedigree certificate out in front of him he was gob-smacked. 
How many dogs have been so wrongly accused?  There are the Amstaffs, Alapaha Blue Bloods, American Bulldogs and many, many more dogs who resemble the American Pit Bull Terrier, yet haven’t a millilitre of Pit Bull blood running in their veins.
What of the boxer cross, Ty, seized from his home in the U.K. after a council worker accused him of being ‘a fighting dog’.  He was slung in jail for months, and finally sent home having lost more than a third of his body weight, traumatized, castrated, micro-chipped, on the dangerous dog register to be muzzled in public, and his owner carrying a criminal conviction for keeping a fighting dog.  Well, he’s home now but he’s not the same happy 12-month-old puppy they snatched.  He is one of many dogs unjustly accused and harmed.  At least he survived.
The British Police still conduct their witch-hunts going door-to-door looking for ‘the type’ and subjecting innocent dogs to this abysmal nightmare because they have ‘that’ look about them.  Their human families have to spend thousands of pounds fighting through the courts to get their pet back – if they can afford to.
Why?  Because of a political agenda and unbridled media hype that has resulted in a public perception that there is a mindless, vicious Pit Bull killer dog lurking around every corner. 
The subsequent outcry from an ignorant and frightened public set the scene for the introduction of Breed Specific Legislation as they bayed for the blood of those killer fighting dogs. 
Are Pit Bulls inherently dangerous?  Everyone says so, don’t they?  It’s on the news…it MUST be true…mustn’t it?  Google the “Pit Rules”.  Read this document and see what you have to be able to do with your dog in the pit.  These dogs have been culled for hundreds of generations for any sign of human-targeted aggression.  A pit dog who bites his handler is a dead pit dog.  If that isn’t culling for temperament, what is?
We all know how easily and often Pit Bulls are stolen.  How do you steal what the media and politicians have led you to believe is a mindless, vicious killer…and why would you want to?
If Pit Bulls are such unpredictably violent animals, why aren’t they fighting in a steel cage – on their own? 
The pit is in fact a pen with sides just 30 inches high into which goes not only the two combatants but also the referee, two handlers and at the outset of a fight, two cornermen.  Then there are all the punters at pitside.  Where are these victims on your plastic surgeon’s gurneys?   No room for man-biters in the pit.
So where does this unrelenting ‘tsunami’ of Pit Bull attacks come from?
It comes from the hype, which encourages the worst sort of owners to the breed, advertises the puppy miller’s ill-bred and cross-bred look-alikes gratis, assuring them of many more sales every time a mauling hits the airwaves, and causes thousands of innocent animals to suffer and die unnecessarily.  It also scares and misleads the public and encourages animal control contractors and other ignorant factions running shelters to apply their ‘no exception’ euthanasia policies to the Pit Bull and his unfortunate look-alikes.
Is there really a dog attack epidemic?  You could be forgiven for thinking so according to news reports.  In fact, Americans are five times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a dog (from “Dogs Bite: But Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous – Janis Bradley).
For the last several months I have been getting Google Alerts for Pit Bull, Labrador and German Shepherd dogs.  Almost without exception the Pit Bull reports are of the shock/horror type involving hideous attacks on little kids and fluffy defenseless lap dogs.  The Shepherd and Labrador reports are almost exclusively of the warm fuzzy kind, hero dogs working in search and rescue or as service dogs etc., or the dogs who saved the family from the house fire, burglar etc.  The world’s first face transplant recipient lost her face to her Labrador dog.  The breed of dog took weeks to surface but had it been a Pit Bull it would have made headlines for months. Spot the prejudice.
Properly analysed statistics such as those responsible for the Dutch government’s decision to end their Pit Bull ban, and those in a recent study out of Spain (Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, Vol. 2, Issue 5 – Sept. 2007), show that Pit Bulls are in fact well down on the list of offenders and that a breed specific approach is of no appreciable value in reducing the incidence of dog bite.
Thankfully, such organizations as the ASPCA have stepped up to the plate for this most unfairly maligned breed with their Adopt-a-Bull programme.  This excellent programme is aimed to re-educate the American public and show them that there is nothing wrong with the American Pit Bull Terrier that NOT falling into the wrong hands doesn’t fix completely. 
A case in point: Kris Crawford was recently cited an “Education Hero” by the Red Cross for her efforts in developing classes that save children from dog bites using her 3 American Pit Bull Terriers, Dakota, Cheyenne and Tahoe.  These are the same dogs she has trained for search and rescue and who were involved in the search for the remains of those aboard the space shuttle Columbia which failed upon re-entry.  She is one of many high-profile dogmen and women who have proven the breed’s worthiness in a wide range of activities that benefit humankind and require a stable, safe and reliable temperament. 
So much for Breed Specific Legislation as it is plainly hiding nothing as well as cruelly unfair.
So, what do we do about the real problem?  The bad owners who neglect their dogs, fail to adequately train, restrain and socialize them, who abuse their dogs to make them nasty and dangerous, who starve and beat them, leave them chained all summer in a dust bowl and all winter in the mud and/or snow, leave their kids unsupervised, terrorise their neighbours and who don’t give a toss for the rules?  We do all we have ever been able to do and that is to treat them on a case-by-case basis.
The courts need to get much tougher on those perpetrating acts of cruelty from puppy-milling to the many associated forms of abuse.  The apparent “it’s just a dog” mentality belongs in the dark ages.

A society is judged by the way it treats its animals and we in the western world are failing them miserably by persisting in getting it wrong, whether that is in enacting pointless heartless anti-dog legislation or allowing offenders to walk away from some truly horrible crimes against animals with little more than an admonition.
As for the poor Pit Bull, once the public cotton on to this most appalling kill-fest of an innocent breed and its look-alikes, there will be some nervous stomachs among the legislators, proponents and enforcers of the horror that is Breed Specific Legislation.
It can’t happen soon enough for me – or for those many little souls waiting alone at the pound, wondering what’s going on until they die for just having ‘that’ look about them, or worse, having first been owned by a two-legged monster who didn’t do right by them and landed them in this direst kind of trouble for a dog.


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Born Auckland, New Zealand in 1957. Always animal-mad I had the huge privilege of discovering the love of and the truth about the American Pit Bull Terrier more than a decade ago. Since then I have met some of the finest human beings marching on (more...)

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