How come Pit Bulls are such polemic dogs? Why are they always so misunderstood? They are the first to be blamed and the first remembered when there’s an attack on a person, no matter if the attacker was not even a Pit Bull.
So how come a dog that was once so popular and the number one American family dog is now seen as a vicious aggressive animal that should be destroyed? When did this change take place and what caused it?
First of all, we should distinguish one thing. What is exactly a Pit Bull? People tend to confuse many dogs with Pit Bulls and when there’s an attack or a breed specific legislation, many families and dogs suffer because of the confusion.
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It’s common for the press to use the term “pit bull” when referring to dogs who have similar characteristics, but mainly they tend to confuse the American pit bull terrier with the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier and the American bully.
According to Bronwen Dickey, the author of Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon, the American pit bulls were very popular during WWI and the Depression. They were once even seen as all-Americans.
The problem is that at the same time, organized dog fighting –for which pit bulls were increasingly bred– was legal and popular in the American culture since the 19th century. It was even promoted by the United Kennel Club, until the 20th century when they dropped their support after the opposition to this cruel act grew.
By the 1950s the kennel club breeds were more popular and pit bulls were put aside. The struggle against the illegal dog fighting that was still active in the 1970s, put the American Pit Bulls in the spot and the perception of them changed.
They became a symbol of different crime groups and they started being rejected. Sadly, they were still bred for fighting and wanted by the wrong kind of people. They have endured torture, privation of food, lack of socialization and many of them only know chains. Under such conditions any dog can potentially become aggressive or dangerous… Any dog…
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But also any dog that has been badly mistreated can be rehabilitated; with enough resources, patience and love. Many pit bulls have showed a positive change; they also need a chance.
Breed specific legislations take that chance away from them by judging them by their looks –no matter their circumstances, behavior or current life. It’s as wrong as a race profiling because it’s equally generic.
But when there’s a dog attack and the word pit bull is said, everybody panics and the debate whether pit bulls should be banned or not reappears stronger than before. Governments feel pressure and they think that banning dogs will solve the problem. The solution apparently shows action but the problem isn’t really solved.
As long as there are no stricter laws towards irresponsible owners who keep their dogs chained, who keep them from socializing, who mistreat them, don’t feed them or give them water, don’t spend time with them and use them for fighting; nothing is actually going to change.
In places where pit bulls are forbidden but illegal dog fighting still happens, other dog breeds are becoming increasingly popular, like the Dogo Argentino who is now seen in dog fighting circuits. This proves that banning a breed won’t solve the problem if the human hand behind the dog is equally irresponsible and constantly unpunished.
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It’s time society acts responsibly to what it created. Breeding dogs for desire features has been an acceptable practice for centuries. So how come, when breeding goes out of hand, it is easier to say “let’s forbid all these dog types and if we see them, we’ll kill them”? Human actions led it out of control, but instead of giving responsibility to humans, fault is placed on the dog. It just doesn’t feel right.
In places where pit bulls have been banned, the dog attacks didn’t reduce so maybe it’s time to reconsider if this really solves the problem.
Pit bulls are like other dogs but they are also unique. They should always be matched to the right people that will give them enough training, exercise, challenges, attention and love. Their humans need consistency, time, energy and understanding.
Making sure dogs go into the right homes, creating stricter laws for animal abuse and educating people on responsible ownership guaranties less dog attacks. It may take more time, but it would be more effective. Banning specific breeds gives a fast but apparent solution that won’t work and soon enough it will be shown.
So why keep blaming the dogs? Why keep banning them? Why not creating educational programs and keep spreading the word regarding great stories of pit bulls so they stop being misunderstood once and for all?