When my husband and I first got together, I was terrified of his three-year-old dog. Not because she was temperamental or aggressive, or even misbehaved. I was scared of her only because of her breed: pit bull.
I’m more than happy to say that those feelings of fear quickly dissipated. And now, seven years later, I’m more convinced than ever that she is the sweetest dog around. When she gets ready for bed, she spins around in circles and nudges the blankets to give her a “perfect” sleeping position. She is quick to snuggle, gentle and more loyal than any dog I’ve ever owned. I am happy to be her “forever-mommy.”
When we were pregnant with our first set of twins (yes, we have two), we received many sideways comments regarding whether or not we would “keep the dog.” She was family, so of course we were keeping her. Still, because she has the build and title of a pit bull, others were hesitant and (you guessed it) fearful for our newborns.
Now, two sets of twins later, we have four small children who have shared their childhood with our beloved dog. When my husband leaves for work in the early morning, our old gal does a “run through” the house to check on all of our littles. Every single day.
And when someone is sick, she is on point with those good girl cuddles. She loves our kids, almost like they are her own, and we couldn’t have asked for a better family dog.
I mean, look at her standing guard when I brought my first set of twins home from the hospital.
That’s the face of a good girl, if I’ve ever seen one.
But if you were to ask The Supreme Court of Kansas, they would call her a “public-health hazard.” A. Public. Health. Hazard. My girl? Every “pit bull”? No way. This discriminatory legislation is referred to as breed-specific legislation (BSL) and the American Veterinary Medical Association as well as the ASPCA both publicly condemn it.
What we should be discussing is our misguided bias and fear toward this particular breed of dog. Dog breed does not determine dog behavior. You see, when you let any John or Sally enter a pet shop to buy an animal, unprepared and uneducated owners will contribute to a higher number of ill-trained dogs.
With their stocky build, broad shoulders and chest, pit bulls are undeniably an intimidating breed of dog if we were to base our opinions off their looks alone. And as a result of these physical attributes, they have been subjected to much abuse dating back to more than 1,000 years ago.
Although dog fighting is banned in all 50 states, illegal dogfights are still happening for the sake of gambling and entertainment, leaving pit bulls as the most likely targets.
Some folks (and I’m sure some commenters) will say we “got lucky” with our pit bull, when really, anybody could say that about all well-behaved dogs of any breed. Because, again, it’s not the breed that makes a dog “bad,” it’s the owner and the environment. The media knows the scrutiny pit bulls are under, and they capitalize on that whenever possible, further fueling fears and stigma around pit bulls.
To complicate things even more, though breed aficionados may disagree, the term “pit bull” generally doesn’t refer to any one specific breed of dog. Rather, “like ‘hound,’ ‘pit bull’ is a ‘type,’” Bronwen Dickey, author of “Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon,” told TODAY. “Within that type, there are four distinct pedigree breeds: the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier and the American bully.”
TODAY also reports, “The term pit bull often also refers to dogs who simply look like they belong to one of those breeds — even if they share no genetic connection. And in fact, as Dickey notes, ‘multiple studies on breed identification have shown, however, that often the dogs visually identified as pit bulls don’t have any of those breeds in their DNA.’”
Although pit bulls don’t necessarily share genetics, or any particular behavior traits or a look,” they do face widespread discrimination.
This pit bull's smile is so perfect, it helped get her rescued. Lady Shortcake was found on the street in bad shape, but she never stopped smiling — and when her future mom saw her picture, she fell in love! (via @caters_news) pic.twitter.com/ihrmGyeR9m
— The Dodo (@dodo) December 31, 2018
Within one day of each other, a 59-year-old was hospitalized with severe injuries from two pit bulls, and a 16-month-old was killed from head and neck injuries from a mixed-breed dog in the U.S. The attack involving the two pit bulls was covered 230 times, with coverage reaching major news networks including CNN, MSNBC and FOX. Conversely. the fatal attack on the child from the mixed-breed attack was reported twice by the local press.
“Clearly a fatal attack by an unremarkable breed is not nearly as newsworthy as a non-fatal attack by a pit bull,” Karen DeLise, researcher with the National Canine Research Council, states on the attacks.
According to DogsBite.org, pit bulls did have the highest number of dog-bite fatalities than any other dog in 2016. But what we must understand is that the number of these fatalities cannot be attributed to the breed. Pit bulls are not born as human-aggressive dogs. In fact, a recent study showed chihuahas were more likely than pit bulls to show signs of aggression.
Pit bulls are sorely misunderstood. But beyond that, they are the most abused, feared, and euthanized dog breed in the world.
In 2016, Brad Croft, an operations director for Universal K9 — an organization training K9s, police force and SWAT to thrive as a K9 Unit without the steep cost — met pit bull, Kiah, at a shelter in Texas and brought her home for training. After an eight-week training, Kiah was sent away to her “forever home” that came with a prestigious job — she was to be the first pit bull K9 in the state of New York.
K9 Kiah, a rescue pit bull, has become the first police pit bull in the state of New York.
Let's give a shout out to this proud pooch! pic.twitter.com/DVCntdKeAL
— Jake Hamilton (@JakesTakes) October 21, 2016
“If we were to have some kind of contest, she would outwork [the other dogs] all days of the week,” Croft tells CBS News. “This dog is crazy good.”
Since Kiah, there are now more than 50 pit bulls in the police force.
Just as we tell our children not to judge a book by its cover, we ought not to judge a dog by its breed. Instead of banning the dog all together, why don’t we educate the owners? America has taken a step in the right direction by making animal cruelty a felony, but we should take further initiative to prevent the inhumane treatment before it happens.
Oh, and by the way … we loved our first pit bull so much, we decided to add another.