Pit Bull dogs: What Shelters Want You To Know

The majority of the news articles you’ll read on Pit Bulls will be along these lines: Pit Bull Attacks a Child, or An Unprovoked Pit Bull seriously injures a Chihuahua. In the media, these pups are described as being unpredictable, violent, and aggressive. This stereotype is also based on misinformation, as are most.

The stories of those who are involved in Pit Bull rescues, animal shelters or dog shelters may differ from what you’re used to. These dogs, they say, are misunderstood by the public and unfairly tarnished. Workers and volunteers that work with Pit Bulls share their insights and experiences. You may want to adopt a Pit Bull after learning all the facts.

1. The Pit Bull is not a recognized breed

Rena Lafaille is the director of promotions and administration at the ASPCA Adoption Center, New York City.

Lafaille says that most of the Pit Bulls we encounter at the ASPCA Adoption Center are a mix between another breed and a Pit Bull. This makes them a distinct breed with varying personalities.

Samantha Nelson is a policy specialist at the Humane Society of the United States for companion animals. Animal welfare workers disagree on the definition of a Pit Bull. Even dog owners and law enforcement officials are not in agreement on what exactly a Pit Bull is. Pit Bull does not have a standard definition. “People use it arbitrarily, subjectively, at random.”

2. Most Pit Bulls are misidentified

Haylee Hiesel is a Dogtown Behavior Consultant at Best Friends Animal Society, Kanab Utah. She says that a large number of Pit Bull puppies are mixed breeds. She says humans are notoriously bad at identifying mixed breeds. Many studies have shown that we can be wrong as much as 90 percent of the time.

Nelson says that dogs that are identified as Pit Bulls might not have any Pit Bull breeds in their DNA (such as American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier). Nelson says that canine genetic tests have shown that people who work in the animal industry can’t identify the mixed breed dog’s genealogy accurately through visual inspection.

3. The Pit Bull is an individual dog (not a stereotype)

All dogs are unique. This is the very first thing we would like people to understand. Lafaille says that regardless of the dog’s physical appearance, its personality, and behavior must be evaluated individually.

You’ll see that each dog has its own unique temperament, physical abilities and behavior. Pit Bulls are not any different. Some Pit Bulls are more active than others. Some dogs are boisterous, while others are reserved. Heisel says that some dogs love to play with other canines, while others do not.

Nelson, a spokesperson for the HSUS, encourages prospective pet owners to ask specific questions regarding their dog. Is he friendly with dogs of other breeds? “Does he like to play and run all day or does he prefer to sit on the couch?”

4. Breed-Specific Laws Do Not Make Communities Any Safer

The opponents of the breed-specific law (BSL), say that it is misguided, and gives a false feeling of security. It tries to improve public safety by reducing dog bites. However, instead of focusing solely on dangerous dogs in general, the legislation wrongly labels some breeds as dangerous, such as Pit Bulls. The bans are discriminatory and play on harmful stereotypes. They also harm the pets and their owners. Bretta Nelson is the public relations manager at Arizona Humane Society, in Phoenix.

Nelson says that BSLs are also expensive and hard to enforce, and they add to the already overburdened system of animal services. These laws drive dogs from their homes into shelters and take up space in kennels and other resources that are needed for animals who really need them.

Kelly Dalton, president and co-founder of Bombshell Bullies Pit Bull Rescue, Inc, Vernon Hills, Illinois, said that cities with BSL still have bite incidents. The number of incidents of dogs biting in Toronto increased by over 50% since the BSL was implemented in 2005.

5. Pit Bull Dogs are one of the most at-risk shelter animals

Lafaille says that because of their negative stereotypes, Pit Bulls are the dogs most likely to be in need today.

According to Nelson, in Arizona the three most common breeds that are brought into shelters by pet owners include Pit Bulls, Chihuahuas, and cats. The Alliance for Companion Animals is a coalition of animal welfare groups, including the Arizona Humane Society and Arizona Animal Welfare League. It also includes Altered Tails Animal Defense League of Arizona HALO Animal Rescue, PACC 911. They focus on these breeds with their fix.adopt.save campaign.

Heisel says that a number of factors are responsible for the large number of Pit Bulls in shelters. “I think the most important ones to emphasize would be the difficulties families face with regard to insurance, the housing restrictions and, of course, the breed-specific laws.”

6. Media Narratives Are Often Misleading

Pit Bull Facts are ignored. Pit Bulls are victims of false beliefs that may be fatal. The negative media coverage of Pit Bull-type dogs is rarely balanced by thousands of success stories in adoption. “In reality, adopted Pit Bulls-type dogs live peacefully in their homes and have historically been popular pets with families, known for their loyalty and affection,” Lafaille says.

Lafaille says that news reports tend to be more negative, perpetuating the vicious dog stereotype. Media coverage of Pit Bull aggression is much greater than positive adoption placements. This leads people to think that this breed represents the majority.

7. Pit Bull Dogs Are Amazingly Loving And Loyal

Heisel says that further research has shown that Pit Bulls signal the same as other dogs. They scored about average in temperament tests. Dogs communicate their thoughts and emotions using signals. A dog that is scared may cower. An aggressive dog will growl and show teeth.

Nelson has been working in animal welfare for eight years and says Pit Bulls are some of the loveliest, most resilient dogs that she has ever met. They are wonderful family dogs, who are both energetic and loving. Perfect for family outings as well as family cuddles.

Nelson also saw their unconditional love. I have witnessed a Pit Bull pup who had both his back legs broken by someone (likely a human) wiggle and kiss everyone he met. She said that these stories are common, but “yet all the dogs have one thing in mind: no ill-will towards humans whatsoever.”

8. Pit Bull attacks are not on the rise

Pit Bull attacks in the US are rare. Dog bites have reached a historic low thanks to the laws targeting reckless owners. Nelson says that there are “millions of Pit Bulls who live with their families happily without incident.”

Dalton says that there are 18 million Pit Bulls in the US, which is about 20 percent of all dogs. If the breed was aggressive by nature, there would be millions of incidents instead of the few that are reported each year.

Dalton insists that Pit Bulls can be strong, and they do cause some damage with their bites. However, this does not mean they are more likely to behave in a destructive manner. It’s the same as saying that a 250-pound man will be able to beat up someone just because he’s big and strong.

When you are ready to adopt a Pit Bull, those who rescue them ask you to go into the shelter with a positive attitude. You can save lives by bringing a Pit Bull into your house. This will also help to change stereotypes. And you might end up getting a dog that is more than you expected.