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Pitbull's and the Misconceptions Associated with the Dog Breed

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The Dog in the Fight

Dogs are known as man’s best friend, yet throughout time we have victimized “man’s best friend” simply for what they are trained to be used for. The most recent victim of this unfair label of “vicious” is the Pit Bull. Although there is no real scientific evidence that this mix of dogs all lumped into one “breed” is any more vicious than other dogs, in some states Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is in place. Breed Specific Legislation is a law put in place that takes away the right to own a dog if it is deemed a Pit Bull. Dogs are confiscated based off of their appearance, not based upon their actual behavior. Because of the stigma that exists in the media against Pit Bulls, they are unfairly taken from their owners. Officials are punishing an entire set of dogs based off the behavior of some. Aside from the obvious problem that dogs are being put down based off superficial things like appearance, the owners of these dogs are suffering as well. When looking at the stigma against Pit Bulls, it is easy to see that there is a lack of education about these beautiful animals and as a result, Pit Bulls have been unfairly deemed as vicious.

The infamous Pit Bull’s origins began innocently enough. As the article, “The Truth About Pit Bulls” explains, the Pit Bulls ancestors were brought to North America by English immigrants. They originally served as a “gripping dog” for hunters, however, as the informative article reported, “eventually, these dogs were bred to participate in an inhumane sport called ‘baiting.’” This poor excuse for a sport consisted of Pit Bulls pitted against large animals such as bulls and bears. Baiting lasted until the early 1800s, when at this time animal baiting was rightfully banned (Bahrampour). Left with no cynical source of entertainment, people began fighting dogs against each-other and the well-known sport of dog fighting was born (The Truth about Pit Bulls). Since the dogs used at the time were bred for fighting large and slow animals, they had to be selectively bred into dogs that were slim and agile in order to be able to fight other dogs entertainingly enough for their sick and twisted “caretakers” (Bahrampour). These agile, small yet sturdy dogs are the forebears for the Pit Bull we know and love to hate today.

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Although is it clear what a Pit Bull is supposed to be, there is still a lot of confusion about exactly what a Pit Bull is and this can lead to look-alike dogs being unrightfully taken from their owners. The article “The Truth About Pit Bulls” describes that, this confusion is “because of the vagueness of the “Pit Bull” label, many people have trouble recognizing a pit bull when they see one” and this leads to facts being skewed and in areas where Breed Specific Legislation is in effect, it can lead to dogs being confiscated for months on end while “experts” try to determine whether the dog is in fact a Pit Bull. As the article also explains, generally speaking, a Pit Bull is labeled by whether or not they have a wide head, powerful jaws and a muscular, stocky body. If a dog has these things and is in a city that has legislation against them, they are likely to be confiscated then terminated. The article “Pit Bull Fact vs. Fiction” details the different dogs that are commonly mistaken for Pit Bulls, these dogs include, “the Boxer, the Presa Canario, the Cane Corso, the Dogo Argentino, the Rosa Inu, the Bullmastiff, the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog and the Olde English Bulldogge.” Any one of these dogs are often mistaken for Pit Bulls and confiscated from their owners until it can be proven if they are or are not true Pit Bulls.

In most cases, if any of these similar looking dogs are found they will be confiscated and terminated, sometimes without an evaluation beyond visual to determine the true breed of the dog. This scary situation was the case with Clifford, the article “A Bite Worse than It’s Bark” details a Pit Bull that attacked and mauled 10 year old Dominic Solesky in 2007. As a result of this attack, Maryland imposed litigation on all Pit Bulls, even Pit Bull mixes. Because Clifford attacked someone and nearly killed them, he was put down before an examination was possible to determine whether he was a Pit Bull. As Solesky’s lawyer points out, “[In cases of dog attacks] oftentimes an examination isn’t possible because the dog has already been put down.” This unfair action against the dog is a violation of our 14th amendment as citizens of the United States. The 14th amendment states, “No state shall…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” meaning that no dog can be taken from a citizen unless it can be proven that they are a danger to the public (Why BSL is Unconstitutional). The due process of law is being deprived as a result of the hasty hands of people who are unqualified to be determining whether the dog in question is a Pit Bull or not.

Like in the case of Clifford, one major negative argument is that Pit Bulls are more aggressive than the average dog. This causes a lot of fear to be added into the already existing phobia of Pit Bulls. However, this belief is not true and does not have any ground to stand on. As the article “Pit Bull Facts vs. Fiction” tells the reader, “[in a temperament test] the average dog only scored 77% while Pit Bulls scored 82%” completely disproving the belief that Pit Bulls have a more aggressive tendency than the average dog. The supposedly dangerous dog passed the temperament test with a 15% higher score than the average, milder tempered dog did. This means that as far as a temperament test goes at least, Pit Bulls are less aggressive than most dogs. Despite this obvious example of the reason why Pit Bulls are not more aggressive than any other dog, people still believe that Pits are dangerous dogs. Ironically, the same people that are judging this dog are the ones who are creating the problem with Pit Bulls.

The only time a Pit Bull would turn into what it is perceived to be, is if it is set free from its owner and is forced to fight for its food. Without its owner, a dog turns into a wild animal, nothing like what they are known as today. Owners control the fate of the dog. With that in mind, think about the following statement; Pit Bulls are not inherently vicious, instead the owners are the ones responsible for their behavior, violent or otherwise. The article “Pit Bulls Used to be Considered the perfect Nanny Dogs” gives an alternate reason for the way that Pit Bulls are perceived in society, they write, “Pit Bulls are the dog of choice for irresponsible breeders, dog-fighters, people who want a tough-looking dog to tie up in their yard” meaning that it is the irresponsible owners fault that these innocent dogs are perceived as vicious. The owners are irresponsible and dog-fighters already so the dog is doomed to be vicious before it even arrives. Along with the fact that some of the people that get Pit Bulls are irresponsible, the article also tells of “A 2009 study in the Journal of Forensic Science, [which] found that the owners of vicious dogs, regardless of the breed, had ‘significantly more criminal behaviors than other dog owners” proving even more that it is the owners who are turning these poor dogs into monsters, not the dogs themselves. People forced these dogs to become what they are, and yet humans are blaming the dog for how it is perceived.

There are many myths that come up when talking about Pit Bulls. Perhaps the most talked about and least researched myth is that they have a locking jaw. This is the majority of the cause for the phobia against Pit’s, after all who would want a dog if their jaw can lock if they happen to bite you, right? In fact the article “Pit Bull Facts vs. Fiction” explains that, “there is nothing unique about the anatomy of Pit Bulls jaws. They do not lock.” Perhaps the reason this myth exists is because of the tenacity in which Pit Bulls hold on when they do bite someone. As the article goes on to explain, this tenacity is because of their Bull Baiting history. During a battle with a Bull, Pits had to hold on for dear life if they managed to get ahold of the Bull, or whatever animal they were put up against. This caused the Pit to develop a natural tenacity when it comes to biting and not letting go. However, that does not mean they have any more a special jaw than say a German Shepherd, in fact, both the Rottweiler and German Shepherd have stronger jaws than the Pit Bull (Pit Bull Fact vs. Fiction). By the same logic then, we as humans should be afraid of German Shepherds and Rottweiler’s versus Pit Bulls who have weaker jaws. This unfair and non-researched myth is the cause for a lot of the “natural” phobia against Pit Bulls.

Among all the advocates for Pit Bulls there are also people that believe that they are pure evil and should be burned at the stake for simply existing. One of the arguments is talked about in the article “A Shorter Leash For Pit Bulls” the article states that, “Pit Bulls were responsible for 21 of the 29 deaths from dog attacks in the United States 1983.” The term “Pit Bull” entails far more than just one singular dog. In fact the term “Pit Bull” can actually mean any of these dogs, “The AKC-recognized breeds most commonly included [are]…Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Also frequently included are included are Rottweilers, Chow Chows, Mastiffs, and Presa Canarios” meaning that seven different dogs get included into the Pit Bull label (Pit Bull Bans, the State of Breed Specific Legislation). No wonder the “Pit Bull” is responsible for 21 out of 29 deaths from dog attacks. If the Siberian Husky had 7 different dogs being included in their dog bite statistics, they too would be perceived as vicious.

Ever since the time that dogs were considered man’s best friend, there has been a dog that was considered “vicious.” While right now the focus is on Pit Bulls, “the focus of public and government concern has not always been pit bulls; in the 1970s the concern was over German Shepherds, and in the 1980s, Doberman Pinschers” proving that there is a certain cycle that the public goes through in regards to our hate (Pit Bull fact vs. fiction). The negativity against Pit Bulls is only temporary, just a cycle that will one day be repeated as a direct result of the media’s reporting of dog attacks.

Nearly every single dog breed has been considered vicious at one time or another since their existence. The article “Pit Bull Bans: the State of Breed Specific Legislation” highlights dogs that have and have not been considered “vicious” in the time since they existed. The article tells that, “the only dog that has not had the “vicious label” at some point is the Mastiff.” Every single dog in existence past or present besides the Mastiff has had the vicious label at some point, let that sink in. “Pit Bull Facts vs. Fiction” also examines the case of when we thought the Bloodhound was vicious. During the civil war, Bloodhounds were used to track down runaway slaves, presumably because of their nose. Because of their use, they were considered vicious. Also according to “Pit Bull Facts vs. Fiction,” “Public opinion on this subject changes according to media coverage, the popularity of the breed, and what the breed is used for” meaning that nothing pertaining to the actual temperament/behavior is used when opinion forms on a dog, the only thing that is used is the media coverage, popularity, and the breed’s use. Just like the Bloodhound was used for tracking down slaves, which could be considered a vicious thing to do, the Pit Bull is often used as a status symbol and dressed to look mean.

Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is a law that bans or restricts certain types of dogs based on their appearance, usually because they are perceived as ‘dangerous’ breeds or types of dogs” (What is BSL?). This form of breed control is commonly used against breeds of dogs that are deemed vicious in the public’s eye usually as a result of a dog attack. Some experts are beginning to doubt the effectiveness and practicalness of BSL. Kristopher Irizarry, PhD Assistant Professor, Genetics, Genomics, Western University explains that “[He’s] beginning to believe that breed specific legislation targets nothing more than a small subset of morphological characteristics of dogs and does not address behavior at all” the same thought that every single Pit Bull owner has thought (Born Bad). This train of thought is hopefully going to be the beginning of the end for BSL. BSL is not working in cities whatsoever, it should not even exist.

BSL is not working whatsoever. Dog bites are continuing to happen, and it is showing no signs of stopping. From the article, “Failure to Improve Safety” it was reported that, “[In the UK] 4328 dog bites were reported treated by U.K. hospitals in 1999, whereas in…April 2011 there were 6,188 [dog bites]…–an increase of 41% over ten years.” This statistic was after implementing BSL. If the goal is to stop dog bites, why is the number of them rising after implementing a program designed to stop dog bites. The article, “Born Bad” explains their reasoning behind why BSL is ineffective, “This reactionary approach to public safety is regarded by experts as a knee-jerk and highly ineffective treatment for tackling the multi-faceted nature of any community’s dog issues” however it is still continuing to be the safety net solution for many cities around the US and around the world. This major program that has been implemented around the world seems to be the pride and joy of the creators and Pit Bull haters, however, “In the few cases where sufficient data has been scientifically gathered and analyzed, BSL has not been shown to reduce dog bites or improve public safety” (Failure to Improve Safety). The implementers are not even keeping track of the data for most of the places that BSL has been applied. As far as the research shows, BSL seems to be creating more problems than it is worth.

Many problems aside from dog bites continuing to happen and even increase have arisen in our attempt to control dog bites all around the world through BSL. There is a plethora of issues that have come up as a direct result of BSL such as inhibiting service Pit Bulls from doing their job in a city that has BSL in place. This is the case of Precious, a service dog in Denver, Colorado. The article “Nuisance or Necessity” details a service dog named Precious and her owner Allen Grider. Allen suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of serving our country, his 8 year-old dog Precious helps him cope with the disability. Under the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) all dogs are eligible to be service dogs and once a dog is a service dog, they cannot be taken away. However, “the restrictions [from BSL] make it impossible for Precious to work as a service dog, and…they violate the ADA.” In 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice issued rules regarding banned-breed service dogs. The rules, that took effect in March, prohibit any dogs being banned as service dogs because of their breed. As of April 2011, the city of Denver announced that it would lift the ban on Pit Bulls who are identified as service dogs by their owners. The ban on Pit Bulls is supposed to benefit the greater population, not hurt them. This major flaw in the system that is BSL is only one example of the problems that have arisen since the implementation of this fault ridden program.

Even at the basic level this program has issues. The legislation against Pit Bulls is flawed, “it does not take into account how the owner has raised, trained, or managed the dog. It does not take into account the dog’s actual behavior” (What is BSL?). The only thing BSL takes into account is the dog bite statistics, it does not look at the way the dog was raised or their actual behavior what-so-ever. If the dog is a Pit Bull, or even resembles a Pit Bull, it is automatically taken from its owner, no questions asked and no questions answered. Because of the confiscation of so many Pit Bulls, shelters are becoming overrun with them (Pit Bulls Used to be Considered the Perfect Nanny Dog).

As a direct result of the bad rap Pit Bulls have, most times a trip to a shelter is one they will never return from. After a certain period of time, dogs in shelters are put down because of overpopulation issues that can arise when dogs stay too long in a shelter. The article “Neighborhood Report” tells that “some shelters report that more than 50% of incoming dogs are pit bulls. [In 1999], New York City’s Center for Animal Care and Control received 7285 pits.” The number of Pit Bulls that are brought into shelters is simply outrageous and out of control. The reason so many innocent dogs are brought into the shelter is because there are so many Pits in New York roaming the streets, they are perceived as an immediate threat because of the stigma against them in the media.

Overpopulation is a multifaceted problem when Pit Bulls are involved. The article “Pit Bulls Used to be Considered the Perfect Nanny Dog” tells, “86 percent of fatal canine attacks involve an unneutered male, according to the American Humane Society.” Unneutered males (not all, but most) tend to be more aggressive, especially towards other male dogs that are both neutered and unneutered (Dog Aggression). Aside from unneutered males being more aggressive, if a male is unneutered then he will reproduce with the nearest female, thusly creating more Pits to be put in shelters.

Since their existence, Pit Bulls have been forced into vicious ways of life, from bull baiting to dog fighting, they were forced to be something that they never truly were. In reality, Pit Bulls, like most dogs, are sweet, fun loving dogs that deserve much more credit than they are given. There is a stigma against them that is not valid or fair to the dog. They do not deserve to be judged based off their appearance simply because of what we humans use them for. Many myths exist against them that are only talked about because people are too ignorant to actually do any research about them, if they did happen to do a little reading, they would discover that all the myths they know as “facts” are in fact false. In order to combat the problem of dog bites, some cities implemented Breed Specific Legislation which is ineffective and has more problems than the people that came up with it. It does not take into account the owner of the dogs or the dog’s actual behavior, it simply looks superficially at the dog. And not to mention it goes against the 14th amendment. Pit Bulls are unfairly portrayed as vicious in the media and as a result, in all of society.

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