Pit Bulls: are they the Problem, or are We?

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Pit Bulls: Are They the Problem, or Are We? It’s hard to conceptualize something as coming home from a night out and finding that your precious 5-month-old baby girl had been mauled to death by a dog you knew and trusted so well. The very dog that was like family, eating dinner at the table, checking on the baby often, and sleeping near her as if to protect her over her short, but entire life.

As difficult as it is to try and imagine, this was a reality for the family of Paige George, the young victim of the canine attack. It was a seemingly normal night as George’s babysitter put her down for her bedtime. He then went to bed himself, leaving the baby on a bed in a room of the Atlanta, Georgia, home. When Paige’s mom came home, she found her baby dead. The dog most people would picture in a story such as this one would be a pit bull, a dog well publicized for its aggressive and violent nature. However, the dog responsible for this horrific incident was actually a German Shepherd, generally a loving and loyal companion (Sokmensuer). There have been instances where pit bulls have attacked and hurt people, but we know how dangerous stereotyping is, so why do it to an entire breed of dog that people think is dangerous based on news stories, especially since they are sometimes sensationalized to make the breed look even more alarming.

This animal, the pit bull, characterized by many as the most heinous model of all dogs, has been given a terrible and seemingly unchangeable reputation for violence. Even though there are instances where this type of dog acts violently towards people, the whole breed shouldn’t be reprimanded. Not every dog characterized as a pit bull is even a pit bull. Not only that, the term pit bull is in and of itself not a correct way to characterize these types of dogs. A “pit bull” is not actually a breed of dogs, it is the overall term for a few different breeds (Greenwood). “...'pit bull' is a 'type’," Dickey said. "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" (Greenwood).

People see any dog that looks as if it could be a pit bull and call it a pit bull. However, there has been lots of research on breed identification that has displayed how often it occurs that dogs that look like pit bulls don’t even have any pit bull in their genes or DNA (qtd. in Greenwood). It has also been proven that two animal specialists can be shown a photo of the same dog and not settle on what breeds make up the dog. Because of this, it is inferred that a broad number of dogs that are classified as pit bulls are simply mutts and not at all pit bulls (qtd. in Greenwood). So, the whole breed of pit bulls are being given a bad name because of how uninformed today’s society is on this category of dog. There are stories everywhere about the malicious actions of these creatures when it’s very possible as we now see that people are just talking about the wrong dog. Besides the miseducation of the absolute facts of the pit bull, the dog’s history has played a role on the way they are portrayed in today’s world. “For two thousand years or longer, pit bulldogs have been bred for a single purpose- to fight… To attack anything with four legs.” (qtd. in Dickey).

In the early 1800’s, pit bulls were bred from old english bulldogs to participate in a sport no longer played, called “bull baiting” (The History). This game consisted of one or two Bulldogs who were appointed to attack a bull for as much time until it succumbed. It was a game created to entertain the members of the lower classes who were having a hard time and needed a foundation of alleviation (The History) . In the times of WWI and WWII, pit bulls became America’s mascot. “Their image of bravery and loyalty was displayed throughout advertisements during war time” (The History). At this time, everyone loved pit bulls, they were the friendly companion dogs that America loved so much. However, with the rise of the media these dogs were running out of luck (The History). It’s difficult to trace back to the exact moment when pit bulls became one of the most feared dogs but a magazine cover story identified as “The Pit Bull Friend and Killer” written in 1987 was a big part of the change in people’s view of this breed (The History). Various articles and stories were starting to be published about how dangerous the pit bull is and with barely any reason as to why. This is where the stereotype of pit bulls being the most violent and aggressive dog started to surface. People began to dump their pit bulls in shelters at an startling percentage and were “seen by criminals as items to be discarded” (The History). It almost seems like these dogs did nothing to influence the idea that they’re dangerous other than exist. Now, a way society has learned to cope with pit bulls and other supposed dangerous dogs is to ban them. Breed-specific legislation, or BSL is the name of the law that controls or prohibits people from owning certain breeds of dogs. It was created in an effort to lower the chance of dog attacks throughout the world (Breed-Specific).

12 countries have already banned pit bulls (Cannon). Media has had a partial impact on the way people look at pit bulls. (Cohen and Richardson 285). It would be no surprise that news platforms would prefer to only post stories of dog attacks with pit bulls because that’s the dog most people would expect (Glynn). The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or the ASPCA, announced that media platforms have again and again stated they would rather only broadcast dog attacks where pit bulls or pit bull type dogs are involved (Glynn). Amelia Glynn conducted: [A] quick search in the Chronicles archives for ‘dog attack,’ which yielded 34 stories about specific dog attacks on humans… While 22 of those articles mentioned the breed in the headline (100% named pit bulls as the attackers), the other 12 articles, which involved attacks by other breeds… had only generic ‘dog attack’ headlines… In other words, these media platforms used pit bull in their headlines when a pit bull was involved in the attack but when any other dog was involved, they used a collective title, like dog attack. People only want to read and hear about stories that include the breed they expect and that could be a reason all news media is negatively affecting these dogs.

The negative reputation of pit bulls has progressively gotten worse over time and it seems as if this breed will soon be gone with breed-specific legislation. Also, with news stories broadcasted mainly about dog attacks involving only pit bulls, the stereotyping won’t be stopping anytime soon. It’s certainly difficult to ignore the stories about the bites and the attacks, but how fair can it be to assume a dog is dangerous because you heard a story about a similar dog doing something threatening? Remember when that 5-month-old baby was mauled to death by the family dog that you most likely thought was a pit bull because of what you’ve been told and assumed about that dog (Sokmensuer). People like to ignore the fact that other dogs can be dangerous as well, and only look to blame the pit bull. Correlation does not equal causation.

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Pit Bulls: Are They the Problem, or Are We?. (2021, Feb 25). Retrieved July 12, 2024 , from
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