The phrase ‘man’s best friend” is often related to a canine companion. When you think about a man’s best friend, what’s the first breed that comes to mind? Maybe it’s a friendly golden retriever or a fluffy pomeranian, but what about the loyal pit bull? Stereotypically, a pit bull isn’t considered a family dog because of its strong physical features such as its muscular build and boxy head. Pit bulls are infamous for their violent dogfighting past, but throughout the years, dogfighting has been ruled out. The new generations of pit bulls have been treated with more care and love, so the conditioning of aggression and violence has been washed out and has left a kind, loyal, and loving animal. Pit bulls have been mislabeled as a dangerous animal for many years, but through heroic and loving actions, along with the help of their advocates, pitbulls are building a new name and reputation by proving their nature.
Pitbulls are not a breed, but an umbrella term for the five main types of pit bulls: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and American Bulldog. Under this umbrella, there are countless kinds of pit bulls such as the famous Bull Terrier which is known as the ‘Target dog”, named Bullseye.
In the past, each pit bull was bred for different purposes. The most infamous purpose being fighting, but there are purposes like hunting and nannying. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was popular in England for its loyalty, reliability, and its natural fondness and care for children. While it is not proven that the dog served as a nanny, there are countless of old photographs of children with their pet pit bulls. The pit bulls affectionate and caring demeanor proves the nanny dog rumor.
Originally, pit bulls were bred around the 1800s to serve as bull baiters. Those pit bulls were designed to man handle any large animal such as a bull or even a bear by the head, or however they saw fit. Eventually, bull baiting was outlawed, so people forced their pit bulls to fight as entertainment. Thus, dog fighting was invented and became a big issue and eventually led to a big controversy over, and great fear of, pit bulls. Since dog fighting was the new pastime, pit bull owners began to experiment and breed new mixes of dogs. This time, they were bred with terriers for their agile abilities. A combination of the already mixed pit bulls with terrier produced a quick and strong fighting machine in the ring. One of the misconceptions about pit bulls is that they are dangerous for humans, but if that were the case, then dog fighting pit bulls would be attacking their owners rather than the dogs that they are put against. The truth is that ‘fighting dogs were not bred for aggression towards humans, since they needed to be handled by humans” (Smith) as explained by ASPCA.
In December of 2017, the American Temperament Test Society announced that nearly 87.4% of American Pit Bull Terriers passed their tests that involved ‘stability, aggressiveness, friendliness, and protectiveness” (White) compared to only 69.6% of Chihuahuas that passed. The test involves the selected breed being walked through a neighborhood or park with staged situations in order to study their initial reactions and actions to them. In total, there are about 10 tests that the dog and handler go through to determine their performance and overall state of temperament. Seeing that nearly 87% of the American Pit Bull Terriers passed, it is safe to say that pit bulls are not as aggressive as they are made out to be, and could possibly be less of a threat than a small Chihuahua.
There is a universal idea that pit bulls are inherently vicious and aggressive, but any breed of dog can be aggressive. It’s about how the dog is raised and treated. The environment of a dog is just as important as the environment of a child’s. No one would want their child to live in a constant state of stress and neglection, and the same applies to pit bulls. Because of the stigma that pit bulls are aggressive, they are commonly abused and neglected. Dog fighting alone is a form of abuse because the owner allows the dog to be brutally injured for the sake of pleasure, entertainment, and even for money. Dogs take after their owner and function nearly as every human does. Dogs have emotions so if they are put into a stressful environment, it’s only natural that they will become aggressive. In order to avoid having an aggressive dog, owners should tend to their dog and cherish them as if they were their children, because they practically are.
Another form of abuse is ear cropping, a common form of force mutilation that occurs in pit bulls and other breeds of dogs. Owners decide to crop the dogs ears as young as ‘6 to 12 weeks old” (Kerns) in order to customize the dogs appearance to their liking. Even the American Kennel Club supports the idea and action of ear cropping because they claim it ‘protects dogs’ ears from being bitten and helps them hear” (Kerns), but in reality it doesn’t advance their hearing. Dogs use their tails and their ears as a form of communication, so when they are cropped, it’s harder for them to communicate with their owners and other animals. In addition to the ears, the tails of dogs are also cut down. Pit bulls face forced mutilation because their owners believe that it gives their dogs a more fierce and ferocious look, which is a concept that should be avoided and erased. The cropping of ears and tails is completely unnecessary and doesn’t benefit the animal at all; it only brings unwanted risk of infection and pain.
While there have been countless of reports of pit bull attacks, such as the incident in Boise, Idaho where a woman with a golden retriever was pet sitting a pit bull that suddenly started attacking her golden retriever, in the end, more harm came to the pit bull than the golden retriever. The Boise Police were contacted and a police officer arrived at the scene. The police officer claims he ‘used pepper spray and banged pots together” (ISJ) to stop the pit bull from further attacking the golden retriever, but when that didn’t work, the officer turned to shooting the pit bull where it died at the scene. While the pit bull did attack the golden retriever first, the reason it started attacking is unknown so anything could have happened like the golden retriever could have instigated the pit bull which could have caused the pit bull to finally snap back. Whatever the reason, shooting the pit bull was unprofessional because the officer could have called animal control while he was on his way to the crime scene. But the officer took matters into his own hands and decided to murder an animal that didn’t even belong to the golden retriever’s owner. Imagine the pain the owner of the pit bull had to go through when learning that their loved animal that was left in the care of someone else was painfully shot to death.
While one police officer made a drastic decision to harm a pit bull, another police officer by the name of Justin Bruzgul did something memorable for Kiah, a pit bull rescue. Officer Bruzgul now works alongside Kiah on narcotic and missing persons cases, making Kiah the first official pit bull police dog in New York. But Kiah wasn’t always a skilled dog. Before becoming the first police dog of New York, she was a shelter dog in Kirby, Texas and before being admitted to the shelter she was ‘hit in the head with a hammer” (Earl) causing her to have skull damage. But she was trained by UniversalK9 ‘an organization that trains dogs as well as members of police and SWAT teams to become a successful K-9 Unit” (Earl) located in San Antonio, Texas. Kiah had trouble with training but eventually overcame her difficulties and became a fast learner who could ‘outwork [the other dogs] all days of the week” (Earl). With the efforts of Officer Bruzgul and the UniversalK9 organization, a better image of pit bulls in serious work fields like the police force is installed. Through Kiahs and her advocates hard work,
Sergeant Stubby The War Dog was a stray who became a hero of the First World War. Stubby participated in ‘four offensives and 17 battles” (Dinning). Since Stubby was a stray, people had to guess his breed. He was either a Bull Terrier or a Boston Terrier. Either way, his brave efforts of helping in the war shows how trustworthy a pit bull is. Stubby was taken aboard a ship to France for war by his human companion Robert Conroy, who trained him and gave him the name Stubby for his stature and clipped tail. Stubby’s life soon turned around from scavenging through the dumps for food to being recognized as the decorated war dog for the Yankee division. Stubby was loved by all and was a big help who was not judged by his breed and was seen as a hero. Stubby served 18 months and within this time he was able to locate artillery shells and injured men with the help of his acute hearing and sharp sense of smell. Because of Stubby, many lives were saved in the Yankee division, and thankfully he made it out of the war alive. After his service, Stubby was honored a heroism medal from the Humane Education Society.
If pit bulls can work in the police force and join the military, then why not further their horizons? Pits for Patriots, co-founded by Kelly Yearwood and located in Chicago, focuses on training pit bulls to be service dogs for ‘veterans, police officers, and firefighters” (Lou) who have gone through traumatic experiences. Yearwood explained that she chose to train pit bulls because of the similarities between the pit bulls and veterans, claiming that they’ve ‘both seen a lot of trauma” (Lou) so having those common traits strengthens the bond and trust within each service dog and handler relationship. With companies like Delta banning pit bull service dogs from boarding the plane like how it did in the summer of 2018, claiming that the ban is for the safety of other passengers, is a form of discrimination against pit bulls who are rescued and trained for the purpose of helping others. According to the Department’s Air Carrier Access Act, Delta is not allowed to have ‘a limitation based exclusively on breed of the service animal” (Brulliard) for its ignorance towards pit bulls and the disabled. This is why it’s important to have organizations such as Pits for Patriots who are rescuing pit bulls from all over to train them and reverse the stigma that pit bulls are inherently too violent for the world.
The misconception that pit bulls are a naturally aggressive and dangerous animal is nothing more than a stain on their name. Throughout history, pit bulls have shown that they’re capable of properly functioning in a household and family setting and in an intensive setting like the military. Stating that pit bulls are not an appropriate animal for a family or that they’re too vicious to be presented to the general public is something spoken out of pure ignorance. It is time for those who are against pit bulls to give them a second chance at proving that they can be as loving and helpful as any other dog. Adoption rates would skyrocket and abuse statistics would decrease if the ideology that pit bulls are a genetically aggressive breed was removed. If pit bulls were given the chance to change the hearts and minds of the antis, then they would do wonders. By allowing pit bulls to be police dogs, service dogs, and family pets, that is making a change in the idea that pit bulls don’t deserve love like other dogs simply because of their appearance and history.
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