The plight of the pit bull

My next door neighbors have two gorgeous dogs – Monkey, a calm and gentle Great Pyrenees, and Nash, a Blue Nose Pit Bull puppy. All puppies are exuberant but Nash is a special boy. At four months he was a bounding bundle of energy; at 7 months he is now a BIG bundle of energy. Franny hates Nash. She hates pretty much any dog that isn’t dignified and calm. So on the days I let Nash and Monkey out for a potty break in my back yard, I know I’m in for a grumpy Fran.

I love pitbulls and have for years but, like Franny, many people are not fans. Sadly, it is the pit’s reputation and the humans that have shaped them that are the problem, not the dogs themselves. But what is a pit bull, really?

Pits are a cross between terriers and bulldogs first bred to create a dog with a terrier’s tenaciousness and a bulldog’s athleticism. Pit bull is not a breed, it is a group of several different types of dogs with similar characteristics. Pits are intelligent dogs and are used as companion animals, police dogs, and therapy dogs; in the early 20th century, they were as popular as labs are today!

Pit bulls have a higher tendency towards agression than many other breeds. This is what has created a culture of fear around pit bulls in the US. Of the 238 humans killed by dogs between 1979 and 1998, 32% have been pit bull attacks.

Sadly, this is truly a case of a few bad eggs ruining a whole cake. The vast majority of pit bulls are sweet, amazing dogs. But their reputation has led to various forms of legislation banning their ownership, requiring that all pits wear muzzles, and more. Pit bulls are the hardest dogs for shelters to adopt out, in part because they have special requirements for their ownership. At the SF SPCA, for example, an adopter needs to bring all members of the household (including other dogs) to meet the dog and a note from the landlord approving the ownership of a pit bull by their tenants. Not many landlords out there are willing to take the liability risk. The situation was/is so bad that in 1996 the SF SPCA renamed pits as “St. Francis Terriers” in the hope that they would be more readily adopted.

Luckily, many residents of San Francisco have discovered how great pits are. With a pit, early socialization and training is key, but with a little effort, they are amazing companions!

If you are interested in adopting a pit, please visit a shelter or rescue organization and not a breeder. Even if you are searching for a puppy, rescues have plenty. Breeders are not only putting more dogs out there to eventually end up in shelters (over 50% of all puppies will end up in a shelter by age 2) but they often select for physical traits, not behavioral ones, and whenever a breed is shaped according to physical characteristics, it will automatically become more agressive.

Check out some of these pit-bull specific rescue organizations!

Bad Rap  www.badrap.org

Reunion Rescue  www.reunionrescue.com

Our Pack Pit Bull Rescue www.ourpack.org

If you are looking for a pit bull but want to make sure you adopt the right one, contact me at www.modernhoundsf.com!

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3 responses to “The plight of the pit bull”

  1. Phil Sharp says :

    I have two pitbulls of my own and would love to help if anyone has any quesitons. Just shoot me an email or tweet @iamphilsharp

  2. Meredith says :

    I stumbled across your article while researching a documentary I am developing. I own a pit bull myself, and while I enjoyed your article, the line: “They have a special muscle that allows them to clamp down on a kill and not let go.” is UNTRUE. They are anatomically like all other dogs. This is the equivalent of saying a black person has an extra bone that helps them jump higher and run faster. Comments like this perpetuate EXTREMELY dangerous stereotypes. I hope you will edit this out of your article for the sake of the bully-type reputation.

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