It’s National Pit Bull Awareness Day so let’s give one of most misunderstood dog breed’s the spotlight. Today, let’s create awareness about pit bulls, appreciate them and educate those who are misinformed. They are particularly discriminated against and abused.
What if the horrible cruelties many pit bulls are facing every day at the hands of humans were happening on the same scale to Labrador retrievers? What happened to the perception North American society had of these dogs when The Little Rascals was released in 1994. Remember Petey? The friendly neighborhood American Pit Bull Terrier?
“From the turn of the century until the early 1980s, there is exactly one dog attack story to make the national papers and mention pit bulls, but that’s probably because it involved a man intentionally siccing a pack of 26 dogs on a young woman,” Jon Bastian writes on Cesar’s Way.
“There’s no mention of pit bulls as vicious and no call for a ban of the breed, just a human who is held responsible for inducing the dogs to attack. Ironically, though, it is in Florida forty years after this incident that the first breed-specific ban is enacted. In the intervening decades, “pit bull” continues to be a popular description for athletes and when the breed does turn up in newspapers, it’s more often than not in a classified ad for puppies.”
The media has played a part in demonizing the breed, as well as the criminals who fight pit bulls against one another for sport – not because they are innately vicious towards other canines, but because their first priority is to please their owners.
But, what is a pit bull?
The term “pit bull” describes a few different breeds with similar characteristics. Pit bulls are not a distinct breed.
“The most narrow and perhaps most accurate definition of the term “pit bull” refers to just two breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) and the American Staffordshire Terrier (AmStaff),” according to states the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
“There’s a great deal of confusion associated with the label “pit bull.” This isn’t surprising because the term doesn’t describe a single breed of dog. Depending on whom you ask, it can refer to just a couple of breeds or to as many as five—and all mixes of these breeds,” states ASPCA.
Pit bulls, pit-mixes and pit-looking dogs fill the majority of kennels throughout the United States. On any given day, they make up the majority of dogs in the 150 cages at Cleveland City Kennel, 2690 W. 7th Street – just look at the kennel’s Facebook page.
The kennel had 30 dogs on their urgent list yesterday, Oct. 25, 2013. Urgent meaning, those 30 dogs need a rescue to pull them out of the kennel and then into foster homes or forever families. If these dogs do not find rescue within a certain amount of time, depending on volume of dogs int he kennel, they are euthanized.
The Cleveland Kennel is a division of the Department of Public Safety. When stray dogs are picked up in the city by a humane officer, they are held for at least three days giving their owner, if they have one, a chance to reclaim them. If they are not claimed, adoptable dogs are then transferred to either the Cleveland Animal Protective League or the Cuyahoga County Kennel. There are many kind, even tempered dogs that cannot be transferred because of breed, age, injury, sickness or other reasons. Those are the dogs you see on the kennel’s Facebook page.
Even if you’re not interested in adopting a pit bull type dog, definitely consider adopting your next pet from an area kennel, protective league or rescue. There are rescues for almost any breed that interests you. Read the “Top Five Reasons to Adopt” by the Humane Society of the United States. Right now at Secondhand Mutts, a multiple-breed rescue in Cleveland, eleven dogs are up for adoption: Ethel, a 5+ year old Miniature Poodle; Stewart, a 5+ year old Papillion; Pixie, an adult Hound Mix; Evelyn a German Shepard; Cranberry a Red Doberman, Nancy Drew, a 4-5 year-old Black and Tan Coonhound; Fizzle, a young terrier mix; Sadie, a 2.5 year old Siberian Husky, India, a 2-3 year old pit bull-mix; Sam, a mutt; and Ollie, a young potbellied pig.
On adopting, my personal experience
I adopted my first dog, Stout, Oct. 2011. At the time, Stout, a black lab-pit bull mix, was about one-year old. He was abandoned on the side of a highway in Medina.
He was initially taken to a Medina kennel by his rescuer, a former colleague of mine, in hopes of reuniting him with his owner. The kennel gave him one week to live prior to euthanasia, because that is its policy on pit bull “looking” dogs. Luckily, his rescuer asked the kennel not to euthanize him if no one claimed him and that she would take him back.
My husband and I adopted Stout soon after my colleague reclaimed him. Shy at first and a little scared, Stout soon came out of his shell. And like a broken record, everyone who meets him says, “How could anyone dump this dog on the side of the road?”
Whether Stout is a pit bull or not, breed specifics don not matter. Every dog with a responsible owner has the chance to be great.
Ohio state law
With House Bill 14, pit bulls are no longer deemed vicious by the state of Ohio. This law took effect May 22, 2012. However, various cities throughout the state still enforce breed-specific legislation (BSL). Read the Plain Dealer story about House Bill 14. However, there are still cities in Cuyahoga County still enforcing BSL, including Lakewood.
“Nearly thirty years after the beginning of this anti-pit bull hysteria, the tide seems to be turning a little bit, but every step forward is followed by a step back. Even as Florida is attempting to overturn all breed-specific legislation, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin is considering imposing a new ban. Yet it only takes a brief look at the history of pit bulls to realize that the dogs are not the problem; the humans who misuse them are,” Jon Bastian writes on Cesar’s Way.
“For over a hundred years, holding the owners personally responsible was enough to prevent attacks, and the breed was perceived as very child-friendly. With outreach and education, it may be possible to restore that image and rehabilitate the pit bull’s reputation, restoring an iconic American dog to its rightful place among mankind’s best friends.”
So, things are looking up. I do believe public perception is starting to change with an increase in positive articles in the news and more public activism. But, if you still have doubts, that’s the pits, so check out this awesome article “37 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Pit Bulls.”
Pit bull advocacy and education
To learn more about pit bulls or adopting a rescue dog, check out the following local and national advocacy and rescue organizations:
Join the discussion on our Facebook Page: What are your thoughts on BSL? Are you a dog owner? Are you celebrating National Pit Bull Awareness Day?
The original version of this article was published October 27, 2012 on Cleveland.com.
*This article is written by Brittney Teasdale Edelman, Ursuline’s Marketing Specialist and Social Media Coordinator and the proud owner of two pit bull-mix rescues pooches.