Monday, August 25, 2008

The BAD RAP on Pit Bulls

This is gonna seem strange when you step back and think about it. I'm a Chihuahua owner writing passionately in defense of Pit Bulls.

I have always liked Pit Bulls. I really love their smiles. Go look at some pictures of dogs. All different kinds, Labs, Poodles, German Shepherds, Chihuahuas, look at them all. There is not one breed that has a smile as big as a Pit Bull's.

I've always known that they're not the killing machines with locking jaws that many choose to believe about them. The truth about them is, like any other dog, they're only as mean as they have been raised to be. While there is some truth to the idea that they are genetically disposed to being fighting dogs, it is also true that they are also genetically disposed to being people pleasers. Given this genetic dispositon for fighting the reality is that they'd probably be better at fighting than other breeds, but with the same kind of training and socialization you'd give any other breed they'd be no more inclined to attack another dog than any other breed would be.

I could train my Chihuahuas to herd sheep but they wouldn't be as good at it as a Sheep Dog would. Conversely, if I had a Sheep Dog that had never seen a sheep before wouldn't it be unreasonable to expect him to automatically know what to do if he were suddenly thrust into the middle of a herd of sheep? I'm not automatically better at using chopsticks than anyone else just because I'm Chinese, right?

What has led me to think so much of Pit Bulls lately is the Michael Vick dog fighting case. There was an article in the August issue of Bark magazine and a program they just ran on Animal Planet. Apparently, it is a common procedure in most jurisdictions that any dog seized in a dog fighting operation be automatically be euthanized. It is given that these dogs are ruined, unworthy, and beyond rehabilitation.

Such was the case with dogs in the Vick trial. But in a way they were lucky. They probably would have been euthanized right away if not for the fact that it was such a high profile case. They had only been kept alive because they were evidence. This had bought enough time for organizations like BAD RAP to step in and save their lives.

Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls, or BAD RAP for short, has been providing support for Pit Bulls and their owners for over 10 years. They were brought in by authorities to provide an expert assessment of the dogs seized from the Vick property in Virginia. They discovered that while all of them suffered horribly, a good number of them were not beyond repair. They were able to get the court to release a dozen or so into their custody.

Once back home in the Bay Area they were able to successfully retrain and rehabilitate the Vick dogs. They were eventually adopted into new homes, many with families. One was even certified as a therapy dog.

Lately I've become hooked on these "Animal Cops" shows on Animal Planet. I'm fascinated by the cases of animal neglect and abuse. I really ought to cut back though, because after watching a case involved abused dogs it makes me want to spoil my own dogs, and I think I've spoiled them too much as it is. But anyway, on "Animal Cops Miami" there have been a couple of cases involving Pit Bulls. According to the show Pit Bulls are not allowed in Dade County, Florida. I found that a little disturbing.

I suppose one could conclude then that the lawmakers in Dade County have made the unilateral decision that all Pit Bulls to be unfit, unsafe, and unworthy. That this one breed, this one variation of all domestic canines in the world is somehow beneath all the others. This has a ring to it that sounds a lot like the old Jim Crow laws in the South.

Under those laws black people were automatically considered second class citizens. A black person didn't need to have done anything wrong to be considered wrong. Just being born black was wrong enough. A black person could be a doctor or lawyer that went to church every Sunday and gave half of his income to charity, and that still wouldn't be good enough to get him a better seat on the bus.

Isn't that same kind of unfair treatment being applied to Pit Bulls here? I feel so sorry for all those Pit Bulls I've seen in those animal shelters. Too many of them will end up being destroyed before they're even given a chance.

A couple of years ago I knew this lady that had a Pit Bull that desperately needed a new home. She was out shopping one afternoon and was returning to her car. When she opened the door this blue-gray Pit Bull rushed in from the street and into the car. The dog didn't mean her any harm, she just wanted to be in the car. The dog didn't have any identification so she decided to take her home.

The lady lived in an apartment where dogs were not allowed so she was on a mission to find the dog a new home. Karen and I got to meet her once. She was clearly an adolescent, no more than a few months old. Her ears had been cropped and she was quite well muscled leading me to wonder if this dog had been trained to fight. Meeting her face to face was a real treat. She raised up on her hind legs to greet me. She had such a sweet disposition I immediately started to think of adopting her myself. Karen felt the same way, too, but it would have been unrealistic to believe we could provide the dog with what she needed.

I asked the girls how they'd feel about welcoming a Pit Bull into our home, and I was surprised to discover that they held the same common misconceptions, that they were people killers that had locking jaws. I did my best to re-educate them.

The lady didn't want to surrender her to a shelter. She knew as well as I did that if that dog ended up at the local SPCA she'd just be another Pit Bull in a shelter full of Pit Bulls. She wouldn't stand a chance.

We lost touch with the lady so I never found out what became of that sweet dog. I hope she found a new home. I will probably never stop wondering.

To find out more about BAD RAP and the good work they do visit

No comments: