Friend or Foe?

We see it all too often in the newspaper or hear it on the news; another attack on a child or adult by a pit bull. Often, the dog is owned by the person attacked and is described as having been a loving pet beforehand. It has led to the breed being ostracized and even banned from communities. So what goes wrong? What is it about the breed that has taken it down the road to this end? I think it is fair to say the fault lies more with the humans that have been involved with the dog’s life than the dog itself. Even if the dog has not been used for fighting or been taught aggressive behavior, it is the fault of the owner who did not do the research on the breed before bringing one home, did not provide proper training and socialization, and failed to remember that, as a breed, they can do serious harm. Sadly, this whole scenario often leads to tragedy. It also leads to the countless number of pit bull and pit mixes to fill shelters everywhere, when the owners cannot handle them and they become a danger to people and other animals. Even sadder is that the dogs have often become unadoptable and must be euthanized.

Visit a shelter and I am sure you will see any number of pitties that have been surrendered or that were picked up as strays. Then look in a newspaper or online and see how many pit bull puppies are still being born, produced by careless owners who failed to spay or neuter their pet and backyard breeders who are just out to make money; breeders who do not pay attention to the traits or behaviors they are breeding into a dog. This can, of course, happen with any dog breed and has, to the detriment of that type of dog. Unfortunately, it is the pit bull that has become symbolic of dog attacks. It also makes them more susceptible to abuse and neglect, which is terribly sad, because as any dog they deserve to have a good life and not be subjected to public scorn and fear.

One of the poorest reasons to adopt a dog of any breed is to give the owner a sense of prestige or to be simply a status symbol, and yet that is what seems to have happened with the pit bull. The term “pit bull” is not even the correct name for the breed. American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier are the proper names of the breeds that have collectively come to be known as pit bulls. They were originally bred for bull baiting and fought in pits and were sometimes used as guard dogs in Victorian times. The myth of them being used as “nanny dogs,” to babysit small children seems to be pretty much just that—a myth.

Despite their dubious reputation, many people love their pit bulls and insist they are the best kind of dog. If you do own or would like to own a pit bull type dog, educate yourself on the breeds and know how to be a responsible pit owner. A good place to start is with the article, “Pit Bull: Friend of Foe,” which you can find at: http://www.berriencounty.org/uploaded/pitbullbrochure.pdf. It is very informative for anyone to read.

I would like to say that the recent Valentine’s Day Adoption Event at the Berrien County Animal Control shelter was a big success. We visited to bring some donations and see what dogs were available, and the place was packed with folks adopting dogs and cats at a much reduced cost that day. Hopefully, the pets all found forever loving homes.

Please remember this time of year to vaccinate your dogs for rabies and make sure licenses are up to date. Your dog’s license can be a phone call home should he or she become lost.

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3 Comments on “Friend or Foe?”

  1. marissoule Says:

    Good information, Lucy. Way too many people forget a dog is a dog. We don’t know what triggers some dogs to attack people, but probably for that dog, at that moment, it was what the dog had been genetically programmed to do.

  2. Diane Burton Says:

    As always, good information, Lucy.


  3. Took me two days to get here, Lucy. Sorry. Well said about the ‘pit bulls’. I’m a firm believer it’s more the owner’s fault than the dog’s when things go wrong. Dogs give such unconditional love, whether the person has earned it or not. Glad to hear so many of those pets found forever homes.


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