Adrienne BoettingerFriday,6 September 2013

The Snap:

My dog Charlie is softly snoring as I write this. Earlier he was chasing some butterflies and got tangled in his own leash. Before that, he wagged his whole body when I got home from work. He’s volunteered in nursing homes and allowed my neighbors to dress him up like a small canine pimp, complete with a hat and cape. He’s often the only thing that gets me up and moving and the reason why I love walking in my door. Yet in many states and municipalities, I wouldn’t be allowed to have him as he is almost certainly part American Staffordshire Terrier — one of the 2 breeds that most accurately fall in the category of “pit bull.”

The Download:

Charlie is not alone in being misunderstood. Pit bulls have been among the most feared and hated dogs for the past few decades. People cross the street to avoid crossing the path of what they incorrectly assume to be a pit bull (pits are tough to properly identify). Plenty of places enact breed-specific legislation to keep pit bulls out — despite this legislation being largely ineffective.  Pit bulls are portrayed as abnormally aggressive and bloodthirsty when in fact they scored “below average” in terms of aggression toward strangers in a study by the University of Pennsylvania. That same study found that the breeds with higher tendency toward aggression are the dachshund, Chihuahua and Jack Russell Terrier.

It’s not that pits are angels; they’re just not devils either. Pit bulls were previously bred to fight other dogs, not to fight and bite humans. When trained properly and socialized early on, there is no reason a pit bull should be more dangerous than a golden retriever, Labrador, or any other dog that we now think of as harmless. Pit bulls are smart and have tons of energy. They become dangerous when owned by careless or vicious humans who use the dogs to make money or who aren’t prepared to actually take care of a dog.

The thing is that we often see in others what we expect to see. Federal Judge Richard Kopf saw Shon Hopwood — a 21-year-old charged with bank robbery — as a punk impossible of rehabilitation. He didn’t expect this young man to become a jailhouse lawyer, getting two certs successfully before the Supreme Court and obtaining a clerkship at the second-most prestigious court in the country. George Zimmerman saw Trayvon Martin as a menacing threat and didn’t expect he’d be armed only with skittles. People see a pit and because of media reports of “vicious pit bulls” expect to see the same. They don’t see my friends’ pit Roxy who let a 3-year-old paint her toenails or the pit bull who took a bullet to save his owner.

No matter what breed of dog you want, please go to a shelter or a rescue organization and be sure to spay/neuter your animal. Approximately 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the U.S.

Take Action!

Hat Tips:

Understand-a-bullASPCAAnnArbor.comMilwaukee Journal Sentinel OnlineUSA TodayNPRBuzzFeedThe Shelter ProjectThe Humane Society of the United States

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