NOTE: This was my very first article, which appeared
in The Commercial Dispatch @1998
Breed Doesn't Deserve it's Bad Reputation
Pit bull's, according to the news, your mother, and anyone else you'd care to ask, are mean, vicious brutes, just waiting to crush a bone or maul a child.
But I, along with pit bull lovers everywhere will tell you that these dogs are loyal, intelligent, and good-natured; it's irresponsible owners who should be kept on a short leash.
A brief history
Sixty years ago a delightful gang of kids romped across movie screens accompanied in their antics by their faithful dog Petey, a registered American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) with the United Kennel Club. In WWI a 'pit bull' named Stubby was awarded two medals, one for warning troops of a gas attack, the other for holding a German spy until American troops arrived.
He also earned the rank of sergeant, and became the most deco-rated canine soldier. He was later invited to the White House by Presidents Wilson, Harding and Coolidge, and given a life long membership to the American Legion, Red Cross, and YMCA.
There was also a WWI American propaganda poster that represented the rival European nations with their national dogs dressed in military uniforms; in the center representing the United States was an American pit bull terrier declaring in a caption below: "I'm Neutral, But-Not Afraid Of Any Of Them."
Buster Brown shoes put its mascot in every shoe with the image of Tige, an APBT — and RCA used Nipper, also a pit bull.
In January of 1993 an APBT named Weela saved the lives of 29 people, 17 dogs, 13 horses, and one cat during the California floods. She was named Ken-L-Ration's Dog Hero of the Year. And then there are dogs like Snowball, who is part of a Search & Rescue Dog Team - or Peace, who at only 8 months rescued a 6-year-old autistic boy that had wandered into a marsh.
Unfortunately, the American Pit Bull Terrier of late has been severely castigated as a vicious, man-killing beast, worthy of banishment ... considered guilty with no chance of proving innocence.
So what happened?
Most people who think or say that American Pit Bull Terriers are inherently mean have most likely never met one and rely on the inaccurate portrayal of "pit bulls" as the basis for their opinions. Like any other breed of dog, the key areas of focus for ensuring a happy, well adjusted APBT as a pet are owner education, proper breeding, socialization, and training.
"Pit bull" is a generic and derogatory term that encompasses any of several breeds of dogs or crosses of those breeds. American Pit Bull Terrier fanciers can be divided into several camps: conscientious breeders of the AKC-registered duo who often deny kinship of their dogs with the APBT; ethical breeders of the APBT who face squarely the slander heaped upon them by ignorant neighbors; and unethical breeders of all three breeds who promote aggressive temperaments for illegal purposes.
To further complicate matters, those who still breed for aggression are not as careful to preserve the dog's strong instinct to bond with humans as the early breeders did. So, today 'pit bull' is a pejorative term that strikes fear in the hearts of many and leads to the spreading of urban legends about dogs with locking jaws that exert 20,000 pounds of pressure, unstable breed temperament, and overwhelming human aggression.
Should they be banned?
Well the answer is quite simple. A dog is only a dog, it is not smart enough to realize the consequences of it's actions, therefore it relies on the guidance of it's owner. When an owner teaches, or fails to teach, the dog is going to react "reflexively" or "instinctively." A dog is ONLY what its owner makes of it, and punishing an entire breed because of the act of a few mistreated dogs is not going to solve anything.
If we want to make an impact in our community, we need to work on the problem - which is not a few dogs, it's the lousy owners of these dogs. Banning a particular breed won't be the end of dog attacks. The same people breeding and raising APBTs without regard to temperament or character will go and get another breed.
Education is the key - teach people how to act around dogs, teach owners how to raise dogs, teach breeders how to select proper homes and breeding programs, teach children that dogs are not toys to be abused. Do this, and we will have found the solution to the problem. Do it not, and we will have to ban every dog until there is none left.
The well-bred American Pit Bull Terrier is a family guardian and protector; an intelligent and obedient pet; a sweet, even-tempered dog that serves well as a help-mate to handicapped owner and friend to small children; and a healthy, hardy dog that complains little and offers much to his family.
While it is a fact that the majority of APBT's do have a strong urge to fight other dogs, the individual dogs that will attack people are so rare that breeders have been known to obtain other breeds to guard their kennels.
Aimee H. Shaw is a graphic artist for Yellowbook U.S.A. and owner of American pit bull terriers.