The Pit Bull Policy

The Pit Bull Policy
By Emily Bek
A little boy with a stutter and a lisp, struggles to get through a paragraph. Yet
with each word, he gains confidence knowing that his audience is patient, and very
pleased. The boy is reading to Jonny, a pit bull from the Tales for Paws organization.
Jonny’s friend, Leo, is a certified service pit bull who visits cancer patients in
hospitals around California. These ambassadors of their breed didn’t start off this
way. Rescued from the Michael Vick torture chamber, these dogs, along with 47
others, were given a second chance to show the world what a pit bull can be, and
what a pit bull should be. With obedience training, and spaying or neutering, any
dog can become a good citizen. These two simple steps are the key to saving the
breeds reputation.
The word “pit bull” can make some people uneasy. I’d like to thank our media
for this. Results from a 2008 report by the National Canine Research Council
analyzed the media coverage over a four-day period on dog attacks. The first three
days, a Labrador and a couple mixed breeds attacked three people, sending them to
the hospital. The local papers ran four articles on the incidents. On the fourth day,
two pit bulls attacked a woman. This incident was reported in more than 230
articles in national and international newspapers and on major cable networks.
Because of this, I don’t blame people for the reactions they often get.
This was not always the case. Stubby, the brave pit bull in the 102nd infantry
was the first decorated dog in the military. His hard work in locating and saving
injured soldiers brought fame that followed these heroic dogs into the 1940’s, when
pit bulls were your everyday family dog. In fact in England, they were often referred
to as “nanny dogs”. This may be why the Little Rascals bunch always had their trusty
pit bull, Petey, by their side. Helen Adams Keller also chose a pit bull to be her family
dog through her ambitious life. With that rap sheet, how did these dogs turn into
something so scary?
These beautiful dogs caught the eye of every American, including some not so
notable people (ehh-Vick….ahem). As these happy dogs gained popularity and
wiggled their way into the wrong hands, they took their reputation with them.
Despite the pit bulls fall, the American Temperament Test Society (2008) did
extensive research, thoroughly testing over 200 breeds of dogs. Amongst America’s
favorite dogs, Pit Bulls had an 85.3% passing score, followed by Golden Retrievers
with 84.6%, Beagles with 81%, and Border Collies with 80.6%. And Lassie?? Well,
Collies didn’t do so well with 79%.
Even so, some governments have adopted a plan to “fix” the problem. A
breed ban, also known as Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), would apparently get rid
of these vicious animals, and the growing hysteria. Such a plan would cost $450
million dollars per year to be instated nationwide. Costs would include enforcement,
kenneling, vet care, euthanizing, and disposal. With DNA testing becoming more
readily available every day, governments trying to prove each case would rack up
quite a hefty bill. Dana M. Campbell (2009) noted an incident in Prince George, MD,
where they instated this breed ban at the cost of $250,000 per year. After the first
year, the task force in charge of the enforcement concluded that the public’s safety
had not improved. This law is still en effect. Does this sound like a false sense of
security? If it’s not working, then what will?
Many places are discovering that non-breed specific laws are already on the
books. Laws like leash, dangerous animal, dog licensing, anti-tethering, neglect,
animal abuse, and dog fighting laws just need to be enforced. The Whatcom Humane
Society, along with every shelter in the United States, is overflowing with pit bulls.
They require every dog they release be spayed or neutered, and attend mandatory
obedience classes. The National Canine Research Council found that 97% of dogs
involved in fatal attacks were not spayed or neutered. Curbing a dogs angst and
working with positive re-enforcement training is essential to ensure that puppy, and
owner, live a happy life.
By instating a “fix-all” law, responsible pit bull owners will be reluctant to
give up their best friend. They will feel violated, and may end up hiding their dog.
The result will be under exercised, under socialized, and under stimulated dogs.
They won’t be licensed, microchiped, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, or given
necessary health care. Those people who chose to use pit bulls for fighting, guarding,
or anything besides a being pet will eventually use a different breed, or a different
weapon. We all know this can be the recipe for disaster.
Governments need to spend their time and money enforcing already instated
non-breed specific laws, community outreach and education, and spaying or
neutering programs. By doing so, they will see the difference it makes when we all
pay attention to the one in control. Not the pit bull, but the person on the other end
of the leash.
Petey with the Little Rascals
Reference Citations
Campbell, D. (2009). Pit Bull Bans: The State of Breed-Specific Legislation.
GPSolo, 26(5), 36-41. Retrieved February 2nd, 2010, from ProQuest Database
American Temperament Testing Society. (2008). ATTS Breed Statistics. Retrieved
February 5th, 2010, from