The American media has truly affected many aspects of our culture. Whether it is the way we dress or the stars we love to hate, the media has a strong influence on what we do and think. You might not realize it while you stroll down the aisles of the food store or clothing store, but images shown to you on television help form your buying habits and thinking patterns.
You might be asking yourself why I’m talking about media reporting when I’m writing an article for the Humane Society. Right? Well, I wanted to lay the backdrop on the way that media can affect people’s thought processes and eventually pathway to opinions, and HSCAZ is here to let your know the truth behind a truly beautiful breed.
Like many animal welfare workers, I have heard myths galore regarding the pit bull terrier. I have heard myths such as pit bulls having locking jaws, turning on their owners and eventually going crazy on humanity in general. I have also seen the news reports about the “deadly pit bull terrier,” but later seen the dog that was actually a totally different breed than initially described. There are almost 21 breeds that look like the pit bull terrier, but many times the pit bull terrier as a whole is blamed for the incident.
Did you know that the pit bull terrier was once known as the “Nanny Dog” in the late 1880s because they were so good with children? Or that the pit bull terrier was once a sign of American courage during WWI? Though the words “hero” and “good with children” are rarely synchronized with the pit bull terrier name anymore, the Humane Society is here to change the common misconceptions about this loving breed.
I have a pit bull terrier and his name is George. He was found in one of the worst parts of Baltimore City, and later brought into my previous shelter which was also known as Baltimore City Animal Control. George’s previous home grounds were notoriously known as dog-fighting territory, and some pit bull terriers that were also found in that area were not as lucky as George. Unfortunately, more pit bull terriers than I can count came into the shelter with horrific battle wounds and evidence of a life of horror. Though many of these poor dogs were abused beyond belief, they still wagged their tail when a person approached them. Yes, some of them were a little fearful of humans, but not once did I see them “turn on a person” or even show teeth at the one thing (humans) that hurt them more than anything else in the world.
I will be the first person to admit it, pit bulls are my passion. I find their goofy personalities and heroic mannerisms magnificent in every way. This breed has positively influenced many people’s lives, and this is why I want to speak on their behalf and introduce you to this comedic canine. They like to sleep on their backs, snore like pigs and run around without a care in the world. Pit bull terriers don’t shed tremendously and they won’t drool all over your pant leg, but they do have an unfortunate reputation linked by the way that the media has portrayed them.
When I walk George, I can’t ignore the fact that people will walk across the street simply to avoid him, or forget the unfavorable comments that people have said to me about him in the past, but I can educate people about the myths behind the breed.
Many people may think that pit bull terriers dislike other dogs or will harm a cat in a heartbeat, but this is not always the case. When I was thinking about this article, I watched my handsome pit bull terrier cuddle up to my German shepherd. I saw how content he was being snuggled-up with his best canine friend, and realized that I needed to share his breed’s story with the public.
It’s ironic that many people dislike pit bull terrier types, but pit bull terriers thrive around people. Pit bull terriers are now being used as service dogs and some of them have even been previously used as “bait dogs” or outright “fighting dogs.” I used to be the rescue coordinator at Baltimore City Animal Control and sent several pit bull terriers previously used for dog-fighting to rescues across the country. Some of them had not only been used for fighting, but stabbed or burned because they “weren’t good at it.” Like any breed-specific organizations, the pit bull rescue groups where these dogs were sent did behavior assessments on the dogs prior to placing them in homes, but sure enough, they passed and are doing well in their new homes.
One pit bull terrier that I sent to rescue really stands out in my mind. She was previously used as a “fighting dog,” but she is now living out her wholesome life in Cape Cod on the upper eastern shore of the United States. Her leg was nearly ripped off in a dog fight, and she was later dumped on the streets after being deemed “no good” at fighting anymore. After an animal control officer found her lying alone on a cold Baltimore City street, she was brought into the city shelter. She was medically treated and sent to a loving pit bull terrier rescue, but lost her leg to amputation along the way. You would think her soul would be affected by the trauma in her past, but it has only appeared to make her stronger. She now romps around with toys in her mouth and sleeps at her owner’s feet at night. Her name is Lena and she is a true, loving pit bull terrier.
Like bloodhounds in the mid-18th Century and northern breeds (Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky) in the early 1900s, pit bull terriers are the new breed to ban and fear (Best Friends Animal Society, 2011). You may laugh when you read that bloodhounds were once a feared breed, but this is a fact. Like German shepherds and Doberman Pinchers in the 1940s to the 1970s, feared breeds move in phases and are commonly negatively portrayed in the media.
I want to make it clear that I do not doubt that bites have occurred by my beloved breed, but the circumstances need to be addressed. Was the dog an unsocialized “resident dog” kept only for breeding or guarding? Was the dog left in a yard for most of his life or chained to a tree? These are facts that need to be taken into consideration. No breed of dog is inherently vicious and all breeds need to be socialized and trained appropriately. Pit bulls can make excellent family dogs and, boy, will they make you laugh. That is the truth behind this beautiful breed.
If you would like to meet George and other wonderful pit bull terriers at HSCAZ, please feel free to come into the shelter at 812 S. McLane Road. If you would like to learn more about this breed or simply chat about the pit bull terrier itself, please feel free to contact me at: kat.knauff@humanesociety centralaz.org.
A special thanks to Best Friends Animal Society for supplying background information on the pit bull terrier along with general breed history.
Dooley is a 9-month-old male Shepherd mix who was found as a stray. He is a little goober who likes playing with his friends and toys. He likes walks, blankets and attention!
Buckeye is a 1-year-old female pit bull terrier who was surrendered because her previous owner had too many animals. Buckeye is a total wiggle-butt. She loves anything fun, and galloping around the yard is her hobby. She does enjoy laying in the sun, but activities are her main passion.
La La is a 1-year-old female pit bull terrier. She is Buckey’s sister, and was also surrendered because her previous owner had too many animals. Like her sister, romping around with her friends is right up her alley. She likes toys and blankets and would do best going home with her sister, Buckeye. What a happy ending it would be if these two girls could be adopted together.
Dottie is a 3-year-old female Shepherd mix who came to our shelter as a transfer from another rescue organization. She is a total love bug who deserves a second chance with a loving family.
Little Man is a 3-year-old Mastiff mix. He loves hanging out with his friends, and playtime is his thing, but giving kisses to people is his true passion. He is a wiggly “Little Man” and his name comes from his short stature.
Roamer is a 1-year-old male Aussie/Husky mix. This active chap likes to play and scamper around the yard with friends. Playing fetch is his favorite thing and people are his forte.