Prior to the 1900’s, the pit bull was not only considered “one of the most popular breeds, highly prized by a wide variety of people,” but was even labeled as “America’s sweetheart breed, admired, respected and loved.”Now, many communities have bans against owning pit bulls, on the grounds that the breed is too dangerous. How did this happen? How did pit bulls go from beloved to reviled?
According to the United Kennel Club, the American Pit Bull Terrier has a lengthy history as an active, agile, and muscular breed. Its essential characteristics are confidence, strength, and enthusiasm for life. Due to extreme friendliness, even to strangers, UKC does not recommend the breed as a guard dog. In addition, UKC notes that American Pit Bull Terriers make excellent family companions and have been well-noted for their love of children. However, UKC also cautions that most American Pit Bull Terriers can exhibit some level of aggression. Because of its powerful physique, the American Pit Bull Terrier requires an owner who will carefully socialize the dog and train it to be obedient.
Extremely friendly, but aggressive. And thus the controversy over the breed. Debate seems mostly to revolve about whether we should fear the American Pit Bull Terrier, whether the breed is truly aggressive, and whether Breed Specific Legislation should exist. In a series of upcoming articles, I’ll discuss the arguments of both proponents and opponents, and I’ll look into how the breed has become of the most at-risk dogs for ending up in shelters and euthanized. At the end of my series, I’ll also share potential solutions.
For now, let me share some of the alarming statistics and one solution. A study by the organization Animal People Online reported that in both 2011 and 2012, pit bulls accounted for 30% of the dogs admitted to U.S. animal shelters and 60% of the dogs euthanized. Of eleven major shelter systems providing pit bull data, the average pit bull death toll among the 11 systems was 80%. According to a report by Rocky Mountain News, a shelter representative at El Paso County, made the observation that pit bulls were harder to place with families than other breeds taken in by the shelter. Backing up her opinion is the study by Animal People. It reports that there is only a 1 in 600 chance that a Pit Bull who even manages to find its way to a shelter will find a forever home.
Many other animals welfare groups, including Lincoln Animal Ambassadors, believe that one solution is to spay and neuter. Indeed, many groups contend that the biggest risk factors for dog aggression are malicious or neglectful dog owners, and dogs that have not been spayed or neutered. Executive director of the Animal Assistance Foundation in Colorado specifically notes a lack of spay and neutering among pit bull owners.
Best Friends Animal Society believes so strongly in spay/neuter as a solution, it offered a grant for these purposes. As a recipient of this grant, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors has created The Mighty and the Tiny Project whereby the group will spay/neuter Chihuahuas and pit bull terriers at only $25 per dog. LAA chose these two breeds because they are the most difficult breeds for shelters to place.
If you have an unaltered pit bull terrier, please take advantage of the below offer from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. If you aren’t in that situation, please help LAA’s The Mighty and the Tiny Project reach as many dogs as possible by donating. Let’s all work together to reduce the number of unwanted dogs.