Pit Bulls' Reputation Not Necessarily Deserved
When I try to picture a pit bull in my mind, I must admit I do not have a clear image.
Pit bull is really a term used by many in a general way that leaves some people, including me, confused.
Looking for definitions in a variety of places, including a book on American Kennel Club (AKC) breeds, I did not get much clarification.
The AKC recognizes the American Staffordshire terrier and the American pit bull terrier as two separate breeds. United Kennel Club (England) recognizes these two as "types" of the same breed.
The breeds included in the general pit bull category are the two already mentioned, in addition to the Staffordshire bull terrier and mixes of these types.
To further add to the confusion, dogs in the pit bull category are considered to be "molosser" dogs - an even broader group of breeds that the only real agreement about seems to be their powerful and protective characteristics.
In the late 1980s, communities began to take drastic steps to control vicious dog issues by targeting certain breeds.
For example, in California's Santa Clara County, the first step was passage of a law that prohibited the increase of the number of pit bulls in the unincorporated areas in that county.
The law required all pit bulls to be registered and kept within certain types of fencing/barriers. It also did not allow any new pit bulls into the defined area, and any puppies born had to be removed by the age of 12 weeks.
Since that time, many communities have sought to control pit bulls, and owners have sometimes found it difficult to get insurance and in some cases even housing.
In recent news, two stories illustrate the controversy and confusion about pit bulls.
The first story reports the mauling of a woman in South Carolina by pit bulls in the street.
The second tells the true heroism of a much-loved senior pit bull in Oklahoma that reportedly nudged two sleeping women awake to escape a house fire and also returned to save the other five dogs in the home, including pulling one frightened dog from its hiding place and carrying it out of the house.
The term pit bull strikes terror in the hearts of some, but many who have known and loved this group of breeds know that the dogs are likely to be loving, gentle and loyal in addition to being powerful and protective.
In fact, these dog breeds were considered ideal family companions, even starring in TV shows. One well-known example was the program "Little Rascals" with the dogs Nipper and Petey. Additionally, many familiar personalities have had well-known companions of this type. Helen Keller's dog was an example and was named "Sir Thomas."
Until these types of dogs began to be used more widely by drug traffickers and/or for dog fighting, stories were much more positive. But when dogs trained for dark purposes began to capture headlines, the suspicion and fear of these dogs was fostered.
Our story about Snowball is an example of the dilemma that surrounds any dog that seems to look like it might be one of "those" dogs.
When I approached the gated property where she is fostered, she greeted me happily as she quickly ascertained I came as friend. She responded to affection and was compliant with her foster human's requests.
I observed coloring that resembles a Dalmatian on Snowball, and her tail also could pass for a Dalmatian's in my opinion.
We don't know for sure yet what her breed is, but her appearance resembles breeds of the pit bull category, so she will likely have to overcome prejudices.
The only time I have been bitten by a dog was by a Chihuahua, who was a very new mother. She was just being protective, and I was the nearest target.
Any breed can be vicious. Some breeds have the capacity to do harm when vicious, and some have tremendous capacity to do harm.
With the selection of any dog for a pet, we must do our research, know the expectations and needs, and be willing to train using well-established and accepted methods.
Kindness, patience and love go a long way, but just as important, we need to learn how to teach a dog in a way that is easy for them to understand - something that doesn't necessarily come naturally for us.
Email LuAnn Kinney at PetPaws@nc. rr.com. Your pet stories, questions and comments are welcome.
More like this story