Pit Bulls in the Media
Are Pit Bulls really as dangerous as the media portrays them to be? Learn the truth about the American Pit Bull Terrier.
Eve Adamson and Kim Campbell-Thornton |
Posted: September 11, 2012, 8 a.m. EDT
Once one of the most beloved of American breeds, the American Pit Bull Terrier gained an unsavory reputation during the second half of the 20th century. Pit Bull fanciers blame the media (newspapers, magazines, television, etc.) for sensationalizing the breed and publishing dogfighting pictures that made Pit Bulls look vicious and terrifying. This attracted criminals and people who wanted Pit Bulls to look tough, as well as those still engaged in illegal dogfighting. But many believe the Pit Bull’s bad-guy image is misplaced because people confuse animal aggression with aggression toward humans. "Pit Bulls are critter getters,” says Janie Collins, a UKC-dog show judge. "Pit Bulls see other dogs as critters. But a Pit Bull is not a guardian breed like a Rottweiler or a Doberman, and they should never be aggressive toward humans. It’s not a characteristic of this breed.”
In 1970, the American Dog Owner’s Association formed to eliminate dogfighting for good, and those who want to protect Pit Bulls and other dogs from the abuses of the fighting ring continue to work to eliminate this cruel, illegal sport. But anybody who watches the news knows that dogfighting, even though it is a felony, is still alive and well in the United States, and the idea of a fighting dog is still inextricably bound with America’s ideas about dangerous dogs. Anti-Pit Bull legislation pops up almost daily, making it difficult to track where Pit Bulls are legal and where Pit Bulls are illegal. America’s favorite dog has become America’s most feared dog.
America isn’t the only country obsessed with dogs they perceive to be dangerous. In 1991, England passed the Dangerous Dogs Act, making pit-bull-type dogs illegal nationwide. This law covers four breeds: the Pit Bull terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro. However, the act designates dangerous dogs by type, not by breed, so Pit Bull mixes can also be confiscated and destroyed, as can any dog authorities believe to be a "Pit Bull type.” Exempt from the Act? Staffordshire Bull Terriers, which are not considered Pit Bulls in England. "When they passed the Dangerous Dogs Act, they claimed Pit Bulls were an ‘American creation,’” says Louis Colby, an American Pit Bull Terrier breeder. "That’s just ridiculous because our Pit Bulls all came from over there.”
But anyone who knows a well-bred, well-trained Pit Bull is likely to understand that these laws don’t make much sense. Bobbie Morehouse, an American Pit Bull Terrier breeder, believes the APBT still exemplifies all the best qualities of his ancestors. "The American Pit Bull Terrier is still a human-oriented breed, loyal and devoted, serving his family in any capacity, but especially as a faithful companion,” he says.
With physical strength, agility, intelligence and a competitive spirit, the American Pit Bull Terrier is hardy and adaptable. "Pit Bulls have an undaunted spirit and courage to overcome the unthinkable abuse that man has inflicted on them,” Morehouse says. "The American Pit Bull Terrier deserves our protection and our respect after all these years. I’m not sure man is worthy of the same in return.”
Will the image of the Pit Bull ever recover? Adam Goldfarb, an issues specialist in the companion animals department of The Humane Society of the United States, believes there’s hope, given enough time. Until then, he’d love to see more positive stories about Pit Bulls. "We often forget there are Pit Bulls who are therapy dogs, guide dogs, search-and-rescue dogs,” he says, "so I’d love to see more about these Pit Bull heroes that sort of get lost in the shuffle amidst dogfighting and dog-attack stories.”
Excerpt from the Popular Puppies Series magabook American Pit Bull Terriers with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase American Pit Bull Terriers here.
-Learn about the American Pit Bull Terrier Dog Breed-
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