There are many stereotypes about pit bulls in today’s society, but how many of them are actually true? Are they really the “vicious” dogs people make them out to be? The media seems to only focus on “attacks” committed by dogs perceived to be Pit Bulls. It’s really a terrible stereotype that hurts pit bulls. According to the ASPCA 1.2 million dog in shelters are euthanized each year. Different studies show that 800,000 to 1 million of these are pit bulls. A Pit Bull isn’t a breed, but a classification of 25+ breeds/mixes based on similar physical characteristics. Why are there so many odds against pit bulls? To start off, hundreds of jurisdictions across the country ban or otherwise restrict ownership of these dogs – which leads to people not being able to adopt these dogs from shelters or rescues if they live in a certain jurisdiction.This also results in pit bulls being taken away from their families if they live in a jurisdiction that doesn’t allow pit bulls.When someone is moving, housing and apartment complexes make it very difficult to have a pit bull there. So these dogs are basically getting judged by their appearance and not facts. I can personally say that owning my own pet sitting company and being a professional pet sitter and dog walker that pit bulls are some of the most sweetest,gentle and most accepting dogs I have ever watched.
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Arndt, the director at Loxahatchee Animal Rescue who works with and interacts with pit bulls on a daily basis to get her input and experience on pit bulls.
What is the biggest misconception you see when dealing with the Pit Bull breeds?
Nicole A: Being in Pit Bull rescue I see many misconceptions, but the most prevalent is that Bully breeds are inherently dangerous. This is far from the truth. Typically Pit Bulls are sweet, loving, and gentle. They are intelligent, athletic, resilient, and forgiving. Pit Bull type dogs have been taken out of the most horrendous of situations and go on to be family, therapy, service, agility, and even K9 unit working dogs.
Why do you think pit bulls are the number one dogs being euthanized in shelters across the country?
Nicole A: The high number of Pit Bulls euthanized every year is not the fault of the shelters. The problem begins in the community. Backyard breeders who have zero concern for the already existing thousands of Pit Bull type dogs in shelters, proper breeding standards, and people who only view their dogs as a source of income are a large part of the shelter overcrowding issue. Also, many county shelters are underfunded thanks to the government officials who decide funds are best designated elsewhere.
Being underfunded and understaffed makes it more difficult to enforce spay/neuter regulations and breeder permit purchases. In addition, breed specific rules when renting or purchasing a home make it very difficult for those who genuinely love their Pit Bulls to move and be able to take their dogs with them. All too often families are forced to surrender their dogs to a shelter feeling like there are no other options available. In order to reduce shelter overcrowding therefore reducing the number of Pit Bulls put to sleep community members need education and resources to become responsible owners. The backyard breeding cycle needs to end and the “dangerous breed” list needs to be eliminated.In order to reduce shelter overcrowding, therefore reducing the number of Pit Bulls put to sleep, community members need education and resources to become responsible owners.
How are rescues trying to change the public’s perception of Pit Bulls?
Nicole A: Education is key in changing the public’s perception of Pit Bulls. I always tell anyone interested in adopting a Pit Bull type dog to educate themselves on the history of the breeds and ACCURATE statistics beyond the information I relay during the conversation.
Learn the truth about Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) and be able to have an educated, calm, and factual conversation with someone should the need arise because inevitably it will. It is our job as rescuers to educate a potential adopter on the importance of becoming a positive representation of Bully breed owners and the fact that it’s a big responsibility. Part of being a responsible Pit Bull owner is making sure your dog(s) is the best Bully breed ambassador possible. The dog doesn’t have to be perfect as that’s not realistic, but proper training, obedience, containment, and socialization are of the utmost importance and it’s our responsibility to be a resource.
As rescuers it’s our duty to choose adopters carefully and place our available Pit Bulls in the care of those who are open and willing to break stereotypes. It’s our duty to send Pit Bulls out into the community who are living proof that the breeds are wonderful. At events L.A.R.C. makes informational literature available to those who stop by our area. We answer questions and are honest about the dogs in our organization including any quirks the dogs may have which is a must to find the best fit for all involved.
Do rescues ever talk to the media to get a positive message out?
Nicole A: The media is very tough on Pit Bull type dogs and tend to use sensationalist tactics to target those who have certain physical characteristics when an unfortunate incident occurs. Typically media outlets aren’t interested in positive Pit Bull stories because they don’t garner enough attention, but that doesn’t stop most of us from trying.
When a positive Pit Bull story goes public rescues are sure to share across social media. Rescues even reach out to media contacts who report on animal related topics if we have a story to tell about our adoptables. Sometimes we get a response and sometimes we don’t. When large dog fighting rings or abusive situations are reported they provide an opportunity to show the world who the real victims are and to prove that it’s not “all in how they’re raised” when those dogs go on to lead happy lives as loving dogs.
What are rescues doing to get Pit Bulls adopted?
Nicole A: Social media has become a great resource for getting dogs adopted. It provides rescues the opportunity to showcase their adoptables and tell each dog’s story to a large number of people. Social media can be particularly effective when taking in and providing medical care to a dog in need. The dog’s process can be followed from start to ready for a forever home and often times a follower will fall in love and want to adopt.
Adoption events, local community events, and even trips to pet stores are a way to show off available dogs. Bringing Pit Bulls in public is an awesome and important way to change minds and get dogs adopted. Showing people in person that the breeds love to give kisses, have cute Pit Bull smiles, wiggling butts from fast wagging happy tails, can be well trained and loving, and can become a part of a family just like any other breed not only increases the chances for adoptions, but breaks stereotypes too. Providing proper training and socialization to adoptables while in the rescue’s care are vital to a dog’s chance at a forever home.
What do rescues do to help rehabilitate and train them to make them adoptable?
Nicole A: Generally obedience training and acclimation are what’s needed to make a dog in need of a forever home available, but there’s no one answer to this question. Rehabilitation and training take place on a case by case basis. Some dogs may just need time to learn how to be dogs or recover from a medical condition in a foster home. Some may need to be in homes that fit their needs. For example, a home with no other dogs or cats. That’s OK and goes for any breed. Dogs should be judged as individuals and plans made to suit the needs of each. There are times when a dog needs to be in the care of a professional dog trainer for a length of time. The focus is and should always be what’s best for the dog whatever that might entail.
About Loxahatchee Animal Rescue Community (L.A.R.C.):
Nicole A: L.A.R.C. is a small 501(c)(3) nonprofit foster and donation based rescue working with Palm Beach County community members both two and four legged. Our rescue is a bit different, however, in that we not only want to save the lives of animals in need, but EDUCATE the community, as well. Our goals are to help community members keep their pets by becoming a trusted resource for what is needed to do so and give animals in need a second chance at a happy life. We fully believe in our “Educate, Act, and SAVE A LIFE” L.A.R.C. is a team of Pit Bull lovers and advocates determined to change the perception of the public.