Before being branded as “vicious,” Pit Bulls were known as nanny dogs – dogs who love children dearly. You may wonder: how did Pit Bulls get their bad reputation?
Let’s face it, all dog breeds have their bad eggs. President Roosevelt’s Bull Terrier bit off a French ambassador’s pants. RCA’s Nipper, a Bull Terrier mix, reportedly got his name by frequently nipping visitors’ legs.
But these dogs’ “bad” reputations seem light compared with today’s Pit Bull image problems.
The name Pit Bull is actually a common name for these dog breeds:
Pit Bulls are notorious for deadly attacks against kids and adults — including the fatal mauling of Pamela Marie Devitt in 2013.
Today, modern Pit Bulls have been ostracized and outlawed in some communities across the United States. Los Angeles animal shelters are flooded with Pit Bulls among other breeds.
Should we be really scared of Pit Bulls?
Some people say Pit Bulls are ticking time bombs and are genetically programmed for violence, while some blame bad owners.
The real deal lies somewhere in between, says Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University’s school of veterinary medicine.
“I see both sides,” says Dodson, who is also the author of Dogs Behaving Badly.
Several studies show Pit Bulls are no more likely to bite humans than other dog breeds, but when they do bit, it can be a bloodbath.
“Different breeds tend to have different biting styles,” Dodman says. Pit Bull Terriers are a mix between:
- English Bulldogs – bred in the 1800s to fight bulls and bears with tenacious bites to the snout;
- Terriers – known for their speed and agility.
The combination of these breeds produced dogs that can give a “crushing bite” and don’t let go, Dodman says.
This information helps explain why Pitties often lead the pack in biting humans, according to media reports analyzing records from various city and county animal control departments.
Most dog bite victims are children— with boys significantly outnumbering girls in injuries and deaths. This statistic “strongly indicates that human behavior plays a major role in dog-bite injuries,” according to University of Pennsylvania researchers.
Many dog experts say those attacks are instability sparked by irresponsible owners who train or torture the dogs to be mean.
Dodman compares Pit Bulls to cars saying, “insurance companies know if you put an 18-year-old behind the wheel of a Ferrari, it’s an accident waiting to happen. The problem isn’t the car; it’s the driver.”
In the same way, Pit Bulls in the wrong hands can be a mess – a fatal mess.
Pit Bull lovers prove critics wrong
Troy Smith, who owns three Pit Bulls, established Los Angeles Responsible Pit Bull Owners in 2011. The nonprofit organization offers weekly training classes in local parks.
The group also sponsors mass Pit Bull walks occasionally to showcase the breed’s underlying good nature.
To further counter the dog’s bad reputation, some advocates point to the case of Michael Vick, the NFL quarterback who pleaded guilty to operating a dog-fighting ring. Officials from PETA and the Humane Society believed his 51 Pit Bulls were beyond rehabilitation. Despite the organizations’ initial judgments, rescue groups placed almost all the dogs in new homes and sanctuaries, where they’re doing well, according to published reports.
Defenders of the breed also say Pit Bulls were nicknamed “nanny dogs” in the early 1900s because of their devotion to children. This label is backed with vintage photos of little children riding or cuddling Pit Bulls. But in 1971, an anti-Pit Bull website posted photos of kids straddling alligators and offered evidence that the claim was actually faked by the president of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club. That’s when some advocates backtracked. BAD RAP, the San Francisco Bay Area group that helped rescue Vick’s dogs, conceded in 2013 that the “nanny dog” claim was “a recent invention.”
A never-ending cycle of dog breed discrimination.
Today, the debate over Pit Bulls rages on — until the next “bad” dog breed steals the spotlight.
Pit Bulls are merely the latest victims of breed discrimination.
- Bloodhounds were reportedly the most feared breed in the 1800s
- German Shepherds ranked as dog-bite kings in the 1970s
- Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers are often the “bad dogs” in movies
Smith predicts that Belgian Malinois will soon dethrone Pit Bulls. The Belgian Malinois is a variety of shepherd favored by the Secret Service and used by the Navy SEALS who raided Osama bin Laden’s compound.
“It’s sad,” he says. “Dogs are just dogs.”
Source: Los Angeles Times