It’s not a secret that I work in animal rescue and dogs, in particular, are my great passion. Passion is at the helm of most causes. If you work on the front lines of the team effort called animal rescue, you see many things you don’t want to see. For me and the rest of the advocates, I believe it’s our passion that gets us through the really sad cases… our passion and the COMpassion of those who fight the good fight… the passion that drives us to want to save/change the lives of souls that are voiceless in a society who can, sometimes, treat them as though they are ‘less than’. With my passion come strong opinions and I try – ALWAYS – to get my facts straight in the course of forming my opinions. I look at both sides, regardless of what the majority says – and sometimes I’m viewed as playing the role of ‘devil’s advocate’. As I see it, it’s impossible to make an informed, educated decision if you don’t see or know all sides, and you can’t make progress if your actions are based on rumor and misinformation. And so it is, that by way of the truth, I continue to seek progress in the fight against breed discrimination – an issue that has been conjured up by media hype and misinformation and continues to fuel the mass hysteria that is surrounding the Bully breeds.
As a society, we force dogs to live in our world and then penalize them when WE break them and they turn ‘bad’. We fail to do our homework about the breeds we adopt and then flood the shelters with our poor judgments. We allow for the use of euthanasia (in some shelters) as a means of population control. And, in numerous communities throughout the country, a self-appointed selection process (BSL) is used to determine which dogs should live and which ones shouldn’t, where they should live and where they shouldn’t. As if that weren’t bad enough, society allows these decisions to be based on ‘breed’ and on the false premise that any dog with a square jaw falls into the category of ‘vicious’.
In our human world, the same thing was (and still is) done to people of color and it is called ‘discrimination’. Over 2800 Pitbulls per day are euthanized in this country and we accept it. But, when mass killings take place against an entire ethnic group or nation – such as what was done to the Jews in Germany – it is called genocide. Today, most people would find it appalling to go back to that way of thinking. Free speech in a democratic society allows for marches and riots to take place and organizations (good and bad) to be formed as voices against the bigotry – and all for the sake of creating equality in the human race and to eliminate uninformed thinking and the resulting fears. We are, fortunately, much more aware of our bigotry and the actions that can be deemed discriminatory. As a result, and aside from the minority hate groups such as the KKK , the Skinhead faction and a smattering of individuals, the majority of society will never again be so bold as to stand up and shout that ‘all Blacks are the same’ or ‘all Jews are bad’. Most people in our new, enlightened society are bright enough to realize the absurdity in the old way of thinking. To ensure this, laws have been passed to protect the the minority. Yet – when it comes to dogs, so many people still think it’s ok to tag any dog with a square face as being vicious (or potentially vicious). Because of appearance alone, laws have been created to segregate them for ‘public safety reasons’ and calls for the complete elimination of the ‘breed’ can still be heard. I could stand on a soapbox and spout off numerous statistics – but I know that most people will likely tune it out because, for them, the population we’re talking about are ‘just dogs’ (the whole ‘less than..’ attitude referenced earlier). Besides – what could be said by Pitbull advocates that hasn’t already been said? We’ve been shouting about the discrimination for years now…so much so that our talking points now sound like a mantra, as if saying things over and over will convince people of the truth. People aren’t missing the truth. They’re missing the logic and have failed to implement common sense legislation that they feel humans are owed, but animals are not.
Those of us that advocate for Pitbulls do so because they are just like any other dog – and, most likely we either own one, have owned one in the past or know of someone who does and have seen the reality. A Pitbull’s instincts are just like that of any Terrier. Their pack behavior is just like that of any other dog. They have their own unique behavioral tendencies and characteristics, just like any other breed. Pitbulls are not ‘special’ – but they ARE treated differently. If you want to know just how differently they’re treated, ask anyone who owns a Pitbull. When I got my first girl, Takoda, I became ‘THAT owner’ and watched as my dog experienced the discrimination first-hand. When I got my second Pitbull, the public fear factor was amped up BIG TIME. It’s one thing to walk a Pit down the street, but to see 2 at the same time?? You would think I was openly carrying a semi-automatic rifle, better yet two of them. Imagine how scary two Pitbulls, walking calmly and in control in a perfect heel position, must look (sarcasm intended). At times, people look at them with concern and fear. They don’t stop to meet them or to find out that they are certified Therapy Dogs…both with their Canine Good Citizen certifications. They don’t do it because they can’t get past the fact that they are Pitbulls. Sometimes, people will actually cross the street or step out of the way as we walk past their dog. I see the discrimination take place when someone is petting them and commenting about what sweet dogs they are… but the minute they learn they are Pitbulls, their entire approach changes from loving and affectionate to fear and apprehension.
People believe what they want to believe and many will believe whatever is written or reported about in the media, especially when it comes to Pitbulls. Any time I encounter someone with the anti-Pitbull attitude, I ask them WHY they feel that way. I ask them if they’ve ever, personally, been physically attacked by a Pitbull… have they ever seen anyone else be attacked by one… and if they’ve ever met one. EVERY time, the answer to all of those questions has been “no, but I’ve heard…” or “no, but it’s what I’ve read…”. I have yet to hear someone give me a valid, indisputable reason for their fear and apprehension of the entire ‘breed’. And what are they hearing and reading? Media driven stories that are filled with selective facts. If you really want to be educated about how this class of Terriers came to be known as ‘dangerous’, read the book The Pitbull Placebo. This book provides ample evidence of the media’s role in creating and perpetuating the myth that Pitbulls are, as a whole, a dangerous breed. And we, the society that once trusted what the newspapers and media outlets reported, bought the propaganda they have dished out – hook, line and sinker. They took the breed once known as ‘America’s darling dog’ and turned its image into one that instills fear by the mere mention of the name. People believe the stories because they still believe that the media is interested in telling the whole truth about everything except politics.
But, where was the media when 2 different families that I personally know had to put their Labrador Retrievers down because of extreme acts of unpredictable aggression. In one case, the owner was attacked, in the other the small dog in the family was killed by the Lab. In both cases, the final act was not the first occurrence of aggression. In both cases, the dogs had been allowed to remain in their respective homes and euthanasia was never seriously considered until things were undeniably irreversible and the dog was considered a true safety risk. Had they been Pitbulls, the dogs would be quarantined after the first bite, regardless of the severity and you can be assured that a story would have run in the papers and reported by the local tv media. In contrast, most of society is aware of, and talks openly about, the aggressive side of some Chihuahuas…but there are no bans, no outcries for breed elimination. You won’t find a Facebook page campaigning to eliminate the breed and insurance companies won’t deny you coverage if you own one. It’s true that their aggression will never cause great harm and likely could never be ‘deadly’. But, right or wrong, justified or unjustified, people will talk about the aggression as a breed characteristic…sometimes making light of it… yet nothing is done about it. There are no media reports about the numbers of Chihuahuas in rescues that are ‘not good with small children’ or ‘not good with other dogs’. You won’t see pictures of fingers, hands or ankles that have been stitched up due to an attack by a Chihuahua and you will rarely hear that, based on actual bite statistics, Chihuahuas are the number one most aggressive breed in the country. You also won’t hear about something called ‘Springer Rage’ or ‘Cocker Rage’ – real syndromes that cause some Springers or Cockers to unpredictably lash out and be aggressive. You don’t hear or read about these dogs not because they don’t exist, but because the media chooses not to report it. In a sense, they’ve made it acceptable, as much as they’ve made Pitbulls out to be vicious killers.
Lastly, Veterinarians are obligated to uphold the following oath in order to place those prestigious letters ‘DVM’ after their name:
‘Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.
I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.
I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.’
Discrimination is not associated with a persons level of education or their profession. As proof, it is disheartening, to say the least, to learn that a local vet is proposing that ALL Pitbulls be euthanized since she deems them to be ‘vicious dogs’. What is ironic, though, is that on her web page, there is a picture of her holding a Chihuahua.
Hearing of this person is, in part, my reason for writing this. My hope is that the logic I’ve presented will stand out to anyone who cannot pinpoint their reason for fearing Pitbulls. Perhaps they will give this issue a second thought, perhaps they won’t. And, if no one reads this, that’s ok – I’m good with it. Just writing it has been therapeutic.
I think I’ll go hug my Pitbulls now and spend time being thankful that I have enough common sense and logic to understand what a blessing they are.