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MEDIA DISTORTION OF PIT BULLS

Pit Bulls have been a part of American families since early colonists brought them over to America. They were so beloved for their courageous spirit, tenacious loyalty and die-hard devotion to their owners that they were used in early advertisements, posters and magazines as the All American Dog. Buster Brown’s companion was an American Pit Bull Terrier. World War I posters displayed them as mascots of bravery. The most decorated war dog of the time was a pit bull named Stubby. Friendly, brave and hardworking, they were the dog of choice among politicians, scholars and celebrities. Helen Keller and Theodore Roosevelt were both proud pit bull owners. The Little Rascals also had Petey, their American Pit Bull Terrier. Many of our grandparents and great grandparents had them as pets. Today, tens of thousands of Americans consider pit bulls a cherished family member.

American Pit Bull Terriers are known for their gushing affection for humans. This makes them great therapy dogs and many work in hospitals and nursing homes. Parents seek them out as their dog of choice because of their steady temperament with children. Human friendliness is a hallmark of this breed. Their outgoing personalities, even with strangers, do not make them good guard dogs. American Pit Bull Terriers put their heart and soul into everything they do. For this reason they make great Search and Rescue dogs and excel at Obedience Trials, Agility Trials, Weight Pulling and Frisbee Competitions. Pit Bulls are natural clowns. Their fun loving nature is just another trait that people have come to love about this breed. They have an incredible sense of humor and know how to make people laugh. Most owners will tell you that to know this breed is to love them.

So how has this fabulous breed known for its steady temperament, outgoing personality and love of people ended up so feared? Irresponsible owners and the media have helped to malign the American Pit Bull Terrier in the last thirty years. The media has grossly misrepresented dogs involved in attacks in an effort to sensationalize their stories. It's a fact that including "pit bull" in the title of a dog attack will attract far more readers than a Chihuahua attack will.  Dog breeds are commonly misidentified in stories as well; articles will often describe a dog as a pit bull and then include photos of dogs that are clearly Boxers, bulldogs, mixed breeds or even shepherds.  Media stories often describe the attacking dog as "the family dog."  For this reason, it is important to distinguish between two terms, "family dog" and "resident dog." A "family dog" lives inside the house as a loved member of the family. The "resident dog" lives outside, in the basement or on a chain. They have not interacted with people or been properly socialized by their irresponsible owners. “Resident dogs” are usually acquired for guarding, fighting or breeding for financial gain. These dogs cannot be expected to react the same way a family pet would under similar circumstances. Unfortunately, the media does not distinguish between "family pet" and "resident dog".  It's virtually unheard of for a neutered pit bull raised as a member of the family to be involved in a fatal attack.  Most dog attacks involve unsocialized, guard dogs escaping their yards, or unsupervised children approaching dogs that have spent their lives chained up in the yard.  However, the headline will often describe these dogs as "the family pet."  

Human aggression, shyness and fearfulness are not characteristic of American Pit Bull Terriers. They are undesirable traits in any dog. Pit bulls are people-loving dogs. Their favorite place is in a lap or by the side of their human. They make excellent family pets in a committed and loving home. For more information about this fabulous breed, visit www.badrap.org, www.animalfarmfoundation.org or read "The Pitbull Placebo" by Karen Delise.

 

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