"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Truth About Pit Bulls

The societal misconception about Pit Bulls truly blows me away. In the minds of many people, there are dogs... and then... there are Pit Bulls. They're almost viewed as a completely different species.

Well... I've got news for ya. They are canines... just like every other dog. That's a fact.

Many people have never even met a "Pit Bull." Yet, when asked about these dogs, those same people will provide a bold, descriptive account of "the Pit Bull" and his "personality." Aggressive. Vicious. Deranged. Dangerous. Unpredictable.

Remember... the vast majority of these people have never actually witnessed this behavior, because they've never even been close enough to a Pit Bull to substantiate --or eradicate-- their claims.

So, the question becomes: what's the basis for these Pit Bull testimonies? How can someone be so certain of this knowledge, when they've never even had an encounter with a Pit Bull?

The simple answer: the media.

In order to thrive, the media needs stories... and not just any stories. Sensational stories. Stories that grab your attention. Stories that get people talking. Stories that get you to tune in, read, and share their stories... with others who will tune in, read, and share those stories. That's their job.

So, what makes for a sensational story? Well, consider Hollywood. What celebrity news makes the headlines? Scandals. Drugs. Affairs. Drama. The cover story is never about the sweet, responsible starlet who quietly goes to work and back home every day. Why so? Because innocent isn't interesting. Innocent is boring.

Instead, devastation, destruction, and chaos are desired by the media. And if these things don't exist... trust me, they'll create their own story...

Does a story about a sweet, loving Pit Bull, who enjoys playfully running through the grass, qualify as "sensational?" Not so much. But what about vicious, killer animal roaming the streets for blood? You betcha.

Consider this: millions of dog bites are reported each year... by dogs of every different breed. Many of these bites cause severe injuries, leading to hospitalizations and surgeries.

But how many of those stories do you actually see on the news? Well, let me rephrase that: How many non-Pit Bull bite stories do you see on the news?

When a Pit Bull bites someone, it almost always makes the news, with a headline such as "Killer Pit Bull Attacks Human." But what about the Golden Retriever down the street, who bit a child and sent him to the hospital? Well, that one never made the news.

What about the Chihuahua who mauled a kid's face... did you ever see this headline: "Vicious Chihuahua Mauls Child." Nope... that's not a "good story" either.

If and when these non-Pit-Bull bites are reported by the media, it's never front page news, and the dog's breed is rarely listed at all, simply stating: "Dog Bites Child."

In fact, dog bites are so common, that the average bite from the "average dog" isn't considered news-worthy at all... regardless of the degree of injury to the person, or the number of other bite occurrences by that particular breed.

But why aren't these other incidents covered in the news? Well, any media reports about non-Pit-Bull bites would only reduce the "sensational" aspect of their "Pit Bull attack" stories. And trust me, they don't want that to happen. So, in order to maintain the Pit Bull's "vicious" reputation, the media neglects the many other dog bite incidents by many other breeds. Does this seem honest? Justified? Trustworthy?

So, you may be asking, "Then, why the Pit Bull?" Well, that's the deeper issue here...

Sadly, the inherent loyalty of the Pit Bull has been exploited by humans for sadistic pleasure and personal gain. Dog Fighting. Baiting. Chaining. Protection. Neglect. Abuse. Thus, the Pit Bull's "reputation" is a direct result of the cruelty to which they're subjected.

However, the truth doesn't matter to the media, because that "Killer Pit Bull" reputation and their assumed "vicious" nature makes for a pretty darn good news story...

The media never shares the back-story of what happened to the dog before he bit someone. Even though... that piece of information is the most critical part of the story.

Pit Bulls are arguably the most abused, misused, and tortured breed in America. (Keep in mind that the term "Pit Bull" is actually used to describe at least 3 different breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.)

Their strengths are exploited by humans to make these dogs weaker; their weaknesses used to make humans stronger. Therein lies the problem... the truth behind their "bad rap," and the stimulus for the vast majority of Pit Bull bites and "attacks."

But the media never asks the most critical question: What happened to this dog... to cause him to bite someone? I may not know everything, but I can guarantee you this much: something happened to him.

Maybe this dog was chained and neglected for years, with only a few feet of space to call his own. Never able to run, play, or be a dog. So, when someone enters that limited space, the dog may feel threatened, and his natural fight-or-flight instinct kicks in. But guess what? That heavy chain prevents the "flight" option. "Fight" is all he has, and he bites because he fears for his life.

Maybe the dog was trained to fight. Maybe he was praised for attacking others... and brutally beaten when he didn't obey those commands. Maybe he has lived his entire life, so terrified on a daily basis, that he can no longer trust any human contact. Maybe he thought that biting was his only chance to live another day...

Regardless of what happened, the back-story is never told. More disturbingly, when talking to the media, the dog's owners will always claim that this dog was a beloved family pet, who just suddenly "turned" one day. I'm always amazed that people actually believe these owners.

Let's take a stroll down Common Sense Lane for just a sec...

So... these people claim that they were a "good family" who loved their dog? Of course they say that!!! Do you honestly expect that they'd tell the media: "Well, we beat the crap out of our dog every day for years, and one day, he finally fought back."

Or "We chained and starved our dog for his entire life... and one day, the neglect just got the best of him." Or "Our child was taunting the starving dog, who then bit her out of hunger, fear, and self-defense." Or "We trained our dog to protect our home, and now we're angry that he tried to do what we asked of him."

If a family actually admitted that they were guilty of animal cruelty, there would be consequences. So, of course they blame the dog! Then, the law blames the dog, and the media blames the dog. And sadly, society blames the dog... for what humans did to him.

People actually choose to believe that this Pit Bull just "turned" on the family who fed them, loved, them, and cared for them all their life. Is that rational? Of course not! But it makes for a better story, doesn't it?

So, that's what the media feeds us... and everyone is falling for it...

If you'd like to hear from someone who has A LOT of experience with Pit Bulls, well... here I am. I've been bitten by a lot of dogs in my life... Labs, Chihuahuas, Spaniels. But out of the thousands of dogs I've worked with, I have never been bitten by a Pit Bull.

In animal rescue, I deal with the worst of the worst... and these Pit Bulls come to me in the most broken, fearful, and vulnerable state. If a dog is going to bite someone, it'll most likely happen when they're in that fragile, uncertain state... only because they are terrified.

And yet-- not one of those Pit Bulls has ever bitten me. I work with them daily --many of them. Do you honestly believe that I'd put my life in danger every single day?? And if they're truly so vicious, wouldn't I have been bitten or attacked by now? If they were really so dangerous and unpredictable, surely I'd be at greater risk than anyone else... dealing with so many of them on a daily basis... right? And yet, nothing has happened. Hmm...

The truth is: Pit Bulls aren't any more dangerous than other large breeds, and they aren't any less loving or deserving than any other dog. Wouldn't you choose to believe someone who actually knows these dogs... over someone who has never even met one???

I don't fear them, so they don't fear me. I love them, so they love me. That's critical. Because when fear is present and love is absent, any dog can become terrified.

Every breed of dog is capable of biting and harming someone, and these bites can happen for many different reasons: excessive energy, improper training, lack of socialization, unmet needs, abuse, hunger, neglect, and fear.

When a dog senses your fear, they assume that they should be fearful, too. They don't understand that you actually fear them... they just sense an abundance of nervous energy, causing their defenses to go up as well. Therefore, they become every bit as terrified of you... as you are of them. So when you move toward them with uncertainty and hesitation... they fear for their safety, which can cause them to bite you. This is true for any dog.

The most feared dog... is the Pit Bull. People tend to fear Pit Bulls more than any other breed. But does it seem logical that those same people don't fear other large breeds --who are equally strong
and capable of harm-- such as Boxers, Shepherds, Labs, and Standard Poodles? Does this make any sense whatsoever?

So, why do they fear the Pit Bull? Because of the media. Because of dog fighters. Because of misconceptions and lies and abuse. Stop buying into these stories! Stop blaming these dogs for dog fighting! Stop believing the lies you are being fed!

The media has a lot to gain from these stories: ratings, readers, and money. Dog fighters have a lot to gain from dog fighting... and even more so, when society blames the dogs, instead of the people.

But ask yourself this: What do I have to gain here? If you think I'm getting paid to write this, you're wrong. If you think someone is paying me to save these Pit Bulls, you're wrong. If you think I have anything to gain by presenting the truth and seeking justice, well... you're wrong.

Actually, I have a lot to lose here... everything, really. If I'm wrong about these dogs, I risk my reputation, my work, and quite honestly, my life. But... I'm more than willing to put everything I have on the line... because I know that I'm right, and I know that they're worth it.

The media has everything to gain... and nothing to lose. I have nothing to gain... and everything to lose. So... the question becomes: Who do you choose to believe??

Article by Ashley Owen Hill, founder of Lucky Dog Rescue in Meridian, Mississippi & the Co-Founder of the facebook app, Pet Pardons.

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