Enough already. Anybody reading the Argus-Courier over the last few weeks would think our town’s biggest problem is pit bulls. Forget our declining city revenues and unmaintained parks. It’s pit bulls that sell papers. That’s why we’ve been besieged with front page, above-the-fold stories week after week. It was a terrible tragedy that occurred, but you only heard about it because it involved a pit bull-type dog. It could just as easily have been a German shepherd, Labrador retriever, pointer, rottweiler or poodle — but if that had been the case, you wouldn’t know about it. When I was the Marin Humane Society’s public information director and somebody was bitten or attacked by a dog, reporters would call practically drooling, saying, “Was it a pit bull?” “No, it was a Lab.” Click. They only cared to report on incidents involving pit bulls, thereby stigmatizing these unfairly maligned dogs even further.
I’m going to let you in on a big secret. Pit bulls are just dogs. Just plain old dogs. And they make wonderful family pets. The American pit bull terrier, one of the first American dog breeds, was known as the “nanny dog” in the early 1900s because of their love of children. There are quite a few pit bull-type dogs in Petaluma and the vast majority are living with middle-class families minding their own business. People who have them cherish them because they really are special. Pit bulls are happy, loving, sweet, smart, comical, cuddly dogs who love being with people. If you don’t know that to be true, then you don’t know anything about this breed.
Like us, dogs are individuals and, yes, there are troubled dogs — of every breed. Worse, there are too many irresponsible owners — of every breed. When incidents happen, it is seldom the dog who is at fault. Dogs are dogs. They are territorial and predatory by nature. That’s why they need to be managed and people need to be held accountable. Too many dogs lose their lives because of their owners’ mistakes.
This newspaper needs to take responsibility, too. Every time the media sensationalizes pit bulls as dangerous, it makes neighbors uneasy, makes it harder for shelters to find homes for these perfectly good family dogs — and makes them more attractive to the less responsible elements of society.
Pit bulls are our victims. Because of our ignorance, our fear and our prejudice, these innocent dogs end up in the wrong hands, often neglected and mistreated. Stop this cycle of abuse and misinformation. Spend some time at www.badrap.org and go to the animal shelter and ask to meet a pit bull — the real dog, not the one of your imagination. Open your mind and stop believing everything you read in the newspaper.
Article by Sheri Cardo, Petaluma