"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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Pit Bull “Problem”

Dr. Seuss had one.

Helen Keller claims they’re one of the best therapy dogs.

Jon Stewart has two – and they watch over his young children.

But these aren’t the stories you hear when you hear about pit bulls.

“I think it all started back in 1987,” says Ken Foster, author of numerous books on dogs, “[when] Sports Illustrated ran a snarling photo [of a pit bull] with a caption ‘BEWARE OF THIS DOG.’”

If you believe rumors, pit bulls have brains that are too big for their heads and jaws that operate like sharks’. Only criminals and gangsters own them; and don’t even think about getting one — they’re known for turning on their masters.

I think Cesar Milan put it best: “In the ’70s, they blamed Dobermans, in the ’80s, they blamed German Shepherds, in the ’90s, they blamed Rottweilers. Now, they blame the Pit Bull.”

These misconceptions are what led Ken Foster to start the Sula Foundation, an organization that provides affordable vaccinations, free spaying and neutering, and basic education and obedience training for pit bulls.

Foster recently raised a hefty sum to help Spartacus (the gorgeous white dog that slept on my lap while we talked), whose leg had been blown off by a shotgun blast. The funds didn’t just pay for the operation that saved Spartacus’s life; they also covered his stay at a local “resort” for dogs, where he could rest, recover, and get used to life on three legs.

Foster says he gets somewhere between 12-20 calls a day to come pick up a pit bull. “Every year in New Orleans, over 2,000 are euthanized,” he explains. “That’s a little more than five a day.”

I ask why the rate is so high, and the answer is complicated.

“People breed them poorly and don’t have the means to take care of them. People move and don’t want to take the dog with them,” he says. “Or, lately, a lot of people are into this ‘moving to New Orleans’ thing for a year to work on their art, adopting a pit bull, ‘cause that’s what everyone does here and then a year later are like, ‘I’m moving back home now, so can you take my dog?’”

Foster air-chokes that imaginary person and laughs a bit, but you can tell it’s an issue – one of many.

“In a place like New Orleans, stigma is a big thing,” he says. “People have preconceived notions of what someone, or something, is supposed to be like and they subsequently get judged based solely on that.”

And as I get viciously attacked by an army of wet kisses and a powerful violent tail, I kind of start to see where he’s coming from.

by Aric S. Queen in The Good Traveler on May 25, 2012


  1. This is a great post! I hope you'll join me on Monday for a Blogwide Pitty Post Day! There are details at my blog.

  2. its to bad you cant hit the delete button an stupid my name is dorothy i own 3 pitbulls and they are the best dogs in the world and people who say they are mean and will bit u are dumb its not the dog thats the problem its stupid people who created monsters so i think everyone needs to hush look at the facts and work on the real problem.....and to prove not all pitbulls are bad go look at mine on fb dorothy mills.

  3. Great post! I think you should mention in parenthesis or something that Cesar Milan is The Dog Whisperer.

    That blue-eyed pittie is beautiful!!

  4. I love the picture i own a Pit Bull i have a disabled son i would trust my Pit with him bfore any other dog. His name is Demo I am also a weekly viewer of PitBulls and Parollees I love Pit Bulls they are the most amazing dogs ever.

  5. The cover of Sports Illustrated....is that dog snarling? It looks to me like he was caught in mid bark. The eyes aren't snarling....the lips aren't pulled back. Catch any dog while they are barking in a still photo and you can call it whatever you like, it's still just a bark.

  6. Anonymous 10/19/12 7:07--
    You can call it what you like, but there is a point in a snarl where the lips aren't pulled back. And the lips pulled away from the teeth--dogs don't bark like that. And this photo did it's job of projecting fear and causing prejudice. www.dogbreedprejudice.info

  7. I have 5 beautiful Pit's and will leave any of them with my Grandbabies that are 3,2,and 1.
    I have been raising this breed for 30+ years and have never had one bite anyone.
    Had a few put back in their vehicles when they showed up at 2 a.m. drunk and raising hell when they should not have been on my property.
    These dogs have a bad rep and people automatically think just because it's a Pit that they are going to get attacked.

  8. I'm a 58 year old widowed female.....I'm also the proud owner of two pits!!! They have filled my life with love and deep loyalty! Pits don't just "snap "!!! There usually is a reason.........like a uninformed owner........lack of knowledge, etc! They are a wonderful breed but like anything in life, knowledge is powerful! I will always have pits in my life!

  9. from the background watching and listen to people and keeping watch about pit bulls, i have learned that its the way you bring up a pit bull from a puppy. if you argue with me its pointless!