Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Misunderstood Breed

By Melissa Place

When you hear the word “Pit Bull,” what immediately comes to your mind? For many people, the mere thought of this creature induces a sense of fear; they feel the animal is an aggressive, ferocious, murderous, relentless, vicious beast. Pit Bulls, however, were once the most popular family dog in the beginning of the 20th century. What changed? Why do people hold such harsh stereotypes towards these innocent animals?

Social media has seriously effected the human outlook on Pit Bulls; the media relentlessly exploits the innocent animal. The ASPCA website states, “A Pit Bull bite is far more likely to draw media attention. Many dogs of other breeds bite people, but these incidents almost always go unreported. They’re just not exciting enough fodder for television and print. It is truly a shame that the media continues to portray such a warped image of this beautiful, loyal and affectionate breed.”

The infamous case of NFL quarterback Michael Vick revealed the horrid conditions some Pit Bulls lived in. According to MSNBC reports, “Officers who carried out the raid found dogs, some injured and scarred, chained to buried car axles. Forensic experts discovered remains of dogs that had been shot with a .22 caliber pistol, electrocuted, drowned, hanged or slammed to the ground for lacking a desire to fight. More than 50 American Pit Bull Terriers or pit bull mixes were gathered up. So were “parting sticks” used to open fighting dogs’ mouths, treadmills to condition them, and a “rape stand” used to restrain female dogs that did not submit willingly to breeding.”

Gangs and individuals who partake in dog fighting events mistreat their dogs and train them to fight and become malicious; they are placed in an environment where if they do not fight, they die. The dogs, once exposed to this cruel environment, understandably have trust issues, and need an abundance of love and patience to overcome the tragedies they have been forced to endure.

Pit Bull Myths Don't Match Reality

The Virginia Beach Animal Care and Adoption Center created a website in which they report the facts and myths about the Pit Bull breed. First and foremost, they confirm Pit Bulls do not have locking jaws. It is often believed Pit Bulls have the ability to lock their jaw when they bite, causing their bites to inflict more damage than other breeds. This belief, however, is false; the jaw of a Pit Bull is structurally identical to that of a Chihuahua, with the exception of the size.

The website also proves that the wide-held belief that Pit Bulls are unpredictable and more likely to bite than other dogs is false: “Pit Bulls are no more vicious than Golden Retrievers, Beagles or other popular dogs! In a recent study of 122 dog breeds by the American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS), Pit Bulls achieved a passing rate of 83.9%. That's as good or better than Beagles: 78.2%, and Golden Retrievers: 83.2%.”

Pit Bulls did not always have a terrible reputation. Many years ago, the Pit Bull was a symbol of American bravery and nationalism and was posted on propaganda ads. One Pit Bull named Stubby was a popular war dog that was awarded several medals during World War I and was even honored at the White House. According to the ASPCA, “During duty, he warned soldiers of gas attacks, found wounded men in need of help and listened for oncoming artillery rounds.” In addition to the respected image Pit Bulls once had, many famous people were Pit Bull owners. The ASPCA reports that, “Many famous figures, including Helen Keller, President Theodore Roosevelt, General George Patton, President Woodrow Wilson, Fred Astaire and Humphrey Bogart, shared their lives and homes with pit bulls.”

Pit Bulls are a strangely misunderstood breed; Pit Bulls are not genetically cruel and malicious animals. Pit Bulls are compassionate and loyal dogs looking to please their owner in every way they can. Criminals and gangs take advantage of the admirable qualities of the Pit Bulls and use them in cruel ways. Pit Bull advocates feel nurture plays a vital role in the outcome of an animal’s personality– if a Pit Bull, or any other breed for that matter, is beaten, starved, and placed in life threatening circumstances, it will develop an excessively defensive personality. Viciousness is not part of a Pit Bull’s genetic make-up.

Melissa Place is a sophomore at Saint Thomas Aquinas College and is majoring in English.

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