The Vilification of Pit Bulls

It will probably come as a surprise to most people, but pit bulls were once widely considered the perfect household pet. In the early 1900’s, pit bulls were viewed as the All-American dog. They were featured on WWI propaganda posters, advertisements, and were even portrayed as a sidekick in the popular children’s television show, The Little Rascals. Pit bulls were owned by prominent American figures such as Theodore Roosevelt, George Patton, Thomas Edison, and Helen Keller. The breed was beloved by Americans and in a way became a symbol of the country.

Through the years the way people perceive pit bulls has drastically changed. The once beloved household companion has now been antagonized and made out to be some kind of monster.

So what exactly has happened? Over the past 100 years have pit bulls drastically changed? Has the All-American dog transformed into some vicious beast over night? How has the once beloved pit bull become so feared and vilified?

The truth is that pit bulls haven’t changed at all over the past 100 years. Pit bulls, just like any other breed, still have the ability to be a family friendly and loving dog. The difference between the pit bull of the early 1900’s and today’s pit bull is that the way the public views them has drastically changed.

The vilification of pit bulls didn’t really start until the 1980’s when the media began to label the breed as violent killers. The most famous of these articles was a 1987 Sports Illustrated article.

The issue with all these articles were that the main focus of the stories were the “killer dogs”, rather than the sick owners who fought and tortured these dogs. Through these articles, the once All-American dogs were turned into these mythical blood-thirsty beasts. All these articles did was drum up an irrational fear towards pit bulls and help put these dogs in the hands of bad owners. Due to the pit bulls reputation it instantly became the perfect breed for dog fighters, gang members, drug dealers, and people who want to look tough.

Pit bulls didn’t freely and subconsciously choose to be involved in dog fighting and crime. A group of pit bulls didn’t just get together and assemble a dog fighting ring in somebodies backyard. In the wrong hands, any dog can be dangerous. The problem isn’t dangerous breeds or dangerous dogs, the issue is dangerous owners. In fact, research done by Karen Delise of the National Canine Research Council suggests that an overwhelming amount of dog bites occur do to poor ownership or care.

“My study of dog bite-related fatalities occurring over the past five decades has identified the poor ownership/management practices involved in the overwhelming majority of these incidents: owners obtaining dogs, and maintaining them as resident dogs outside of regular, positive human interaction, often for negative functions (i.e. guarding/protection, fighting, intimidation/status); owners failing to humanely contain, control and maintain their dogs (chained dogs, loose roaming dogs, cases of abuse/neglect); owners failing to knowledgably supervise interaction between children and dogs; and owners failing spay or neuter dogs” -Karen Delise (National Canine Research Council)

It’s unfortunate, but the pit bull breed is very attractive to bad owners. However the good news is that there are also a lot of great pit bull owners and great pit bulls that live normal and peaceful lives with their families. It’s time to deal with bad owners rather than pointing the finger at an entire breed of dogs.

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