One of the most popular contemporary breeds – sometimes for the wrong reasons – is the pit bull. 

Photo courtesy of Patricia Irwin-Boles

The perfect image of the perfect dog is an illusion. Over our threshold passes every breed of dog, from the most elegant purebred greyhound to the tiniest Chihuahua, from collies to cocker spaniels, and Dalmatians to dachshunds. And, of course, we also get every possible mixture in between.

In animal rescue, we set aside the image and we focus on the perfect home. Often, requirements vary depending on the breed.

One of the most popular contemporary breeds – sometimes for all the wrong reasons – is the pit bull. It is also among the hardest dogs for rescuers to place, in part because of the many misconceptions attached to their reputation and appearance.

For starters, the name. “Pit bull” is a blanket term that encompasses several categories, such as the American Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier and the American bully. This misuse of the term leads people to generalize a pit bull as any dog with a block head, wide jaw and stout body. This lack of knowledge is often a factor that skews the statistics involving the breed. As a result, the pit bull unjustly takes the rap for the misbehaviors of other breeds.

We as rescuers work hard to find the perfect home for the pit bulls that come our way.

Is there a formula for the perfect pit owner? They range in age, gender, profession and socioeconomic background. Most importantly, the responsible owner is one willing to take on the challenge of ownership. They must have the right stuff and courage to ward off the public stigma that is commonly associated with the breed. They should see their dog as an ambassador and have the confidence to be in a public forum with their pet.

Furthermore, the ideal owner should be dedicated to training and socializing their dog and teaching their animal to show respect to people and other animals. The owner must know how to set boundaries when boundaries are needed. Time and commitment are required in any owner situation, but due to negative associations, pit bull owners need to be even more committed to helping shape a well-behaved dog.

Finally, an owner of a pit bull must be resigned to being judged by others simply for owning this powerful breed. Ownership can determine many factors including where you can or cannot live. Acceptance of these judgments and proving otherwise are steps toward creating change. Making the ownership commitment is not for everyone and needs to be a well-thought-out decision.

Placing image aside and making perfection a hope, those of us who believe in the good of all living creatures continue to work at making a small change in this world. We do our best to find owners who will recognize the American pit bull’s intelligence, loyalty and productivity and provide loving homes for these canines.

As a new year begins, we will continue on this path and invite you to join our efforts to help take care of abandoned dogs in our community and persevere in finding them good homes. 

Patricia Irwin-Boles is the founder of Helping Animals Live Tomorrow Rescue. The views expressed in this column are her own.

(1) comment


New Warning from Pediatricians: A University of Arkansas for Medical Science’s largest dog bite study to date at a Georgia hospital in July 2016 came to this conclusion: “The study corroborates the largely negative interactions between pit bulls and children of any age.”

From the abstract: "Pit bull bites were implicated in half of all surgeries performed and over 2.5 times as likely to bite in multiple anatomic locations as compared to other breeds."

Medical peer-reviewed: Level 1 trauma center dog bite studies from all geographical regions in the U.S. are reporting a higher prevalence of pit bull type dogs injuries than all other breeds of dogs. In many cases, the studies (2009 to 2016) also report that pit bull injuries have a higher severity of injury and require a greater number of operative interventions.

Correct there are nice pit bulls. The problem is that you can't tell them apart from the pit bulls that decide to kill. Would you deliberately choose a crib, car, or helmet with the highest record of fatalities and the worst safety rating? Pit-bull type dogs are responsible for 95% of severe attacks on people, pets and livestock in breed neutral zones. Please follow for one month. You will be shocked at all the people and pets that are severely maimed or killed by pit bulls.

Please spend some time witnessing to the victims of pit bull attacks. Most attacking pit bulls are not due to bad owners but naïve owners who do not understand the dangerous pit bull breed traits. From 2005-2017, 254 people killed by pit bull type dogs.

I agree all dogs can bite. The issue with pit bulls is the degree of damage they inflict, and their attacks being more likely to result in fatality. Appellate courts across the United States have recognized the dangers of the pit bull breed for over 25-years. We've listed excerpts from court decisions that demonstrate this.

Pit bulls do not lock their jaw but with their 'gameness' trait they do not let go until their victims are dead.

Pit-bulls are dangerous because they have the capability of inflicting life-threatening injuries in a split second. Pit bulls are zero-mistake dogs.

Two words to prove pit bull type dogs are inherently dangerous: "BREAK STICK".

Does this sound like a normal and safe dog breed to have live in our neighborhoods? Pit Bull Rescue Central recommends ALL pit bull owners to have a "break stick", a wedge-shaped piece of wood used to pry open a pit bull’s jaw during an attack. "Since pit bulls have a strong fighting background, we recommend that pet owners also have a breaking stick as a precaution, even if they don't plan to use it in an illegal context. However, please be discreet. Breaking sticks are not something to brag about and the general public might have the wrong impression if you walk around with a stick in your hand. Breaking sticks are not illegal, but they are considered dog fighting paraphernalia in certain states and/or with certain law enforcement agents."

This person demonstrates how to use a break stick on a pit-bull: 

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