Whether you love them or you hate them, everyone has an opinion about them. "Pit bull type dogs" have become a highly contentious subject over the past few years. And just recently, Delta, a company in our own back yard, decided to ban them as service dogs on their flights.
We take a very different stance from Delta on "pit bull type dogs.” Because we see every single animal that comes through our shelter doors as an individual, we evaluate each of them based on known behavior, not assumed breed. And we welcome with open arms the thousands of dogs with big, blocky heads who come into our care.
Still on the fence about "pit bull type dogs"? Check out a few facts:
"Pit Bull" is not a breed: When people identify a dog as a "pit bull,” they are typically referring to a dog with a short coat, medium build and blocky head. In fact, that umberella term can encompass up to 20 different breeds—including American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bully and even the American Bulldog—not to mention those breeds mixed with others. Breeds like Olde English Bulldog, Presa Canario, Boxer and Bull Mastiff often get mistaken for "pit bulls" in the media, in police reports and even in shelters across the country. Visual breed identification is widely innacurate, so the only way to know if the dog sitting right in front of you is a "pit bull type dog" is through a DNA test. Which is why we decided to remove breed labels from our shelters and website.
Their jaws don't lock: The Journal of Veterinary Dentistry busted this myth earlier this year, but Veterinarians all over the country have been in agreement for many years that the jaws of "pit bull type dogs” do not lock. According to Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin of the University of Georgia, no dogs' jaws lock. He also stated, "We found that the American Pit Bull Terriers did not have any unique mechanism that would allow these dogs to lock their jaws. There were no mechanical or morphological differences."
They don't have a higher pain tolerance: While having a higher pain tolerance can sometimes be used in a positive manner, it's not true. Our friends at Animal Farm Foundation said it best, "There is nothing unique about the neurological system of a 'pit bull' dog. All dogs, regardless of how they look or their genetic heritage, experience pain. How each individual dog responds to that pain will vary, but you cannot predict that response based on the dog’s physical appearance or heritage."
They do not suddenly "snap": Any dog who suddenly attacks a human or animal without warning or reason is experiencing something painful—be it neurological or medical. It is not normal for any breed of dog (or human, for that matter) to suddenly snap without reason. And the same goes with a "pit bull type dog."
They are not more prone to aggression: "Pit bull type dogs" are not more dog or human aggressive when compared with other breeds. In fact, the majority of "pit bull type dogs" make wonderful family pets. The American Temperament Test shows that the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Stafforshire Terrier and the Stafforshire Bull Terrier score average or above average every single year. Additionally, when the Institute of Animal Welfare and Behavior of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover, Germany performed temperament tests on over 1,000 dogs, they found that “no significant difference in behavior between breeds was detected. The results show no indication of dangerousness in specific breeds.” We'd like to go on the record and say, "pit bull type dogs" are not inherently vicious.
Their good behavior is not limited to “how you raise them": We hear people say all the time, "Pit bulls are good dogs only when raised right." And while we agree that a good upbringing and loving home can set a dog up for success in the long run, it's also important to understand that dogs of all backgrounds go on to make wonderful, loving pets. In fact, in 2014, we busted a terrible dog fighting ring in Fulton County. The dogs were treated terribly for the vast majority of their lives. One of those dogs was Mari, a tiny little pocket pup, who was terrfied of humans but graviated towards other dogs. In just a few short months in a foster home, Mari began to blossom and slowly came out of her shell. Today, 4 years later, Mari is a wonderful family pet (Pictured below with her family). She loves living with cats, other dogs and humans. Mari's story is not unique. Dogs from terrible conditions go on to make wonderful family pets every single day. Whether they come from Michael Vick's dog fighting ring or a backyard breeder, every dog is an individual and deserves a chance.
1.2 million "pit bull type dogs" are euthanized every year: This is the one fact about "pit bull type dogs" that we can change and that we, as a society, have control over. Let's work together to effect this change. Let's spay and neuter our pets. Let's volunteer at our local shelters. Let's advocate for stronger animal cruelty laws. Let's help our neighbors by providing resources when they need it the most. Let's end breed discrimiation. Let's choose adoption whenever possible. Let's welcome differing opinions to the table for a conversation. Let's save lives together.