Thursday, November 19, 2009

When Pit Bulls Go Rogue

First Sarah Palin was a "pit Bull with lipstick. Then she "went rogue."

A couple of days ago, I noted that it's just possible a "Pit Bull might go Pit Bull."

I thought that was a fairly innocuous observation, considering that I provided a link to the dictionary definition of Pit Bull which, along with "American Staffordshire terrier," notes that it is also slang for "One who behaves in a markedly aggressive or ruthless manner."

It's not like we have not heard this definition of Pit Bull before, is it?

It's as current as this morning's orange juice.

But, of course, I got an email from a very nice person who wanted me to remove the reference. A tiger might "go tiger", and a chimpanzee might "go chimpanzee," but it was beyond thought that a Pit Bull might "go Pit Bull," and never mind the daily new stories.

Would I remove the reference? I was told it was absurd to "lump people like me" together with "people who aren't just idiots, but idiots who do incredibly stupid things to wild animals."


I had not mentioned this person. I had not mentioned ANY person. I was talking about animals.

In fact, what I was talking about was something elementary: Every animal has a code within it. This code cannot be eliminated, and must be paid homage to.

I wrote back:

I find it very amusing that Pit Bull owners deny the genetic code in their breed. You do not see houndsmen going nuts when someone says "he stayed on the trail like a hound," or a greyhound man going nuts when someone says he "ran like a greyhound," or a terrierman expressing outrage when someone says he is as "tenacious as a terrier," or a bird dog man getting anxious because someone notes they were "bird-dogged to good information."

But Pit Bulls? You cannot say a Pit Bull is likely to go Pit Bull? Nonsense!

Here's a thought -- maybe that sentiment needs to be said more often.

If it was, perhaps nearly a million Pit Bulls a year would not be killed in shelters in this nation, most of then turned over to those shelters by owners who did not know or understand that a "Pit Bull can go Pit Bull."

But those are a minority of dogs, you may say.

Well yes, that's right.

"Only" about a third of all the Pit Bulls in America are killed every year BECAUSE THEY ARE PIT BULLS.

Read that line again.

Those deaths are not caused because someone is "calling" the dog a Pit Bull. Those dogs are dying because they ARE Pit Bulls, and it turns out that when "a Pit Bull goes Pit Bull" most people do not want them in their house. And that sentiment is shared by people who actually owned all those Pit Bulls! Are the folks who acquired Pit Bull all Pit Bull haters? I don't think so!

Now here's the interesting part: Most tigers in this country do not "go tiger" and most chimps do not "go chimp" either. And, as you might point out, neither do most Pit Bulls, in the sense that "only" a third of all Pit Bulls in the U.S. are being killed every year, which leaves 2/3 still "coloring between the lines."

Now here's the funny thing. You know what the lady who owned that Chimp said? She said it was just like a baby. It was her child. The folks who own tigers say the same thing -- go back and look at the Siegfried and Roy tapes of them bottle-feeding their cats, even as adults.

And you know what? Most of the time it works out. Tigers and Chimps kill or maul very few people in America -- far fewer than (well, you know) despite the fact that there are a LOT of private tigers and lions (about 30,000 big cats) and chimps (about 3,000 great apes) in America.

As to the notion that Siegfried and Roy's Tiger or that Chimpanzee were "wild" animals, or that the owners were "idiots who did incredibly stupid things" to their charges, you might want to go back and read about these animals and their owners.

None of these animals were wild -- they were all born and raised in captivity, bottle-raised, and well-trained. They were not abused in the slightest.

But does a Tiger have a genetic code? Yes it does. Does a Chimpanzee? Yes it does. Does a dog -- especially a Pit Bill? Yes it does.

And so we come to the point: A tiger just *might* go tiger someday, and a chimpanzee just *might* go chimpanzee someday, and a Pit Bull just *might* go Pit Bull someday. It's the genetic potential of the beast -- the reason "Pit Bull" is in the dictionary as an adjective that means: "One who behaves in a markedly aggressive or ruthless manner."

And NO, I do not think you are an idiot, or your dogs are a problem in the slightest. Surely you do not think the post was directed to you?

But do I think most "Pet Bull" owners have thought very much about the genetic code that exists in game bred animals? No, I do not. Too many folks believe that all animals can be "loved into being wonderful all the time." Siegfried and Roy thought that and still think that. So too does that woman who owned that mauling Chimp. And you know what? They are right most of the time. But the code can explode, can't it? And the code is not the same for all animals, is it? A "Tiger going Tiger" is well within the bounds of normal. So too is a "Pit Bull going Pit Bull."

And admitting that is Step One to saving the Pit Bull; accepting the Pit Bull for what it is, which is too often a serious problem for its owner.

I had barely fired off this little missive when someone sent me a link to this page from the Villalobos Pit Bull Rescue Center, the largest Pit Bull Rescue Center in the country, which is working hard to rehome Pit Bulls that have been dumped in shelters, even as they try to educate prospective owners of these dogs that a Pit Bull is not a Poodle or a Pug. The folks at Villalobos write:

You will learn here that while Pit Bulls make great family companions while in the right hands and living situation, they require intelligent, responsible and dedicated ownership.

Unfortunately too many people obtain these dogs for the wrong reasons or have little understanding on the inherent traits this breed possesses. It is unfortunate that one of the original purposes of the APBT was (and still is for many) dog-to-dog combat, but it’s a fact that can’t be denied or ignored. It’s very important that every potential Pit Bull owner, understands the selective breeding that took place to make these dogs of today and the inherited characteristics that are potentially within this wonderful breed.

. . . . We can’t blame specialized breeds for behaving like they were bred to do what they do. Certain specific traits were selectively bred into the dogs and are now a part of the breed’s character. It’s like the digging instinct of many Terriers, the herding behavior in Shelties, the compulsion to run in a Greyhound, etc. Your Pointer may have never spent a day on a real “hunt”, but he may still point and flush out a bird as his ancestors were bred to do so. We don’t have to condone or glorify it, but dog aggression is not uncommon with Pit Bull type dogs. Owners must recognize and accept this fact or they won’t be able to provide competent ownership and have fun with their dogs. It’s a mistake to think the fighting gene can be easily trained or loved out of a dog. Or that early socialization will guarantee your Pit Bull will always get along with other animals. Even though PBRC does not in anyway condone animal fighting, it does acknowledge the importance of understanding the special traits of this breed and advocates education about proper and responsible Pit Bull ownership. You can have all the dog experience in the world, but it’s also essential to understand the distinctive features of the type of dog you own or work with. In this case, a dog with an important fighting background who requires extra vigilance around other pets.

There are precautions to take when owning a Pit Bull, especially in a multiple-dog environment. Unfortunately these precautions are often viewed as an acceptance for the sport of dog fighting when nothing could be further from the truth. PBRC believes that knowing how to avoid a fight, as well as how to break up a fight, can be a matter of life or death for your dog and the “other” dog.

Take note that a fight can strike suddenly and for no apparent reason. Warning signs can be very subtle with Pit Bulls and even completely absent in certain cases. Two dogs may be best friends for years, sleep together, cuddle, play and even eat from the same bowl. Then one day something triggers one of them and BOOM! Often the dogs act like best friends as soon as the fight is over. They might even lick each other’s wounds. You have been warned though. They will do it again and get better at it every time.

. . . . It is not necessarily a hate of other dogs that will cause Pit Bulls to fight, but rather an “urge” to do so that has been bred into the breed for many generations. Pit Bulls may fight over hierarchic status, but external stimulus or excitement can also trigger a fight. Remember that any canine can fight, but Pit Bulls were bred specifically for it and will therefore do it with more drive and intensity than most other breeds.

Pit Bull owners must also be aware of the remarkable fighting abilities of this breed and always keep in mind that they have the potential to inflict serious injuries to other animals.


This is Step One: Admission that even the nicest "PET Bulls" come with a certain amount of Pit Bull genetic code pulsing through their system. Though it may be invisible, it should always be assumed to be there.

Remember the cost of denial: Nearly a million dead Pit Bulls a year, most of them acquired in haste and abandoned in leisure by people who did not understand the prolems and responsibilities that come with all dogs, with big dogs in particular, and with Pit Bulls most of all.

What has happened to the Pit Bull is a breed specific problem.

No other breed is so over-bred.

No other dog is more likely to be bred by a fool, and acquired and abandoned by an ignorant.

No other breed is more likely to die in a shelter, abandoned by its owner.

Talking about the problems that come with Pit Bull ownership is not a violence to the dog; it is salvation for the dog.

What this dog does not NOT need is more "surprised" owners who blame the dog for the genetic code coursing through its veins -- the genetic code they never bothered to learn about, or may have once denied existed.

Yes, let's place all the rescue Pit Bulls we can in loving homes.

And let's turn to shutting down the Pit Bull breeders who are the real problem for both dog and community alike.

And, above all, let's learn to appreciate and understand each dog breed for what it is -- not for what we want them to be.

Want to see how many Pit Bulls are killed every day in America? Click here.


HTTrainer said...

I keep wondering who is really writing Sarah's books?

PBurns said...

Pits can be truely great dogs, but they are overbred and over sold. Nothing makes me cringe more than to see an 18- or 20-year old with a Pit as their first dog. Most of these kids don't have the self-discipline for any dog, much less a large dog that requires consistent excercise and training. A night or two out drinking instead of going home to take care of the dog, and the couch gets eaten. A door left open, and "Woops" the neighbor's cat is dead, etc. And who pays the ultimate price? The poor dog!
There should be a five year prohibition on breeding Pits, or a license required for breeding same as there is a license to own a hawk or falcon.


Seahorse said...

I'd say the neighbor's cat is the first to pay the ultimate price. The dog is second in line.

Seahorse ;)

Water Over The Dam said...

Hmm... down at the bottom of the rescue page there is a link for the "surprise" awaiting those arriving without an appointment; the page shows various molossers while "Bad Boys" plays. Funny maybe; the message I get is they have bought into the whole "dog as weapon" thing that the other text seems to be discounting - they supposedly want to place pets, not fighters or weapons. Thanks for the useful link, though. And the tasteful pic of Palin.

Diane said...

Excellent blog! Thank you! It is actually difficult to find a reasonable, well thought out article about this issue. I will be forwarding this along to those I know who battle on both sides of this controversy.