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|2008 SHOW NEWS|
|Editorial Observer | American sweetheart
By: Amanda Kiser
Posted: 10/16/07 Thanks to the undeniably cruel actions of Michael Vick, pit bulls have been in the news quite a bit recently, and it hasn't been good.
Eleven cities and states have banned pit bulls, and similar legislation is being considered in nine more. Despite common misconceptions about the breed, pit bulls are wonderful dogs. They are not inherently dangerous and banning the breed based on inaccurate stereotypes is a savage injustice.
Though they are feared today, the pit bull was once America's sweetheart. Propaganda posters from World War I and World War II featured the dog as a representation of the United States' bravery and loyalty. There was also Sergeant Stubby, a pit bull whose remarkable service in World War II with the 102nd Infantry captured the hearts of Americans. RCA, Buster Brown shoes and Levi's jeans used pit bulls to sell their products. The Little Rascals' dog, Petey, was a pit bull. American writers like John Steinbeck, Mark Twain and James Thurber included tales of the terriers in their works. For a while, pit bulls were lovingly referred to as "the Yankee terrier." They were America's favorite dogs. What happened?
With the development of the inner-city underclass in the second half of the 20th century, there was a drastic rise in drugs, crime and illegal dog fighting. Additionally, the sensationalistic media of the 1980s limited its coverage of the animals to their involvement in this bloodsport and the frequently inaccurate accounts of their brutal attacks - significantly contributing to the rampant misconceptions about pit bulls today.
Stories about pit bulls that snap one day and kill their owners are shocking and sensational, and the press loves to report them - regardless of what actually happened. There have been numerous cases where a person was attacked by a dog that was not a pit bull, but blamed the attack on one to protect the actual attacker, or to get more media coverage.
There are 26 breeds commonly confused with the pit bull, and mutts often have pit-like features. Because of this, and because stories about psychotic pit bulls are more sellable than say, Boston terriers, it is more than likely that many of the attacks attributed to pits are wrongful accusations.
Though the media makes it seem that there is a pit bull crisis where packs of dogs roam the streets in search of children to attack, in perspective the problem is not so severe. Pit bulls kill fewer than three children a year, whereas 1,100 die at the hands of their parents. It is not hard to see where the real crisis lies.
Many people attribute their belief that pits are unusually aggressive towards humans to the breed's history of being bred for dog fighting. While it is true that pits tend to be aggressive toward other dogs - as are terriers in general - this is hardly the same as aggression towards humans. Back when dog fighting was legal and the foundations of the breed were being established, handlers were often in the ring with their animals. Because aggression towards the handler was obviously dangerous, it wasn't tolerated and was selected against in breeding.
Pit bulls are one of the most stable breeds in existence. The American Temperament Test Society tests the stability of dogs across their breed by confronting them with a series of confrontational situations. If the dog exhibits signs of aggression or panic, they fail the test. Out of the 542 pit bulls tested, 84.1 percent passed. Not only is this score better than average, it is also higher than scores earned by beagles, collies, yorkies and golden retrievers.
Though stereotypes associate pits with crime and thugs, they are owned by people of all walks of life and perform a variety of tasks. A few past and present pit bull owners include Steve Irwin, Usher, Jon Stewart, Teddy Roosevelt, Jessica Biel, Michael J. Fox, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain. Helen Keller even had a pit bull therapy dog. Many pit bulls work as service animals, sniffing bombs and drugs, or alongside search and rescue teams.
Texas prohibits breed specific legislation, and it needs to stay this way. Other states and cities can essentially ban an entire breed, or classify dogs as "dangerous" simply because they are of a certain breed. In Texas, dogs are defined as dangerous based on their previous behavior, not simply because of what breed they are. Because pit bulls make loving family companions for countless Texans, and because a dog of any breed can be dangerous, breed specific legislation is unjust, illogical and needs to stay out of the state.
Amanda Kiser, a senior sociology major (Texas)
Thank you Amanda for this wonderful editorial I obtained from the ADOA - Michelle, Blockhead Bulldogs (Pennsylvania)
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