What is HELP FIDO?

Humane Education Leads to Progress
For Informed Dog Owners

Vision Statement: We envision a society free from discrimination, where responsibility, education, love and compassion allow humans to fully respect and understand man's best friend.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

National Pit Bull Awareness Day 2009!

It’s National Pit Bull Awareness Day today!! So, I figured I’d do a little posting on this misunderstood “breed” that is so close to my heart.

First off, a little explanation. I use the word “breed” in quotes above, because “pit bull” is actually not a specific breed of dog. It is actually a very vague, umbrella-type term used to describe several different breeds, types, and/or mixes of breeds. Most commonly accepted under the “pit bull” term are the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), American Staffordshire Terrier (Am Staff), and Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Staffie), but in some cases, pit bull is used to describe American Bulldogs (as noted in the Ohio Revised Code) and even Bull Terriers (like Spuds MacKenzie), as well as mixes of all the aforementioned. Often times, the term “pit bull” is carelessly misused by the media and uneducated individuals to describe any dog that is vicious, has attacked, or simply has a similar appearance to the breeds listed above (boxy face, brindle markings, cropped ears, and/or short, muscular body) thus furthering the confusion and perpetuating the untrue stereotype that these particular dogs are always dangerous. Some enthusiasts of the American Pit Bull Terrier, a breed not recognized by the AKC, but by the UKC and other kennel clubs, feel that its name was in fact, stolen, and therefore they only consider the APBT to be a true “pit bull”. Some feel that only APBTs and Am Staffs are “pit bulls”. It all can be quite confusing, but it comes down to the fact that they are essentially the same dogs but have been bred for a different purpose and/or size standard since the mid 1930's. We can really only attempt to guess the breed by looking at differentiating subtlties. For all these reasons, the pit bull community, rescue organizations, and those of us who own this type of dog often use the even more general term “bully”. For the purposes of this blog, you may see both the terms “pit bull” and “bully”, as well as “pittie” or “pibble”.

A little history lesson…Pit bulls are descended from bulldogs, mastiffs, and terriers. Hundreds of years ago in England, they were bred to fight in rings or “pits”, in a “sport” called bull baiting. When bull baiting was banned, the breeders crossed these breeds to develop a strong, athletic dog and fought the dogs against each other. As most of us know, this brutal, cruel, and illegal practice unfortunately still exists today in rural areas and urban neighborhoods all over our nation. Though dog fighting is an obvious part of the pit bull’s history and original purpose, and care should be taken to properly handle and socialize them, this does not automatically mean that all pit bulls are dog aggressive and won’t get along with other animals. Many other breeds were also originally bred to chase, fight, and kill other animals, such as many of the hounds and terriers, but these breeds do not have the stigma attached to them that the pit bull does. Most important of all, pit bulls were NEVER bred to have any human aggression, and historically those that showed signs were destroyed. Pit bulls that are aggressive towards people are NOT the norm, and most likely are the result of poor genetics/irresponsible breeding, cruelty, and/or neglect. Although, even in these cases, it may be possible for these resilient dogs to be rehabilitated, as with the Vick dogs.

Pit bulls were once heralded as the most respected dog in the U.S., and even before that, they were known as “nanny dogs” because of their wonderful temperament and affection towards children. This image has sadly fallen by the wayside, and now pit bulls are feared, hated, and the target of unfair and ineffective breed specific legislation (BSL) in our states and in other countries around the world. They are also probably the most abused “breed”, as they of course are the first choice for dogfighting, and shelters are filled with them as a result of enforced BSL, neglect, and “backyard”/accidental breeding.

Despite these bleak circumstances, the true character of the pit bull continues to shine through when and where it can. Pit Bulls are one of the most stable people-friendly dogs in existence. The National Canine Temperament Testing Association tested 122 breeds, and Pit Bulls placed the 4th highest with a 95% passing rate! Pibbles are lovers, loyal and protective, energetic and lazy all at the same time. They are the best snugglers, the best kissers, and absolutely hilarious. Personally, I have always loved dogs and my family has always had them as pets. But I have never fallen so deeply and madly in love with a type/breed of dog as I have with the bullies I’ve encountered. Please realize that when it comes to the threat of dog bites or attacks, ANY dog is capable, regardless of breed. Be a fighter FOR the bullies, and rise against BSL, dog fighting, cruelty, neglect and irresponsible behaviors!! Spay and neuter your pets, ESPECIALLY pit bulls, and punish the deed, not the breed!

To report someone you know who is involved with dog fighting, please call the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, Special Investigations Unit. You can remain anonymous.

Or, call the Ohio Attorney General's Tip Line. If your information leads to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in dog fighting or cock fighting, the Humane Society of the United States offers a reward of up to $5,000. 1-877-244-6446

How to be a RESPONSIBLE pit bull owner:

-Educate yourself on the breed thoroughly before choosing the pit bull as your pet. Make sure you have the proper lifestyle to provide a good forever home.

-Consider adoption from a shelter or rescue group rather than a breeder.

-Comply with your city or state’s guidelines for owning a pit bull.

-Keep your pet up to date on Rabies and other vaccinations.

-Spend time playing with and exercising your dog daily. Pit bulls have a lot of energy and pent-up energy can result in aggression and other unwanted behaviors.

-Whether you have an older dog or a puppy, you should avoid playing rough with your dog. Rough housing with dogs teaches them it's ok to be rough or aggressive with people.

-Don’t hit, mistreat, or tease your dog, always treat them with respect.

-Never leave pit bulls unsupervised with children or other animals. When no one is around to keep an eye on them, the dogs should be safely crated or in separate rooms, even if the dogs are best friends. You never know what might trigger a fight in your absence.

-Always leash your pit bull when outside on a walk.

-Make sure your dog always has fresh water available.

-Don’t chain your dog outside for long periods of time. This can result in frustration and aggression.

-Don’t leave your dog outside in the cold or hot weather. Like people, they can get sick being left out in the cold or heat.

-Don’t leave your dog outside if you do not have a safe, secure kennel for him or her to stay in. Without adequate security your dog could be stolen, or it could run away.

-Avoid taking your pit bull to off-leash dog parks or other areas where it may come into contact with other dogs running loose. Even if your dog is not dog-aggressive, if another dog starts a fight, it will automatically be your dog’s fault in the eyes of many people.

- If someone is being too rough with your dog, or patting it in a way that you know your dog does not like, you can politely say, “Please don’t pat my dog like that, he/she prefers this”, and show the person how you would like them to interact with your dog.

-SPAY/NEUTER your pit bull!!! There are just too many without homes to create more, whether accidentally or on purpose. Spaying/neutering also reduces aggression and the urge to wander, as well as preventing health issues such as cancer. If you're tight on cash, check into local resources and low-cost spay/neuter clinics, like those mentioned in "Tough Times" a few posts down.

-MICROCHIP your pit bull!! You never know when your pet might become accidentally separated from you. Microchipping is quick, relatively painless, and inexpensive. Pit bulls only have about 72 hours in most shelters before they are euthanized, and microchipping will ensure that your family member is returned to you in case you lose one another.

Here are some famous people that own/have owned pit bulls:

- Jessica Biel
- Rachael Ray
- Helen Keller
- Jon Stewart
- Alicia Silverstone
- Rachel Bilson
- Michael J. Fox
- Jessica Alba
- Jamie Foxx
- Kevin Federline
- Madonna
- Brad Pitt
- P!nk
- Sinbad
- Eliza Dushku
- Redman (he formerly owned pit bull Daddy who is now featured prominently as a resident at Cesar Millan “The Dog Whisperer”’s Dog Psychology Center)
- Jesse James (West Coast Choppers)
- President Theodore Roosevelt
- President Woodrow Wilson
- General George Patton
- Linda Blair
- Humphrey Bogart
- Fred Astaire
- Thomas Edison
- Mel Brooks
- Bernadette Peters
- Judd Nelson
- Rosie Perez
- And a pittie with celeb status of his own, Petey, from The Little Rascals!

The pit bull is the only dog to have graced the cover of Life magazine three times.

Pit Bulls are heroes!...

- America's first war dog was a pit bull named Stubby. He earned several medals during World War I and was honored at the White House.

- The Ken-L-Ration dog hero of 1993 was a pit bull named Weela. She saved 30 people, 29 dogs, 13 horses and a cat during a flood in Southern California.

- A Pit Bull named Bogart saved a four-year-old child from drowning in a swimming pool in Florida.

- Dixie, the Pit Bull, was inducted into the Georgia Animal Hall of Fame after she saved some children from a Cottonmouth snake.

-Pit bull Norton saved his human mom’s life after she had gone into anaphylactic shock from a spider bite. Norton, who was rescued from a fight ring, went to the master bedroom and kept pushing his owner’s husband until he awoke and could rescue his wife.

-Popsicle the pit bull is the #1 U.S. Customs dog. He got his name when he was found in a freezer during a drug bust. He had been left to die after being used as a bait dog for dogfighters.

-Pit bull Weezie came to the rescue when 2 armed men broke into his family’s home! With a gun pointed at Melissa Willis and her son, Weezie placed himself between his family and danger, and with every advance by the men, he pushed his family backwards until they were to the exit. He kept the armed robbers focused on him so his family would be safe.

-Top-rated search and rescue dog Dakota the pit bull was requested by NASA to assist in the recovery of the astronauts after the tragic 2003 shuttle disaster. Dakota was also involved in the Laci Peterson investigation, as well as many other national cases, and is a certified hospital therapy dog, along with owner Kris Crawford's other bullies Cheyenne and Tahoe.

Look for pit bulls on…

-Rescue Ink Unleashed (NatGeo)
-The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan (NatGeo)
-It’s Me or the Dog with Victoria Stilwell (Animal Planet)
-Pit Bulls & Parolees (Animal Planet)
-Veronica Mars (canceled, formerly on UPN/CW)

For more information on pit bulls, pibbles, pitties, or bullies, check out these sites (thanks to many of them for the info in this blog!):

Thanks for reading and for loving pit bulls! <3

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