Are we finally beginning to understand that eliminating the breed is not the answer?

Accidentally in Love

I suspect that most of the people following me on this blog and on my Facebook page are either tired of hearing about pit bulls or are just ignoring me because they themselves think pit bulls are dangerous and that I am just one of those crazy animal lovers (which I am). I understand that this path I have chosen to follow will be a long and frustrating journey and at times heartbreaking, but I’m not turning back. Let me try to explain to you why I feel this is an important issue beyond my being a crazy animal lover.

This photograph is of our dog, Hara, who passed away last May. I never knew it was possible to miss a dog this much.

This dog (above) was adopted 11 years ago as a Pharaoh Hound mix. I took my dog Kona, an Australian Shepherd mix, to the Human Society in St. Louis, MO. to pick out a playmate. Kona had become a little anxious when I left for work and started chewing things like furniture and steps. My vet suggested that I get a second dog to keep her company, so I set out to find her a companion.

I chose several dogs that day that I wanted Kona to meet and, one by one, they were brought into the visiting room so that I could see if they would get along with Kona. Not one time did Kona get off the bench next to me and show interest in any of the dogs that I chose. Finally, after a suggestion from the woman who was helping me, we looked at one last dog. Her name was “Blondie” and she was skinny, had big ears and won me over with her expressive eyes. She was brought into the room to meet Kona and within a few seconds they were rolling around on the floor playing.

I adopted her that day.

After filling out the paperwork and paying my adoption fees, I sat in the lobby with my two dogs waiting to be picked up by a friend. As I sat there a women came over to me, squatted down to pet my new addition and said, “Bless you for adopting a pit bull.” I told her that she wasn’t a pit bull but rather a Pharaoh Hound mix. She smiled, looked me right in the eyes and told me, “Sweetie, she’s a pit bull.”

Me with Hara and Kona at my mom's house a few days after adopting her.

Blondie came home with me and became Sahara, or Hara as I called her, and the three of us bonded quickly. Kona and Hara played continuously from morning until night. When people asked what breed she was I told them Pharaoh Hound. I had not fully digested the fact that I had indeed adopted a pit bull mix. I didn’t want to be judged, so calling her something else made me feel better.

I knew nothing about pit bull type breeds at the time except that they were quickly gaining a bad reputation. She got one obedience class (that she aced, by the way) and that’s it. I lived alone and worked a lot and walks were not as often as they should have been. About the time she reached maturity I discovered her intolerance of strange dogs. This required a bit of adjusting but I worked through it.

This dog was special. Her full-on wiggle butt that greeted me at the door had the same intensity whether I was gone for a week or to get the mail. She never had a single accident in the house. She rarely barked. She never begged for food. She was loyal and obedient and very smart. She was playful and silly, and made me laugh all the time.  She adjusted well to a new dog and cat when I got married and became my husband’s number one fan. She brought so much life to our home. She loved everyone she met and was good with kids. She was not the one I had to warn people about when coming into the house, it was the Australian Shepherd mix that needed watching with strangers.

You could say I accidentally fell in love with pit bulls.

These pit bull type breeds are not Golden Retrievers. Don’t you dare adopt one if you are not willing to learn about them and socialize them and give them the kind of home they need. Just watch the Westminster Dog show. Listen to what they say about the breeds represented. There are MANY breeds that require specific training and care. There are even breeds that are not good with children or strangers (by the way, pit bulls are not in that group). Every breed has its own temperament including pit bull type breeds. The ONLY difference is that these breeds have gotten into the wrong hands. It’s their strength, loyal demeanor and predatory instinct that has made them the perfect dog for the wrong reasons. To many thay have become a status symbol and are owned like a commodity, not like a pet. They are being trained to fight, they are neglected, mistreated, abused and bred irresponsibly. When you abuse, neglect and mistreat a dog, what do you expect that dog to become? It will be scared and untrusting and defensive and, yes, maybe even dangerous. So our solution is to ban the dog. Really?

I heard a quote the other day that that went something like this, “Do you want to continue to pulling oily birds out of the river or go up the river and fix the oil spill?”

Eliminating the breed will do nothing but make the problem worse. Period.

Banning will not stop those who are abusing the breed. They will continue doing what they are doing behind closed doors like always. Taking my pit bull away only takes away a loving companion and a good example of the breed. More importantly it decreases the good image and increases the bad image of the breed thereby increasing the desire to own one as a status symbol.

If you ask me the problem is not the breed, the problem is that our society continues to let people harm these animals. A society that lets this kind of mistreatment of animals continue is a society that has lost its moral compass. That is the problem. These are domesticated dogs, companion animals, and we are letting this abuse happen. Come on, we’re better than that.

You have to go to the core of the problem in order to start solving it in a real way.  You have to fix the oil spill. This is why I was so happy to read in the Macomb Daily that  Michigan is considering a legislative package that would crack down much harder on dog fighting.

The bills, initiated by state Sen. Steve Bieda, a Warren Democrat, would activate several legal tools to give law enforcement more power to shut down dog fights. Experts say that Michigan contains several “hotbeds” of organized dog fighting.

The three bills would:

Allow law enforcement to seize the assets gained from illegal animal fighting, with the forfeited funds assisting local or state government. This bill is intended to eliminate incentives, as dog fighting is largely motivated by gambling profits and sales of animals that are the offspring of fight winners.

Define animal fighting as a public nuisance. Under this bill, a private citizen or county prosecutor could bring suit against any individual using property for an illegal animal fighting operation.

Add animal fighting to the state’s racketeering statute, providing for enhanced penalties similar to those applied to organized crime.”

The laws have already passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and were approved by the Senate 37-0. They have also passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and are currently awaiting action before the full House.

Please contact your representative and let them know that you want them to pass these laws. Passing this legislation would be a big step in the right direction and may serve as an example to other states. This is how you start to tackle the problem in a real way. It’s just a start, but it leaves me hopeful.

I would like to believe that one day, once again, we can use the image of a pit bull to sell shoes. Maybe one day, once again, this dog can be the star of a children’s program. Maybe one day, once again, the image of these beautiful dogs will evoke feelings of joy and not fear.

I want to help change the image of the pit bull. In April I will be starting a photography project focusing on the so called “dangerous” breeds with a special emphasis on pit bulls and pit bull mixes. If you live in southern Michigan, primarily the Ann Arbor/Detroit area, and own a breed of dog that is usually lumped into breed specific legislation as a breed that needs to be eliminated or banned and you want to be part of this project, please email me. Just click on the “email me” link at the top right of this page. Please click the Facebook link (below) to share this article with friends and email it to people who would support this legislation or might want to participate in this project.

This last image is of our newest family member who was a stray found wandering the streets, scared and tired. He was found by a good friend of ours and brought to our home. He couldn’t possibly be more welcome.



One Response to “Are we finally beginning to understand that eliminating the breed is not the answer?”

  1. Sonny Wydra says:

    I could not agree more with this entire article. As a proud owner of 3 rescue pits, I absolutely hate when people judge them because of the breed. These dogs would give us their life and love unconditionaly. I am constantly defending them when the media never does the breed justice for all the good they do, and the bad the “OTHERS” do.

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