Debunking 5 of the most stubborn myths about pit bulls

Pit bull discrimination is a terrible problem in our society. It wasn’t always this way. Historically, pit bulls were celebrated. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson had one; so did Fred Astaire and General George Patton. And consider Petey from Little Rascals or even brave Sergeant Stubby, a stray who won many metals and became a celebrity after helping wounded soldiers on the battlefield during WWI, locating them, boosting morale and warning soldiers of poison gas attacks. He even captured a German spy!

“Pit bull” isn’t even technically a breed; the term actually refers to the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. But over the years, these dogs increasingly became involved in dog fighting (thanks in no part to terrible humans), and the media began writing sensational stories. So today we have a problem where “pit bull” equals “monster” to most (uninformed) people.

Luckily, we have wonderful organizations around the world, like Out of the Pits—And Into Your Hearts, dedicated to helping educate the public about the truths of pit bulls, and hopefully rescue more of them from shelters. The statistics don’t look good. Unfortunately, 33 percent of animal shelter populations are made up of pit bulls, and only 1 in 600 will find a loving family. The rest will be euthanized. And every year, 1 million are put down. One million!

Only 1 in 600 pit bulls will find a loving family

My hope is that someday pit bulls can regain the respect, compassion and love they deserve. Until then, here are five of the most stubborn myths about pit bulls—debunked:

Myth #1: Pit bulls are not safe family pets. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, did you know they are not recommended as guard dogs because they are too safe and trusting of strangers? Their great love, gentleness and compassion for people earned these dogs the nickname “nanny dog” in the early 19th and 20th centuries. Go here (and scroll down) for a very cool infographic showing the history of pit bulls. Here’s a wonderful video that captures a sweet and loving rescued pit bull relaxing into one of my Reiki treatments:

Myth #2: Their jaws lock shut when they bite. Where did this myth begin, anyway? It’s just not true, as anyone who has studied basic dog anatomy would know. And as this professor of veterinary medicine at Cornell puts it: “There is no such thing as ‘jaw locking’ in any breed.”

Myth #3: Pit bull fighting dogs can never be rehabilitated. Not true! Overcoming abuse is difficult for any animal. But this is a dangerous myth, as these dogs can be turned around, and there are countless success stories out there. Here’s just one, an inspiring story about Little Red, one of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs:

Myth #4: Pit bulls are naturally dangerous. Actually, pit bulls are naturally intelligent and loving. And they are also perfect choices for service and therapy dogs. Here is one inspiring organization rescuing pit bulls from shelters in Chicago and pairing them with military veterans: Pits for Patriots.

Myth #5: We need laws banning pit bulls to protect people. Shame on you Denver and the more than 700 other communities that have banned pit bulls and euthanized thousands of dogs based on their physical appearance. Family pets are killed or hidden away (with no access to local veterinary care), and Animal Control “decides” which dogs are pit bulls or not. Even veterans within the city limits have lost their service dogs! Studies show that Breed Specific Legislation, as it’s called, fails to decrease dog bites or ensure public safety. It should be made illegal now. Here’s a petition you can sign to demand Colorado stop killing innocent dogs.

So let’s never forget these beautiful souls can also be thought of as heroes, service dogs, therapy dogs, best friends, family members and cuddle bugs. And make sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, October 24: National Pit Bull Awareness Day! Do you have a special pit bull in your life? Share your stories below.

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Kathleen Prasad

Kathleen Prasad is an entrepreneur, author, educator, spiritual seeker and animal advocate living in beautiful Marin County, California, with her husband, daughter, dog and two horses. She loves being with animals, listening to hip-hop, eating out at vegan restaurants, riding dressage, hiking in the redwoods and traveling the world to meet animal people.
You can learn more about Kathleen here.

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Comments (6)

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    Johnna White

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    I have a regularly scheduled client, for dog massage. Her name is Miss Honey, and I have been providing massage therapy for her, every two weeks, for over a year. She is nine years old, and has some medical issues, and massage helps her to feel good. Whenever I go to her home for her massage appointment, she greets me at the door and offers me her paw. She is a sweet, sweet girl, and very beautiful!
    She was rescued from a backyard breeder in Asbury Park, New Jersey, an area still troubled by illegal dog fighting.
    While she came from a very dismal situation, (Miss Honey was both malnourished and riddled with parasites, as a puppy) she was given the best of everything, once she found her forever home. I give credit to her owner, because he knew she was a perfect little puppy, and it didn’t matter where she came from, but where she was going -home!

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      Kathleen Prasad

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      What a beautiful story of Miss Honey, Johnna, Thanks for sharing 🙂 I have so much gratitude to all the compassionate people out there who are helping to rescue dogs from these kinds of situations!

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    Mary Nunes

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    Thank you Kathleen for posting this awesome reminder about the true nature of such an amazing “breed” of dogs. I work with a local bulky rescue and have adopted 2 amazing little pitties. They are so forgiving and truly loving and I am blessed that they have changed a few people’s mind about them. It’s surprising to me about the reaction people give me when I answer that I have 2 Pitbulls. No one bats an eye about my cocker spaniels (one of whom is special needs and has his “moments”) but I also think of it as a blessing and a way to share the remarkable traits and truths. I love pulling out pics of the pibbles cuddling or with the cat and people actually comment ” I didn’t know they were good with cats” “I didn’t realize how cuddly they are”. One thing is for sure… I’m never cold anymore but I do have trouble finding room in the bed ;).

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      Kathleen Prasad

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      Hi Mary, That is great you are helping the sweet pit bulls in your area. Thanks for sharing your great experiences at the shelter and also what wonderful companions they are for your life 🙂 Beautiful!

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    Heidi

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    We rescued “Freckles” from a shelter when he was about 8 weeks old. He is now called Samson and he is such a cuddle bug! He is also a parvo survivor! Here in LA we are part of a group called Los Angeles Responsible Pit Bull Owners (http://www.larpbo.org) and are so happy to be part of such a great community. We are teaching our 2 year old to respect all dogs, give them their space, and ask permission (from the dog AND owner) before coming near. Now, she and Samson like to watch movies togetheron the couch, and he is especially happy to clean up the floor after her meals.

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      Kathleen Prasad

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      That is so wonderful to hear, Heidi! Keep up the great work!!

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