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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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