WOOHOO!!! My favorite month of the year is upon us---OCTOBER! Not only is it THE most gorgeous of months, with its colors and crisp air, but what other month can provide so many great things, like apples and pumpkins, ghosts and goblins (not to mention my birthday month, thank-you very much!). October is also Pit Bull Awareness Month—and this year JsuJsu and I are VERY optimistic about the plight of our pit bull friends.
Prior to the past couple of decades, America had a love affair with bully breeds, including pit bulls (and by pit bulls I mean dogs who look like pit bull breeds, including American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, American Pitbull Terriers, and other similar dogs). Bred to be sturdy, loving, and loyal, pit bulls have appeared in photos with pioneers, farmers, and politicians. They have been featured in Hollywood movies, on magazine covers, and are mentioned in classic literature. But as most of you are aware, over the past couple of decades, pit bulls have sustained consistent and unfair attacks on their reputation.
Somewhere along the line, unsavory people decided that pit bulls would be great accessories for their lifestyles. Gangs began to keep pit bulls as forms of protection and tools of intimidation. Bad people began to treat pit bulls inhumanely and train them to fight one another, illegally gambling on their performance. People used female dogs as breeding machines, flooding the streets with large numbers of unwanted dogs. Poorly bred, inhumanely raised, and improperly socialized, these dogs spread quickly. Unfortunately, for the dogs’ sake, the media seemed to pick up every negative story about pit bulls. They ran with this newfound negative image of pit bulls, not understanding just how abused these dogs were. And people believed the horrors in the newspaper and on TV. To them, the sturdy, boxy dog appeared to be anything but the cuddly, family dogs that they truly are.
There has been lots of education over the past decade about pit bulls and how their reputation has been unjust. Through education, kindness, compassion, and trust, people began to break down the walls: people became less afraid. More people with a conscience began to speak up for pit bulls. Recently, even President Obama called out to end breed discrimination, joining celebrities and everyday people like you and me in the fight to end breed specific legislation (or legislation which bans certain dog breeds, like pit bulls, instead of judging each individual dog on their unique behavior). And the barriers are beginning to crumble---I am optimistic.
In 1986, when I walked around town with my first sweet pit bull, Astro, we were usually met with greetings, albeit a bit reserved at times. In the 2000’s, with my beloved, Comet, people were ironically more afraid of the smaller dog with the much more affable disposition. Now, in 2013, with my third pit bull, JsuJsu, I see people gravitating back towards us. And not only that---I see MANY OTHER PITBULLS out and about! People are adopting the many pit bulls in shelters. This is very good news, indeed. I would say that almost every day while we are out walking, somebody comes up to us and asks me about JsuJsu and pit bulls in general. Often they have a story to tell--a good one or a sad one--about a rescue that they or someone they know has made. I listen to their stories and smile. I know the power of truth and education. I had to be very patient on this issue though--questioning when the tide would turn. I believe it has. There is plenty of work still to be done. Let’s keep using October and every other month to dispel the rumors about pit bulls---and help spread love and understanding about these beautiful dogs.
Three Things YOU can DO!
1. READ about Pitbulls! Keep informed and up to date on current legislature and what the media is “saying” about these dogs. Use your brain and remember to keep an open mind and heart.
2. Volunteer! There are still lots of pitbulls in our shelters who need our help. Think about volunteering at your local animal adoption center if you are old enough. Help with fundraising and educational opportunities. Ask at your local shelter what you can do to help!
3. EDUCATE! You are not too young or too old to make a difference. Enlighten people with your knowledge and help change minds. Everyone you speak with is an opportunity for making a difference for the better in the world.
Animal Farm Foundation