I never thought I'd write a blog post about dogs-- I have no pets (I'm allergic to dogs and cats, in fact) and I admit to being genuinely puzzled by folks who treat their pet like a finicky human child (will your dog refuse to eat unless you buy it gourmet pet food?); I've even known some people who talk to their pet more than they talk to their colleagues or neighbors. I do realize that because I'm not a pet-owner, it's hard for me to understand the emotions of people who dote on their dog or cat (or any other pet). But just because I don't share those emotions, that doesn't mean I have no empathy for the pet-owners who see their animals as companions or even friends.
And that is why I am puzzled by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which seems to have decided that some dogs don't deserve to be loved or befriended-- PETA seems to have bought into the belief that one breed-- pit bulls -- is inherently dangerous and incapable of being a good pet. According to this logic, breed-specific bans are necessary, because pit bulls are attack dogs, and only by banning them can we all be safe. (In one famous opinion piece, PETA's president went even farther, saying that the only way to spare people from being bitten is to make sure that no more pit bulls are born. You can read it here: http://www.nathanwinograd.com/linked/killpits.PDF)
Of course, research has repeatedly shown that pit bulls are no more likely to attack than many other breeds, and that any dog who is poorly raised can be taught to act viciously. Sadly, that is what has happened to pit bulls: they have been used in dog-fighting, and some have been trained to act in a menacing way. But that is not the fault of the breed; it's the fault of their owners. Based on what I've read, and based on conversations with responsible pit bull owners, "pitties" can be sweet, friendly, and affectionate-- if that is how they are raised. You may have seen a TV show on the National Geographic channel called "Dogtown," about Best Friends Animal Society, an organization which rehabilitates dogs, training them and helping them to overcome past abuse. Their goal is to prove that few dogs are hopeless cases. (Best Friends rehabilitated many of the dogs abused by Michael Vick. And while a small number of those animals were in fact too vicious to be helped, the vast majority turned out to be extremely friendly and able to be adopted into good homes. You can find out more about the work Best Friends does with pit bulls here: http://bestfriends.org/our-work/pit-bull-terrier-initiatives.)
I wanted to write this because I know someone whose pit bull, a cuddly and friendly family pet, was arbitrarily removed from that home due to a local ordinance that banned anyone from owning a pit bull. As someone who hates it when human beings are stereotyped, I am equally dismayed by stereotyping an entire breed of animal: since there's no scientific proof that pit bulls are inherently dangerous, and since there's a lot of evidence that if they have good owners, they can be wonderful pets, I fail to see the benefit of demonizing their species. Rather, I'd like to see stronger penalties for people who abuse these dogs or use them for fighting. In many cities, animal abuse gets one the proverbial "slap on the wrist." That needs to change.
Meanwhile, all over the country, there are pit bulls who are in shelters, waiting for someone to give them a chance. Many will be euthanized before that happens. As I said earlier, I am not a pet owner, but I absolutely understand how much comfort a companion animal can bring. And if that animal is a pit bull, it doesn't necessarily mean anyone will be in danger. Rather, I am told by friends who own one that the vast majority of pit bulls are loyal and sweet. I agree with Best Friends and other advocacy groups that it's time for the states and cities with breed-specific bans to reconsider them. People who can give these dogs a loving home should be allowed to do so. And as someone who likes to see factual information, I believe it's also time for the myths about pit bulls to end. To help with that, here's a good site that refutes the misconceptions people have about this breed-- and hey, even Betty White says pit bulls can make wonderful pets! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arin-greenwood/pit-bull-myths_b_5623555.html