I will admit I was perhaps a bit naïve when I started down the pit bull advocacy road. I knew that a lot of people had preconceived notions about pit bull type dogs and that there was a great deal of misinformation floating around the internet but I didn’t know how deeply ingrained in the national psyche many of the myths and misconceptions had become over the past couple of decades.
Without question, there are many true stories that have fueled the anti-pit bull fire but I believe that the media and even the animal welfare network contributed to the focus being on the dogs and not on the human end of the equation. Those of us who love our blocky-headed pups have a responsibility to our dogs and to our communities to refocus the conversation on what we can do as humans to help pit bulls. Here are 7 ways you can help pit bulls in your community today:
1. Foster or Adopt a Pit Bull
Rosie, my first foster
Find a local rescue group or shelter and foster or adopt a pit bull. So many shelters across the country are still overcrowded and often have to euthanize for space. Most often, bully breed dogs are the first to lose their lives due to overcrowding regardless of temperament. Even when they are on the adoption floor, the terrible myths and misconceptions about pit bull type dogs, mean they are often overlooked by potential adopters. When you foster a pit bull, it is almost impossible not to become an advocate on their behalf.
2. Advocate against breed specific legislation
Work with a local pit bull advocacy group to help overturn breed specific legislation (BSL). BSL has not been proven to increase community safety. In fact, I would argue that by taking the focus off human responsibility and placing it on the breed of dog, we actually make communities less safe by missing the opportunity to educate communities about responsible ownership. Work to overturn breed-specific legislation and to introduce breed-neutral dangerous dog laws. Legislation that holds reckless, irresponsible owners accountable, will do far more to increase safety that banning any breed of dog. #endbsl
Proper positive training and socialization are critical for any dog. Whether it’s fair or not, our blocky headed buddies are highly scrutinized and held to a higher behavior standard in all situations. This makes it even more important to train your pit bull and provide opportunities for safe interaction with other dogs and with people on a regular basis. Socializing means exposing your pit bull to new experiences like riding in the car, attending doggie playgroups, visiting pet-friendly establishments, and attending dog-friendly events in your community.
Find a pit bull advocacy group and support their efforts to help educate and bring resources to communities in need by becoming a volunteer. Outreach and education activities can make a huge difference in helping to counteract the negative stereotypes about pit bull type dogs.
Volunteering in the rain!
5. Support Each Other
Piper (l) with her brother, Pip. Can you believe these two are from the same litter?!?
So often, I hear fellow dog lovers make nasty comments about a specific breed or size of dog. You may be drawn to a particular type or size of dog but the reality is that we all love our dogs, regardless of breed so try to be supportive of one another by addressing all the stereotypes you hear about dogs. For example, I have many friends with small dogs who are constantly on the receiving end of negative comments about little dogs being “nasty” or “yappy” etc. While I currently have two labs and a pit bull, when I hear people make these disparaging comments, I believe I have an obligation to address the stereotype by by gently educating and advocating in an effort to dispel myths and misconceptions. It doesn’t help any dog if you remain silent.
Above all else, be a responsible pet parent by properly training and caring for your dog. Regardless of your dog’s DNA, being a responsible pet parent means learning about dog behavior and body language, enrolling your dog in training classes, socializing your dog, providing veterinary care, spaying or neutering your dog, observing leash laws and generally helping your dog be a canine good citizen. At the end of the day, pit bulls are just dogs and I believe the pit bull “problem” is really a human problem. We have to take responsibility for our dogs and we have to come together as a community to help provide the resources that all dog parents need to do right by the dogs they love.