One of our fabulous warehouse guys, Jack, mentioned that he couldnt bring his dog because she is a pit bull, and they arent allowed in Denver. I had heard about this law, but never before had I personally felt its impact. While I have yet to meet his dog Emma, I know that Jack is quite smitten with her, even running home on lunch breaks to check on her well being. He gets all mushy, even as a tough guy, when he talks about his sweet dog.
This conversation inspired me to do a little research on the so called bully breeds to figure out what they are, and how they came to have such a bad rap, which has even inspired legislative bans against them.
The Bully Breeds:
You may be surprised as I was to learn that some of Americas most popular dogs fall into this category. Bully breeds are descended from an ancient Greek breed called the Molossers which were large, big-boned, muscular dogs with short muzzles. These Molossers were bred with other breeds such as the English bulldog and Mastiffs. Modern descendants include the American bulldog, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, the bull terrier, the boxer, the Boston terrier, the bulldog, the bullmastiff, the French bulldog, and the Staffordshire bull terrier. This list is not exhaustive, but it gives an idea of the scope of dogs under this bully designation.
Are They Really Bullies?
In addition to a history of these dogs being used for bull baiting, there has been a ton of media attention given towards many dogs generically identified as pit bulls that have been involved in illegal fight rings, gang intimidation tactics, mauling incidents, and even death. Myths and stereotypes have risen along with these sensationalized negative stories. Overzealous lawmakers have consequently painted many of these animals with a broad brush in a dog version of racial profiling with thousands of dogs losing their lives in Denver alone over the twenty years of its pit bull ban.
Turning the Tide: From Zero to Hero
To get a more realistic picture of what these dogs are like, we dont have to look very far. For example, boxers are listed as being in the top ten favored dog breeds currently, and one can see that they have similar genetics to the vilified pit bulls with their strong bodies and powerful jaws. But they have somehow escaped this fervent scrutiny.
In fact, for the first half of the 20thcentury, pit bulls were considered to be the ideal all-American dog, featured as decorated war heroes in the news, in pamphlets and posters from yesteryear. Helen Kellers guide dog was also a pit bull. Petey, the ever-loved pit bull from "Our Gang" and The Little Rascals was considered the smartest dog in Hollywood, and worked daily with children.
Today, pit bulls are often used for law enforcement as gifted narcotics detectors, with their strong sense of loyalty, intelligence, and strength. Additionally, many studies have been done that debunk the urban myths of locking jaws, swelling brains, imperviousness to pain, and bite strength.Â In fact, bullies had less aggression than breeds like the beagle and collies in the in widespread tests conducted by the American Temperament Society in 2009.
Make a Difference
This little blog is just a tiny drop in an ocean of information out there about these amazing animals. I hope this has challenged you to learn more for yourself about the so-called bully breeds, and to research if adopting one could be a fit for you and your family. Like any dog, they require dedication from their owners to train and socialize them properly to be good dog citizens. If nothing else, educate yourself and those around you about the truth of these loyal, intelligent, agile friends, and support their owners by getting past the stereotypes.
Im looking forward to meeting Jacks pit bull Emma and hope to post pictures of them on our site soon. I have newfound respect and understanding for their plight and hope you will too. Eventually, together we can turn the tide and repeal these breed-specific bans. Maybe then youll see Jack and Emma participating in our local humane societys annual fundraiser walk for homeless animals. After all, no one needs a loving home more than the maligned pit bull!
Wed love to hear about your experiences with these breeds! And while youre at it, why not send us some fun photos of your pup dressed up in friendly outfits to counteract the negative images out there?
Featured photo by maplegirlie.
For more information, log on to dontbullymybreed.org.
As promised, here is a photo of Jack and Emma! (Posted 04/07/12)