The Pit Bull Dilemma

Bound Angels Blog

If you’ve ever visited a shelter, one thing is very apparent to you and that is the overwhelming number of pit bulls and pit mixes there are.  The numbers are so disproportionate that it’s staggering.  What is the answer?  Is it BSL (breed specific legislation), is it mandatory spay neuter, it is education, outreach?  Or is there no real answer or solution?

Years ago the most common dogs in shelters weren’t pit bulls, they were German Shepherds, Rotts, Dobermans and others.  It seems that as the popularity of a breed grows, they fall victim to unscrupulous people who want to profit off of them.  Pit bulls are the latest victims and this breed proposes a serious problem.  The numbers of them in shelters is currently so overwhelming that rescues are beyond their capacity and thousands of dogs are killed every day.

One problem that rescues face is in trying to rescue dogs that pose a danger to people and other dogs.  Pits don’t often pose a danger to people, but the genetic modification that has taken place over the last couple of decades has bred aggression into the lines as part of the breed standard (dog aggression that is).  Of course this was done by fighters, backyard breeders and criminals.  The stable APBT and Staffordshire lines are diluted with fight drives that are un-natural and dangerous.  The unsuspecting breed has been contaminated by the evil of greed and stupidity.  Fifty years ago pit bulls were no more dangerous than any other breed, yet today we hear about dog aggression and most often it is linked to a pit bull or pit bull type.

Rescues and animal right groups are hurting the cause in trying to escape the truth about the behavioral tendencies of some of these dogs.  They try to sweep under the rug the truth about the danger the breed can possess in an effort to try and save lives.  Aggression is aggression and must be dealt with accordingly and by a professional.  The average trainer is not equipped to deal with the type of in-bred aggression that some of these dogs possess.  I’m not talking about rehabilitating bait dogs, they are BAIT.  I’m talking about fighting dogs.  Most true fight dogs cannot ever be rehabilitated.  Luckily (or so I say), good fight dogs stay with their owners their entire lives – because they are their prize possessions.  When they’re done with them, they usually put them down (often by shooting or drowning.)  These dogs are bred over and over in an effort to try and produce the next champion.  Out of a litter of 8-10 pups, maybe 1-2 make that cut, the rest get sold on street corners or dumped.  These are the dogs we deal with in the shelter.  The fighters know what pups they want within the first few weeks, the rest get dumped (or worse).  The dogs that end up with the public are those that are not good enough to “make their cut” but are certainly not suitable as pet (at least many aren’t).  The problem we face is that many rescues don’t want to face the face that certain behaviors ARE bred into a dog and run through their genetics.  This is why we see certain behaviors in certain breeds, it’s not an accident, it’s science.  When back-yard breeders get into the game they have no idea how to identify the traits, lines or behaviors that should be bred out of the breed and continue to produce unstable and potentially dangerous dogs.

Of all the dogs in the shelter, oftentimes rescues will spend so much effort and resources trying to rescue the wrong dogs.  When I say wrong dogs, I mean the ones that will bog the system.  Although this may seem callous, let’s look at the reality.  If there are 10 dogs in the shelter and 8 can be saved pretty simply, but the other 2 will take immense efforts and resources, why do rescues spend so much time on those dogs?  I do believe that rescues should take the dogs that need to be “rescued” not those at risk of adoption, but how often do we hear of rescues fighting shelters in order to save a dog that has mauled someone, bitten a child, is severely dog aggressive and such?  In the time, money and effort that it will take to save those 2 dogs, they could have saved the 8.  At some point you have to count the numbers and do the math.  If 8 dogs can be saved with the effort it takes to save the 2, doesn’t it make sense to help the 8?  Otherwise you are truly saying that they 2 troubled ones are more important than the 8, and that makes no sense.

All too often I hear, he’s not aggressive, he just needs to be loved.  NO, if the dog has aggressive tendencies, he needs a trainer to teach him what he needs to survive and more often than not needs to go to a home where that behavior will be managed.  Love is NOT the answer unless you can identify that love as giving the dog the structure he needs to learn not to be aggressive.  People who rescue these dogs close their eyes to the hard reality of the situation and instead spout the rhetoric that pit bulls are one of the best breeds and are less aggressive than Cocker Spaniels according to temperament tests.  The fact they don’t face is that the temperament test they refer to does not address dog aggression.  YES, there are many great pit bulls, MANY, but those that aren’t – AREN’T.  We aren’t doing the breed any favors by pretending that they are all the same, THEY’RE NOT!  The good ones, YES, should be saved, the others may need to either go to specialty training or become a statistic in order to save more of the deserving ones.  Unless we face this truth, we will continue to KILL thousands of innocent dogs.  That is exactly what happens.  If a shelter temperament test identifies a dog as aggressive, people will rally to save THAT dog.  Im the first to tell you that most shelter temp tests are flawed, but what brings out the masses when a shelter makes this call?  The call is never heard when 100 good dogs are killed a day.  Why?

In order to save more pit bulls, we need to turn to legitimate breeders who breed for temperament and work together with them in order to re-structure the breed.  Visit and AKC show (I know, it’s a curse word in rescue), you’ll see every type within the pit classification and they’re not fighting.  Why?  Because they breed for temperament.  If you don’t address it, it won’t go away.  If we want to save the biggest number of dogs we need to address the characteristics that will make these dogs more adoptable and suitable in a society.  It’s proven that you can completely change the dog with as little as 6 lines of offspring.  If we want to save the pit bull, we might need to rethink how we’re going about doing so.  If our jails are full of innocent people, we spend our efforts trying to save them.  If we know someone is a murderer, rapist, child molester or such, do we need to try and fight to rehabilitate him or should be move on to save those that were wrongly accused.

True compassion comes through helping those that need us the most.  If we stay isolated within a failing system, we may never be able to give the dogs the fair shake they deserve.  YES, pit bulls inherently have some of the best characteristics of any breed; intelligence, loyalty, good health and so much more.  It is these characteristics that we want to bring forth, not wipe out.   The breed can be saved, but can we put our egos aside and look toward the goal.

For those who wish to do the hard work of saving those dogs that possess less than desirable traits, search out a qualified trainer; I’m not talking about a trainer with some letters after his name, I’m talking about a trainer who understands the characteristics and can identify them and deal with them, often times not with a bag of treats and a clicker.  Spend a few thousand dollars getting the dog the training he needs and then move the dog into a home where he will succeed, then take out the next one.  Just be aware, you are probably doing this out of ego.  While that dog is being saved, trained, rehabilitated and placed many other dogs died needlessly.

I know this post will piss off a lot of people, but it’s the truth, and all I care about is giving a voice to the dogs who don’t have one, those that are victims to our egos, those that are killed because their humans gave up on them.  Yes, even the aggressive ones deserve a chance, and I’ve saved, rehabilitated several, I take my hat off to the other trainers who do the same.  I have immense respect for them.  My goal is to focus on the reality of a solution which is not addressed.  We vilify the wrong people and make excuses for the wrong dogs.  More than likely if a dog is bad it is the fault of a human somewhere, I’d say almost 100%.  However, we need to understand that we can’t right the wrongs of everyone, so why not make an effort to right the wrongs for the most dogs possible.  Let’s encourage responsible dog ownership, identify problem dogs, not problem breeds, let’s weed out the ones that cause us to lose the massive amount of lives that can truly be saved if we only kept our eyes on the ball.  Let’s work with ethical breeders, qualified trainers, shelters and unite as a team in order to save those that need to be saved and deserve to be saved.  Let’s move our egos aside and our compassion to the front.  We will be a better society for that decision and will eventually triumph over this hurdle.