Rightly or wrongly, all dog breeds have a reputation that determines how they are perceived by people. For example, Boxers are considered playful and somewhat dopey, while Shih Tzus are considered yappy and snappy. Many aspects of a dog’s personality and their physical traits can determine the likelihood of people choosing to keep them as a pet. They will choose a pet that best suits their lifestyle and their personal preferences. The reputation of a breed can have a big impact on the likelihood of people wanting to keep them, and one trait that many people want to avoid is aggression. Most people favor dogs that have either a friendly or playful temperament, and they will avoid keeping an animal that is known for its aggression. This is especially the case for people with children as they fear that keeping an aggressive dog could potentially put their children at risk.
One dog that has earned a terrible reputation over the years is Pit Bulls. This is the common name that is given to a breed that descends from bulldogs and terriers. As they often come from several breeds of dog, their physical appearance, such as their size and facial features, can vary significantly. Their negative reputation is because there have been incidences of some individual dogs being aggressive. They have also been used as fighters in illegal dogfighting. This bad reputation caused by a minority of the breed has had serious consequences for the breed as a whole.
According to Dogster, they have become the subject of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). This has led to them being banned from some cities and housing developments. Some of the cities in the United States that have banned them completely are Miami and Denver. In the United Kingdom, owning or breeding a Pit Bull has been banned as part of the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991. However, there are those who argue that it is just a few dogs that have given the breed this bad reputation and that there are many misconceptions about Pit Bulls. The supporters want to fight the ban and show that Pit Bulls have a softer side and have even suggested renaming the breed as Pibbles.
One group that is supporting Pit Bulls is the Animal Farm Foundation, which is a New-York -based group. They train Pit Bulls in a variety of roles, such as to work as service dogs supporting people with disabilities. They are also trying to end breed discrimination by offering those who are affected by the discrimination some financial support. The manager of AFF is Nicole Juchem. She says that those who are really being discriminated against are the owners, not just the dogs. It is a problem that extends to shelters. One of the top reasons that Pit Bulls are sent to live in shelters is due to the breed restrictions in many housing developments. People are not allowed to take their dogs into their new homes, so they surrender them to the shelters. The restrictions then also impact on the amount of time Pit Bulls spend in shelters. Other breeds are often chosen over Pit Bulls because there are no restrictions on them or because they have a better reputation. This leads to Pit Bulls often spending extended periods living in shelters.
As one way of resolving this, the AFF gas created the Pet-Accessible Housing Grant. This financially supports programs that are designed to keep people and pets together in their homes. To provide as many funding opportunities as possible, the AFF has left the requirements as broad as possible to make them inclusive. The aim is to affect change in the community by changing people’s attitudes. The work that the foundation does in training Pit Bulls as service dogs involves them choosing dogs from shelters nationwide. Each of the dogs is treated as an individual, and the staff spends 30 days getting to know the dogs to decide whether they are best-suited to life as a pet, a service dog, or a role supporting the police. Not all the dogs selected will go on to become service dogs. After getting to know the dogs, it is clear that some are more suited to becoming pets, and they go through a traditional adoption process. Those that have the traits to become a service dog will continue through their training.
Some of the dogs are deemed suitable for police work, and they will switch to K9 training. This will involve them learning to detect drugs or guns. Once their training is complete, they are dispatched to work with police departments across the United States. As these dogs clearly have so many positive features, it is possible that their bad reputation is unjustified. They can clearly make great companions, and they have the skills and intelligence to become service dogs or to support the work of the emergency services. With this in mind, both individuals and organizations are trying to change perceptions of Pit Bulls. As soon as people hear the words ‘Pit Bull’, aggression comes to mind. Therefore, there is now a campaign to change the name for the breed from Pit Bull to Pibbles. The latter is much softer sounding and reflects the positive aspects of the Pit Bull breed.
There is hope that such a name change will also change people’s preconceived ideas about the breed. If people perceive the breed differently and can see the softer side of the dogs, then it is possible that organizations fighting against their discrimination may receive more support from the public. Those fighting against Breed-Specific Legislation hope that more individuals and organizations will become open to the prospect of allowing Pibbles to live in housing developments. In turn, this could reduce the problems faced by animal shelters, as fewer Pibbles will be surrendered to the shelters and a greater number of people could choose to offer dogs of this breed a forever home.