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Celebrate Pit Bull Awareness Day By Choosing Your Words Carefully

October 22, 2011 by Jillian at Tails in Featured, Home with 4 Comments
tails and pit bulls

Jubilee (avail. for adoption) and TAILS Founder Janice Brown appeared on CBS Chicago

Today is National Pit Bull Awareness Day, a day created by Bless the Bullys that is dedicated to promoting the pit bull in a positive light and seeks to change the negative perception of this often misunderstood dog.

Bless the Bullys encourages pit bull owners and advocates to join together in an effort to raise awareness to the plight of the pit bull terrier and to make a united stand against breed specific legislation.

Adam Goldfarb, resident pit bull expert and Director of Pet Care Issues at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), said that there are many reasons pit bulls have developed this reputation and that it’s important for the public to realize that “dogs are dogs” and that’s what this day celebrating pit bulls is all about.

As animal rescuers and advocates we can all play a critical role when it comes to educating the public and changing the stereotype of this lovable breed. One of the best things we can do is learn how to speak about the breed in a fair and appropriate way.

Check out these communication “don’ts” from Love and a Six Foot Leash.

Don’t call them American Pit Bull Terriers. Unless, of course, you have their papers. These days, any dog with a muscular, medium-sized body, short fur, and a pensive, wrinkly forehead gets called a pit bull. In truth, most of these dogs have no APBT and no Staffordshire Terrier in their family tree. I’ve tried out a number of alternative titles, and right now I’m calling them pit bull type dogs. It’s loosey goosey, and it refers only to broad physical characteristics. Do you prefer a different phrase?

Don’t call them bullies or bully breeds. Those of us who love them think it’s cute, but those who are already on the fence leaning away from liking our square-headed friends are not going to be charmed by this naming
convention. Likening dogs who some people fear to bullies on the playground? Not great marketing. If you feel the need to “cuteify” and nick name pit bull type dogs, why not try “pitties” or “pibbles” instead?

Don’t say “it’s all in how they’re raised.” In truth, there is much more to it than that. Many dogs of all breed mixes are raised well and end up being little devils. Many others are raised in their own personal hell of abuse, and end up as perfect, loving pets. Remember Lollie Wonderdog, our first foster, who was found in a dumpster, starved, bred, beaten, totally filthy, and terrified of life? Odds are she was not raised in a warm and loving environment, and yet, she was one of the most warm and loving dogs we’ve ever known. By saying “it’s all in how they’re raised,” you are suggesting that dogs who come from a background of abuse could not make good pets. This discourages people from adopting, since the history of shelter dogs is so often unknown.

Don’t ascribe attributes — good or bad — based solely on appearance. You know not to judge a book by its cover. And yet, pit bull lovers are quick to refer to these dogs as smart, loving, snuggly, fiercely loyal, great with kids, athletic, etc, etc. Pit bull haters are equally quick to describe them as aggressive, tenacious, and unpredictable. Neither camp is right. Most dogs labeled as pit bulls are actually mixed breed dogs of varying genetic composition — the majority don’t even have a trace of APBT or Staffordshire Terrier in their bloodlines. If that’s the case, then how can it be logical to assume behaviors, good or bad, based on guesswork and physical appearance? This is a hard pill to swallow, even for me. But if we allow ourselves to make blanket positive generalizations about a diverse group of dogs who share some basic physical traits, why do we think it’s fair to criticize others for doing the same, but casting a negative light?

This list could go on: why you shouldn’t assume a dog was a fighting dog or a bait dog. Why the difference between those two doesn’t matter. Why you’re doing more harm than good when you cite fierce loyalty and love of owner. Why it’s crazy to talk about pit bull type dogs being bred for generations for any purpose at all, when in reality most pit bull type dogs are mixed breeds resulting from accidental litters.

One of the dogs in these photos is half American Staffordshire Terrier, and the other one is 1/4 to 1/2 English Pointer. Care to guess which is which?

pit bulls

Photo Credit: Love and a Six Foot Leash

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