Pitbull Stereotypes: Fighting for Fighting Dogs

Imagine: An American Staffordshire Terrier chained up in a backyard throughout all weather situations, starving, and helpless. What would you do to save it? Imagine a Staffordshire Bull Terrier being abused because it didn’t produce enough for its owner? Imagine a Staffordshire Bull Terrier curled up in the corner of a cage almost too small for it, in fear of every person that walked by. As I wondered how I would answer these questions, I looked at pictures of my sister’s dog, Tori, a Pit Bull Australian Cattle Dog mix and the sweetest dog I’ve ever had the privilege to live with. I remember incidents when someone in the family is ill or injured and tori is summoned for a walk (her favorite thing) she runs in the opposite direction of the door and proceeds to lay down with whichever member of the family isn’t feeling well at the moment and refuses to leave them, often resting her head on said family member’s lap. But, when you hear the term “Pit Bull” a few things probably come to your mind, depending on how the media has portrayed them to you, your personal experience, or what a news story has expressed to you. A few of these things-the most typical things-might be “Pit Bulls are vicious killers” “Fighting Dogs” “Lockjaw” and “Bait Dogs.” These terms are easy to pin on a type of dog when one isn’t familiar with that type. Almost as easy as coining blondes as “dumb” or girls as “overly emotional.” What if I told you that “Pit Bull” wasn’t even a real breed, just a slang term? What if I told you the breeds mentioned first in this essay were actually so-called “Pit Bulls?” Would you react differently to the American Staffordshire Terrier being tied up to a pole because it wasn’t wanted, or didn’t produce for its owner what the owner desired it to produce? Would you shrink your hand back in fear as it came towards you? Would you walk past the wide-eyed, block headed creature curled up into a ball in the corner of its cage-scared of its own shadow-or anything else for that matter-in an animal shelter without a second thought because it could be too much of a liability? Would you react differently to a Staffordshire Bull Terrier being heinously tattooed by its owner and left with a heavy, metal chain tied around its fragile, underfed frame in the yard, starving to death? Would you be more willing to save it from the vicious hands of the previous owner? What would you do if you knew those breeds were Pit Bulls, would you react differently? I shouldn’t even have to ask these questions, because regardless of the breed, how could you leave a helpless animal who can’t speak for themselves, to die, starve, or even burn to death, just because of what it looks like? Just because of its stereotype? As an individual, I cannot tell you how to perceive this animal, all I can do is provide a point- statistically, Pit Bulls are as harmless as a Golden Retriever, and even an ideal family and service dog.

Going back I think that for the majority of my life, I was quite indifferent towards Pit Bulls, their image, and treatment. I had no interest, personal experience, or knowledge of positive portrayal. But, something changed my indifference. As I think about these stereotypes often times being the difference between these poor dogs life and death I look back on this: a $40.00 for a forty pound dog sale at the ASPCA, and an eager sister. Short after the visit to the shelter, my sister locked eyes with this black and white, amber eyed creature. Much resembling the god Anubis, this creature was clearly a mom before she was rescued. Her small frame was dressed with udder-like nipples that only a mother dog could have. At only one year old, this animal had been through alot-and had also been quite obviously uncared for. I marveled at this innocent creature’s white coat was graced with big black markings all around, looking something like an Oreo cookie, or a cow. Her Oreo coat was rough, unkempt, and quite rank. How could anyone leave such an innocent, loving, beautiful creature simply to die? How could anybody mistreat such a pure, loving animal who doesn’t even understand why anything is happening to them. Once we put this docile creature on a leash and took her outside-she blossomed. All of a sudden this timid, shy animal started leaping like a horse over an obstacle, jumping on top of anything within five feet of her- a trash can, a picnic table, even myself! I couldn’t help but share the joy of this once timid dog. I had never seen anything like it. I thought to myself, is this really the same kind of dog portrayed so negatively by the media? Do they really know what they’re talking about? Have they met this thing?!

I started to do some research. As I wandered around the never-ending library, I finally found the perfect place to sit and research. Website after website I came across the same headlines on articles- “Problem With People Not the Breed” “The Misunderstood Pitbull” “Pitbull Success Stories.” I dug deeper, the surroundings of the library I once was so worried about became distant. I was completely emerged. How one could judge an animal that basically lives to be trained? How anyone could actually use an animal to bait another animal just for the sheer purpose of gambling? All these thoughts swam through my head like a minnow wiggling through the tide. One of the most interesting articles I found provided some interesting facts, specifically involving research done by the American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS). As I dug into the specifics of their research I discovered that in a one hundred and twenty-two breed study, Pit Bulls achieved a passing rate of 83.9%, Beagles tested 78.2%, and Golden Retrievers 83.2%. After having the privilege to be around my sister’s dog Tori, it made perfect sense to me. Scrolling and scrolling- another article wrote that in a stability test, Pit Bulls always test high as one of the top five stable breeds in the country (ATTS). The thing that I hadn’t known until doing research was that most attacks by Pit Bulls are attacks by ones that aren’t neutered or spayed, which clicked in my head immediately. If only everyone knew this! If only it was known these block headed sweethearts have been treated so poorly, they haven’t even the opportunity to get neutered or spayed, something they cannot do on their own.

I’ve learned over my years that dogs are trained animals, they are trained to be companions, workers, and pets. Thinking about it, they are much like children. Dogs in general have been bred to be trained, and need to be trained- much like a toddler needs parenting and guidance. If you let a child run free with no parental control, no lessons or morals, no lessons of manners, what do you think would happen? Would they still be the cute little kids sitting in the shopping cart seat in the grocery store? Would they still get smiled at in passing while riding in a stroller? Would they still have the image of innocent little humans? What’s to say that a dog is so different? It needs guidance, training, affection. Dogs were bred for human interaction, pleasure, etc. So, is it really that much of a shocker that a dog that has had the worst happen to them, that has been utterly abused and tortured by their previous owner to be an all-trusting, normal creature? Would you expect that of a human even? Even Pit Bulls that have been abused still trust immediately, still love immediately, and still appreciate immediately, which is surprisingly common among the breed(s). Not long after she saw the wonderful experience my sister was having with her Pit Bull mix, my sister’s roommate adopted a deaf Pit Bull This deaf dog had been used as a bait dog in dog fighting rings, had been stuck in a crate too small for him for so long that his back legs had been deformed, had his ears completely chopped off to stubs. The day this dog came home he had nothing but love. I had never seen anything like it. An animal who was once so abused, so scarred, embraced his new owner with open arms. The only “biting” he has ever done was to his stuffed animal toys he loves so much. The only time his strong-jawed face comes in contact with your own is to lick it until your face is covered in slobber. I was truly amazed. I thought to myself how could you ever put this dog in a ring to bait another dog? How could you ever do something so wrong to an animal that relies solely on humans for their well being? How could you ever do this to an animal that has nothing to give but love, and wants nothing but to please its owner? The innocence these dogs possess-and all dogs for that matter-is what kills me the most when I hear about such morbid animal abuse. These animals have no idea why they are being treated like this, have no way to defend themselves, and no way to cry out for help. They have no way to find an outlet or a source of help- they accept this as their life and once they leave it they still manage to trust again even after they had such wrong done to them. And that, is what I find truly incredible.

Adopting and Adapting Woolf’s style:

While I tried to write with Woolf, I tried to embody her stream of consciousness. Mostly focusing on chapter one so far, I have also tried to develop her use of rhetorical questions. She has written them throughout but specifically on page twenty two. The second chapter is where I picked up her documentation of her researches to make a claim, but i adapted that a little bit into my own voice because my topic is so different from hers I felt they didn’t match up perfectly in that style. On page one Woolf begins a sentence with the word “but” which I also adopted and tried to incorporate into my essay. Along with the use of the word “but” in the beginning of the chapter I also tried to use the “-” sign in my sentences like she did on pages twenty two and four because it helps the sentence resemble a stream of thought which have some pauses in them. Woolf’s use of imagery (page seven) really intrigued me as well, I tried to use metaphors and vivid description throughout as she did, but I tried not to make it as fictional sounding as hers. I also tried to develop a sense of anger while researching like she did on page thirty four and thirty five- “All I had received from that morning’s work had been the one fact of anger.”

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