Want a pit bull? I can produce thousands of adoptable “pit bulls” in the blink of an eye. Just click here.
The 23,000+ “pit bulls” [Ed. note: In 2004, this was “only” 7,000 or so] you can find through the above Petfinder link are a very small fraction of the homeless pit bulls out there. Notice that on Petfinder, only Labrador Retrievers—long hailed as the most popular American dog breed—come close to the combined numbers of adoptable “pit bulls,” AmStaffs, and SBTs.
No other breed or type of dog is as prevalent in the shelter system as the “pit bull.” Shelters in large cities across the nation report a “pit bull” population of anywhere from 40% to 60% or more of the total shelter population (national average is 33%).
Because “pit bulls” are stereotyped as vicious dogs, responsible dog owners and loving families do not usually seek out shelter pit bulls as pets. Out of fear, they may actively reject any shelter dog that has been labeled a “pit bull” or “pit bull mix.” Thus, shelters and rescue groups struggle to rehome homeless “pit bulls.”
Shelter policies and laws can compound this problem. Many shelters needing more space will opt to euthanize pit bulls before any other type of dog. Some shelters don’t bother to put pit bulls up for adoption at all. Some rescuers and adopters believe that “pit bulls” are behaviorally different from other types of dogs, and have put in place special requirements for adopting “pit bulls.” Some cities have passed breed-specific laws that make it difficult or even impossible to own a pit bull, further limiting the number of good homes available to pit bulls.
Breeders also add to this problem by flooding an already saturated market with increasing numbers of “pit bull” puppies. Worse still are the irresponsible breeders who are breeding “mutant”-looking dogs with exaggerated physical features like extremely wide heads and chests, without regard to temperament or genetic health, and selling their puppies to anyone who has cash.
Many rescue groups are desperately in need of foster homes for homeless pit bulls, including pregnant dogs and litters of pit bull puppies. Breeders-turned-rescuers can make great fosters, because they have resources and know-how. If you are a breeder, please consider joining a rescue group so that you can save lives. If you are thinking of breeding, please foster or rescue first, so you will be fully aware of the plight that so many “pit bulls” are already in.
Irresponsible owners are the final factor creating homeless pit bulls. Most pit bulls are surrendered at shelters after they’re past the “cute puppy” stage. The owners who wanted a cute baby pit bull have decided that they can’t handle the responsibilities of a grown dog—like obedience training—or discovered that they can’t deal with pit bull-specific issues like public scorn or discrimination. Then there are the owners who ignore and neglect their dog, leave their dog on a chain for its entire life, or even abuse their dog.
Although the problems listed here are human ones—stereotypes, laws, irresponsible dog owners, and irresponsible breeders—the dogs themselves pay the ultimate price. “Pit bulls” are the most abused, misused, and killed type of dog in the U.S. today. They are killed in shelters, in dog fights, or at the hands of bad owners. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it will take everyone’s help to give the “pit bull” a brighter future.
Here are a few key actions that every humane advocate must take in order to reduce the numbers of “pit bulls” being abused and killed.