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« Memorial Day Tribute | Main | The ongoing wave of change -- this time in South Bend, IN »

May 27, 2014


Cheryl Huerta

I'm often wary of statistics. As we pit bull advocates already are well aware it is the CDC's decades old statistics on "dog bites/fatalities by breed" that is the basis for so much fear and hatred of pit bulls. Those statistics are also the basis of many of the pit bull bans that exist today...even though the CDC itself has declared publicly that those statistics should never be used for the purpose of legislation.

You yourself has shown how the city's of Denver and Aurora in CO both lay claim to their bans being highly successful and cite statistics to back that up. So I guess what I'm saying is that although numbers don't lie how we use the numbers can lie a blue streak; and a harmful one at that if you look at the whole pit bull ban deal.

What do I think? I think that most organizations/people will use statistics to get what they want. They aren't exactly 'lying' but they are twisting the data enough to make a case for or against something/someone. So it would by quite understandable and possible that shelters who want to move those pit bull type dogs through at a higher rate, because they have more of them in their shelter, might twist the data just a bit so that they can say that there are too many pit bulls and not enough homes for them...even more so than most other kinds of dogs.

The reasons you cite why there are more pit bulls than other kinds of dogs in shelters are valid ones and are ones that my advocacy has diligently been working on rectifying for the past three years. An end to breed bans and also an end to propaganda about pit bulls would be most helpful in keeping pit bulls out of shelters that already are in loving homes. The renters/home owners insurance policy issue where some insurance providers discriminate in their policies is another that might go away if bans and the misinformation about pit bulls were to go away.

I do have to interject however that not every dog owner is suitable to have a pit bull. Only people who have the strength of character and who dedicate themselves to being proper/responsible dog owners should have pit bulls. Pit bulls are tenacious (a good thing), are easily excited (they can go from 1 to 10 plus in a heartbeat given the right situation) and are very strong physically. I'd be curious how many pit bulls are surrendered to shelters or returned after having been adopted due to behavioral issues with the owners not having the where-with-all to handle a strong kind of dog like pit bulls and other strong breeds are.

While I'm still unsure which statistics to 'believe' I have a feeling it's a lot more middle of the road than many might think and I believe that to turn things around for pit bulls the animal welfare community (that includes shelters, rescues and advocacy's) needs to do a much better job at everything. There are many people out there in large and smaller organizations that do a great job of educating the public about pit bulls however obviously there is much more to be done and personally I think the best way from here on out would be for people to join together more because there is strength in numbers so the best way we can help the situation is to work together as one voice singing the same song so that those who need to be educated will listen.

It's not hard to see why more people don't 'get it' about pit bulls and dog breeds. One advocacy/rescue says they are just cuddly, little bunny-like, sweeties that have just gotten a bad reputation and another advocacy/rescue makes it sound as if pit bulls are the canine version of a lion or tiger that should NEVER under any circumstances be allowed in a home with other dogs, with cats or even children. To be sure the truth and facts about these dogs lies somewhere in the middle but unless we speak the same language together no one will ever know the truth that really needs to hear it.

I agree wholeheartedly that it is all inherently manageable but it takes focus; not just on the data and the decision-making practices but also on educating the public better.


the essential challenge of all these kinds of studies is that "pit bull" means so little these days. While it of course is true that "dogs called pit bulls" are subject to all the problems you describe, it's pretty crazy to have "breed specific" policies for a class of dogs that fit a generic description but are not actually a particular breed. There are no breed characteristics for mixed breed dogs. So while traditionally APBT advocates HAVE said "pit bulls aren't for everyone", they meant APBTs (like many purebred dogs) aren't for everyone. The generic blocky headed short haired dog called a "pit bull" can just as well be adopted to generic adopters as any other generic shelter dog


Emily Weiss is no scientist. I don't believe many of her conclusions. She won't release the data for independent review. If she wants to be taken seriously (and not just an ASPSA cheerleader), she needs to publish in peer reviewed journals.


Emily -- I think that's a fair distinction. And yes, in the sheltering world, there are a lot of dogs are called "pit bulls" even though they are not (there are a whole host of reasons for this: breed ID issues, and some need to protect adopters from unwittingly subjecting themselves to breed discrimination).

So yes, when you start including short haired, block-headed dogs as "pit bulls", not only do they wildly outnumber anything purebred, but also their behavior traits become extremely varied. And this doesn't even take into account behavior traits that vary dramatically even within purebreds.



Emily Weiss does not publish her data in scientific journals...and I do wish that she would make the shelters used in this study known (for example, one shelter with breed-specific policies would create a pretty major swing in results).

However, I will say most of her findings mirror other research out there and the experiences of most shelters I'm familiar with and should not, IMO, be summarily dismissed. If you have issues, I'd love to have you contribute to a real dialogue.

Matt B

I think it's important to realize that, even if we say there isn't an adoption problem, pit bull-type dogs are being euthanized at about a rate of 50%, much higher than any other dog on that list (the next closest is about 33%).


I agree with you Matt. I do believe that we have an adoption problem. also. Some of the adoption problems are for the same reason as the intake problems, but still, if they are finding their way to the shelter, shelters need to find positive outcomes for them.


The first step toward solving this problem (at the risk of sounding ridiculous) is keeping the dogs in their homes in the first place. Attitudes ARE changing. The first step is local ordinances need to change. Owners need to be more aware of breed-neutral insurance companies. There needs to be more information available about pet-friendly rental property. When I was a kid you just didn't get a pet until you owned your own place but I get the idea times have changed, and I realize in some areas of the country that's not an option due to housing prices.

If we could just keep the dogs that are already in good homes in those homes it would be a big step in the right direction.


From what I read, the 2 biggest reasons now that people turn their dogs in are 1) housing (as KimMK describes) and 2) behavior.

Many/most of the owners would keep their dogs if they could solve these.

Both are really solvable.

And also too: if shelters and local policies would stop obsessing about s/n and stop seizing dogs that aren't, that would keep a lot of dogs out of shelters..



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