The reputation of pit bulls is one of the biggest debates centered on pets.
Are pit bulls dangerous? Are they child-friendly? Are they dog-friendly? Are they predictable? Can they be trained?
The truth of the matter is that every pit bull is different. It depends on how the pit bull was raised, its personality and, in some cases, its health.
Unfortunately, fear and misinformation about pit bulls has spread like wildfire in the past couple of decades. The misinformation is mainly due to negative or irresponsible media, unsavory types using the breed for illegal activity, and long-standing, disproven, myths.
Despite evidence that the majority of pit bulls are simply a reflection of their owners and surrounding, they've become the sharp-toothed, stocky-bodied, square-headed villains of nightmares.
There's a cruel side effect of the pit bull's mainstream reputation.
Most people know the job of the average animal shelter is to take in stray and unwanted dogs in order to find them new, loving, 'forever homes' that will keep them safe and loved. It's easy to picture the places as a safe haven for dogs in desperate need. For pit bulls, it can be more like a death camp.
Roughly 75% of municipal shelters will euthanize a pit bull the moment that dog is in their custody. Those pit bulls never so much as see a chance at adoption.
In large cities, pit bulls and pit bull mixes can make up about 60% of shelter dogs. It's because of their reputation that the majority of them are considered unadoptable and euthanized, in order to keep capacity down.
What does that mean in numbers?
It means that approximately 90% of pit bulls that make it to shelters are euthanized. 1 in only 600 will ever get a chance to find a forever home; to learn that there are some good humans out there that aren't looking to exploit and hurt them.
Dogs that do make it to adoption aren't always cared for properly by the shelter previously.
Take, for instance, the story of Ivē.
Ivē is a pit bull that was adopted in Florida. She was terrified of her new owners at first. She'd already been adopted three times and returned to the shelter. In fact, the poor dog had to be forced to leave her cage because she would hide in the corner whenever someone came for her.
Despite her fear, she never bit any of the shelter workers or the couple that adopted her. In fact, she began to flourish under their love and affection.
Concerned about swelling in Ivē's mouth, her owners took her to the vet only to find out that the pit bull they had adopted had painful tumors on her gums.
The owners of Ivē became stuck in a severe situation. They wanted to help their beloved new family member, but the surgery was costly. Returning her to a shelter was not an option. As a pit bull, being returned for the fourth time meant she would likely be euthanized. As their pet, Ivē was already loved.
Pit bull owners in situations like this still have options. Valeska Santana Ramos, part of the couple that adopted Ivē, started a fundraiser in the hopes that she could raise enough money to help Ivē get the surgery she needs. You can find the fundraiser page at: Ivē Needs Surgery.
Pit bulls have it in them to be sweet and loyal dogs, as long as their owners are sweet and loyal to them. Unfortunately, many pit bulls will never get the chance to prove it.
[ Images courtesy of Pit Bulls Area and Valeska Santana Ramos ]