Pitbull Photograph

Significant Odds

These fun-loving dogs seem to have more odds stacked against them than any other. Here are just a few situations where pit bull-type dogs are the innocent victims of situations perpetrated by humans. Despite these challenges, the classic pit bull is unfailingly optimistic and forgiving.

Irresponsible Ownership

Do any of these situations sound familiar? To thousands of dogs, they are all too common. These scenarios can happen to any breed, but with pit bulls as popular as they are, they currently bear the worst of it:

  • Someone buys a dog without realizing the cost of feeding and providing veterinary care. They surrender him to a shelter when they can no longer afford him.
  • Someone buys a puppy, completely unprepared for the demands of dog ownership. A few months later, they have a high-energy adolescent dog on their hands, and no idea how to manage her and teach her manners. Bored and restless, the dog escapes from the yard and ends up living on the street.
  • Someone obtains a healthy, friendly pit bull, thinking it would be the perfect dog to guard his property, not realizing that it is a highly social dog who – like all dogs – should live indoors as a companion. The dog is chained in the yard for months on end, craving love and attention, but receiving none. He deteriorates mentally and becomes aggressive as a result of this neglect and abuse. He either remains on the chain indefinitely or is abandoned at a shelter, where he is deemed unsuitable for adoption and euthanized.
  • Someone owns a dog as a beloved companion, but is not educated on the need to spay and neuter, or does not have the resources to get their dog sterilized. The dog mates with a neighbor's dog while unsupervised, and an unwanted litter of puppies results. Not knowing what to do, the owners abandon the puppies at an overcrowded city shelter, forcing the shelter to euthanize more dogs to make room for them.

With all these factors combined, it is not surprising that more than half of the dogs in Philadelphia's shelters at any given time are identified as pit bulls, and many do not make it out alive.

Over-Breeding

The breeding and selling of pit bull puppies is a lucrative business. Some do it for money, others for status. More often than not, "backyard breeders" produce puppies without knowing anything about the health background of either parent, and without learning proper care of mother and puppies. Even if they manage to find homes for all of them, they are still bringing more puppies into the world at a time when there already too many. The result? More dogs than there are homes for, and more dogs in shelters losing their lives.

Organized Abuse

When pit bulls find themselves in the wrong hands, many types of cruelty can result, the most well known of which is dog fighting. Not only are dog fighting operations incredibly cruel to the dogs involved, but they lead to terrible myths and misconceptions about pit bulls.

The term "fighting dog" refers not to a particular breed, but to any dog that has been encouraged and conditioned to exhibit aggressive behaviors toward other dogs (some of these "conditioning" methods include starving, exercising to the point of exhaustion, and administering drugs such as steroids and cocaine). These dogs are victims of abuse. It does not matter the role that they are forced to play, whether fighter or "bait" dog. They are not the perpetrators of violence, but the innocent victims.

Many dogs rescued from fighting rings have gone on to be well-mannered family companions, a fact that speaks to pit bulls' amazing resilience, stability, and eagerness for human connection. In most cases, these dogs did not require special "rehabilitation;" all it took was some love and a change of environment to help them be who they really are. Some victims may suffer emotional scars and be fearful and timid as a result. Others are so damaged that they are unsuitable for adoption and must be euthanized. The lesson learned from every cruelty case is that dogs are individuals and deserve to be treated and evaluated as such.

The label "fighting dog" tells nothing about its individual personality; all it tells is a story of the situation it came from and the abuse that it has suffered. It's a complete misunderstanding to say that pit bulls are bred to be fighters: after all, how could a dog be born to be abused?

Read this page from BAD RAP for more information on the term "fighting dog."

If you think you have witnessed evidence of dog fighting, file a cruelty report with the PSPCA by calling their 24-hour hotline at 1-866-601-SPCA (7722) or emailing a full description of the incident to cruelty@pspca.org.