As a young adult, I had an American Staffordshire Terrier who was given up by her previous owners because she was “too hyper.” Tatanka, as I named her, gave me many happy, love-filled years. We were meant for each other; we hiked, jogged, and played together. She was not only a companion, but also my best friend and confidant. Tatanka never hurt anyone or anything. She was a big dog with a puppy’s attitude and a tear-jerking love for little kids. All the children in the neighborhood knew her by name and would play her favorite games, such as “throw the ball and never get it back,” “chase me –you’ll never catch me,” “pin you down and lick your face,” and many others.
When Tatanka’s life was senselessly taken by a poisoned piece of meat, she took with her forever a piece of my heart. I can’t understand what would have made someone take the life of such a precious, loving creature. Perhaps it was fear caused by the size and stature of that awe-inspiring animal which made that unkind heart kill that big, gentle spirit. Phantom heartaches stab my chest when I see the Pit bulls in our shelter. I know that most of them won’t make it to the next day.
What have we done to these beautiful dogs? Pit bulls were once the “Nanny dog of America.” There was a time when Petey the Pit bull accompanied the Little Rascals in all their adventures, warming children’s hearts throughout the Nation.
Today, many Bullies love and are loved by their families. Unfortunately, many more will lose their lives at the gentle hands of a shelter worker who couldn’t possibly find good homes for them all.
Did you know that almost a third of all the dogs coming through the animal shelter system in the Valley are Pit bulls? Yes, you read it right; approximately 20,000 Pit bulls will find themselves in a shelter every year. Most of them are good dogs in need of a loving home.
Pit bulls are intelligent, precocious, and athletic dogs that will do nearly anything asked of them. They are hard-wired to be animal aggressive and people must be mindful of this heritage, especially around children and small animals. Although wonderful companions, Pit bulls are not for beginners; these are dogs that need an experienced and well-informed owner who is ready to make a commitment. They need a kind but firm caretaker that can funnel their gleeful zest for life through exercise, training, and service. These dogs will return your care and attention ten-fold; they will always be loving and devoted to their families.
Most of the ones we see in our shelters are there because their owners did not know what they were getting into when they acquired a Bully. Sadly, there are not enough good homes for them. These beautiful animals have a greater risk of being euthanized than any other breed. In fact, a 50% higher risk.
Rescue groups don’t want them as they are harder to place than any other dog. Many people don’t understand the breed and are unreasonably afraid of them. Of all the Bullies in the shelter, less than 1% will go to a rescue group, 12% will be claimed by their owners, and 10% will be adopted. Over 73% will be euthanized.
Together we need to stop the irrational breeding of Pit bulls. What can you do to save these beautiful animals? If you own a Pit bull, sterilize him, train him, and socialize him. Encourage friends and family to sterilize their dogs. If you are looking for a pet, do not buy from a store, the newspaper, or the backyard breeder. Adopt your new dog from the animal shelter. Volunteer to support your favorite animal shelter.
The shelters alone cannot solve the problem. It is up to us as a community to end this tragedy.