LIVING IN YOUR PET’S WORLD: Pit bulls get a bad rap

Pit bulls get a bad rap

Be warned. I’ve pulled out my soap box again.

Oct. 24 was National Pit Bull Awareness Day. The day was started in 2007 by Jodi Preis of Bless the Bullys, a pit bull rescue and education group in Tennessee, to change perceptions and stereotypes about bully breed dogs, commonly referred to as “pit bulls.”

It’s not hard to find someone with opinion about these dogs. I have talked to those who say pits are dangerous and should be banned. I have also talked to others who say pits are loving and safe.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. And, as always, my opinion is most influenced by dog owners.

Talking to vets, dog owners and the like, I firmly believe a dog’s ability to function successfully in its environment rests solely on the shoulders of its owner.

As a kid one summer I was nipped in the thigh by a neighbor’s dog as about six of us ran with the dog through a sprinkler. Most likely I stepped on the dog’s tail as we pranced back and forth through the water. My skin was only bruised and I barely cried. But with multiple kids flying around in all directions and no adult supervision, should the dog have been part of the fun? No.

We need to be honest with ourselves when it comes to the time and ability we have as dog owners. Every breed has its challenges. Chihuahuas and cocker spaniels are known as much for biting as pit bulls and Rottweilers.

Kirsten Knight, executive director of Adopt A Pit Rescue in Germantown, told me the misconception that bothers her the most is that all pit bulls are mean or aggressive.

“I have been involved in pit bull rescue for over a decade,” she said. “It still hurts my feelings when I am walking a pit bull and someone sees me coming, makes eye contact and then runs across the street real quick or grabs their kids and runs in the other direction.

“I have had over 3,900 dogs come through Adopt a Pit Rescue and I have fostered hundreds over the years myself. Have we had pit bulls who were aggressive? Yes. Is it all pit bulls? No. Have we had other breeds of dog who were aggressive? Yes, of course. It is not about the breed, it’s about the individual dog. It is how they are raised, their environment, what they have been taught or not taught.

“Temperament is not genetic. It is environmental.”

Kirsten’s favorite pit bull came to her 10 years ago as a sick puppy. He had to have multiple surgeries and at several points she wasn’t sure he was going to survive. But the puppy did, and now at 10 years and 80 pounds, lives a happy and spoiled life. “Soda Pop” answers to “Poppy” and loves to be close to Kirsten and share her pillow. According to Kirsten, he snores.

One of my favorite pit bulls is Barney, a 3-year-old American Bully. He was found on the side of a road in Nashville and landed at the Xenia-based Francis Kennels Rescue where Shannon Roach agreed to foster but quickly adopted him. The Bully loves people and dogs. He’s basically Shannon’s shadow unless a squirrel happens to scamper by, although try as he might, Barney has yet to catch one.

Poppy and Barney have responsible owners. That, in my opinion, makes all the difference.


To learn more about pit bulls check out

Karin Spicer is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America. She lives with her family and two furry pets who inspire her. She can be reached at

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