Tori on the front lawn of the Capitol in Jefferson City Missouri.
There is a call to action being heard around the country demanding a change in attitude toward the American Pit Bull Terrier. The question that follows these calls is always "How do I make a difference?" We have many individuals, Pit and non-Pit fanciers alike, willing to get involved but not sure how they can promote a positive message.
Legislation and local ordinances are not the only threat to this breed. Certainly anyone willing to get involved in a letter writing campaign or actually taking the time to make direct contact with their legislators will make the loudest statement but there are other avenues that need attention. One of these avenues is the media portrayal and manufactured image of the breed.
It is not unusual to hear reports of tragedy surrounding improperly handled or poorly placed Pit Bulls. The national media outlets are quick to report stories of fatalities or bites but they ignore the thousands of stories of Pit Bulls representing the majority. Some reporters have been quoted as saying they have no interest in dog bites that are non-Pit Bull and will completely ignore stories that cannot be used to further the image of a "thug owned killing machine". Begin here; begin by turning the same attention to ALL journalists and media outlets that has been turned on the major companies that have attempted to use this manufactured image in their advertising campaigns.
The Pit fanciers and dedicated rescuers have in the recent past harnessed their outrage over negative portrayals by going on full power, viral movements against such companies as Verizon and McDonalds and national figures such as Kelly Ripa. While Ms. Ripa has never issued an apology or acknowledgment of her miss-statement, Verizon and McDonalds were quick to pull their negative ads. I am requesting all advocates for Pit Bulls to exercise this same diligence in addressing negative media coverage from every outlet. If a reporter refuses to use their position for anything other than negative reporting of Pit Bulls, share that information with the advocacy network. Make sure we all know who this person is and what company they work for that has sanctioned this practice, regardless of how big or small. If we begin to use the same passion we go after the major outlets on these smaller outlets, eventually we will see a change in the reporting habits.
Something that is feeding this negative press is a threat coming from within our own ranks. That is the irresponsible promotion of Pit Bulls as being a product of their environment exclusively. That is inaccurate and providing the headlines we are fighting. This same media frenzy has caused a new age of back yard breeders to mass produce dogs according to a standard being set by slanted journalism.
Breed standards are set by breed fanciers and they are set for a reason. Rescue is seeing far too many dogs that have been bred because they are human aggressive. This is a violation of the very first rule of Pit Bull fanciers from the beginning of the breed development; NO PIT BULL WILL BE BRED IF FOUND TO BE HUMAN AGGRESSIVE. A bigger violation are the numbers of well intentioned rescuers ignoring this violation of breeding protocol and sending unstable dogs out into the general public. The result is providing further negative headlines for a sensation hungry media and tragedy for unsuspecting adopters.
I am a cross poster for rescue. I receive requests from many shelters and rescues desperate to place homeless Pit Bulls. Most of these organizations are reliable and I trust their evaluations without question but some are not. There are a number of groups that I will not share because they have knowingly either placed unstable dogs or are willing to send a dog with questionable temperament out into the public. We lose hundreds if not thousands of wonderful, worthy dogs every day, how then can anyone justify wasting time, resources or homes on a dog with the potential to cause a negative headline, while hammering another nail into the coffin of this breed? Watch for these groups. Take the time to attempt to educate them and raise their awareness. If they refuse to see how what they are doing is harming this breed as surely as the abusers and criminals, then do not promote their group.
DNR, DNA and DNT are acronyms we are all familiar with, Do Not Rescue, Do Not Adopt and Do Not Transport. While it may seem harsh to cut these groups off, the result of their irresponsibility does greater harm when an unstable dog is allowed to wreak havoc and contributes to the deaths of worthy dogs. This reform must come from us.
Then there are the "hangers on" that would attempt to promote the breed in a dishonest manner. An example of this was the woman that professed to having had three dogs at the 911 World Trade Center tragedy. While we all know Pit Bulls are very well suited for Search and Rescue or Recovery, it is a grave disservice to this breed to have someone attempt to promote their own self serving agenda by presenting themselves as something they are not. Do not be afraid to question these stories and do not ignore your responsibility to keep honesty the top priority in our goals of promoting the positive aspects of this breed. We are fighting a dishonest portrayal of the Pit Bull. We must be ready to lead by example and that is only possible if we do not allow ourselves to fall into the same behaviors that got this breed in trouble in the first place.
2013 has the potential to be the Year of the Pit Bull. This will take a concerted effort on all our parts to be willing to get involved in whatever capacity we can best serve this cause. No involvement is too small and as the old saying goes "The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time"!