If you have absolutely no idea why anyone in his or her right mind would spend a great deal of time and money to rescue American Pit Bull Terriers, then you've probably never owned one. The American Pit Bull Terrier is an endangered and persecuted breed. These dogs are persecuted by the media, the public, and most animal shelters. Many animal shelters throughout the nation have a mandatory euthanization policy for any APBT placed in their custody, regardless of age. In some parts of Canada, all APBTs are put to sleep, and all puppies must be brought to authorities and euthanized by 6 weeks of age. In the United States, several communities have banned APBTs entirely. This means that if you own an APBT and are caught travelling through a no-APBT community/state, you might have your dog confiscated and put to death. Will it matter if your dog is a GRAND CHAMPION show dog? No. Will it matter if your dog is an accomplished search-and-rescue dog who has saved human lives? No. Will it matter if your dog is the sweetest, most loyal dog on the face of the Earth and whom you love like a child? Absolutely not.
The American Pit Bull Terrier was once a loved and respected breed. Did any of the "Little Rascals" have their faces torn apart by "Pete the Pup"? No, of course not. However, had Pete the Pup been unfortunate enough to find himself in one of the no-APBT communities that exist today, he would have been labelled as a "vicious animal" and put to death.
Is all this stigmatism surrounding the APBT deserved? No. In temperament tests conducted by The American Temperament Test Society, American Pit Bull Terriers had a passing rate of 95% - compared to only 77% for the general dog population. Studies have shown that the cocker spaniels, German shepherds, chow chows and even chihuahuas bite more people than pit bulls. It is my personal opinion that children bite more people than pit bulls.
To quote Choosing a Dog for Life by Andrew De Prisco and James B. Johnson: "If raised with children, the pit bull literally thrives on the 'mauling' toddlers give him, exhibiting far more tolerance than most breeds."
But, you may respond, "C'mon... Some of this negativity has to be deserved. Don't all stereotypes have some basis in fact?"
Well, yes and no. Some stereotypes do have some basis in fact. That's how they become stereotypes. Most of the time, however, an image becomes exaggerated and people begin to think that all members of a group fit into that stereotype. Unfortunately, people latch onto any incident that supports the stereotype to uphold their view that "they're all like that." For example, some people believe that all women are bad drivers. If they see a woman driver who makes an unsafe lane change, they might use that as proof to support their view. If I tell you that "pit bulls are wonderful dogs and are not inherently people aggressive," you might say, "but my sister's friend's cousin had a pit bull that they raised from a puppy and he attacked their kid. They couldn't get the dog off of him." Well, I wasn't there, so I can't refute that argument, but did you hear the one about the cocker spaniel that killed an infant? Or how about the German Shephard that ran after an Avon lady who was walking on the other side of the street and attacked her? Or how about the time a chow chow attacked a child in a park?
If you're walking down the street and get barked at or attacked by a strange Golden Retriever, do you say, "Well that proves that all Golden Retrievers are vicious and should be put to death."? No, not if you're a rational person. Unfortunately, some APBTs have been put to sleep for simply barking at a stranger.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is a one-of-a-kind breed. It's strength, loyalty, dedication, and character cannot be equaled by any breed on earth. I have seen these dogs accomplish tasks which I thought no dog could ever perform. I've seen them climb trees, scale jungle gyms, pull minivans, dive for tennis balls in pools, and a myriad of other tasks - and, most impressive of all, they've done these things without any training. If you go to your library and check out a book on search-and-rescue dog training, you'll see how excruciating the training regiment is to get the dogs to perform tasks such as balancing on a ledge, climbing a ladder, and diving for objects. Chako, our organization's namesake, did all of these things the first time we asked him. Why? Because he was a game-bred animal with an overwhelming desire to please his family.
American Pit Bull Terriers, like most other dogs, are quite trainable. They can be trained to sit, stay, dive, find a person in an avalanche, or fight another American Pit Bull Terrier. They can be raised to be loyal and people-friendly animals, or they can be raised to be aggressive. They can be used for fighting, or they can be used for search-and-rescue work. They can be mean dogs, or they can be loving family pets.
Two factors influence a dog's disposition: upbringing and breeding. There are unscrupulous people out there who breed dogs for extreme aggression, take the most vicious of the litters, and breed them to produce more aggressive animals. There are also responsible breeders out there who know the true definition of a game dog and select for the most desirable traits (such as people-sociability, strength of character, conformation, and play-drive).
To condemn an entire breed based on the actions of a few unscrupulous people and a few examples of "pit bull aggressiveness" is both illogical and heartless. When taking into consideration that many examples of "pit bull agressiveness" are attributable to breeds other than APBTs, such an attitude becomes outright stupid. You would be surprised what I've seen mistaken for an APBT, even by veterinarians.
If the American Pit Bull Terrier becomes globally outlawed, no amount of education or enlightenment will resurrect the breed, and our loyal and trusting companions will live only in the memories of those who loved them.