By Trisha Gurley
We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover.” I think it’s time to change this to “don’t judge a dog by its breed.” Memphis and surrounding areas have been witness to some tragic events involving pit bulls this summer. The most recent being an elderly man who died of cardiac arrest after being attacked by two pit bulls in his neighborhood. The public outcry afterward was palpable. Some wanted pits banned from Memphis. Some wanted to require all pits to be spayed and neutered. One of the most controversial proposals was to offer a bounty for capturing stray dogs of the so-called vicious breeds. Animal lovers and advocates quickly lambasted this idea, as well they should. The promise of a monetary reward for strays would result in pet theft and backyard breeding simply to make an easier profit than selling puppies outright. Worst of all, placing a price on animals propagates the mindset that they are little more than property, a mindset which is a contributing factor in animal abuse and neglect.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), pit bulls are one of the top ten breeds found in shelters. Sadly, many of the pits in shelters are brought there as rescues from dog fighting busts. This does not mean these pit bulls have automatically been made aggressive. A good shelter will evaluate a pit’s behavior and determine if the dog can be placed in a home, and they will make sure you and the dog are a good fit for one another.
If you’re a friend of the Memphis/Shelby County Humane Society’s Facebook page, you may recall seeing heartbreaking photos back in June of a pit named Robin. It was obvious that Robin had been used as a fighter and a breeder. She was covered in scars, burns, and ticks. One large scar, probably a home-cauterized wound, was spread across her back. The scars were especially prevalent around her neck, indicating that she’d been repeatedly bitten and held by other dogs. Her ears had been clipped back, likely with scissors or a knife, and were greatly swollen and covered with ticks.
There are some who would think Robin should have been anesthetized immediately. She was, after all, a pit bull and a viciously treated one at that. Surely she’d want to lash out at the first human who came near her, even ones who wanted to help. Yet the most striking of all the photos were the ones of Robin’s eyes. They were sad and pleading. She was looking up as if to say, “Please take care of me. I’m so hurt, and I need you.” One caption mentioned her sweetness despite all the suffering she had received at the hands of humans.
I have yet to hear a story where a pit bull attack occurred in a loving, pet-friendly home. In one instance this year, a pit bull broke away from its chain in a yard and attacked a small child. It’s horrible that a child was harmed, no question. News reports focused on the breed of the dog and how it had nearly killed a child. Yet no one seemed to focus on the fact that the dog had been left chained in a yard day and night. If you were left alone for days, months, or years, unable to run and ignored no matter what the weather, chances are you wouldn’t last long before you would snap and do something crazy too.
If you are considering giving a rescued pit bull a chance at a new life, check out the ASPCA website, aspca.com, about pit bull adoption for advice. If you can’t adopt, at the very least report any pit bull being mistreated to local police or contact the Memphis Animal Shelter. Remember, the problem is the owner, not the breed!
By Trisha Gurley