Mainstream media does “bully breeds” a serious disservice— their reputation can affect even those cynical of the news. Before I owned an American Bulldog, I questioned the motives of anyone who felt the need to own a Pit Bull or any other dog that looked generally intimidating. Now, my own dog, Milo, incites fear in people when we go on a walk or even just into the pet store… even despite the fact that he has three legs. Milo is a rescue dog and a mutt, but often mistaken for a Boxer, American Bulldog, or the dreaded Pit Bull.
It seems like every time a dog bite is publicized, the biter is reported to be a Pit Bull. Unfortunately, that’s simply a side effect of the media’s love affair with fear mongering and sensationalism. When the National Canine Research Council conducted a study in 2008, they found that when one or more dogs identified as Labrador Retrievers killed a woman, one local newspaper reported the story. However, that year, when one or more Pit Bulls killed a California man, at least 285 media outlets (including international media outlets) picked up the story, including MSNBC, Forbes, USA Today, Fox News, CBS News, and ABC News.
The dogs aren’t the problem, though. In fact, data from the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) ranks Pit Bulls as the second most tolerant breed tested. The ATTS tests dogs for skittishness, aggression, and their ability to differentiate between threatening and non-threatening humans. Pit Bulls were ranked only after Golden Retrievers.
The problem doesn’t end with media though; it just begins there. Myths about bully breeds are perpetuated everywhere. When I heard about PetSmart banning “bully breeds” from their Doggy Day Camp, I couldn’t believe it. However, it’s in plain text under their requirements for Day Care. They require, “Dogs who have been socialized with other dogs but are not of the bully breed classification or wolves/wolf hybrids.” To specify what is meant by bully breeds, they add, “Dogs in the ‘bully breed’ classification (e.g. American Pit Bull Terriers, Miniature Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Bull Dogs, Bull Terriers, or mixed breeds that have the appearance or characteristics of one of these breeds).”
This means that Milo more than likely couldn’t participate in their dog-sitting program because of his possible breed. I understand that large dogs could be a nuisance or even unintentionally dangerous to smaller dogs, but if that’s their concern, why aren’t Great Danes banned? To go further, who’s to say that a thirty-pound dog couldn’t injure a ten-pound dog?
As a private business, PetSmart is well within their rights to enforce breed discrimination. This means that I am also well within my right to believe they’re a bunch of blubbering idiots and refuse to shop there. Milo is more than likely an American Bulldog mix, but he has never shown any signs of aggression toward dogs or humans. I do, however, know a Standard Poodle that’s easily irritated and hyperactive – a dangerous combination that would be allowed to participate at PetSmart.
We need to stop spreading the myth that certain breeds are inherently bad…or I’ll sic my fake Pit Bull on you. Hope you’re allergic to dog kisses.