The stigma against pit bulls is unfounded


The American Kennel Club, or AKC, describes the American Staffordshire terrier as “confident, smart, [and] good-natured.”  While this description makes this breed seem like an ideal family pet, it is surprisingly banned in many cities across the country. 

If the prohibition of this sweet breed seems outrageous, maybe the stereotypes will help explain this phenomenon. Many refer to the American Staffordshire Terrier as a “pit bull.” This name may ring a bell as a vicious fighting dog that is responsible for over a fifth of dog bites in the United States, according to the AAHA.

While this may seem like a valid reason for the city-wide bans and the rumors that come along with them, it’s actually a very weak argument.

To begin with, “pit bulls” aren’t even a real, AKC-recognized breed. When most people speak of pit bulls, they are actually talking about the Staffordshire terrier. However, a true pit bull is a cross between an American Staffordshire terrier and a bull terrier. This shows how people who are prejudiced against pit bulls have done minimal research since they don’t know what a pit bull truly is and therefore are making uneducated statements.

Someday, I hope to see that pit bulls aren’t that one type of dog lingering around the animal shelters for years on end.”

The claim people make for banning pit bulls is that “they were bred to kill.” Although this statement does indeed have a certain degree of truth to it, it’s misleading. Much like other breeds, such as the sluggish English bulldog, this animal was used for bull-baiting and other cruel sports including dogfighting.

However, that says little to nothing about their behavior towards humans. In fact, pit bulls were bred to have a bite inhibition, meaning that around 200 years ago, pit bulls were killed if they bit a person in order to have this trait cut out from the bloodline. This modification to the breed’s instincts made for better relationships between pit bulls and humans.

Additionally, hunting dogs, such as the labrador retriever and the beagle, are usually seen as great companions even though they share the same violent history as pit bulls. Why aren’t they banned too? Clearly, people are unfairly biased against pit bulls, and ultimately, the ban makes no sense.

Surprisingly, while pit bulls make up 22% of all dog bites, this is not an unusually high number. The German shepherd, the cause of over 17% of all dog bites, is known as an intelligent, obedient, and loyal dog. Pit bulls, which only have a 5% greater chance of being the perpetrator of a dog bite, are known for being “vicious” and “dangerous.”

Finally, people are misinformed and therefore believe that American Staffordshire terriers and their close relatives have a “lockjaw.” Petfinder debunks this myth. “Pit bulls do not have any special physical mechanism or enzyme that allows them to ‘lock’ their jaws,” writes Robin Rock, whose article “Myths and Facts about Pit Bulls” was published on Petfinder.

I have seen this bias all around me, even in my own household. When I went to the Humane Society to take a dog out for a few hours, my own dad was skeptical. He kept reminding us to stay out of the face of the Staffordshire Terrier mix we had picked up and was very nervous riding in the back seat of our Jeep with her.

This was astonishing to me since the only things I had seen so far from this dog were tail wags and bouncy energy.

It is truly unfortunate that many people can’t see past the negative generalizations and have banned these beloved dogs from many cities throughout the United States. Thankfully, progress is being made, and after 30 years, voters in Denver finally managed to lift the pit bull ban.

And someday, I hope to see that pit bulls aren’t that one type of dog lingering around the animal shelters for years on end.