October is Pit Bull Awareness month. To support this mission, I encourage you to spread enlightenment about Pit Bull-type dogs. These dogs are among the most euthanized in this country because of overbreeding and stereotypes (even though they are not, in fact, a true breed). In some municipalities, people can’t even have one — or any dog who resembles one.
There was a time in my life when I feared Pit Bulls because of their bad reputation. I didn’t have any personal experience with them, and I didn’t want any because, quite frankly, they scared me.
However, my opinion changed when I started volunteering at our county animal shelter and watching Animal Planet’s Pit Bulls & Parolees featuring Tia Torres and Villalobos Rescue Center.
My teenaged daughter was the person who initially got me to open my heart to large-breed dogs. Every week when we went to volunteer with the cats at Regional Animal Services of King County in Kent, Washington, we’d try to visit the dog kennels before our shift. The more time I spent around these shelter dogs, the less I feared them.
I started to see that all the dogs had their own personality and unique characteristics. The one thing I noticed every shelter dog had in common was that they’d all rather be elsewhere — despite the best intentions of staff and volunteers. Just like most humans would prefer not to live in a homeless shelter, most dogs would rather not live in the canine equivalent.
It was when we fostered our first Pit Bull mix, a sweet senior dog, that I truly got over my fear. Shelby had a heart of gold. She was very mellow inside our house and around our cats, Chihuahuas, and my young son.
Shelby was leash reactive when we’d see other dogs out on our walks, but her behavior inside our home couldn’t have been more desirable. She was a cuddle bug and ignored bossy May Belle’s bullying. The three months that Shelby lived in our home taught me that each dog should be viewed as an individual as opposed to a stereotype.
As time has passed, I find myself wanting to educate others about the foolishness of breed bias and its legal offspring: breed specific legislation (BSL). Fortunately, in Seattle, where I live, we do not have BSL. There are, however, municipalities in the United States in which BSL is alive and all too real.
Now that my heart has been won over by my own pack of rescue dogs (including a Pit mix) and cats, I hate to think of people and animals being separated by arbitrary laws that are based on bias as opposed to science.
If this is something you care about just as much as I do, here are five things you can do to fight Pit Bull bias and breed specific legislation in your community and beyond.
Education is probably the first step in becoming aware of the issues affecting Pit Bull-type dogs and their people. Learn what BSL means, whether it exists in your community, and, if so, exactly what the parameters of the law are.
Pit Bulls are found in shelters all over the United States. By spending time in your local shelter, you will get to know Pit Bulls as well as many other types of dogs who love having your time and attention. Fostering is a great way to volunteer by sharing your home with a dog in need while freeing up shelter space for other dogs. Plus, you get to do so many fun things with them that you can’t in a short volunteer shift at the shelter.
By supporting these organizations through financial donations, buying their products, and sharing their message, you are helping to support the cause.
For some reason, this doesn’t seem to be as popular as it should be. Writing your legislators to share your opinion is one of the most powerful things you can do to encourage change. Legislators are elected to respond to the concerns of their constituents. Vote. Write. Encourage your friends to do the same.
When you wear a shirt that features a Pit Bull or has positive messaging about them, you create visibility and open the door for conversation about the dogs with your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and acquaintances.
Rescues all over the country work to save unwanted, abused, and neglected Pit Bulls. Giving money helps keep these dogs fed and housed, and provides them with the veterinary care they need. Just Google “Pit Bull rescue” plus the name of your city, county, or state, and you’ll find an organization nearby that would love to have your support.
You can do many things to advocate on behalf of the Pit Bulls in your local community as well as in the country at large. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of rescued Pit Bulls needing homes, and adopting is one of the best things you can do. Social change starts with us.
We at Dogster would love to hear about your advocacy efforts. Please share your stories in the comments.
Read more stories about BSL:
About Kezia Willingham: Also known as the Breadwinning Laundry Queen, Kezia works by day as the Health Coordinator for an urban Head Start program and writes for Catster and Dogster early in the morning and late at night. She lives with her family, which includes a pack of rescued cats and dogs, in Seattle. Her writing appears in xoJane.com, the Seattle Times, and the New York Times.