What should I be doing instead of this?
February 7th, 2012 By Martin Brennan | The Morning After | Posted In: Animals, Culture

Pit Bulls in Cincinnati

Not all dogs are treated the same

182013_197269703619058_162100807135948_749676_2035854_nvia Good Deeds for Bullied Breeds
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m an avid dog-lover. I’ve owned dogs from the time I was a young teen, and I’ve loved every moment of it. There’s something about our canine companions that just warms my heart. Their wagging tails, their wet noses, the way they’re always happy to see you when you come home ... I just love them.

Unfortunately, it seems like not all people in this world share the same passion for dogs that I do. Hundreds upon thousands of dogs are abandoned each year and end up either dead or in shelters, and many more suffer at the hands of neglectful or abusive owners. Fortunately, we have organizations such as the SPCA around to speak out and help these animals. However, it’s recently come to my attention that not all shelters treat certain breeds of dogs the same.

As an animal lover, I watch Animal Planet a lot. Two of my favorite shows are their series Pit Boss and Pit Bulls and Parolees, both shows focusing on various groups dedicated to rescuing and saving American Pit Bull Terriers, one of the country’s most misunderstood dog breeds. I’ve heard it mentioned several times in both shows that animal control shelters will not hold Pit Bulls for more than three days before euthanizing them to make room for other rescued dogs.

It struck me as both cruel and unnecessary. It seemed unfair that these dogs weren’t even given a fair chance at adoption simply because of the negative attention the mass media seems to give them.

Yes, I realize Pit Bulls are commonly used in dog fighting rings, and that fighting dogs are highly aggressive and dangerous. However it isn’t the breed’s fault. It’s the fault of the abusive and neglectful owners, not the dogs themselves. It’s been proven time and time again that when properly trained and socialized, Pit Bulls make excellent pets and are actually amongst the most human-friendly breeds around.

The SPCA Cincinnati didn’t respond to my requests for information, so I did a bit of digging on my own.

I was surprised to learn that it’s illegal to even own a Pit Bull within Hamilton County. In 2003, a city-wide ban was placed on the breed. Only Pit Bulls officially registered before the ban are allowed to remain within city limits, and even then owners must re-register their license on an annual basis.

Buy why are Pit Bulls classified as dangerous dogs in the first place? Surely dog fighting rings are partially to blame, however there is another reason I’ve seen being argued here and there. People claim that Pit Bulls, unlike other dog breeds, are capable of locking their jaws. This, however, is a myth. While Pit Bulls do have extraordinary jaw strength, there is no evidence to suggest that their jaws have a locking mechanism. Dr. I. I. Lerh Brisbin, a researcher from the University of Georgia wrote on the subject: “The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of Pit Bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure…is no different than that of any [other] breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of 'locking mechanism' unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier.” There you have it. Myth busted.

And yet the ban has yet to be repealed — if anything, things have just gotten worse since 2003. According to the KC Dog Blog, an web journal dedicated to following animal welfare issues, in 2007 more than 1,000 pit bulls were euthanized in shelters within Cincinnati, and an estimated $86,000 were spent prosecuting Pit Bull owners who had their dogs taken from their homes for being illegal.

In 2008 an additional law was passed, allowing police officers to undergo training to “identify” Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes. The problem is many of the dogs taken in were misidentified as Pit Bulls. One such case resulted in a woman suing the SPCA after her American bulldog was taken from her and killed after being mistaken as a Pit. 

It’s outrageous to say the least. We’re wasting time and money punishing the responsible dog owners when what we really should be doing is going after the people who illegally train and breed these dogs to fight. And in the end it’s not only the owners that suffer, but their pets as well — pets that are taken and killed simply because they are a specific breed, pets which may have had no history of violence or viciousness towards humans or other animals, and yet were still killed just because the law classifies them as “vicious dogs.”

Fortunately, not everything is looking grim for pit bull lovers in Cincinnati. In 2011 Ohio legislators passed a bill the changed the way the state classifies Pit Bulls. Before, Pits were automatically classified by state law as “vicious” dogs, regardless of the behavior an individual dog might have exhibited. However, now that it has passed, the bill has made the term “vicious” or “dangerous dog” non-breed specific. While this hasn’t overturned the ban in Cincinnati, it’s certainly good news for Pit Bulls, as now an individual dog must be tested and proven vicious before state law can label it as such.

Now all we have to do is convince Cincinnati lawmakers to repeal the ban. It’s not going to be easy, however. Unfortunately the media still has a habit of portraying Pit Bulls as vicious dogs, and the city ordinance of Cincinnati still classifies them as such despite state law. It’s an uphill battle, but ask any responsible owner who has had the pleasure of having a Pit as a pet and they’ll all tell you the same thing. They’re wonderful dogs when placed in the right home. All you have to do is give them a chance. 

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