I’m torn on October’s pitbull awareness month.
When you set a group of dogs aside and label them differently, people view them differently.
Pitbulls are just dogs. That’s the message, right?
I think we could do a little better conveying that message.
For example, let’s stop with the memes floating around that compare pitbulls to dangerous and violent things. Let’s stop telling people what is “more dangerous than a pitbull.” How is that helping the dogs? It’s just making them sound scary to people who truly don’t understand dogs.
It’s time to re-consider the overall message, and what we’re really saying.
You told me through That Mutt’s Facebook page that pitbull awareness is still necessary, and you’re right.
- As long as dog daycares still ban them, we need awareness, you said.
- As long as training classes, apartment complexes, “dog friendly” hotels, cities, counties and even countries ban them, we need awareness.
- As long as shelters and pounds are killing them, we need awareness.
This is all true. I can’t argue these sad realities.
But here’s a hard question:
Are you ready to view pitbulls as just dogs?
As a pitbull lover, are you ready to stop viewing pitbulls as “more needy” than other dogs? Are you ready to stop viewing them as “more likely to be abused” or “more likely to be misunderstood” or “more likely to be killed in a shelter”?
Could we even consider dropping the term “pitties”?
If we truly want to help get more pitbulls adopted, I think it’s important that we begin viewing them as just dogs. We want everyone else to start viewing them as “just dogs,” so it’s time for us to do the same.
If I honestly look at myself, I know with certainty one of the reasons I love pitbulls is because for years I saw them as “needing someone.” Needing me. Isn’t that what draws a lot of us to dogs in general? Isn’t that why some of us adopt and foster dogs?
The thought of rescuing a pitbull makes me feel good because I would be taking in a dog “no one” wants.
But do you see where that thought process is wrong? Those of us who love them the most are often the ones spreading pitbull myths.
Pitbulls are among the most popular dogs in America! They’re far from “unwanted.” Yes, of course there are still people who need plenty of awareness. But in general, people love pitbulls. We’re holding the dogs back if we pretend otherwise.
Phasing out pitbull-specific programs
The Animal Rescue League of Iowa has recently made the decision to phase out its “pitbull” specific programs in order to include pitbulls within the larger group of “dogs,” according to a blog post featured on Animal Farm Foundation’s web site, a group with the mission to secure equal treatment for pitbulls.
There is a time for pitbull awareness programs, and Des Moines needed it very badly three years ago, according to the post. That’s why Animal Rescue League created its “Pit Crew” breed ambassador program at the time. Since then, the group has made a huge difference as far as showing people that pitbulls are normal dogs.
But now Animal Rescue League says it’s time to move forward and stop separating the pitbulls from other dogs.
“Do we continue down the path of ‘Team Pit Bull’ where we focus so heavily on ‘pit bull’ dogs that people see them as different?” wrote Animal Rescue League. “Or do we re-integrate back into the path of ‘Team Dog’ where we show people that ‘pit bull’ dogs are just dogs?”
The group is choosing the latter – to include its “pitbull programs” within its overall “dog programs.” Nothing is changing except how the pitbulls are branded.
Of course, this doesn’t mean every city is ready to stop its pitbull ambassador programs. Some areas are currently in desperate need of starting pitbull awareness, just as Des Moines needed to do three years ago.
Phasing these programs out should be the ultimate goal, and each city will reach that point at different times. Eventually, a shelter’s “pitbull training classes” should be included in its “dog training classes.” Its “pitbull spay and neuter clinics” should be moved into its “dog spay and neuter clinics.” And so on.
“Ambassador programs are a tool to help start adopting out dogs,” according to Animal Farm Foundation. “But beyond that, the programs can have unintended consequences that make ‘pit bull’ dogs seem different and undesirable or scary, which means the window for having such programs needs to be temporary.”
I couldn’t agree more, but I’d also like to know what you think.
We can’t get stuck in separating out the pitbulls, right? At some point, we need to move forward.
Could we realistically transition “Pitbull Awareness Month” to “Dog Awareness Month”? I think we’re getting pretty darn close to that.
We want politicians to stop viewing pitbulls as different than other dogs.
We want landlords and dog daycare owners to stop viewing them as different than other dogs.
We want the general public to stop viewing them as different than other dogs.
Are we willing to do the same?
What do you think? Is pitbull awareness still necessary? What should the message be?