One of the things I am most passionate about is being an advocate for all dogs.
A big part of that is working to end breed discrimination.
It’s unfair to judge a dog by his appearance, and any dog expert will tell you there is no such thing as a “dangerous breed” or an “aggressive breed.” All dogs are individuals.
Since pitbull-type dogs are unfairly targeted at times, I wanted to put together a list of ways all dog lovers can help pitbulls, regardless of what type of dogs they own.
In order for more people to understand that breed discrimination is wrong, sometimes they need to hear from those of us who own non-targeted breeds.
I would love if you added even more tips in the comments section.
How you can stand up for pitbulls even if you don’t own a pitbull
1. Don’t reinforce negative stereotypes or myths.
The best way non-pitbull owners can be advocates for pitbulls is to know the difference between a fact and a myth, said Christina Berry, who now maintains the blog The Everyday Dog Mom.
One example of such myths is “It’s how they’re raised,” Berry said.
I couldn’t agree more, because this myth implies that pitbulls can only turn out to be good dogs under special circumstances.
“When we put too much emphasis on how a dog was raised, those dogs with unknown pasts will never get adopted,” Berry said.
“We need to be teaching that every dog has the potential to be a good dog,” she said. “Even if it came from the worst environment. The Vick dogs are proof of this.”
Check out ThatMutt.com’s list of pitbull myths.
2. Advocate for breed-neutral responsible dog ownership laws.
“Advocacy needs to be breed neutral,” said pitbull owner Maggie Marton, who maintains the blog Oh My Dog.
She said there is so much focus on pitbull-type dogs that people forget many other breeds are also targeted, such as German shepherds, Rottweilers and great Danes.
“Rather than focus our efforts on a single breed, all dog owners should support breed-neutral responsible dog ownership laws,” Marton said.
This can be done through writing letters to the editor of your local paper or attending city council meetings, she said. We should encourage people to be better dog owners, regardless of what breed they choose.
I think we need to stop sharing messages that compare pitbulls to scary things. What do the rest of you think about that?
For example, comparing your chances of being killed by lightning vs. your chances of being killed by a pitbull is not helpful. You wouldn’t share these types of messages if they were about beagles or poodles would you?
Some examples floating around social media this week include:
“For every pitbull that bites, there are 1 million that did not.” Or, “Don’t be afraid of my pit bull. I’m 100 times more likely to rip your throat out than he is.”
Most of us understand the ridiculousness of these comparisons, and even some of the odd humor behind them. But if someone is truly afraid of pitbulls, these messages could reinforce that fear.
Let’s focus on the positive memes that get a clearer message across.
4. Get a pitbull car magnet or bumper sticker.
Sarah Lukemire has two pitbulls, and she had the great idea to put a “My pitbull is family” message on your car. Love that!
No one ever said you actually have to own a pitbull, she said.
5. Don’t support businesses that discriminate.
If possible, do not do business with rental companies or insurance companies that discriminate against pitbulls, and politely tell them why. They need to know that discriminating against pitbulls is going to cause them to lose responsible, good customers.
Explain to them that if the company is concerned about safety, it should implement rules against dangerous dogs as a whole rather than targeting specific breeds.
Explain that 18 states have made it illegal for local governments to ban specific breeds because these types of laws do not make communities safer. Update: As of April 2, that number is 19!
Meanwhile, do all you can to support businesses that do not discriminate, and express your gratitude. Send them a card or give them a shoutout over Instagram.
6. Express your concerns to shelters that place extra adoption criteria on pitbull adopters.
If we want to get more pitbulls out of shelters alive, there should not be a different set of adoption criteria for people who want to adopt a pitbull. The adoption requirements should be the same for all dogs.
For example, some shelters require all pitbull adopters to attend dog training classes. While this may sound good, it shouldn’t be mandatory. Instead, the shelter should come up with ways to encourage all adopters to take their dogs to training classes, and give them an incentive to do so.
If the shelter doesn’t have the same adoption requirements for all types of dogs, then it’s sending a message that pitbulls are somehow different than the others. This makes them sound dangerous or scary.
See That Mutt’s post on how to get more pitbulls adopted.
7. Don’t make blanket assumptions.
Sometimes those of us who love pitbulls the most will actually go overboard with positive generalizations when we’re trying to defend them. I’ve done it, and this can actually hurt the dogs.
“Pitbulls are the sweetest dogs,” we might say. Or, “Pitbulls are really good with kids.” Or, “Pitbulls are so eager to please.”
Sure, these statements might be true about a lot of pitbulls, but it’s unfair to assume all pitbulls are sweet or all pitbulls are good with kids just as it’s unfair to assume all Labs are good with kids or all springers are sweet.
We need to remind people that all dogs are individuals, regardless of breed.
8. Be familiar with why breed-specific legislation doesn’t work.
Lukemire made a good point that we should all educate ourselves and others on the downsides of breed-specific legislation.
It’s one thing to be against BSL, but it’s more effective if we can explain why it doesn’t make communities any safer.
According to the ASPCA’s web site, just a few of the negative consequences of BSL include:
- A false sense of security, because limited animal control resources are used to regulate or ban certain breeds of dogs without regard to the dogs’ behavior. The focus is shifted away from effective enforcement of laws that actually do have the potential for increased safety such as leash laws.
- Breed bans punish responsible dog owners of friendly, properly supervised and well-socialized dogs who happen to fall within the regulated breed. Although these dog owners have done nothing to endanger the public, they are required to comply with local breed bans. In short, BSL removes well-loved pets from their families!
Check out the ASPCA’s site for more info.