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By Jon Bastian

It is sad how pit bulls are so often misunderstood. So, we are calling pit bull lovers to step up to the plate and help clear up the misunderstanding once for all, and here are our suggestions on how you can become involved and help restore the good reputation of this wonderful breed.

Be a responsible owner
As Cesar has taught us, the problem is not the breed, it’s the human. If you have pit bulls in your pack, make sure that you have trained them properly, and that they get sufficient exercise. Provide your dog with rules, boundaries, and limitations, and make sure that they are socialized with people, children, and other dogs.

Daddy and Junior have both shown us what wonderful dogs pit bulls can be, but your pit bulls can be ambassadors for the breed as well. If you don’t have pit bulls, or even if you don’t have dogs, there’s something else you can do to help.

If you see someone with a well-controlled, calm pit bull coming toward you on the street, don’t avoid them. Maintain a respectful social space, of course, but by not showing fear at the appearance of the dog, you are letting the owner know that you’ve got nothing against the breed, and this can go a long way to building their confidence, which makes them a better Pack Leader and a more responsible owner.

Work against BSL
In many jurisdictions, lawmakers are taking another look at Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), and we are now starting to see more sensible laws taking their place. Instead of focusing on the type of dog, these laws focus on the behavior of the owners.

In a recent interview with the Salt Lake City Weekly, Best Friends Animal Society senior legislative attorney Ledy VanKavage explained, “The trend is to go away from breed-discriminatory laws and pass comprehensive reckless-owner and dangerous-dog laws that are breed-neutral.”

Recently, in response to a We the People website petition, the White House officially came out against BSL, and the states of Nevada and Colorado have outlawed all BSL — although Colorado’s law does not apply to the city of Denver, which still bans pit bulls.

Momentum seems to be on the side of ending BSL, but you can help. If pit bulls are banned in your area, contact your local lawmakers and encourage others to do so. Often, issues like this are not addressed if legislators aren’t aware of them or don’t feel that there’s strong public opinion on them. We can make that opinion known and raise awareness, and all it takes is a few phone calls.

Remember the past
Once upon a time, pit bulls were the preferred nanny dog, and they were often left in the care of young children. One of the most famous pit bulls early in the last century was Petey, the dog who starred in a long series of “Little Rascals” films opposite children. There have been a number of famous pit bulls, and they are still one of the top ten most popular breeds in the U.S.

This all started to change only fairly recently, and pit bulls didn’t get a bad rap until they became the guard dog of choice for drug dealers at the same time that dog fighting re-emerged, in the mid-1980s. And they were not the first, or only, breed to ever become subject to blanket bans. At various times, German shepherds and Rottweilers were the most likely breeds to be outlawed.

Just this history alone should be strong evidence that it’s not the breed that’s the problem; it’s how they’re treated by the humans who are responsible for them.

Join the cause
October is the third annual National Pit Bull Awareness Month, with National Pit Bull Awareness Day coming on the 26th. NPBAD was started in 2007 by Jodi Preis of Bless the Bullys, a rescue and education group located in Tennessee. Due to the overwhelming positive response, the Awareness Month was created four years later.

The ultimate goal of both events is to promote the truth about pit bulls, and everyone is invited to participate. According to their website, “With the exception of the date, NPBAD is ‘unstructured’ to allow those who participate to be as creative and have as much fun as possible with their ideas and celebrations. Through the years, we have seen some really creative and incredibly successful events!”

You can join the National Pit Bull Awareness Campaign by participating in National Pit Bull Awareness Day, and Bless the Bullies has suggestions for NPBAD events.

Year-round, you can become involved with local pit bull rescue organizations or become a foster family for pit bulls looking for their forever homes. And, always, you can stand up for a misunderstood and mischaracterized breed.

Educate
The best way to counteract fear is education. As the National Pit Bull Awareness Campaign puts it, “Knowledge is power, and with education and advocacy, the truth will save lives in terms of negating the fear and bias generated by the media, circumvent knee-jerk reactions such as breed bans, and the truth will result in fewer pit bulls ending up in animal shelters.”

A fun way to educate, and one suggested as part of an NPBAD event, is the Pick the Pit game. Additionally, the National Canine Research Council has put together a great BSL FAQ that dispels the myths about the effectiveness of these laws while explaining why they are neither necessary nor successful.

It may still be an uphill climb in some areas, but pit bulls are gradually being redeemed as a breed and the stigma is slowly going away. The Boston Globe recently reported in a story headlined “Rising pit bull adoptions reflect breed’s changing image” that “Pit bull adoptions are climbing statewide and, in the biggest surprise, extending into the suburbs.

“The number of pit bull adoptions in Massachusetts has shot up in recent years… In 2003, 146 pit bulls were adopted from MSPCA shelters in Massachusetts. This year, the number stands at 216.”

It’s a good start, but together we can take it further until, one day, pit bulls are once again seen as the loveable babysitters and goofy best friends that they have always been.

Are you involved with a pit bull rescue? Share your experience with us in the comments.

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