In June, a 55-year-old woman was mauled to death by a dog in Montreal, Canada. Unfortunate for the entire breed, this dog happened to be a Pit Bull – or so people say. Until DNA testing comes back, there is no grounding evidence to determine the actual breed of the dog. But regardless, this tragic incident was the seed for the Montreal Pit Bull Ban, which has raised a loud outcry from animal rights groups and animal lovers alike, and spurred the Montreal SPCA to file a lawsuit against the city. Many animal lovers took to social media to fight the ban, creating multiple petitions on websites like Change.org – including one petition that got over 400,000 supporters.
The ban would require currently owned Montreal Pit Bulls to be sterilized, microchipped, and muzzled at all times when outside…even if they’re in your own backyard. Pit Bulls owners also have to pay high fees, and undergo a criminal background check. New ownership of Pit Bulls would be strictly prohibited, which means that any Pit Bulls currently in Montreal animal shelters would be euthanized, unless they are transferred out of the city.
The ban passed last Monday, September 3rd, but thankfully the mayor of Montreal postponed it indefinitely two days later. It’s a huge win for the SPCA and all the Pit Bulls that are wagging their tails in Montreal. But the fight is far from over, because the ban could still pass. The SPCA is hoping to have the ban completely thrown out on the grounds that it is unlawful.
This is far from the first time that Pit Bulls have faced the chopping block because of their bad rap throughout society. Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) – a law that either “regulates or bans certain dog breeds in an effort to decrease dog attacks on humans and other animals” - exists all over the world. Not only are Pit Bulls banned from certain major cities and many housing complexes, but they are banned from entire countries. That’s right – you are not allowed to own a Pit Bull anywhere within the United Kingdom. According to an article in BBC News, 36 U.S. States and 41 countries uphold some kind of BSL.
All of this, of course, is based on one sole factor: Pit Bulls are “aggressive” and “dangerous”.
Well you know what? It’s time to call bullsh*t on Montreal’s new ban, and all BSL, for that matter.
So, why are Pit Bulls perceived as dangerous?
Their negative reputation started to develop in the 1980’s. As muscular dogs, they were sought out by criminals to threaten, intimidate, and guard. Once their reputation started to take off in the outlaw community, more and more criminals were attracted to the breed. It became a vicious cycle – the more criminals used the dog as a means of intimidation, the worse their reputation got, and then even more criminals wanted them.
Of course, it can’t be ignored that Pit Bulls have been used in dog fights for countless years. Their muscular build made them a popular breed to throw in the ring.
The combination of these two elements – an association with criminals and their popularity in dog fighting rings - created the perfect angle for news stories about “the most dangerous dog breed.”
The media just loves a good story about a Pit Bull. In fact, news outlets are so hell-bent on supporting the negative reputation of the Pit Bull, that the news is more likely to report a Pit Bull attack than an attack by any other breed. Pit Bulls are also the go-to scapegoat for an attack carried out by a mixed or unidentified breed – as is the case in Montreal. According to an article in the Denver Post, the ASPCA actually reported that animal control officers have been told by media outlets nation-wide that they only have interest in reporting Pit Bull attacks. Let's repeat that for emphasis: Many media outlets will only report about Pit Bull attacks, and will not cover attacks carried out by other breeds. Thus, the public ends up believing that Pit Bulls attack people more than any other breed, because nobody actually hears about the attacks done by other breeds.
The media had a field day when NFL star quarterback Michael Vick’s story came to the surface in 2007. Vick and three partners operated a dog fighting ring by the name of “Bad Newz Kennels” – which housed and trained over 50 Pit Bulls and other mixed breeds for fights in a high-stakes gambling ring. The story was all over the news for months, and in the end, Vick was only sentenced to 23 months in prison, and a three years probation in which he is not allowed to buy, sell, or own dogs.
This man should never be allowed to get near another dog ever again, let alone own one.
It had to be assumed that after decades of building up falsities about this breed, it would eventually go too far. And thus, BSL finally came into place. Because now, the dogs are being blamed. Despite the fact their livelihood is abused by people, and the media coverage is heinously biased, these dogs have adopted the infamous title of being the “most aggressive” and “most dangerous” dog breed.
In case anyone was wondering, there is NO scientific evidence confirming that Pit Bulls are more aggressive than any other dog breed. Some dogs have emotional damage, just like people do. No dog is just born aggressive. And if a certain dog has violent tendencies, the chances are that their disposition is as such for a reason. Because they’ve been popular amongst criminals and used in fighting rings, Pit Bulls are one of the most abused breeds. They’re physically beaten and neglected. They’re used to bait other fighting dogs. In fact, people will purposefully beat them to make them more aggressive, in an attempt to make them better fighters in the ring.
People who actually spend time around the breed know that Pit Bulls actually make wonderful family pets - they are loving, affectionate, very trainable and faithfully loyal. Despite their muscular physique, they can be quite gentle.
Yet somehow, it is still the dog's fault. Everyone looks at the dog, and nobody looks at the owner. The owner - who has obviously either abused the animal, or has failed to place it in an environment that is safe for both the dog and others. And as a result, people seem to think that the solution to dog attacks is banning the breed. Because thanks to the media, everyone believes that Pit Bulls are the only breed that ever bite or attack people. So they get banned from apartments, banned from cities, banned from entire countries. They're muzzled, sterilized, and punished. And quite often, they're just euthanized.
How does that seem fair? How is that a solution to anything?
Two years ago, I was attacked by a dog. I sustained no serious injuries, just a few nasty bites. I chose not to press charges, because I knew that ultimately, the dog would be the one to suffer. I do not blame the dog for what happened, I blame the owner - had the dog been in the right environment, with an owner who understood her unique needs as an animal, the incident could have been prevented. But despite the fact that I did not press charges, and despite that the owner - not the dog - was at fault, the dog was still euthanized. Ultimately, the dog was the victim in this situation. You can read the full story here.
There are approximately 18,000 Pit Bulls listed on Petfinder.com - more than any other listed breed. Thanks to BSL, many Pit Bulls get surrendered to shelters because their owners cannot find a place to live that accepts the breed. According to an article on BarkPost, 40% of the dogs that are euthanized each year are Pit Bulls. "Pit Bulls are by far the most likely to be euthanized, while they’re only the third most likely to be adopted."
All thanks to a negative reputation created entirely by media hysteria.
The death of that woman in Montreal is tragic. But blaming the breed won’t fix or prevent anything. If the SPCA succeeds in getting the ban thrown out, it will be a huge win for Pit Bulls and animal lovers. But the fight is much bigger than just one city. It spans across states, across entire continents.
If the ban does pass in Montreal? I hope the city can live with all the innocent blood that will be on its hands.
And in case anyone was wondering what happened to all of Michael Vick’s “vicious” fighting dogs: they’re now referred to as “Vicktory Dogs”, and many of them have been re-homed with very loving families. There are numerous articles that have provided an inside look at where the dogs have ended up, and and a book entitled “The Lost Dogs,” which follows the remarkable survival stories of the dogs, was written by author Jim Gorant. Despite the fact that their histories are filled with brutality and pain, their lives today are filled with love, happiness, and family.
For an inside look into an animal shelter, and an eye-opening explanation of the future of animal welfare, please watch this video on the NHSPCA.
For more information on Pit Bulls, please visit the ASPCA website.