Some Stuff You Need to Know About Pit Bulls
In April, a tug-of-war over the fate of a pit bull in Montgomery County came to a happy end: noted dog trainer Cesar Milan agreed to take the dog, Gus, on the condition Gus never again step paw in Texas.
Gus had seriously injured a rescue group volunteer named Amber Rickles, who'd been watching him. County officials planned to euthanize the dog, but the rescue group, Maggie's House, along with an animal welfare legal assistance group called the Lexus Project, petitioned for a reprieve.
The news came on the heels of another pitbull-related story that made headlines around the world: in League City, a courageous mother bit off the ear of a pit bull that attacked her two-year-old daughter.
The same week, police in Kaufman said two pit bulls killed an 85-year-old woman in her home.
Four months earlier, two pit bulls were euthanized after police said they tore apart a 43-year-old homeless woman.
A year before that, in Conroe, a four-year-old boy hopped his backyard fence into his neighbor's yard, where, police said, a pit bull mauled him to death.
It's possible to come to the conclusion, based on these reports, and the myriad other pit-bull mauling news stories that regularly make headlines, that pit bulls are vicious killing machines with a tendency to flip out and attack for no apparent reason. That certainly seems to be the position of groups like DogsBite.org, which are sometimes cited as reputable sources by the media.
Too often, other factors -- how an owner's nature may have contributed to the dog's nature, say -- are ignored for the sake of a superficially simple story. This reinforces pit bulls' reputation as savage beasts -- quite the opposite of these dogs' image in the first half of the 20th century. So what happened?
Jake Flanagin, writing in Pacific Standard, describes it rather eloquently: "The pit bull's trademark loyalty combined with its muscular physique made it a prime candidate for exploitation. The breed quickly came to represent aggression and a perverse idea of machismo, thus becoming the preferred guard dog cum status symbol for drug dealers and gangsters. Popularity for the breed in low-income, urban areas exploded." This led to "an epic puppy-boom" centered "predominantly [in] low-income areas," making pit bulls "arguably one of the least-responsibly cared for breeds in the country."
(It's important to note that "pit bull" is not a proper breed title, but an umbrella term for Staffordshire bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers, and bull terriers -- or any combination thereof).
Flanagin articulately stated what Hair Balls, somewhat less intellectually, always called The Scumbag-Dipshit Axis. Generally, if you graphed the plot points and players in a pit bull attack, there's a strong possibility that the pit bull would be plotted conspicuously close to either a scumbag or a dipshit. Typically, the chief scumbag or dipshit in each scenario is either the dog's owner or a parent of a victim, but not always.
The Scumbag-Dipshit Axis can of course be applied to any dog attack situation, it's just mostly applied to pit bull-related bites, because, to the detriment of society as a whole, scumbags and dipshits are drawn to pit bulls more than just about any other dog. If the preferred canine companion of scumbags and dipshits everywhere were dachshunds, then we'd probably be reading a lot about vicious wieners. And those bites would probably require, at most, a Band-Aid.
So we thought we'd take a look at some of the misunderstood or mythologized aspects of pit bulls. In the spirit of full disclosure, Hair Balls is a pit-bull owner, and has friends and acquaintances who also own pit bulls. None of these dogs have ever eaten anyone's face. Not coincidentally, these dogs are rarely -- if ever -- in the orbit of scumbags or dipshits. So we're definitely biased -- not in favor of pit bulls, but against S's and D's. We just want to make that clear.